Creating a Resume for the Spa World

By Lori Hutchinson and Linda Meehan

Do you spend more of your waking time at work than you do with your family members or your friends? Are you happy going to work? Is your career in harmony with the rest of your life? If not, then ask yourself if you’re in the right position, in an environment that matches your ethics, personality, and talents. It might be time to create a new resume for yourself, so you can find a new place to hang your massage or esthetician hat.

We are part of a different workplace than generations past, when employees worked for one or two companies over the course of their career and the culture of the company rarely changed during that time. Today, jobs are never for life. Management is flexible and always changing, staff members are expected to change and be team-oriented, companies are merging and going from public to private and back again, and there is vastly increased global competition. To be a successful worker in 2008, you may need to embrace continuous change, learn and adapt quickly, be a skillful networker and team player, and most importantly focus on the big picture and produce results. This is probably never more true than in the spa industry.

Who Are You and What Do You Want?

Watching individuals make career choices over the years has shown us that it’s much easier to reach your overall lifetime career goal if you know what your dream job looks like. Consider spending at least five minutes every working day thinking about what you want to do, where you want to do it, what type of company you want to work for, and how you want to be treated. As thoughts bubble up about what you have liked or not liked at work, park those ideas for the longer, more meditative session you’ll have with yourself in a quiet space and time. Consider sharing these thoughts with a career coach or a mentor to hear another’s response. Let passion and practical reality drive your life’s career goal.

Who are you? What do you stand for? Where would you thrive? What are your strengths and your weaknesses? Figure out your natural talents and find a position that matches the reasons that set you apart from others. If you don’t know what sets you apart, take action to find more information about yourself by talking to people who know you well, doing some research, visiting a career coach or mentor, getting tested for your strengths, visiting companies where you’d like to work, and most importantly, committing to the process of finding your dream job. Life is way too short to not like what you do for a living. And life is also too short for accepting a position in which you lose or compromise your core values.

Making Good Choices

If you are offered a new job, make sure you accept for the right reasons. It’s usually not a good idea to accept a new position just for additional compensation. Picture yourself sitting across the desk from a human resources professional explaining why you made one career move after another. Your story should flow in a common sense way … a continuing thread without unraveling explanations that make you seem unprofessional or someone who simply didn’t plan his or her future.

Before accepting a new position, think about whether this one is a direct precursor to your dream job, or if you’re gaining at least 10 percent more in base salary, or moving to a company that matches your philosophy/comfort level/ethics, etc. Other reasons that make sense to move on include an abusive boss who isn’t going to change, or perhaps accepting a position closer to home to reach your goal of balancing your family and work lives. It’s best to contemplate job change over a few days or weeks and not rush into a decision. Talk to people you respect and who know you. Bounce your ideas off someone else, verbalize your thought process, ask your remaining questions, and cipher out holes in your trial decision. Two heads seriously engaged in the decision-making process are usually better than you making this big decision in a vacuum. And it is a big decision.

How to Start Your Search

With your questions answered, now it’s time to start your job search. Do your research to select the companies for which you’d like to work. Look at the spas’ websites, read their press releases, talk to people you know, and ask a lot of questions. Be inquisitive, but always with a smile in your voice. There also are all types of spas to consider: destination, hotel/resort, mineral springs, day spa, residential, medical, cruise ship, and health club. Talk to your trusted friends and vendors. Review company position postings or online spa job listings. Be sure to visit the job bank at the International Spa Association website: 

Introduction via a colleague or mentor is always the best way to put yourself above other candidates. The spa world is a tightly woven web of people. Most likely you know someone who knows someone working at your dream company. There is a greater chance your resume will be more closely reviewed and considered if it is presented by someone who is a valued staff member who respects you.

Submitting your resume directly to a new employer is also a viable means of introduction. Follow the rules shown on the company’s website on how to forward your resume. Some companies allow you to present yourself in person, but most prefer you e-mail your resume first. If you are e-mailing or faxing your resume, use a cover sheet and make certain you spell the person’s name correctly. Nothing gives a greater negative first impression than spelling someone’s name wrong. Call the company and ask someone to carefully provide you the spelling of the person’s first and last name. Ask for the title as well, and use both correctly. A huge turnoff for me is when someone addresses a note to me as “Dear Sir,” since I’m female. This inaccuracy tells me this person is not detailed-oriented. Most companies want staff members who care about executing details correctly.

Make sure you state clearly in your cover note why you are interested in working for this particular company. Show the reader that you have researched the company and have seriously thought about the reasons why you would be a good match for this organization. Hiring professionals want people who are interested in working for their particular company.

Think about this: your resume and experience can bring you a new opportunity that could change your life. Realize its importance and how it is a reflection of you. The person who can make or break your entrance to the company where you want to work will read your resume in 20–60 seconds and make a decision based on what he or she sees. Make every word count.

Writing a resume is an opportunity not to be humble. Many people find it hard to toot their horn and have a tendency to understate their talents and skills. Don’t be afraid to use words that will enhance your accomplishments and a have a greater impact on the reader. But do portray yourself accurately. You should be comfortable with everything you write and be able to answer to each and every sentence. List your accomplishments honestly in each position: your education and your awards. 

Let Your Resume Set
You Apart

There are four key elements of
a resume:

Header. Your name, home address, and contact information (home phone, cell phone, professional e-mail address) should be at the top of the first page.

Experience/Job History. 

Resumes are written either chronologically or functionally. In most cases, a chronological format is the desired format. Start with your current/most recent position and work in descending order, ending with the oldest position.

Education. Be sure to include any relevant training and ongoing education.

Professional or Industry Associations/Honors/Recognition. List associations of which you are a member. Did you serve on a board or a special task force with any of these associations? Include any awards or special recognition you have received.

Compose a resume with the reader in mind. Commit to the process of making certain that the end result is as perfect as you can make it. Don’t attempt to throw together a resume in an hour. It’s unwise and too risky. Instead, compose your resume over a few days so you can close the document and view it later with fresh eyes. Tell an honest story in your resume. Don’t overstate, stretch the truth, or fabricate even one word.

A Visually Pleasing presentaTion

The reader spends about one minute scanning your resume and will disconnect from reading it if the eye and brain become bored, or worse, unimpressed. Many details can throw the reader’s focus off of your presentation. If your resume is too long or can’t be read easily, chances are it won’t be read even for one minute.

The worst offenses are delivering a resume that is too difficult to read because the font size is too small or it uses italics or cursive too often.

Use your critical eye to review your resume. Is there enough white space? Are the design elements professional and consistent? Are there periods after each sentence? Is each heading bolded or capitalized? Is the length appropriate to your career?

Two pages maximum covering the last 10–12 years of work is the norm; employers consider anything older as stale. Other offenses include using the wrong verb tense, too many long sentences, being verbose, using too many subjective comments, and not having enough facts.

Detailed Accomplishments

Don’t use a template for your resume. Use your own simple and easy-to-read style. This will allow the reader to focus on the content.

Consider having three distinct parts in each of the most recent positions on your resume.

The first part presents the company’s facts.

For example: Hutchinson Hideaway is a Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four Diamond 122-acre resort, employing 400 full-time staff members, located in Sonoma Valley, California. The resort is comprised of 250 rooms, three restaurants, a 26,000-square-foot spa with 27 treatment rooms, a spa café, and two swimming pools. Hutchinson Hideaway received award-winning accolades from Travel & Leisure magazine (“2007 Top 100 Resorts”) and other magazines as detailed on

The second part is a bulleted list of your responsibilities with factual details.

Don’t use nice-sounding, but empty and time-worn phrases to demonstrate your work ethic. Read each sentence carefully. If you can say, “So what?” at the end of a sentence, so will a potential employer. Write action-oriented sentences that sound proactive and which demonstrate how you solved problems, achieved goals, and accomplished tasks. Use specific examples to demonstrate your skills. Instead of saying “proven success in increasing guests’ customer service scores,” try detailing what you did to produce results: “Created and implemented comprehensive training program that helped to increase guests’ service scores by 30 points between 2006 and 2007.”

Another example would be: “Manage 100 massage and esthetician therapists, including recruiting, hiring, training, scheduling, providing regular performance evaluations, and disciplining.”

The third part consists of your accomplishments.

The Society for Human Resource Management recommends using a Problem, Action, Results (PAR) statement:

• What was the problem, challenge, situation, or task that you faced?

• What action did you specifically take to resolve this problem? If you were part of a team, what was your role in the team and what did you actually do?

• What were the results of your actions? When possible, quantify these results using dollar signs, percentages, and numbers. The more numbers the better, as they are measurable evidence of accomplishments and are highly visible as an employer scans your resume. For instance:

Increased spa revenue 40 percent between 2006 and 2007 by adding four cabanas next to the pool and hiring and training 10 additional staff members, which succeeded in providing guests 325 more massages per week between June and August 2007.

Decreased turnover of massage therapists by 20 percent between 2003 and 2004 by utilizing exit interviews, recommending operational improvements to the spa director, creating a coworker host program that aided in the orientation of new therapists, and actively listening to individuals and taking action on their suggestions for department improvement.

Details, Details, and More Details

What sets a resume apart from boring, canned resumes are the details and facts that add substance and show proof to the reader that you should be hired. Don’t include smoke and mirror sentences or phrases. This refers to a list of competencies or subjects mastered, or your strengths. These lists are subject to criticism, because it’s a list you created, which hasn’t been measured by a degree or an authority. Including an objective on a resume is also included in the smoke and mirrors category. It’s clear to most people that these objectives are changed depending on the company you are sending the resume to. And let’s face it, isn’t everyone’s primary objective simply to find a job? Stick to the facts in your resume and it will be a more impressive product.

Show you are informed by knowing the ratings for the company where you work. For instance, find out if Mobil or AAA rates your hotel/resort or spa. Many resumes I’ve reviewed show incorrect information regarding these ratings. It’s unfortunate that people don’t take the time or are not correctly informed about this subject. If you are lucky enough to work at a Mobil Four-Star property, be sure to include this information on your resume, but most importantly, state it accurately as Mobil does: “Four-Star,” not “4 star” or “4-Star.” The same for AAA. They show their ratings as “Four Diamond,” without a hyphen.

Use a personal, but professional e-mail address, separate from the e-mail address you have at work. Just as employers frown on employees’ personal use of company assets, you don’t want a potential employer to think you’ll do the same thing if they hire you. Also, don’t be,, or, etc. It’s best to use your name. For instance, I might be

Don’t include a list of references with a resume. When asked to provide a list, explain your working relationship with each individual and include the individual’s phone number and e-mail address, if available. Make sure the contact information is correct. It’s appropriate to include the reference individual’s current title and company name, too. Provide at least three people you reported to previously. Include colleagues, individuals who were your direct reports, and personal references if requested by the company. Check to make certain that each person agrees to be a reference for you and let them know they may be contacted soon.

Support Ideas

Finally, take one more proactive step in creating your resume. Send it to yourself and a few close friends who are able to assist you in making certain that the document is perfect. Keep your resume up to date. It’s much easier to provide objective accomplishment facts when you’ve kept track of the details over time. After each annual performance evaluation, write down your accomplishments. Add the best accomplishments and their details to your resume. Write down your own quarterly goals to reach—one step at a time—and then add those accomplishments when the results are announced.

Remember: There is no machine, product, or service more excellent than people. Expect the best. Demand the best. Start with yourself.

 Lori Hutchinson worked as director of human resources at two Mobil Four-Star properties: Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco and Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California, for a total of 12 years. In 1993, she founded Hutchinson Consulting, a hospitality management recruiting firm providing recruiting services to hotels, resorts, and spas. In 2008, Hutchinson joined the International Spa Association board of directors. Contact her at

 Linda Meehan is a professional resume writer focusing on the spa and hospitality industries. As a former human resources manager and controller for a luxury inn and spa, she is well versed in these multifaceted industries. Her creative talents, writing skills, and desire to help others led her to starting her own business in 2004. Meehan is a member of the National Resume Writers Association (NRWA) and can be reached at