Your resume is a make-or-break document. When you’re hunting for your dream job, your resume determines whether you’ll be shortlisted as a possible candidate or ignored before you even get a chance to make an impression in an interview.
I used to be an HR manager, and you’ll be relieved to know that an extremely complicated resume isn’t going to get you anywhere no matter what any website marketing resume writing services may say. At the same time, you need to show that you’ve made an effort. So what are some of the things you should do and some that you shouldn’t when creating your resume?
- Get someone else to write your resume. By all means get someone to check it for errors and proofread, but keep it your own work. Why? Your resume should reflect your personality and writing skills. Recruiters will be quick to pick up any insincerity and discrepancies.
- Turn it into a Magnum Opus. Recruiters get hundreds of resumes for every job advertised. They need to get a handle on who you are and what you can do at a glance.
- Fret too much about formatting. Yes, your resume should look neat and well-ordered, but gorgeous formatting doesn’t mean you’re going to get the job unless you happen to be applying for a job in which this ability would be important.
- Say anything negative at any point. The same goes for your job interview. If you had a personality clash with your last employers or took them to the labor court, your resume is not the place to mention it, even if you were in the right.
- Revise your resume based on the post for which you’re applying. Your prospective employer wants to know you’re interested in the specific post you’re applying for. Highlight the skills that would be the most useful in that position.
- Keep it short, sweet and simple. Look at it this way. Some pressured HR employee has a stack of resumes on their desk and she’s going to try and get the gist of yours as fast as possible. Make it easy for them.
- Ensure it’s error-free. Mistakes make you look as if you weren’t willing to spend the time on the document at best. I’ve personally trashed resumes because of obvious spelling errors. Why? If the person can’t put their best foot forward now, why should I expect them to do so later?
- Be sincere and factual. Don’t play fast and loose with the truth and don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. Your sins will eventually catch up to you.
- Use clear headers and bullet points. Yes, it’s formatting, but it’s hardly fancy. Again, think of the HR person wading through piles of resumes. Make reading your resume easy for tired eyes.
- Put it through a word counter. No, the actual word count isn’t necessarily important, but seeing how many times you use words within the resume can help make sure you aren’t overusing certain descriptors that might turn off a recruiter
Now that we’ve set some basic ground rules, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. How should you order the content of your resume?
Your name comes first. Follow it up with your address, telephone number, and email address. I have seen resumes with absolutely no contact information. My impression? “This person is way too silly to work for us,” so don’t forget these basics.
A lot of people skip this part, but it’s definitely worth including. Be realistic about what you should be aiming for in your career at the moment. It’s pointless saying you want to be CEO if you’re applying for an internship. What you want is an internship. Why do you want it? Keep this to a sentence or two at most.
This is another helpful section for recruiters, and it may get your resume noticed. To write your summary, think about how you would advertise yourself. For example:
- Marketing professional with 3 years’ experience
- Creative thinker
- Fully conversant with online marketing techniques
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Goal-orientated approach
- Enthusiastic, passionate and energetic
Just be sure that you can back up any of these points with practical examples if anyone were to ask you! If you still lack experience, a little humility doesn’t go amiss. You could highlight your positive personal traits and your willingness to learn, for example.
List your educational achievements from the most recent to the oldest. Say what qualification you achieved, specify which educational institution you attended, and give the date your qualification was awarded. You should attach copies of your certificates in an appendix.
You need to show recruiters how you have spent your time since you achieved your qualifications. Give your most recent job first, and continue in reverse chronological order. Your employer’s name and the dates you started and ended the job acts as a header.
Recruiters also like to see a contact person and a telephone number here, since it makes it easy for them to verify your experience and get an opinion on how you performed. Provide a summary of what your responsibilities were, starting each one with a verb.
You need not give a reason for leaving, but if you’ve changed jobs fairly frequently, giving this information can help to overcome bias. So if your first post was an internship, and the second a fixed term contract that could help to explain why you changed jobs twice in two years. Recruiters see red flags when looking at a resume that seems to indicate you’re a ‘butterfly’.
Optional odds and ends
If you have any specific achievements that say something about how you would work in an organization, you could list them under ‘Additional Achievements’. So if you won a scholarship or held student leadership positions, these could count in your favor.
You may also have attended short courses which, while they aren’t actual qualifications, demonstrate your interest in your field. List them under ‘Relevant courses’.
Other skills that you may have acquired without ever doing a course may be of interest to a recruiter. For example, if you’ve mastered important graphics programs and can do graphic design even though you didn’t study in that direction, that may be of interest if you’re applying for a post where your extra skill could come in handy.
If you’ve done volunteer work, you could also list this since it may indicate your areas of interest and show that you’re a responsible person.
This is also an optional extra, but recruiters like to see whether your personality makes you a good fit. Saying you watch TV probably isn’t very helpful, but mentioning that you enjoy going to karate class will make them see you as a person of action with a certain amount of self-discipline.
Contacts / References
Even if you listed your reference contacts along with your work or educational history, you should add a handy guide at the end. It’s all about making it as easy as possible for a recruiter to verify the information given in your resume. This may sound like it’s not that important, but it is. Making the recruiter’s job easier shows that you will be helpful and make the people you work with lives easier as well, even if it’s only subconsciously. It’s little things like these that often stand out the most.
Don’t forget your appendices
You’ve done with writing your resume, but don’t forget to include any reference letters and certifications. Again, this makes it easy for the recruiter to verify your information. Now you’re ready to get that resume out there and knock ’em dead!
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Cestnik)