How to Write a Resume

How to write a resume

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?

Don’t!

  • 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.

DO!

  • 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

Resume content

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?

Header

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.

Career objective

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.

Summary

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.

Education

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.

Work experience

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.

Hobbies /Interests

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)

7 comments

  1. For anyone who is putting together their resume the most important thing to do is make sure that another person proofreads it. Better yet, have three or more people proofread your resume. Most people spend so much time on their resume that they begin reading things they want to say and it, but those things are actually in the resume. It’s a missed word here or there, or a misspelling that they just don’t see. Resumes are one of those things that people spend so much time on they often miss the obvious. That’s why it’s so important to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at it before you send it out.

    1. This can’t be stressed enough. Proofread your resume! Obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes will get your resume instantly thrown into the trash. if you can’t take the time to get your resume right when you have a lot of time, why should the company think you’ll do a good job under the pressure of time constraint?

  2. Your resume won’t get you the job, but it may get you your foot into the door so you have an opportunity to get the job. That’s what my guidance counselor always told me. It’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s free of any mistakes.

  3. Resumes certainly do make a huge difference. So many people just go a generic resume for all kinds of different jobs they are applying to and don’t realize that this is why they are having such a hard time landing a job. I actually have around three different resumes when I’m applying to jobs depending on the field and then I usually just talk about my hobbies, etc in a cover letter. Both are very important to finding a good job.

    1. Although your resume alone won’t get you a job it is a great way to attract attention to you and make sure you at least get that interview. You will need to make it as eye caching as possible but also in a professional manner. This is your chance to get your dream job so make sure to make an impression.

  4. Your resume is your first impression that the company will have of you so it is important to make it impressive. I have seen absolutely brilliant resumes in the past that stand out immediately if you look at them and that will help get you an interview.

  5. I need to update my resume so I can get a better job. What is the best way to go about this? Should I do it myself or hire someone to do it for me?

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