Making sure you have a well written resume is just as important as having the required skills for the job you are applying for. Simply being an ideal candidate as far as your expertise and experience is concerned will not guarantee you the job if your resume is poor. After all, how are you going to show the employer that you are the best candidate for the position if you do not even get to the interview stage?
Employers often have so many resumes to review, that the initial screening process usually only allows for a short amount of time to be spent looking over each resume. It is therefore extremely important for the applicant to submit a resume which gives a good first impression, is grammatically correct, and gives a clear image of that candidates’ skills. A badly written resume is unlikely to get through this initial screening stage, no matter how talented or skilled the applicant may be. On the other hand an eye-catching resume could give a candidate a good chance of getting the job, even if he/she is not the most qualified candidate who has applied.
Virtually every potential employer will ask to see your resume, since this is the best way for the employer to find out what you are all about. Your resume, along with the cover letter is your first chance to make a good impression, and convey to the employer your enthusiasm to work within their organisation. This section will give you a few tips on how to achieve this, and ultimately increase your chances of getting that job offer!
Writing Your Resume
Your Resume or Curriculum Vitae should be a brief presentation of your education and qualifications, work experience, skills, achievements and interests. It is a good idea to take time in planning the layout and content of your resume to ensure all relevant detail is included without the document being too lengthy, and that the set-out is pleasing to the eye. The style of writing and wording that you use will create an impression of you to the reader, so you should make sure that you choose the best phrasing and language as possible.
There are several aspects to consider in designing the layout of your resume and the image of yourself which you want to present. Firstly the resume should not be too long. It should include all relevant information, but this should be provided in a concise manner, so as to keep the attention of the reader. In general, resumes should not be longer than 3 pages long. However, you should also not run the risk of providing a resume which is too brief. Providing too little content will not give the employer a “feel” of what your are like as a person and what you are likely to be like as an employee.
The resume should be set out in a format which is easy to read and should be divided up into sections so that specific information can be found at a glance. You may wish to use impressive wording or language. This may create a good impression, as long as the message you are trying to get across is not lost in a phrase or paragraph which is too wordy or too technical to understand.
The appearance of the resume is the first thing the employer will notice. Therefore you want to make sure that your resume looks as neat and tidy as possible.
The following points explain ways in which you can improve the appearance of your resume:
- Use good quality paper on which to print your resume – you should choose a relatively expensive grade of paper to give your resume the best possible appearance. Paper should not be too fancy or coloured – it is best to stick to plain white paper.
- Use a good quality printer – laser printers are preferable. Text should not be in bold colours – stick to the more conservative look, for example black text.
- Use a good quality photocopier if this is the method you are using to produce many copies of your resume.
- Make sure the content of the resume is divided into appropriate sections, and that these are spaced in such a way which gives a clean, tidy appearance. Use headings, subheadings and bullet points to give an easy to read layout.
- Make sure the letter fonts and sizes for general text and headings, subheadings etc. are consistent respectively throughout the document. “Choose a simple, easy-to-read resume font. Think about how long most recruiters spend on each resume. Do you think it’s 5 minutes? 1 minute? 30 seconds? Most recruiters will actually spend 6 seconds scanning your resume, and they will often read dozens of resumes in a single sitting. Therefore, you should do whatever you can to make sure that the words on your resume are as easy to read as “humanly” possible.” — Chris Villanueva, CPRW, Founder of Let’s Eat, Grandma | Host of the Career Warrior Podcast
- Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Handwritten corrections are NOT acceptable.
There are several different resume styles, and the one you choose will depend on your previous experiences. The Chronological Resume includes details of all your employment history listed in reverse chronological order, ie. your current or most recent position listed first. This is a good resume format to use providing you have an impressive work history. If you have gaps in your employment history, have changed careers several times or are a recent graduate with no work history, the chronological resume may not be the best style of resume for you to use.
An alternative style of resume is the Functional Resume. This style of resume does not list your work history in chronological order, or may not even include a list of positions held. This type of resume contains information on the candidates skills, any accomplishments and experiences, without providing information on specific dates, time lines or places of employment. This style of resume is good for highlighting the qualities you can offer as a potential employee, particularly if the information provided relates to the skills required for the particular position you are applying for. The disadvantage of this type of resume is that employers DO generally like to gain an idea of your employment history and the training and experiences you have gained from these.
Most people tend to compose a resume which is a mixture of the chronological and functional resume, but each individual will have to decide which particular style would be more suited to their profile.
The Specific Sections
Here are some tips on information which you should include in your resume:
It is a good idea to include a brief objective at the beginning of your resume to give the employer a brief overview of what your career goals are. This should not be too lengthy – limit it to two or three sentences.
You should include a chronological list of educational establishments and courses attended with dates and details of qualifications obtained. Include grades of any examinations taken, and details of any professional affiliations. You do not need to include details of which kindergarten or primary school you attended – only information which is relevant.
Unless you decide on using the functional resume style as mentioned above, you should include a chronological list of previous employment (with most recent position first). This section should detail each position title, company details, dates of employment, and a brief description of duties/responsibilities of the post. If you have a long list of previous employers only give minimal details of the less important positions and highlight the more relevant positions by providing a summary of work undertaken and any accomplishments. Also there should be more of a focus on accomplishments than the responsibilities. For each position you have held, details and accomplishments should be listed in chronological order.
In this section you should provide details of your skills and attributes. If possible, try to detail those qualities you possess which would benefit their organisation.
For ideas, see:
- Skills to Include on Your Resume (With Examples!) by Robert Half.
- The top 10 soft skills you must have on your CV
You should include a brief description of your hobbies and interests.
Other information which you may wish to mention in your resume includes:
- Awards received
- Computer skills
- Military experience
You do not need to provide details of your references in your resume – this will only be relevant to the employer once you have passed the interview stage. For completeness, you could state in the resume that references are available upon request.
Now that you have got some ideas on the type of information employers will be looking for in a resume, you can start to design a resume which will allow you to stand out from other candidates. Remember that your resume is an advertisement for you and your capabilities, so make sure you take the time and effort to get it right!