While job applicants can use different styles and formats, the basic building blocks of the perfect resume don’t vary.
So you’ve graduated from college and have acquired a degree, but while most of your peers have already started their “9 to 5” journey, you are somehow falling behind.
Before you slip into panic-induced self-doubt, let’s be clear here.
Well, it’s not you, it’s your resume.
Yes, you read that right, it’s probably the way you’ve prepared your resume which is undermining your worthiness and failing to impress the employers.
Wondering what you can do about it?
Well, for starters, you need to get creative (and possibly competitive) to make your resume striking out of a pile of hundred other resumes. Don’t get fooled by resume writing myths, it’s simple to get your resume noticed if you follow certain rules.
But to make sure your resume gets noticed, you need to follow certain best practices. So without further delay let’s dive in discuss what those practices are:
1. Style and format
Resumes have no set format and this can lead to candidates interpreting this as a license to do whatever they feel on paper. While there are some niche positions where a visual bombardment will stand out in the right way, these are few and far between. With resumes, conformity is key. Human Resource departments will only spend a few seconds looking at your application before moving onto the next. If they don’t see what they want they will simply pick up the next one after giving your file a cursory look.
When creating a resume, keep in mind that there is a wide range of templates available online to choose from. These are recognized formats that resume-reader software and HR departments are familiar with. They also have the advantage of guiding you through the construction of your application. These are good, but you may also wish to consider using a professional service to help you create your resume. If you decide to just go it alone then keep it as simple as possible. Pick a readable and professional-looking font such as Times New Roman or Arial and use it throughout. Keep the formatting simple and do not overuse bold, italics or underlining. Sometimes it will look better to get emphasis by increasing from 12 point to 14 for a title or name rather than underlining it. Never go beyond two pages– keep it short and to the point.
2. No two resumes are the same
Resumes should be crafted for the position being applied for. The skills and experience you highlight will be specifically tailored to what is required by the employer. Before you start to write your resume you will need to know who you are writing it for. Job applications typically will have job descriptions or even descriptions of the skills and experience wanted from a successful candidate. These tables are your framework for both your resume and cover letter. Some roles will go as far as to tell you where they will be looking for evidence of you meeting that skill (interview, resume or cover letter). If you are applying speculatively or the company has not provided a description of this type then it is important that you research what the role will entail and use this information to inform your construction.
3. Order it correctly and highlight your strengths
You are just starting out and you won’t have several positions to discuss and show off about. This doesn’t mean that you have nothing to say. In a conventional resume, the candidate would lead off with their work experience in reverse chronological order (starting with the most recent first). Unless you have relevant and strong work experience you will want to leave this section until later. For your first resume, you will need to lead off with your qualifications and education history. Include grades and GPA if they are good, otherwise just give details of what was studied. Craft your resume to suit the position – you will include your whole education on every version but which essays, feedback and course content you highlight will depend upon what the role needs.
Next, focus on your skills and related experience. Are you IT competent? Have you got leadership experience from scouting or other voluntary activities? If you are used to working to deadlines, employers may have forgotten that aspect of college life, so remind them. If you have ever organized an event, describe it. Look at what they want from an employee and find something from your life to match it.
4. Get the basics right
It doesn’t matter how good you are, basic mistakes will cost you a job. Read everything carefully, check the spelling, grammar, and formatting. Once you’ve looked at it close up, look at it from a distance. Don’t focus on the words anymore but the style, does it look clean and professional, or is it busy and childish? Have you included your name and contact details on both pages? Have you tailored it to their job? If you’ve got a cover letter is it addressed to the right company throughout? Have you used advanced and recent formatting that older versions of Word will struggle to render? Remember many companies, especially in the government sector, will only upgrade operating systems and software when it becomes absolutely necessary. Keep it simple. Don’t include any photographs, references or personal objectives, and only have a link to your blog if it is well written and relevant.
When you’re preparing your resume, you need to always keep the consistency factor in mind. This means that the formatting, the colours, the font, everything should be added with a sense of uniformity.
If you submit a resume that’s disorganized, you will obviously come across as sloppy, unmotivated, and confused. Think about the kind of job you’ll be applying for, and include a legible and coherent font, simple spacing or follow a template for a creative touch.
If you really want the employers to notice (which you obviously would!), you can even create a completely new template, but always ensure that your resume appears consistent throughout.
6. Make the perfect cover letter
Now a common practice among most of the jobseekers is that if a job application urges them to provide a resume, people will send in their resume. What most people don’t consider is presenting a cover letter along with the resume.
So that your cue, if you want that dream job of yours, you need to make that extra effort and attach a cover letter with the resume, and you will definitely be able to win over the recruiters. Your cover letter will be supplementary to your resume and will briefly explain the skills you’ve acquired in your academic journey. You will see that the efforts you made while writing the cover letter will surely pay off.
Now speaking of your skills, you need to pay special attention to the section where you list out your key skills. While focusing on this part of the resume, you need to emphasize on the skills that the employers are specifically looking for in a candidate.
Provide evidence along with your major skills. If you have prior work experience, you can consider mentioning how much sales your previous company had garnered with your contribution, rather than just elaborating on how you’d adopted a unique marketing strategy to increase the sales.
This way every recruiter who goes through your resume will be intrigued. Always try to present the skills you possess with proper metrics so the recruiter gets an idea that you could bring similar results to the position you’ve applied for.
7. Social media matters
The perfect resume reflects who you are and provides insight about you to the recruiters. That’s the reason why you need to maintain complete transparency about your personal details so that the recruiters can see that you’ve got nothing to hide.
While providing the link to your Facebook or Twitter profile may not be appropriate (unless you’ve applied for a position that involves social media, for instance, social media manager or PR manager) but you can mention your LinkedIn profile, contact numbers, and address. Employers are generally always concerned whether you’re easily accessible or not, or try to gather more details about you, from the pointers stated in your resume. Additionally, it also builds a sense of trust between the concerned parties.
8. A great resume is tailored
This is possibly the most crucial aspect to keep mind while preparing your resume. To ensure that your resume appears to be perfect, you have to have an idea who your employer is.
For example, the resume you send to the Royal Bank of Scotland will not be applicable to Google. So it’s best you conduct some research and gain a clear idea about the work culture, the objectives of the organization, and the ethos of your employers.
If you’re applying to a job straight from the online portals, always remember to go through the job description carefully and determine which aspect of your resume you can highlight, is it your experience, major skills, education, or achievements? If your resume is prepared according to the requirements of the employer, you will always have the edge over other applicants.
9. Put quality over quantity
Your resume isn’t placed where you tell your life story. Be careful about including the details, and always go for the experiences, which you consider to be fitting to the position you’ve applied for. If you’ve served as an intern for another organization, that’s more worthy of a mention than the fact that you worked at a restaurant on weekend shifts. Well, you get the drift, but ultimately it matters how much experience you have gathered in the specific field where you’ve applied for a job.
10. Present your educational information chronologically backward
Provide your educational qualifications according to the relevance, with the most recently acquired degree being at the top, and keep going backwards following this method. The employers are likely to be concerned with the degree you just attained than something you did five years ago. However, as has been pointed out earlier in the post, don’t forget to maintain consistency.
11. Use relevant industry-specific keywords
Now here’s a fact, with so many applicants vying for the same job you wish to land, recruiters are hardly going to get the time to read your whole resume. Especially in case, if it’s a multinational organization where every day hundreds of applications are submitted for a single post. Many of these organizations actually adopt a filtering method to evaluate your resume and look for several keywords that are crucial to your particular industry.
12. Get creative with the resume
If you treat your resume like a business report, then it’s highly likely that the recruiters won’t spare a second look at it. The prevalent notion about a resume is that it’s there to let the employers know what your accomplishments are, a document that chronicles your professional background.
But in reality, that’s not true. You need to remember that the resume is prepared so that you can sell your abilities and skills. You can consider it to be like an advertisement that’s exclusively presented to sell your skills. So you might as well put your creativity to use, and ensure that your resume doesn’t turn out to be too mechanical and dull.
13. Thoroughly proofread your resume before sending it
Before proceed to send out your resume, spare a few minutes to read the document precisely. You need to be certain that there are no mistakes in the papers. There shouldn’t be any traces of typos, spelling or grammatical mistakes. You should also pay attention to whether the formatting is properly maintained or not.
When you present a resume laced with errors and inconsistencies, it’ll never fetch the desired results, no matter how skilled you are as an individual. Remember that this apparently simple (and often insignificant) step is one criterion by which you’ll be assessed. So to prepare a remarkable resume, carefully cross-check for errors before sending it out.
With these handy tricks, you will get one-step closer to landing your dream job.