Sometimes it’s not a question of what you’re doing wrong, but what you could do better.
So you’ve finally graduated and got the first draft of your resume written. It may have taken you some time to get here, but you made it to the finish line and that is no easy feat. The first hurdle is getting through that mental block of procrastination and powering through its intimidation tactics, but once you do, you’ll find that sailing along the journey can be either be the easiest or hardest step towards job hunting.
It doesn’t take that long to write a resume, but it does take time to decide what to include and to organize the information logically. It is also advised to get help from a professional resume builder. Once it’s written, it’s usually best to step away from it for a day or some and then come back to it and see if there’s a way that you can make any improvements.
To anyone who has ever attempted to write a resume, writing a highly-efficient and powerful one doesn’t come easy. It can be especially challenging to truly show off the unique colours of your skills with more interdisciplinary and intersectional work facets coming together, and more people with multi-faceted skills bringing in their expertise to the growing global market. That’s why it’s critical to learn how to optimize your resumé as best as possible.
Think of your resume as a personal promotional advertisement. The main purpose of an ad is to give relevant information to the reader. The same is the case with your resume. A resume cherry-picks the most attention-grabbing, impressive and unique details about you, your work, and your skills. Any professional recruiter worth their weight in gold can tell in seconds the time any resume has to get noticed, so your resume should stand out from the cream of the crop.
In this extremely competitive market, your resume and cover letter must specifically mesh toward a particular opportunity. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. First impressions are important
The first section of your resume should ideally showcase your bargaining chip: the value you’ll bring to an employer. The clever use of the headline and summary section should capture the reader’s superfluous attention by emphasising outstanding successes, experience, expertise and professional qualities.
If you’re a fresh graduate, include the Education section of your resume first. Since this is what you’ve been doing full-time over the past several years, it’s important to have Education included at the very top of the resume followed by a Relevant Coursework or Relevant Experience section right below. Under each heading, you will then want to include the most recent experience first.
It should be worth noting that most employers often skim resumes first to find the most qualified candidates before looking them over more carefully. With this vantage point, you should take extra care to highlight how you meet the specific qualifications of the internship or job right away. Finding a clever way to organize all of the information on a resume is often the most crucial part of the whole process.
2. Write for the future, not the past
A resume is many things, most of all a marketing document. It’s not a birth certificate or tally of all your life accomplishments, so viewing it from the lens of a marketing standpoint and not a historical one will go a long way to making sure the output is as polished as possible. Your current career goals should always determine which parts of your story to highlight and which to minimize.
The key is to give heavier emphasis to the credentials, experiences and accomplishments that relate to your objective and less to things that don’t. Certain older job seekers can briefly summarize their earliest work experiences without dates (if you choose this approach, omit your college graduation date). If you hope to make a career shift back to something you did years ago, note that prior experience is prominently in a “Related Experience” section that comes before other “Professional Experience”.
3. Make use of keywords
A majority of companies and recruiting agencies use keywords to identify qualified candidates. If you don’t use the right ones, your resumé will be overlooked by the electronic applicant tracking systems — even if you’re the ideal candidate.
Using the wrong keywords can also date you (for instance, “personnel” is old school; the right phrase is “talent acquisition”). Dedicating a certain portion of your resume drafting process to get the colloquial terms right will help you out in the long run.
4. Be as specific as you can
It’s not ideal to send the same resume to different companies for different jobs. You should aim to customise each application for the kind of employer you want to impress. Select specific industries, businesses, and disciplines and tailor your portfolio in such a way that will make your skills in each respective sector stand out the most.
The rule of thumb is to include the last 15 years or so of employment on a resume. For students and new graduates, you will want to include the most relevant experience first and then, if there’s room, you may want to also include your summer jobs working at a local restaurant or retail store to highlight your interpersonal, communication, and teamwork skills that are also very important to employers. Try to alter as much as you can for each one.
5. Don’t neglect the design
It’s a well-known fact that more people skim than read. To give justice to your labour of love and reward your working experience: make sure to write short paragraphs of three or four lines at most. If you find yourself having more essential information to share, create another paragraph or bullet list. Adding white spaces between paragraphs to provide “breathing room” and using headings and subheads to segment and introduce information is another good technique to use.
A resume is like a business card. If the details are amiss and you leave out important information, don’t expect a callback.