HOW TO WRITE A STAND OUT RESUME
Oh, the hunt for that elusive dream job.
It’s there — you can see it, feel it and know you would undoubtedly shine in the role — but there are countless hurdles you need to jump before you it’s all yours.
Questionnaires, applications, resumes, cover letters, phone interviews, in-person interviews, reference checks, background checks and so on.
It takes a lot of work to put your hand up and prove yourself for the perfect gig, especially when there are hundreds and even thousands of other candidates trying desperately to do the same.
That’s the thing. In today’s competitive market there’s a lot more candidates than positions and so the power is in the hands of the employer. This is perhaps your greatest hurdle.
But the good news is, you do have some power. It lies in the preparation you put into the application process. In identifying your strengths and accomplishments — and ultimately — how you present them on paper.
This is why we’re talking to you about the two most powerful personal branding tools you will arm yourself with in the hunt for a job: your cover letter and resume.
It’s these two documents that will determine whether or not you’ll make it past the gatekeeper and into the prized interview room.
WHAT IS A RESUME?
Your resume or Curriculum Vitae is a document that itemises your career history and provides potential employers with relatable information about why they should consider hiring you. It summarises the jobs you have held, the education you’ve attained and all your other certifications, skills and accomplishments.
It speaks for you when you’re not there to do it yourself.
It can open and close doors.
You cannot underestimate the importance of having a good resume.
If your cover letter was enough to entice the hiring manager to turn the page, then it’s really up to your glowing resume to get your name on the interview shortlist.
It’s your final chance to capture an employer’s attention and escape getting tossed onto the ‘unsuccessful’ pile.
But, provided you already meet the requirements of the job, a great resume will:
- Grab the attention of potential employers, hiring managers and other recruiters
- Promote your greatest skills and accomplishments
- Confirm why you’re a good match for a position
- Highlight your current capabilities and future potential
- Assist you in taking the next step in your career
- Get you the interview
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO A STRIKING RESUME?
Before we get down to the nitty gritty of format and structure, there are some other components and considerations that will help you ensure your resume — and your job prospects — won’t meet an untimely death.
- Your resume is part of your personal brand identity, or how you will be seen in the marketplace. Just like we choose food, clothes, homes, cars and other products to suit us, hiring managers are equally careful when it comes to selecting the right employee.
You personal brand will answer the following two questions:
Who are you?
What do you offer?
Try and communicate this as succinctly as possible. Like an elevator speech.
To workshop your personal brand, ask yourself:
How might I be different from other job seekers?
How do I bring value?
- A hiring manager is likely to spend less than a minute scanning your resume. Yep — a quick flick, a glance and maybe a speed read if you’re lucky. It’s imperative that what they do see is impressive.
- Don’t be predictable. To the jaded hiring manager tasked with scanning hundreds of resumes, you’re no different to every other candidate with “X years’ experience in Y industry, managing Z team members.” Dig a little deeper and emphasise accomplishments over statistics and responsibilities.
- It’s tempting to list every course/job/certificate/skill you’ve ever had, but it’s simply unnecessary and could be a waste of your time and theirs. Your resume should be a selective body of content adapted, in the least, to an industry — if not for every individual opportunity that arises. It’s OK to omit some of your history if it isn’t relevant to the role and won’t convince the hiring manager to interview you.
The art of relevance essentially comes down to doing your research. Learning the selection criteria inside out. Studying the business, the company or the industry. Getting clear on whether or not you meet the role requirements.
- Avoid clichés.
“Effective problem solver.”
Have plenty of examples in your back pocket if you’re going to use this one!
“A real people person.”
Leave it to the interview to prove this.
On the other hand, it’s appropriate to use some industry buzzwords that will resonate with the reader. ‘Speaking the language’ will highlight your knowledge and understanding of the industry or role and increase your credibility.
- Too often in today’s business environment, we’re given little or no positive feedback from bosses and colleagues. We rarely get the chance to reflect on our careers wins — an exercise that’s great for boosting our confidence and reminding us of our self worth.
Putting together your resume is actually a perfect opportunity to sit back and take a moment to appreciate your career highlights and recognise how hard you’ve worked. It’s all right there on paper. Celebrate it.
- We provided some wonderful exercises and other nuggets of information as part of yesterday’s How to Write a Killer Cover Letter article. These could also be applied to the art of resume writing. You can read the following gems here.
- How to start to manifest your dream gig before putting pen to paper
- Words of wisdom from the brilliant Rachel MacDonald http://inspacesbetween.com/blogging-business/about-me-page/
- Blowing your trumpet — with authenticity.
- Putting yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager
- Identifiying your unique selling proposition
There are so many conflicting recommendations out there.
Should you keep it to one page? Do you add a summary at the start? Do you include personal interests and volunteer gigs?
Resumes come in all different shapes and sizes, but clear, concise and neatly organised information that is relevant to the position you are applying for is paramount.
This popular resume format lists your most employment history (from most recent to past)—like a reverse timeline. It often includes an Objective or Career Summary paragraph, education details and special skills. Great for if your experience in a particular field is well-honed, you have stable career progression and you’re planning on sticking to that field.
If you’re looking for a change in career or only just joining the work force, a functional resume format may be more beneficial. It focuses more on your skills and achievements as opposed to job titles and companies. It gives you a chance to really wave your skills and accomplishments in a hiring manager’s face, skip over any lulls in your work history and disregard irrelevant positions.
Whichever format you choose, hiring managers want an answer to the same question.
“Is this candidate worthy of an interview?”
So, make the effort to include as much of the following information as possible:
As with your cover letter, give them every opportunity possible to contact you for an interview! Email, phone number, home address — give it to ‘em!
Whip up a punchy, compelling and authentic summary of your expertise and goals for the next step in your career. Tell the reader what you can offer them, straight up. Don’t get too bogged down — you’ll have the change to elaborate further down the page. Tailor it to the advertised role and show the employer you’ve got the low down on the job, the business and the industry.
A timeline of your relevant experience, including company, job title, dates, responsibilities and achievements. Bullet points work perfectly here.
If you’re just entering the work force, this is where you’ll want to highlight your work experience, internships and other casual or permanent positions.
- Responsibilities / Achievements
- Responsibilities / Achievements
And so on.
Show off the schools you’ve attended and your tertiary qualifications. Degrees, diplomas, special awards, honours, certificates, licenses, trades, doctorates. The lot.
Bachelor of Arts Majoring in Journalism and Political Science
What areas do you specialise in? What are your technical strengths? Are you savvy with a particular software system? An SEO maven? Style cutting extraordinaire? Infectious diseases expert? Whip smart negotiator? Describe these with enough detail to show the hiring manager you can use them to add value to their team.
Try to mention some of your transferrable skills — skills that can be adapted from one job to another and used in many areas of your life.
Critical thinking skills. Time Management skills. Computer skills. Tick, tick, tick.
Just be prepared to back these up with proper examples when you front up to the interview
This is a biggie — it’s where you put your money where your mouth is.
You can have every skill and qualification in the world, but if can’t pin your apparent skill set on real-life work scenarios with a quantified or qualified result — you might as well go home.
The hiring manager wants to know: “What has this candidate done in the past that can help us in the future?”
Brainstorm the following questions and boost your arsenal of achievements:
What challenge have you been presented with? What action did you take? What was the result?
What problems did you solve?
What solutions did you provide?
How did this benefit my customers, colleagues — or the bottom line?
Did you create a new service that brought more customers out of the woodwork?
Did you save time and money by correcting a procedure?
Did you appease an unhappy customer?
In most cases, it’s helpful to include these. Don’t make the hiring manager chase you up. Choose carefully: you want a referee that knows your work, thinks highly of you, can attest to your brilliance and articulate your capabilities. It’s best to choose someone senior to you, from a recent place of employment. Don’t forget to ask their permission before you hand over their deets!
If relevant to the role, you might also like to include the following sections:
Interests and hobbies
Volunteer or community work
Professional development and further training
Just like your cover letter, your resume is a chance to show off your written communication skills, so pay close attention when tidying up these pages.
When it comes to style, consider the following:
- Use a standard size readable font. Don’t cram it in.
- Be professional. Carry yourself on the page as you would in your interview. According to Monash University’s detailed resume guide, write in plain business English, avoiding abbreviations, jargon and slang.
- Monash also suggests using a consistent layout with sub-headings and bulleted lists to draw attention to important information.
- Two to three pages in length is standard — but try not to go beyond that.
- Keep it succinct, elegant, clean and simple.
- Perfect grammar and spelling are non-negotiable. Do a spell-check — and then do it again.
Did you miss yesterday’s article on How To Write A Killer Cover Letter? Catch up here.
Would you like some extra help with writing your Resume, preparing for an interview or negotiating a new role? Connect with our friends at Ama La Vida who can help you navigate this process like a Pro!