One of the more frequently neglected aspects of job seeking is the resume or curriculum vitae. Having a resume that communicates one’s abilities and intent objectively, accurately and appropriately can decide whether your profile will get past the very first level of screening which is in fact called the resume screening. Even during subsequent assessments during the recruitment process, your resume can set you apart from the rest of the people being considered. Here are some of the things that you can look out for to give your resume the edge it deserves.
The first thing that is subconsciously evaluated by recruiters is, trust me, whether your resume is different from that of the hordes out there. A large portion of resumes that I look at are built on templates, and often include identical sections and even text. You are unique and special – why use someone else’s idea of what a resume should look like? Let your resume communicate your uniqueness.
While most of the suggestions in this post are generic and apply to the majority of job-seekers and employers, remember that your resume is the first step to differentiate yourself from the rest of the “products” in the race for the recruiters’ attention. Especially for positions that require creativity or innovativeness as necessary skills, do not hesitate to break the rules and make your own ones. Do a web search for “creative resumes” to get an idea of what I mean.
Make sure it is clear, readable, and easy to follow. Don’t clutter it up with blocks of text or endless bullets. Ensure adequate margins and space between sections. Provide a summary of your skills and qualifications (and intent if applicable). Proofread your resume so that you do not have to make hand-written corrections later. If you are submitting a hard copy of your resume, print it on a good printer with fresh toner and on good high GSM paper. Fold it carefully into width-wise thirds if you are going to put it in a standard business envelop and make sure that you do not over-fold or end up with multiple creases. Avoid smudges (this is near the top of my list, but I guess it figures somewhere on every recruiters no-no list, that is unless they are looking for the ultimate sloppy Joe).
Most of us acquire a good bit of training, qualifications and expertise as we go along. It is often tempting to include all of these on your resume. Unless asked for or pertinent to the position in question, keep your educational qualifications brief. Details can always be provided when required. Use a font commonly used for professional communications like Times or Arial. Recruiters and employers have limited time assigned to reading your resume, and you don’t want a flowery font eating that time up. Avoid changes in font or font size unless that is demanded by your resume design strategy. Leave out details that are not pertinent to the position you are applying for.
Search on professional networking platforms to identify the key qualities and abilities that people list when describing the position you are applying for. If any of these descriptions apply to you, include them in your resume. Frequently, you might possess a quality or a skill relevant to the job you are applying for but might not be using the more commonly used term for it. Include a link in your resume to your profile on professional networks like LinkedIn. This can be especially useful to employers to assess your relevance to and interest in the industry and the assignment in question. To learn how to leverage your presence on professional networks, read my post on How to Tweak Your LinkedIn Profile for Better Results.
A common experience of employers is finding career objectives that are in no way linked to the listed competencies or supported by the qualifications. Another common embarrassment is when achievements are in no way connected with responsibilities or skills. Similarly, many resumes detail a profile that is largely irrelevant to the responsibility being applied for. Go through your resume to eliminate inconsistencies and redundancies. Your resume should read like a cohesive and convincing mission statement leaving the employer in no doubt about your suitability for the job. This helps communicate that you have thought about your strengths and weaknesses and your career objective.
We live in times of false impressions, exaggeration and vanity. A frequent awkward moment during the recruitment process is when one discovers that what has been mentioned in the resume is not true. In most cases, this has to do with qualities, skills and strengths that one lists, while in some others, it has to do with goals and hobbies. While your resume is an advertisement for the person you are, it is important to be honest and objective. This becomes even more complex when the resume in question lists “honesty” as a strength! A large number of candidates are at a loss when asked to elaborate on their strengths, goals or hobbies.
Describe yourself as you are. If you are all wart, say so; you may be surprised at how often all wart goes on to become most precious employee.
Needless to say, being honest about your qualifications and certifications is extremely important, as most employers conduct background checks to validate this information, and any inconsistency could result in your reputation being irreparably damaged.
You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your resume is precisely that, the first impression you make. Check your resume for typographical errors, grammatical errors, and inconsistent syntax. If you have started in the implied first-person, stick to it right through. Look out for stylistic elements like tab settings and bullets and make sure they are appropriate and consistent. For positions requiring detailed resumes, make a one page abstract and include the details as a separate supporting document. While there are employers who might be interested in seeing a lot of matter in a resume, for most, a well formulated single-page resume communicates that you care for their time and attention.
1. You are a unique individual. The resume is your stand-in. If I don’t see that when I look at your resume, I worry about who you might be.
2. Good looks matter. Even for resumes. A sloppily prepared resume tells me you don’t care.
3. If you are applying for a job selling insurance, I might not be interested in the details of your yoga teaching expertise. Keep your resume relevant to the position applied for.
4. It is rare that one’s head and heart are aligned. As an employer, that is exactly the person I am looking for.
5. Don’t list honesty and hard work as your strengths unless you can’t think of anything else. They might actually be weaknesses in the field you are choosing, while your other apparently undesirable qualities might have been precisely what I was looking for. Don’t list “listening music” (sic) as your hobby if you cannot discuss the music you “listen.”
6. If it takes you more than a page to list your core abilities, qualities and intent, you should be writing a novel (or guest blogging for me), not applying for jobs.
7. I like to know what you can do for the organization in very specific and quantifiable terms. It is even better if you can back it up with reasons why I should believe that you can do those things. If you can put that either at the start or the end of your resume, it makes my job of choosing you that much easier.