How to Write a Winning Resume

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.




Originality

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.

Looks

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).

Professionalism

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.

Unity

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.

Honesty

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.

Minor Detail

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.

Summarize

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.

49 comments:

  1. Interesting., and useful!

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  2. That's a great article Subhorup!!! Highly informative!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Minnie. Was trying to see if I can remain true to my writing style and write on a topic like this.

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  3. Words to be read and digested...
    puneonnet.com

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  4. good points Subho. Something that I need to learn for the non-academic world. I am so used to academia.
    In the academic world, it is different--for you have to list out all your conference presentations, research publications, research projects, courses taught, certificates gained. I was once in faculty search committee and the "winning" faculty had a 28-page resume!!!!! (in btw one of the members of the committee had written 18 books :))

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    1. there are old school thinkers in the corporate world too, who scoff at one page resumes. it is different for the academic world, since they do want to see the range of what you have done.

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  5. Worth its weight in gold.

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    1. sending my resume to you, sandeep. thanks for your comment.

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  6. That's a good one. Should help the freshers and the people who are trying to make a move after a long long time and lost touch with the art of resume writing :-)

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    1. you should see the stuff that people in advertising, copywriting and design come up with, indrajit. it is amazing how the art of presenting yourself has evolved into the art of selling yourself.

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  7. Great tips. We live in times when the attention span is getting shorter...No 6 makes so much sense.

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    1. thanks, alka, for taking time to comment on this post. i find your work awesome, so it is a great feeling to have your encouraging words on a post like this.

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  8. Thanks for this. It inspired me to improve my own resume.

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    1. i am so glad that this post has struck a chord with so many people whom i look up to. JP, there are some people who do not need a resume, their greatness walks ahead of them wherever they go, and you are in that league. truly happy that you found ways to improve your resume from this post.

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  9. Replies
    1. maybe people are surprised that i turned my attention to something that is sensible. thanks, TF, for your kind words. love the new look of your blog, and bracing myself for that review...

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  10. Replies
    1. welcome to SJD, annamarie, and thanks for your comment. please do keep coming back to stay in touch with my writing.

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  11. that's a very helpful post i must admit !

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    1. rahul, it was born out of experience on both sides of the resume, trust me. glad you liked it.

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  12. Very useful Sir. The Main thing is, we need to keep it original and not carried away with false promises and flowery words!

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    Replies
    1. concise, accurate, and relevant.

      and get well soon.

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  13. Thanks for the tips :)

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  14. Great pointers to spruce up a job seeker's resume!

    I take offense at the 'novel' comment. ;-)

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    1. :) That is more of a reminder to myself, really, Juggler. All the best with your novel.

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  15. Hey, this should help many, great effort :)

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  16. Nice info .. I need it most nowadays .. :P

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    1. Glad it was useful, Anjali. Wish you all the best.

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  17. This one is fantastic! Nice insight

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  18. good one ... I still look around for a template when I have to update my resume. This information will definitely help.

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    1. Thanks, Tangy Tomato. Ultimately, it is about presenting your self creatively. The most annoying thing about recruiting is to come across resumes that are just templates filled in.

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  19. YOU HAVE A GREAT TASK AHEAD...

    I WILL BE SENDING YOU MY RESUME :)
    Beautiful post, i am sure it will help lotsa people///

    Thank you Subh saabh :)

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  20. Replies
    1. Welcome to SJD, Afshan. Glad you liked the tips.

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  21. Hi subhorup,
    the only problem it does give is that most organisations today need multi tasking employees, hence the core competencies as well as core skills need more space, even if the font size is twelve or ten.
    i see a majority of resumes with bad language and spelling errors that stand out. it is essential that there is attention to detail. a lot of organisations are also looking at soft skills as a part of your skill set.
    Another common Mistake : strengths and weaknesses are sometimes mistaken as likes and dislikes... for example you cant have singing as your strength if your job requirement isnt so.
    candidates forget that the interviewer is going to ask questions about what is there in the resume. and they are trained to spot Dishonesty.
    lot of resumes make the mistake of writing "making friends" as a hobby. candidates need to know what they are writing under which section.

    I have trained young adults in resume building and interview skills, it shows up quite often there. On another note... do you pay your guest blogger?

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  22. Welcome to SJD, Aparna, and thanks for taking time out to comment. Totally agree with you that there are situations where you would need to list out all your competencies, and that might not permit the brevity I referred to. Your observation about strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes is spot on.

    I return guest bloggers' generosity in kind with backlinks to their work. Not yet into the "paying guest" business. I saw some of your work and liked it. Do keep coming back and feel free to contact me if you have something that you would like me to host that will help your activism work.

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  23. Replies
    1. Thanks, Bikram. Good to see you here after quite a while. Trust all is well with you and yours.

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  24. The best CV tips so far. Thank you for this.

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    Replies
    1. Shaluji, welcome to SJD!!!! Thanks for your kind words. Hope you will keep visiting!

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  25. Useful and interesting resume writing tips so far. Resume writing is an art, once you are aware of how to write it your half of the job is done. Using above mentioned tips it is possible for job hunters to write their job winning resume. You must write your application in a unique and outstanding way to get noticed from other applicants. This post would help many.
    I would also suggest some more CV writing tips on http://evalee140.livejournal.com/551.html

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    Replies
    1. Very true, Eva. And thanks for sharing the link too, it sure will help readers get a better grip on resume writing.

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  26. Very nice article Subhorup sir
    I'll keep this in mind

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    Replies
    1. Shashiji, if I have been of any help to you with this one, then jalebis and kachoris are due!!

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