Resumes are not on too many bestseller lists. They are normally pretty dry, so creating one that helps you to stand out from the crowd is no easy task. You have to make sure that the spelling is perfect, the formatting is consistent, and that your first statements grab the reader’s attention. However, isn’t the competition doing the same? How can you make your resume stand out?
Your resume and portfolio are great tools. The process of creating them can help you remember great things you have done that you might have forgotten about. They will also prompt you to answer some difficult interview questions, like “Tell me why I should hire you.” They can remind you of important contributions that you have made, or even help you to see your career in a completely new light.
You might think that you can just sit in front of a computer for an hour and whip off a good resume, but this is not so. The best resumes are the result of learning the resume‑writing process and allowing yourself the room to really create. You will find, that this process involves creating many notes and doing a lot of rewriting. Once you’ve created all kinds of notes and prepared your final material, you will be left with something that is comprehensive and valuable, rather than just another non-descript resume, cranked off from a template. This careful construction will make your resume stand out.
Types of Resumes
There are several options for how you can format your resume in terms of layout. The main types are:
There is no perfect way to set up a resume. You are trying to appeal to a reader that you haven’t met and, in reality, most employers do not want to read resumes in the first place. As you read the following descriptions, keep in mind that one is no better than the other. The layout you use will depend on your needs.
This type of resume is arranged in chronological order, with the more recent experiences listed first. The template that you completed as part of your pre-assignment essentially asks for information in chronological order.
This type of resume organises information by function and skill. It is helpful when people are trying to take their current skill set and transfer it into a new or slightly different type of work. These resumes also play down dates or employer names in order to highlight the most important content.
In this format, you will use headings that apply to specific skill areas, such as Management, Training, Sales, etc. The sample resume that we provided for the front-end supervisor that wanted to move into a training and development position follows this format.
Some resume writers may tell you to avoid the functional resume. They will tell you that the hiring manager assumes that you are trying to hide something (like being out of work for a while, being in prison, or job hopping). That is not necessarily the case. Use the style of resume that markets you in the most effective way possible.
These resumes use a combined approach, as their name suggests. You need to choose the approach that explains you best to the employer.
More than one resume?
Not everyone needs more than one resume. However, some people have a diverse background and are qualified for two different jobs. The only difference in their resumes might be the objective statement used for each. For example, a teacher may be qualified to teach and to work as a counsellor. One resume will not work for both jobs, even though a lot of the information will be similar.
Adjusting your resume to suit a job
Many employers require that applicants apply for jobs through their Web sites. You may be able to send them an electronic copy of your resume or you may have to reformat it so that it fits their requirements for submission.
If an employer has a form that you need to copy and paste your information into, simply take your polished, branded, beautiful resume, select all the text, and change it to one font (often Arial or Calibri). Watch carefully as you paste your information into the employer’s format, since you might lose some of your formatting. For example, bulleted list formatting may disappear. If that happens, place a dash at the beginning of each line.
Don’t shy away from electronic applications. As they become more sophisticated, your information is stored effectively for future job openings. This is slightly better than the old system where you have to re-apply to the same company every three months because they shred paper copies regularly. Do be aware, however, that once a company uploads your information to their database, it may be stored there forever. If you apply for twelve different jobs at one company over an 18-month period, make sure that the information you submit is consistent and honestly presented. Follow their directions for submission closely.
Your resume is your marketing sheet. It concisely tells a potential employer what you know and do. Following some guidelines will help you to produce a brilliant resume. The best resume is one for which you generate the content, but if you’re struggling, help is available to package it brilliantly.
Your resume should be no more than two pages, although there are exceptions. In today’s busy office, the resume screener and manager would love to have a one-page resume, so if you can say everything that needs saying in one page, do so. Otherwise, most resumes stick to an unofficial two-page cut off. If you cannot say it in two pages, you are probably saying too much. You should know that if your resume is longer than two pages, it probably won’t be read.
However, there are exceptions. Academic and scientific resumes are often longer than two pages because they are virtually portfolios of work. These kinds of resumes are referred to as Curriculum Vitae (CV), and include examples of professionally published work and research. You should only prepare a CV if it is specifically requested for a particular position.
A good rule of thumb is to review your resume and ask yourself if every statement helps potential employers learn something about you. If they won’t get any value from what you are saying, leave it out.
Never, ever skip this step. You must proofread your material very closely and then recruit some help. Often, when we re-read material that we have written ourselves, our brain recognizes it as correct, even if it’s not. Even keen spellers can find it difficult to see errors in their own work. The spell check function on your computer is of some value, of course, but it will not recognize contextual mistakes, like using “hear” when you should use “here.” Don’t ask just anyone to help you with this step: ask a strong speller.
All of your important personal data (name, address, and telephone number) must be correct. You should also include an e-mail address, but be mindful of the one you use. Sometimes, when using free sites like Hotmail, people tend to have very creative addresses. If you decide to use an e-mail address in your contact information, create one that sounds professional. Save the fun and playful names and creative addresses for your friends.
People often use the objective statement incorrectly. They say things like, “Looking for an entry level accounting position.” This is a bit too vague. You should take it to the next level and focus on what you can bring to the employer.
Recent graduate who thrives in a busy environment and on challenging assignments seeks entry-level accounting position.
Recent accounting graduate with a reputation for exceptional work and focus seeks entry-level accounting position.
This is an optional section, but excellent if you have done similar work in many different organisations. It should include at least one statement that describes an achievement, and it should support your employment goals.
Also, avoid including information that could cause problems for you. For example, if you are posting your resume online, you will probably need to be discreet about the name of your current employer in case someone from your current workplace comes across your resume online.
Remove all references to salaries, along with any reference as to why you left your former position. Avoid mentioning availability dates as well.
Use job titles that will make sense to a potential employer. Avoid jargon here; if your job title was not descriptive of the work you did, change the language. For example, “WTT” means nothing outside of the company that invented the acronym, even though you know it means “Warehouse Technician in the Townsville office.” On your resume, it makes more sense to refer to that position as “Warehouse Technician.”
As a rule, include no more than 10 years of work history unless previous experience is important. If you have not used a particular skill in the past ten years, chances are you will need to do some kind of upgrading before using it again.
Depending on the type of work you have done and the contributions you have made, you may have a lot or a little to say about your achievements. You may want to list some of your achievements with your work experience, or you may want to list them in a separate category.
Businesses have pretty limited interests, most of which focus around profit. Your accomplishments need to show potential employers how good you will be at making and saving them money. If you keep that in mind, you will be able to easily select the right accomplishments to include. This does not mean that you should not include examples that cannot be qualified with numbers and dollars. It just means that you should quantify as many examples as you can.
If you have recently graduated (or are about to graduate) and do not have much work experience, put this section ahead of the work experience section. If your experience is more valuable, then the work experience section goes before this section. Your highest educational achievement goes first in the list. Include courses and qualifications that you earned outside of school that support your application, like driver’s licensing, safety courses, workshops, and certificates.
General Style Tips
- List the most recent experience first for each section. If you had more than one position with a company, list the most senior position first. Leave out irrelevant tasks or job titles.
- Emphasise your accomplishments by using bold, italics, or underlining.
- Include some comments about your work from a supervisor, manager, or customer (like an endorsement you might see on the cover of a book).
- Include volunteer or community service involvement that supports your application. (Captain of the marbles team in elementary school does not fit here.) Exclude religious or political comments unless you are applying to a religious organisation or political party.
- Do not include references on the resume. Instead, add a line that says, “References available upon request.”
- Some colour is okay on a resume, for example for Headings. However, your resume is a professional document and should not be too flamboyant.
Check Up On Yourself
- Have you used short, easy to understand words instead of longer, complex ones that need to be looked up?
- Are your sentences no more than 15 to 20 words long?
- Are your paragraphs under five lines?
- Do your sentences begin with powerful action words wherever possible?
- Have you weeded out all the jargon you possibly could?
- Has someone proofread your document?
- Is there a nice balance of print and white space on the page?
- Have you aligned your cover letter and resume to the position advertised?