We rarely get many chances in life to make a good first impression, and when we do we want to save those best first impressions for our professional goals. For this reason, having a resume that makes a first impression you’ll be proud of and will make recruiters want to to talk to you is an essential part of the job searching process.
Whether you’ve never had a job before or are looking to switch careers, a resume is the one tool that can make that possible. These careful documents speak for us before we’re given a chance and if studies are anything to go by they are read in just under six seconds by hiring managers before deciding whether we’re worthy or not.
However, as is the case with anything worth doing, you need to ensure your resume fits the guidelines for what makes a simple but alluring resume these days.
With everything covered from what sections should go in a resume to whether or not you should list your references within, this guide can answer every question you have about perfecting your resume and landing the job you really want.
In this article you will learn...
Although the resume definition is a summary of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. These simple documents are more like an advertisement that shows potential employers exactly who we are and what we can offer their organization.
A resume is somewhere to list your entire background as it pertains to this job application, with a carefully selected and laid out history of previous jobs, skills earned, and experience gathered along the way. It’s intended to provide a short summary for employers to look over and decide whether or not you’re worthy and they’d like to see you for an interview.
Because we get just one chance to send through our resume for a job application, it’s essential to get it right the first time.
Within your resume there are a number of rules and guidelines you should follow to ensure you get the right type of attention from hiring managers and that your resume doesn’t become another statistic simply tossed in the rejection pile.
Whether you’re new at applying to jobs or have been doing it for years, you’re probably already aware of the confusion over resumes and CVs. Although both of these are intended to provide a summary of your background to employers, they actually differ quite a bit in their content and when each of them is best used.
A resume is the most common request in terms of job applications, intended to give a brief summary of one’s skills and experience. These are usually one page long, however, can sometimes be a little longer, and contain important information only such as work history, education, and skills.
The aim here is to be as concise as possible and just give a brief overview of your experience, with further information available at the stage of the interview.
A curriculum vitae is a summary of one’s skills also, however they are usually longer than a resume at two or three pages.
These are intended to give far more detail about your education and academic background and includes things such as papers written, grades, research, awards, and teaching experience. Usually, an employer will request a CV if this is the preferred method otherwise it’s best to submit a resume.
Although there are a few schools of thought on what exactly a resume should contain and the order in which it should be placed, there’s no doubt that some are essential headings.
The beauty of a resume is that it can be individualized to meet each candidate, so there’s no need to have them all looking the exact same. If there’s relevant information to be added, you might find room for it after these essential headings.
This is always at the start of your resume and should contain your personal contact details. You might want to add more or less, depending on how you feel, but it should at least have your phone number and email address along with your full name. Don’t add your social security number as this can be obtained later if requested before employment.
You should have a clear objective in mind about your future career goals, both short term, and long term. Ensure that this is edited for each position you apply for so you can make it meet the organization exactly and the position being offered.
By having all of your important skills listed in one space before you get into your work history, you make it easier for recruiters to scan and see if you’re a fit. This can include both hard skills such as computer programs and soft skills like team management. Rely on past employers and position descriptions if you’re feeling stuck with what to put here.
Begin with your most recent education achievement and work backward, however, leave out anything unfinished or irrelevant if it was many years ago. The aim here is to show you are competent, but also that you chose study which is relevant to the position.
Here you should include all paid and unpaid work experience, so long as it is relevant, and list them in a chronological order with the most recent at the top. When writing your responsibilities at each role, use the correct tense and highlight any significant achievements you might have had while in the position.
When you look through the templates available on most word processors for resumes, the sheer volume and type of resume can be daunting. However, there are really three main templates you need to be concerned with and each of them can have their own benefits to the job seeker.
This is the most common format for resumes, and it gets its name from the way that your work experience and skills are listed according to date. A chronological resume begins with your most recent employment and goes back to your very first, giving employers a clear picture of your work story and a way to show that your career has been gaining momentum.
When you have gaps in your work history or periods without work, you might not want to display your entire background in chronological order.
For this reason, a functional resume is the best option as a way to highlight your skills and experience first and foremost with less emphasis on the exact dates and positions you worked. This is ideal for those returning to the workforce, older workers, or those who might have had extensive time off traveling.
When there’s no suitable answer with a chronological or functional resume, it’s best to make a hybrid and use a combination resume. This still focuses mainly on your skills as a functional resume does, but it has a more concise version of your work history like you’d find with a chronological resume.
Depending on your personal situation, one of these will be the best fit for showcasing your strengths and making you appear as the strongest candidate possible.
If you believe that your work history is solid in terms of dates of employment, you should opt for a chronological resume otherwise functional or combination might be best.
There are two popular approaches to writing resumes which each has their own benefits, but it depends on what the candidate is looking for from their potential employer.
What’s clear, though, is that the days of mass mailing out a standard resume are over as you need to be creative and spend more time ensuring that your resume is a perfect fit for each job advertisement you apply to.
A keyword resume focuses closely on the job advertisement and tries to use as many of the keywords as possible to make a match.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for hiring managers and recruitment companies to do a computerized scan of a resume to check for the relevant keywords before these are even passed on to a human for checking, so you need the goods to make it through.
A targeted resume works similarly, but without as much emphasis on the keywords. Rather, this uses the responsibilities and desired outcomes listed in the job advertisement and turns them around to offer these as personal strengths.
Provided you are being honest in your skill set and experience, this is an easy way to get yourself through to the stage of an interview.
Another essential part of the job application process is the cover letter, but there’s often a lot of confusion regarding this document. Sometimes people become confused between the roles of the resume and the cover letter, so you need a good understanding of what each is for and what they should contain within.
When applying for a job and wondering whether or not to attach a cover letter, the answer is almost always yes. Unless of course, it stipulates that a resume only should be attached, there’s no harm in attaching a short cover letter that sums up how your skills and experience make you an ideal fit for their organization.
In addition to these guidelines about how to create the perfect resume, there are some frequently asked questions that always seem to pop up. No matter how many years you’ve been applying for jobs, it seems that these questions are the first to be asked and the answer can always be different.
This one is kind of like asking how long is a piece of string, in that the answer will always be different depending on the candidate. Some job advertisements will specify a length of resume, but if they don’t then 1 to 2 pages is ideal.
If you’re struggling to fill up the space o get to two pages then certainly don’t try cramming words in, as this will be an instant turn off for the recruiter. Ensure you’re using enough white space in between paragraphs and headings as well, as this can sometimes buy you a bit of space if you’re stuck for what else to include.
As the years go on and you work more and more positions, it can be hard to fit them all onto your resume without spilling out onto additional pages.
The aim here is to leave off anything you don’t think relevant to the position such as a job worked 20 years ago when you were just getting started and packing boxes at the local supermarket.
For jobs held a while ago, you can also leave out some of your skills and responsibilities as the employer is likely more interested in the recent and relevant roles.
However, a great way to ensure that nothing is missed from your history is to create a professional account on LinkedIn so that you can list every position you ever held. This way, if a potential employer wishes to they can view your profile for a more in-depth picture of your work history.
There are a few things in life that are sacred and private, and what we earn is up there with the top three.
Your salary history is nobody’s business but your own, and it can only lead to more trouble if you choose to include it. If your potential employer isn’t immediately uncomfortable and turned off by reading it, there are a few ways it can cause problems.
Firstly, your previous salary may be over what the new position is offering and although you might be happy to take a pay cut they will assume you likely wouldn’t want to. Secondly, this information is sensitive and between you and your previous employer.
If the information was to reach the wrong hands it could be detrimental to your work relationships both past and future.
The best time to discuss salary will be during the interview stage, and only when prompted by the hiring manager. There’s no need to ever disclose your past salary to an employer, so all you need to know is what they are offering and whether or not it’s in line with your requirements.
This can be a gray area as there’s really no set time for when you should remove the GPA from your resume. For high school and college students, though, it’s best to put your GPA somewhere easy to read on a resume but only if the number is above 3.0.
Otherwise, this can reflect poorly on you and leave the impression that you weren’t academically strong.
Usually, after a year or two out of college, you can remove your GPA as anything longer and it may start to look a little strange.
By this time, you’ve usually gained enough work experience to keep your foot in the door and so this little number won’t matter much anymore. Some employers still request a GPA in a job posting, and in this case, it’s perfectly fine to put it on your resume for all to see.
This question usually comes with a few different schools of thought, but it’s always believed that honesty is the best policy.
When applying for jobs, telling a flat out lie about where and when you worked is absolutely frowned upon, and even if it lands you the job you will have a hard time keeping up with your dishonesty down the track.
However, some people might choose to exaggerate the truth a little to give their resume more pizazz.
For example, if you worked previously in an industry that has little to do with the one you plan on moving to next, work as hard as possible to find the similarities in the roles and add these to your skill set. Be sure not to fabricate anything though, as telling a lie and having it blow up in your face at a new job is a recipe for disaster.
According to Business Insider, up to 95% of resumes have something on them that a hiring manager doesn’t need to see, and it’s often thought that the hobbies and interests section is one of these.
However, it’s not as cut and dry as this, because there are some employers out there who like to see what excites you outside of work as a way to get a clearer understanding of who you are as a person.
Some hobbies and interests may be transferable as skills that can be used on the job, and this is where you should get creative about how you list them. Whether you want to put them in your resume or leave them for the interview stage is up to you and what you have surmised about the organization.
The best response to this is the gauge the ad and the company you’re applying to. If you think they might appreciate a bit of personal background information then go ahead, but don’t get too crazy by listing hobbies that would be inappropriate to discuss in the workplace.
Similarly, if you’re applying to be a finance banker at a large firm it’s generally understood that your weekend hobbies are of no interest to the organization and are better left unsaid.
No matter what industry you’re in, how many years of employment you have behind you, or the skills and experience you hold as a potential candidate, there’s nothing more important than having a quality resume. As the first and only impression you get to make on a recruiter or hiring manager, there’s no room for error in this very precious document.
A good resume should show an employer clearly what your professional history includes, and highlight exactly how you stand out from the other candidates. Try to put yourself in their shoes if you can and pick out what your strongest assets would be that could help land your dream job.
With a bit of planning and a lot of editing, you can ensure you’re putting your very best product forward and giving yourself a real chance at landing an interview.
These concise documents can sum us up entirely on a page, so you shouldn’t leave anything up to chance with poor formatting or spelling mistakes. Your resume will be what sets you apart from the pack, and you only have one chance of making it through to the next stage with an employer.