SECURE THE JOB YOU WANT & EXCEL
Producing a well-prepared résumé is essential to obtaining the right job. Ideally, you will have thought about the need to “build” your résumé a number of years beforehand.
In preparing your résumé, keep in mind these general points:
- Challenge yourself to make your résumé stand out from the mass of other résumés being sent in for any job. Make yours a memorable sales document that demonstrates some verve, imagination and passion in how you present yourself as the right candidate for the position you are going after.
- Customize your résumé for each organization you are submitting it to. Failing to do so is the most common mistake of job applicants. Your résumé should match the stated requirements of the job as closely as possible and highlight your past accomplishments and experiences that are relevant to this particular job.
- Limit your résumé to one or two pages. Think of it as an ad or billboard on why you should be hired for the job. Avoid using the word “I”, clichés, industry jargon and abbreviations. Omit vague, non-pertinent, long statements. Stick to the same print font throughout. Be extremely careful not to make any spelling errors, factual misrepresentations or grammatical mistakes. It is common for a prospective employer to verify an applicant’s education credentials and prior work history.
- Most people reading a résumé are looking for reasons to screen out applicants. The more information you include, the greater the risk you will trigger one of the screener’s negative biases. As you gain more work experience, your résumé could expand to a second page. One approach is to use a single-page résumé for the initial contact and then leave a second more detailed résumé with the interviewer or send it in afterwards.
- In describing your strengths, recognize that the skills most valued by employers today are teamwork, the ability to problem solve, verbal communications, adaptability and a strong work ethic as opposed to entrepreneurialism, being a risk-taker, creativity and strategic planning. In fact, having excellent inter-personal skills often can trump one’s professional and technical qualifications in terms of getting hired.
Here are recommendations regarding the format and content of your résumé:
- Organize the format of your résumé to make it easy to read and find the key information. Use bold print for your name, section headings, sub-headings and bullets for any listings of points. Use all capital letters for your name and section headings. Just capitalize the first letters of the words in your sub-headings. Do not underline any headings or sub-headings. Leave a fair amount of space on both margins, and do not use too small a type-size. Keep paragraphs to a maximum of three to four lines.
- At the top of the first page, put your name and then underneath put your mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address. Do not use a silly or cute-looking e-mail address. Omit the word “résumé” in the heading. If your résumé continues to a second page, repeat your name in bold at the top of the second page.
- Place a brief summary statement at the top of your résumé underneath the heading “Objective” stating why you are the right candidate for the specific job you are applying for. Be direct and state something along the lines of: “To obtain the position of [the job you’re applying for] at [organization’s name] using my skills of [list your two or three most important and relevant skills].” Try to keep this statement to 25 words or less.
- Next, under the heading “Work History” briefly list in reverse chronological order the positions you have previously held and now currently hold together with the name of your employers and a concise description of your responsibilities in each position, including the number of persons you supervised if any. On the left side, give the dates you held each position. Be consistent in the way you list the details applicable to the different jobs you have had. Do not mention why you left any prior jobs.
- As you gain meaningful job experience, you have the option of making your next heading “Professional Experience” to add functional information that describes your strengths and prior work experiences that are especially relevant to the job you are seeking. In doing so, you can use functional sub-headings such as “Leadership”, “Business Development”, “Marketing and Sales”, “Team Building”, “Operations” and “Communications”. If you decide to include this section in your résumé, limit yourself to using three to five such sub-headings.
- Then, under the heading “Education” list in reverse chronological order, showing the applicable dates on the left side, where you attended college, university and any technical institutes. Include the degrees or diplomas you received, plus information on any scholarships, awards or prizes you were granted. If your grade average was 3.5 or higher out of 4, you graduated with honors or you received any other academic awards, also include this information.
- If you are fluent in more than one language, make the next section of your résumé “Languages” and list the languages in which you have verbal or written fluency.
- The last heading for your résumé is “Personal Background” where you provide other information that may be relevant for the job, such as being involved in any professional associations, engaging in community volunteer work or experiencing a challenging situation where you had to set a goal and achieved it. Omit any references to activities, such as hobbies and sports, that have no bearing on the job.
- Underneath the basic information in each section, use bullets to list in concise and specific terms your past accomplishments, activities and involvements of consequence. Wherever possible, also emphasize the results you achieved and, if you can, quantify them (e.g., “resulting in a 23% increase in sales” or “a 50% decrease in staff turnover”). Make sure that what you write in this regard is relevant to the reader of your résumé and the job you are seeking.
- If you are responding to a specific job ad or posting, try to include the same keywords and phrases they contain in your résumé’s stated Objective and Work History, providing you can put them in some relevant context. This will increase the likelihood of the hiring manager being attracted to your résumé.
- Check that both the electronic and paper copy of your résumé are easy to read. Verify that your résumé attachment opens properly using the newer and older versions of Microsoft Word. Also, if the employer has indicated certain file requirements for submitting résumés, follow them in attaching your résumé.
Also consider these additional recommendations regarding your résumé:
- One of the traits that employers value is the ability to work well as part of a team. Avoid the use of the word “I” in your résumé as recruiters may interpret that to mean you are possibly self-centered and egotistical.
- Women should consider continuing to use their maiden names when applying for work and in any employment documents including résumés. If your name changes one or more times, it makes it difficult for someone to track your career and puts you at a disadvantage.
- In North America, do not include your date of birth, gender (if not obvious), marital status or ethnicity in your résumé. In Asia and most of Europe, it is standard to include such information, plus sometimes even a photograph.
- Do not include any information on your past salaries or desired compensation in your résumé. Also, it is not necessary to state “References Available Upon Request”. It is assumed this will be the case.
- Do not attach your references to your résumé or job application as they contain the personal contact information of the individuals giving you a reference. It is better to provide your references after you have been specifically asked to do so as a result of being shortlisted for the position.
- Never include your current work phone number or e-mail address at your employer when you are applying for a position at another organization. It makes you look unprofessional if you do so.
- Remember to make sure the voice message on your phone sounds appropriate.
- When you are sending your résumé electronically, make it readable as a Microsoft Word attachment to your covering e-mail or message, which should include: “Please see my attached résumé.”
Challenge three of your most literate friends to find any mistakes (typing, spelling, spacing, wording or grammar) in a draft of your résumé before you finalize it. If possible, also ask some individuals you know in a business management position to critique it.
After your résumé has been finalized, send it as an e-mail attachment to the same three friends to verify 100% that they can access and print out this attachment on their computers without any problems. The more professional your résumé looks, the better your chances of being regarded as a serious candidate for any job.
Throughout your career, make every effort to maintain continuity of your name, identity and contact information, especially your personal e-mail address and ideally also your cellphone number. You never know when someone with your old résumé or prior employment information may want to contact you about an exciting new job opportunity.