Writing a great resume is a skill. If you can afford to, getting it professionally written is a great step forward for you and your career.
However, if you want to write it yourself these hints and tips will help you, whether you are adding your words to an electronic template, such as the one here at PositionsVACANT, or creating a full resume for specific job applications.
It’s All About Selling Yourself
The thing we most often forget is that our resume is a marketing document; it is the brochure of your achievements and education to date.
This important document will be the first thing that a future employer will see about you. It is that “chance to make the right first impression “; it is your opportunity to get on the interview list.
Because this document is so important there are a number of key things that you need to think about when writing it. This will help you write a resume that you will be proud of and that will get you to that “all important” first interview.
Often Asked Questions
Before discussing what to include in your resume I will answer a few “often asked” questions about the basics of resume writing.
Make sure you pick a common font, ones that come as standard with word processing software (such as Microsoft Word). I would suggest Arial (my preference) or Times Roman.
Ensure the font size is appropriate, for example the main body of the resume in Arial 10pt or 11pt is acceptable.
Try to limit the number of fonts you use – if possible use one font only, though a second complimentary font can be used for headings or sections for clarity. I regularly get resume examples in which the writer has used five or six different fonts and sizes. It makes it hard to read.
Use bold and underline sparingly – for key headings or to separate relevant sections.
Graphics, pictures, colours, company logos etc can be distracting and irrelevant – so be wary of using them. Most, if not all, electronically sent resumes will be printed in black and white, so the use of on-screen colour makes little sense.
There is always debate as to the acceptable size for a resume, and this is often dependent upon the time you have been in the workforce, the skills you have developed and the benefits you have delivered to the organisations you have worked for.
On average a resume would be between 3 and 5 A4 pages of well-spaced text, easy to read and in a logical order.
A front cover (often with just your name and address details) is of little relevance.
On a hardcopy resume this is just a page the recruiter has to skip over.
On the electronic version it is text that the reader has to scroll through, or is a wasted piece of paper when it is printed by them.
The Important First Page
The first page of the resume is the one that has to catch the reader’s attention. Include on this page a concise summary of your skills and/or experiences as well as a career summary/snapshot. This way the reader can very quickly get a feel of your fit to the role.
Unless you are applying for a role where your looks are the key attribute (for example as a model), or the application specifically asks for a photo, don’t include one.
In an electronic resume such embedded pictures increase the size of the document (a bane for sending and storing).
On a printed version the photo quality can be poor and distracting.
What Should I Include
There are a number of items that must be included with any resume, and there are some items that may be included if your role or experience demands it.
What must be included:
This includes your address (remembering state and postcode), contact numbers and email address. There is little need to include marital status, nationality or other items.
Ensure that these are up front and easy to find, but do not take up too much “real estate” on your resume. Remember, your resume is about selling your skills and experiences and these personal details are incidental to this. They are there to allow future contact with you.
Education and Professional Development
Ensure that this covers the relevant details about your education; you do not need to include every course and certificate achieved, especially if the course is not one that is relevant to the role you are applying for.
Document them in chronological order, most recent first, clearly noting the dates over which you obtained the qualification (in month-year format), the educational establishment and the qualification / certificate / diploma / degree obtained.
Graduates may wish to include a high level of detail about key topics in the course. If details of course grades are required they can be included as attachments, especially if the application demands it.
Career or Role Details
This can be either chronological or functional, again depending on your roles to date or the jobs you are applying for.
For each role make sure that you document:
• the time period you were employed (in month and year format),
• the organisation you worked for (and include a sentence on the company as not everyone may know the company),
• your job title, with explanation of the title if it is not a common one.
For each role summarise your responsibilities but do not go “overboard” on this. Prospective employers are far more interested in your achievements in the role, they want to understand the things that you did to benefit the company, in clear and measurable terms.
Make sure that you can present concise evidence in your resume as to these achievements, and be able to talk about them at interview.
What you can also include:
For each relevant professional association ensure that you note the name of the association, the length of time you have been involved and in what capacity.
Hobbies and Interest
A summary of outside interests helps give the reader a feel about you in an environment other than the work-place. However be wary of simply stating interests as “reading” or “dinner parties” or “going to the gym”. Giving a rationale behind a hobby and the value you gain from it helps.
Note if you are active in the community in committees or other groups, and how you are involved.
Including referees is not mandatory, unless the application specifically requests them.
Many Government or similar roles require referees with your application; however for other roles including a statement in your resume that “referees will be supplied at interview or on request” is acceptable.
What Order Should It Be In
You do not have to have these details in the order they are outlined above. Create it in a way that makes sense for you, as long as it is a logical order.
As a graduate, or someone relatively new to the workforce, you may want to have your education details on the first page.
If you have been in the work-place for a greater period of time then having this toward the back of the resume may make sense, as your role achievements will be the ones that the reader is more interested in.
.And Finally, Remember
If you are writing your resume yourself make sure that it will print correctly. Too often I receive resumes that have a page set-up of Letter, rather than A4.
Make sure you spell-check and proof read your resume. Spelling mistakes and syntax errors are immediate “No Interview” flags for many people. One trick is to read your resume out-loud, not skipping any words. It forces the brain not to pass over words. Also get someone else to read it to pick up any inconsistencies, spelling mistakes or syntax errors. Do not just rely on the word processing spell-checker.
And of course – be prepared to be asked about, and be able to substantiate, any information on your resume. Use the preparation of your resume as your preparation for your interview.
Also see Writing a Great Cover Letter.
Written by Dr Kim Wigglesworth, Prototype Career Services.