How to create a winning resume
Your resume is a sales document first and foremost and it must package the product – YOU – in the best possible way. The purpose of the resume is to win you an interview.
On average, a recruiter will spend only thirty seconds screening a resume, so this is not a lot of time to get your point across. As such, it’s very important to remember that one size does not fit all – your resume should be tailored to suit the specific requirements of the job you are applying for. By doing so, you will enable the recruiter to more easily and quickly see how your skills and experience align with the requirements of the job.
- Make your resume specific to the job and reasonably brief, but not too short. In Australia 3-5 pages is acceptable. Any longer than this and you are simply waffling.
- Put your contact details on the first page, front, top and centre!
- Write in the first person – write “I was…” rather than “Bill was…”
- List your relevant details in reverse chronological order (ie current or most recent job first).
- Include your achievements, not just your responsibilities for the last three jobs, eg “hauled record tonnage for the period March to September” or “member of a team that won a safety award for achieving six months’ injury and incident free”.
- Consider what is the most important information to communicate to the Recruiter/Employer first – is it the requirement for particular licenses, qualifications or tickets or more about relevant work experience? Once determined, structure your resume so that the most important information appears in order. If a company is recruiting for a training officer, your interest in scuba diving and cooking should not be featured on the first page with your training qualifications listed on the second or third. Remember – this is a marketing document and you have very little time to communicate your alignment with the job requirements.
- Put personal details at the end of the resume if you must, eg marital status or date of birth, but note that they are generally not relevant to the job and are not required.
- Send your resume in Microsoft Word format – it is probably the most universally accepted package.
- Invest time in ensuring there are no spelling errors and that the formatting is consistent. There is nothing worse than citing ‘attention to detail’ as a strength, for example, and then having spelling errors in your resume.
- Use bullet points and white space to assist in the presentation.
- Have scanned copies of your qualifications (university certificates, tickets, licenses, trade etc) in case you are asked to include them with the application.
- Send photographs – whether we like it or not, assessments based on looks still occur.
- Use cartoons or other graphics in your resume. A drawing does not look professional.
- Use hard to read, non-standard fonts. Keep it simple and use Arial or Times New Roman only. Fancy headings and fonts are distracting and sometimes cannot be read all that well.
- Use colours – a resume is a business document and whilst it needs a sales pitch, avoid gimmicks.
- Leave gaps in your work history. It is better to be honest (eg if you rested, took leave, travelled, started a family etc between jobs), than for people to speculate.
- Password protect your resume – you need to make it as easy as possible to view it.
- List every training course you have ever attended – list only those relevant to the job. Cake decorating will not help your application for a Purchasing Officer role!
- Include a cover page – it is not necessary and often annoys the recruiter having to move past it to get to the important information.
- List strengths or personal qualities – a shopping list of strengths/attributes such as “team player”, “outstanding people skills”, “hard working”, “safety conscious” etc add no weight to your application; the person recruiting for the role will decide if you are any or all of these things and the list is typically ignored. Anyone can provide a list of so-called strengths – you need to focus on providing specific examples under each role as achievements that demonstrate personal attributes. The strengths demonstrated by the examples provided above:
- “Hauled record tonnage for the period March to September” (may represent being a hard worker, using initiative, able to work effectively for long periods, able to exceed performance targets).
- “Member of a team that won a safety award for achieving six months’ injury and incident free” (demonstrates strong commitment to safety and team work).
- List your job responsibilities – providing a brief overview of the core purpose of each position is ideal, but listing your job description for each job is not. The list may tell the Recruiter what your role encompassed, but doesn’t necessarily tell us how well you did those things. Avoid providing huge lists of dot point responsibilities under each job. You should aim to provide a three-line overview of the role, followed by a number of achievements for each position – this approach succinctly and effectively communicates the purpose of your role and how well you performed in that role.
- Apply for every position advertised – be clear about the type of role you are seeking and work towards that. Be mindful that large organisations can see how many times you have applied and to which roles. If, for example, you have lodged applications for anything and everything, you can become tagged as a ‘serial applicant’ who really doesn’t know what they are seeking. This can work to your significant disadvantage. Also, going in to a company’s database (using your login) and then withdrawing from positions you have already applied to (and where you have not been successful) also looks poor. Best to leave the status as it is. By withdrawing from all positions you have applied for, it looks like you are incredibly indecisive – having applied and then deciding to withdraw.
- Ask for feedback – when you have not been successful in getting a role through application only. Recruiters are generally working with hundreds of candidates at a time and whilst they would like to assist people better understand their requirements, it is just not possible.