Jobseekers should be able to relate: You chance upon a job vacancy whose requirements fit you to a tee.
So, you send your resume and confidently wait for their phone call that will set the hiring process with you in motion. But days turn to weeks and still no contact from the company. That’s when you finally accept the harsh truth that you are most likely not short-listed despite your skills and experience that would have allowed you to take on the role most satisfactorily.
Why did the company not even give you a chance to present yourself in person to prove all that you claim to be in your resume?
The answer is usually right there in the question—resume. To put it simply, your resume sucks. In your rush to send your application, you might have created a not-so-stellar resume or even just pulled a ready-made one from your file. That is never going to work.
You should always treat a resume as a key that opens doors of opportunities, but only if it is finely crafted. Here’s how you should do it plus a few more tips on how not to do it.
5 Tips for Building a Great Resume
Whether you’re a new graduate or someone who’s already a professional but on the lookout for a change of company, you will need an effective resume to convince the company you’re targeting that you are worthy of consideration.
While it’s true that you can find a lot of resume generators and templates online that will help you craft one, they can only do so much. It will still be mostly up to you to make sure your resume is practically flawless. Five things you need to keep in mind while creating your resume:
Keep it tight
You may already have a long list of experiences and may feel compelled to include all of them, especially if they are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Just make sure to categorize them based on their similarities or nature such as “leadership role,” “marketing role,” etc. This will highlight your skills and make it easier for the hiring manager to get a good idea of what you are capable of.
Highlight your extracurriculars
It’s not only what you do at work that is important to employers but also what you do in your spare time? Are you a member of a charitable organization or a musical group or band? Do you have a freelancing job as a teacher or an artist? These will attest to your being a well-rounded person, one who values work-life balance and therefore more adept at handling pressure.
Put yourself in their shoes
Imagine yourself being a hiring manager and going through the resumes of applicants. Would you spend more time on a resume that confuses you or gives you incomplete information about the applicant? Would you take the trouble to contact them just so you can verify a few things about them? If you answer “no” to these questions, so do the actual hiring managers.
Don’t overwhelm them
Again, we are taking the viewpoint of the hiring manager. Resumes with too much text or too much graphics can be hard to read. Even if you are applying for a graphic artist job, there is a certain limit to the amount of design that you can put in there. Small fonts are also a no-no, just like too big fonts.
Maintain editorial consistency
This means formatting should be uniform throughout the resume. If you put the headers in bold, make sure you do that for all headers. Also, make sure you keep the kinds of typefaces you use to a minimum (just one or two only) and stay away from the fancy or stylized ones. What you want to put out to the hiring manager is an air of professionalism, not playfulness (and yes, even if you are applying for a creative position).
Which Format Do Most Employers Prefer for Resumes?
For employers, an applicant’s resume is the quickest way to determine whether the person will be an asset to their company or not. To make it even easier for them, yours must be adapted to the kind of company they have. Is it a company that deals in serious matters such as legal proceedings? Is it a marketing company? An entertainment company? You can tweak how you format your resume, but, as mentioned earlier, it needs to keep an air of professionalism so that hiring managers will take you seriously.
Furthermore, you could never go wrong with the format that most employers prefer and the one that’s most popularly used, which is the reverse chronological order.
You can be creative or add some flair to some parts of your resume, but when presenting your job experiences, education, and training, it is best to present them from the most recent to the earliest (but no more than 15 years back). It’s like the Google search results that present the most relevant first, helping people get the best information immediately.
What Should Be in a Perfect Resume?
Basically, a resume needs to have these details:
- Work experience
- Extracurriculars (side projects, membership in clubs or groups, community works, etc.)
- Formal education, training, seminars
- Hard and soft skills
It would be safe to assume that all jobseekers would be having this information on their resume. How then can you make yours stand out? First, you need to make sure that you do away with technical terms and jargon as much as you can and just present your information in clear and easy-to-understand language.
Second, and more importantly, your resume should contain details that support your claim that you would be the best fit for the job, assuring them that you can handle the day-to-day responsibilities and bring value to the company.
Remember, your resume should showcase your fitness for the job you’re applying for, which means it should answer these three questions:
- What did you do in your past jobs?
- What’s the reason for doing them?
- What positive things did those things do for your previous companies?
If your resume offers clear answers to all three questions, you will most likely be on your way to the next step, which is getting that coveted interview.
Resume Do’s and Don’ts
If at this point you are already thinking about how complicated it is to create a great resume, don’t lose heart. It’s not as hard as it appears to be. Just keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts:
- Tailor your resume to the position you are targeting.
- Quantify your accomplishments. Even if your previous job didn’t involve numbers, there are ways to put a figure on what you have done positively for the company.
- Highlight your soft skills too such as problem-solving and time management but make sure you cite specific examples to illustrate them.
- Boost your stock with the appropriate non-work-related experiences and accomplishments.
- Keep your resume as short as possible, like a maximum of two pages only.
- Use a template for your resume that you can find online and for free. It will make the process easier.
- Worry if you don’t have relevant experience as long as you have the skills and knowledge to perform the job for which you are applying. Everyone starts from scratch, and most companies are on the lookout for the diamonds in the rough.
- Copy-paste the job description into your resume.
- Put confidential information in your resume.
- Mention obvious skills such as “being computer savvy” or “knowledgeable in Microsoft Word.” These are things expected of most everyone in this day and age.
- Be embarrassed by employment gaps. Many individuals, at one point in their lives, have gone without a job for a certain period.
Worst Resume Mistakes To Avoid at All Costs
And here are the things you should never, ever commit in your resume because these are immediate red flags for hiring managers:
- Misspelling and grammatical errors. It’s a double black eye if you misspell the name of the company or the person you are sending your resume to.
- Providing incorrect contact information or forgetting to include it in the resume.
- Using a not-so-professional email address. You may be using “[email protected]” for the longest time, but if you will be sending a resume, better to create something simpler and more professional such as your first and last name.
- Stuffing your resume with buzzwords (“think outside the box,” for example). You can put in keywords that would help your resume get past the applicant tracking software (more on this later) but make sure you don’t overdo it.
- Using a cookie-cutter resume, meaning it’s too generalized and not adapted to the job you are applying for.
What is the ATS and How To Make Your Resume ATS-friendly
Speaking of the applicant tracking software, or ATS, it’s software that many companies use now to aid in their head-hunting process. What it does is eliminates applicants who are not qualified for the job by reviewing resumes and matching the information with the requirements of the roles. When there is no or just a minimal match, the applicant is tagged as unqualified. The software has helped hiring managers to come up with a short list of the most qualified candidates.
So, what can you do to make your resume get past the ATS and possibly get you an interview with the hiring manager? Keywords are the key. This means strategically putting words relevant to the job throughout the resume and inserting them as naturally as possible so as not to appear forced (because the ATS can also detect that).
To come up with the right keywords, you will need to scrutinize the job description and look for the main terms/words that appear several times, especially those that directly define the position, responsibilities, and basic requirements.
Crafting the perfect resume is not as hard as it seems as long as you do your homework and learn what the job requires. With these guidelines that we have enumerated here, you should be well on your way to getting to the next step, which is the job interview. You should be able to ace that as well with these tips.