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15 top tips for a powerful resume
If you aren’t getting any attention from your resume you may well be thinking,” What’s wrong with my resume?” There might not be anything really wrong with it, it could be that you’ve just overlooked some essential elements that will make your resume stand above the competition.
Over the past 17 years of coaching over 1,000 clients who have gone through career transition, I’ve only come across two resumes that didn’t need at least a little work to make them stronger!
So you’re looking for a job. I expect you’re using all the job search methods available including working with recruiters, making applications for advertised roles, networking and targeting companies directly.
For all that you need a resume – a soft copy for emailed applications and to attach to an application through a job search portal such as www.seek.com.au or www.jobsdb.com and a hard copy to produce when chatting over a coffee during a networking meeting, or the content of your resume readily available to include in your LinkedIn profile so your online presence works for you.
Is your resume up to date? Does it contain what is required to capture the attention of your desired audience? Is it easy to read, concise and powerful? Have you included relevant accomplishments to demonstrate the tangible value you have added to your current and previous positions?
Have you included information that might create a bias in the reader’s mind (information such as your birth date, marital status, religion)?
I’m amazed that, with all of the information readily available over the internet about on how to create a powerful resume, that many candidates still include information that isn’t relevant and doesn’t highlight their suitability for a specific role and may even hinder their chances of being selected for a screening interview.
Here are suggestions that will help if you are starting from scratch with your resume:
1. Choose a fuss-free layout that provides enough white space so the resume is easy to read. Ensure the design suits the industry and job function you are targeting (for example, a graphic designer’s resume will need a more creative look than a finance professional’s resume)
2. Keep the font size no smaller than 10 point font and provide enough white space so it’s easy to read
3. Aim for 2-3 pages to include the information that is RELEVANT for the role, there is no need to include everything that you’ve done over your career
4. Ensure your name and contact details (mobile phone and email address are requirements) are clearly visible at the top of the resume (this may sound obvious but I’ve received resumes that haven’t had this basic information on page one!
5. If you’re applying for a specific role, read the job description carefully and take note of key words that describe essential requirements of the role. If you have those skills or traits, make sure you include them in the resume. The right key words will help to get you noticed.
6. Include a Career Summary or Professional Profile at the beginning that highlights your relevant experience, core competencies and technical skills. This should capture the attention of the reader instantly and place you in the ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ rather than the ‘no’ pile when being screened.
7. Then add your professional experience. You’ll need the company name, job title and the dates you held each role. Start with your most recent role and then add your previous roles in reverse chronological order.
8. Under each role describe briefly the scope, responsibilities and important aspects of that role, to whom you reported, the number of people you managed, size and type of projects you handled and size of budget if relevant.
9. After responsibilities include bullet points of your accomplishments for that role. These should include the tangible results of your efforts. These accomplishments may be profit improvements, streamlining of processes, time savings, cost savings, improved moral within the department, completion of projects under budget or ahead of schedule, etc.
10. As a rule of thumb, the screener will want to know the roles you held the past 10-12 years. There may be exceptions to the rule and it depends on your particular circumstance if you must include information that is older than that. Make sure that information is relevant to the role you are targeting.
11. Your academic qualifications and professional development courses come next. If there is a particular qualification that is a ‘must have’ to be selected for the role, then you can add it in the career summary on page one so it’s easily noticed.
12. If you have any relevant professional memberships and affiliations then create a section for those next.
13. You may put ‘Referees available upon request’ at the end if you wish; it’s not a necessity. If you are shortlisted for the role after being interviewed you will be asked for your referees anyway. Some applications request for referees details up front, in which case, follow the instructions!
14. Proof read, proof read, proof read!!! Get someone else to proof read it too – sometimes you can work so hard on your resume that you don’t even notice little mistakes anymore. If you state that you are detail oriented and the reader spots mistakes, that will probably land your resume in the ‘no’ pile.
15. Something many people don’t realise is that you must tailor your resume to suit each and every application you make, highlighting the skills you have that are most relevant to be successful in the role.
The resume does not get you a job. If you are a good match for the role it should get you a screening interview. After that it’s up to you to prepare well for the interview process and wow them with your communication skills and expertise.
If you’re looking to write your resume from scratch, there are several ways you can increase your chances of getting noticed. Some suggestions include:
• Consider your layout
• Keep it to 2-3 pages at most
• Read the job description carefully and take note of key words to include
• Don’t forget to proofread at every stage!