Resumes are commonly used in the US, Canada and Australia. They’re often shorter than CVs, and in most cases, your resume is your one big shot at securing an interview. It’s therefore vital that you impress your prospective employer right off the bat. Some estimates suggest that, at the initial stages, employers spend an average of just six seconds looking at resumes before sorting them into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ piles. With such a short time frame, you want to make sure that yours has the wow factor. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
The golden rules
Crafting a resume is a skill in itself and isn’t something that should be rushed. If you get it right, you’ve a good chance of securing an interview. Get it wrong, however, and you’ll probably be added to the reject pile. Below, we’ve outlined our top tips for creating a resume that will impress employers.
1. Keep it brief
Most people agree that, usually, your resume should be one page. That’s not a lot of space to sell all of your achievements, education, and experience - you’ll likely need to rewrite and refine your efforts as you go. This isn’t an autobiography, so exclude any unnecessary information.
Try to pick out key, most relevant points from your education and work experience and write them concisely. Instead of, ‘I have captained the school football team on several occasions this season, as well as playing a key role on the tennis and hockey teams,’ try, ‘I have captained the school football team, and play a variety of other sports.’
2. Make it easy to read
Use correct grammar, clear sentences and stick with a tried and tested structure. This will make it easier for the employer to quickly find your important credentials. You should have the following sections, in this approximate order:
- Your name and contact information, and links to a relevant portfolio (if you have one).
- A professional or career summary. If your work experience is limited, focus on your school achievements and your goals for the future. For example, ‘I’m an enthusiastic high school graduate with proven leadership skills, looking to start a career in…’ These summaries can be tricky to write, but a good way to start is by thinking ‘If I met a potential employer in person, how would I introduce myself?’
- Your education and professional development.
- Relevant work experience.
The most common way of formatting a resume is to list information chronologically. Put your most recent experience or qualifications at the top to make it easier for employers to see a clear progression.
There are a few things you should keep out of your resume:
- Personal information such as age, gender, race, religion, and marital status.
- A photograph.
- References, unless explicitly asked for.
3. Make it professional
You want to give a good impression to your future employers. This means you have to demonstrate that you’re a professional candidate who will be an asset to the company. Here are some tips to help you:
- Make sure your contact information is clearly visible and professionally presented. If you’re using an email address like XxStar_lordxX@email.com, you’ll want to create a new one. Go for something that clearly shows who you are. For example: [firstname].[lastname]@email.com.
- Pay attention to the font and styling of your resume. Unless you’re applying for a job that requires creativity and graphic design, stick with a font such as Arial or Calibri in size 11.
- Make sure it’s consistent. Whatever stylistic choices you make, they should apply throughout the document. Also be sure to leave sufficient margins of at least .7 inches.
- Link to your portfolio/blog or online profile if you have one. LinkedIn is the main platform recruiters us. However, if you include links to other sites, make sure that anything you link to is professional and suitable for your potential employer to see.
4. Make it specific to the job you’re applying for
Once you’ve written your resume, you can start firing it out to every job posting you see, right? Wrong. With such limited space available, it’s especially important for resumes that each point sells you and is completely relevant to the job you’re applying for. This means that you have to tailor it carefully.
- You don’t have to write a whole new document for each position. Instead, just focus on your relevant skills and experience, tweak accordingly, and delete anything irrelevant.
- Use the job description to make a list of the qualities you need to demonstrate. Then, focus on building up your relevant skills, experience, and education. Imagine you’re a hiring manager with a list of skills/experience that needs to be checked off for each resume that goes through to the ‘yes’ pile - is each required skill present in your resume and easy to identify, with proof to back it up? For example, if the job description asks for ‘excellent communication skills’, you couldn’t simply write ‘I have excellent communication skills’ - why would they believe you? Instead, write something like ‘Took part in my school’s annual debating competition, which helped me to develop excellent spoken communication skills, particularly the ability to speak persuasively.’
- Use the Unifrog Resume Builder. It allows you to keep your achievements and work experience on file. You can easily choose which points to include in your resume.
- Try to use success verbs when describing your past experience. Words such as ‘achieved’, ‘exceeded’, and ‘delivered’ all show progress and success. For example, ‘I exceeded my predicted grades, delivering exam results in the top 10% of my class.’
4. Make it interesting
With a very short amount of time to impress an employer, you need to make your resume stand out from the crowd. However, you don’t need to tell your life story (interesting as it might be). You need to know the kind of things that will be of interest to employers. Although this will change slightly between companies and jobs, there are a few general rules that apply:
- Give a section to each job role you’ve held. Briefly list the key things you’ve achieved while you were there. Alternatively, focus on your education and exam results.
- If your work experience is limited, give details of your memberships at clubs or other groups. Again, list your relevant achievements and the skills you’ve gained.
- Don’t undersell yourself. If you’ve achieved some positive results, at school or in work, be assertive when you write about them.
5. Check and check again
Before you send off your resume, you’ll want to read it through and check it carefully. The last thing you want is a document riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. It will indicate to the employer that you’re not particularly interested in the job.
If you feel you can’t see the wood for the trees when you’re checking, pass it over to someone else to look at. They might be able to provide valuable insight and spot any mistakes you may have missed. It’s always a good idea to take some time away from your document before checking it. With a fresh set of eyes, give it one final read over (out loud if you’re able to) and make sure you’re 100% happy with it before you send it off.
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