Having a solid and effective resume can greatly improve your chances of landing that dream job. That is beyond discussion. How does one make sure that his resume is top notch and bullet proof, however? There are several websites with tips around the web, but most bring just a handful of them. We wanted to put them all together in a single place.
1. Know the purpose of your resume
Some people write a resume as if the purpose of the document was to land a job. As a result they end up with a really long and boring piece that makes them look like desperate job hunters. The objective of your resume is to land an interview, and the interview will land you the job (hopefully!).
2. Back up your qualities and strengths
Instead of creating a long (and boring) list with all your qualities (e.g., disciplined, creative, problem solver) tries to connect them with real life and work experiences. In other words, you need to back these qualities and strengths up; else it will appear that you are just trying to inflate things.
3. Make sure to use the right keywords
Most companies (even smaller ones) are already using digital databases to search for candidates. This means that the HR department will run search queries based on specific keywords. Guess what, if your resume doesn’t have the keywords related to the job you are applying for, you will be out even before the game starts.
These keywords will usually be nouns. Check the job description and related job ads for a clue on what the employer might be looking for. You can read more about resume keywords on the article Tapping the Power of Keywords to Enhance Your Resume’s Effectiveness.
4. Use effective titles
Like it or not, employers will usually make a judgment about your resume in 5 seconds. Under this time frame the most important aspect will be the titles that you listed on the resume, so make sure they grab the attention. Try to be as descriptive as possible, giving the employer a good idea about the nature of your past work experiences. For example:
Bad title: Accounting
Good title: Management of A/R and A/P and Recordkeeping
5. Proofread it twice
It would be difficult to emphasize the importance of proofreading your resume. One small typo and your chances of getting hired could slip. Proofreading it once is not enough, so do it twice, three times or as many as necessary. If you don’t know how to proofread effectively, here are 8 tips that you can use.
6. Use bullet points
No employer will have the time (or patience) to read long paragraphs of text. Make sure, therefore, to use bullet points and short sentences to describe your experiences, educational background and professional objectives.
7. Where are you going?
Including professional goals can help you by giving employers an idea of where you are going, and how you want to arrive there. You don’t need to have a special section devoted to your professional objectives, but overall the resume must communicate it. The question of whether or not to highlight your career objectives on the resume is a polemic one among HR managers, so go with your feeling. If you decide to list them, make sure they are not generic.
8. Put the most important information first
This point is valid both to the overall order of your resume, as well as to the individual sections. Most of the times your previous work experience will be the most important part of the resume, so put it at the top. When describing your experiences or skills, list the most important ones first.
9. Attention to the typography
First of all make sure that your fonts are big enough. The smaller you should go is 11 points, but 12 is probably safer. Do not use capital letters all over the place, remember that your goal is to communicate a message as fast and as clearly as possible. Arial and Times are good choices.
10. Do not include “no kidding” information
There are many people that like to include statements like “Available for interview” or “References available upon request.” If you are sending a resume to a company, it should be a given that you are available for an interview and that you will provide references if requested. Just avoid items that will make the employer think “no kidding!”
11. Explain the benefits of your skills
Merely stating that you can do something will not catch the attention of the employer. If you manage to explain how it will benefit his company, and to connect it to tangible results, then you will greatly improve your chances.
12. Avoid negativity
Do not include information that might sound negative in the eyes of the employer. This is valid both to your resume and to interviews. You don’t need to include, for instance, things that you hated about your last company.
13. Achievements instead of responsibilities
Resumes that include a long list of “responsibilities included…” are plain boring, and not efficient in selling yourself. Instead of listing responsibilities, therefore, describe your professional achievements.
14. No pictures
Sure, we know that you are good looking, but unless you are applying for a job where the physical traits are very important (e.g., modeling, acting and so on), and unless the employer specifically requested it, you should avoid attaching your picture to the resume.
15. Use numbers
This tip is a complement to the 13th one. If you are going to describe your past professional achievements, it would be a good idea to make them as solid as possible. Numbers are your friends here. Don’t merely mentions that you increased the annual revenues of your division, say that you increased them by $100,000, by 78%, and so on.
16. One resume for each employer
One of the most common mistakes that people make is to create a standard resume and send it to all the job openings that they can find. Sure it will save you time, but it will also greatly decrease the chances of landing an interview (so in reality it could even represent a waste of time). Tailor your resume for each employer. The same point applies to your cover letters.
17. Identify the problems of the employer
A good starting point to tailor your resume for a specific employer is to identify what possible problems he might have at hand. Try to understand the market of the company you are applying for a job, and identify what kind of difficulties they might be going through. After that illustrate on your resume how you and your skills would help to solve those problems.
18. Avoid age discrimination
It is illegal to discriminate people because of their age, but some employers do these considerations nonetheless. Why risk the trouble? Unless specifically requested, do not include your age on your resume.