A resume is a document that lists an individual's skills and employment history presented during an interview process. The content held within the resume can make or break the chances of being interviewed and eventually, securing the ideal job. Thus, it is crucial you get it right knowing what content to include or exclude before you begin typing this document.
Use Descriptive Section Headers
Use section headers give structure to the resume and are extremely effective in commuting the overall idea of the resume. As you know, your resume is likely to be only skimmed through and the only thing read are the section headers - so make them attractive. Similar to a professionally copywritten table of contents, such a structured resume gives a solid first impression of you as a potential new hire.
Then, place your content under each header. To give resume writers a headstart, every resume should start with an objective statement. This statement briefly summarizes what type of position the applicant is seeking. Other important information to include on any resume includes education, work experience, skills/abilities, and extracurricular activities.
Sample Resume Headers:
- Objective Statement: One sentence to state your one career goal. Then, 2-3 sentences to elaborate.
- Education: In bullet points, state your certifications and education history. The highest qualification should be at the top of the list.
- Work Experience: Job title & concrete contributions to the organization made by you. Factual career history. A brief overview of your experience level.
- Skills & Abilities: Interesting or useful items to be listed here, such as, Excel "God" / "Pro", multilingual, ambidexterity, etc.
- Extracurricular Activities: Used to humanize the candidate with points made - philanthropy, volunteerism, exotic sporting interests, competitive sports, etc.
- Contact Information: Without this, no employer can reach out even if you were selected!
Use power words in your resume to highlight your personal qualities.
Adding References as an Attestation
Listing two or three people you are familiar with as character or professional references does wonders to your application.
If the people are in good societal or industry standing, like if they are:
- In noble occupations: lawyer, doctor, etc.
- High up in the hierarchy: senior manager, directors, etc.
- Community leaders or political figures
- Recognized influencers
Then, they are in the position to make an impact on your application because their words carry weight and bring influence. Their recommendation (no need to be a formal letter, but a quick chat is usually more than sufficient) to sway and persuade.
Including Your Notice Period
Informing potential employers on the notice period you are tied down with at your current company makes the hiring process smoother for all parties involved.
The following are reasons why job applicants should state their notice period in their resume:
- Suitability: An employer can find your notice period reasonable and he can accommodate it into their hiring timeline to make employment practical.
- Sufficient Transition Time: Employees have time to move out from their current role and do a proper handover.
- Preparation & Accommodation: Employers will be able to procure for tools (laptop, assigned office, etc.) needed for the incoming employee during this notice-cum-waiting period.
Job applicants should refer to their contractual notice period in their employment agreement to confirm the actual number of weeks or months.
More details related to notice periods can be found in this article:
Personalize Your Application with A Cover Letter
Including a cover letter is a basic necessity to every job application as this half-pager summarizes an entire application "in your own words" and brings your own conviction into the picture. Employers a hiring a person. Not a robot. Plus, each hired employee (whether you know it or not) is the walking billboard of the company. Engaging a shitty employee with no bearings really ruins the company image, while engaging an extroverted and sensible person can bring all kinds of positive viral publicity. Thus, employers really need to know who the heck they are hiring.
A cover letter is a preview and a teaser for the employer to find out more about you. They just don't have time to read everyone's application word by word, so this cover letter you give is like a back cover to a novel. Get them to read a few words, hook them, keep them interested and reel the bait with your prize.
Cover Letter to Include
- Sentence 1: Your name & your location (country & city)
- Sentence 2: I really want this job (or dream job) because...
- Sentences 3 & 4: I offer my skills to the table
- Sentence 5: I fit your job description & the prospective employer's company
- Sentence 6: Interested? My resume is included, please be interested and read the details
How Long Should a Resume Be?
The order and quantity of information that should be included on a resume depend on where the applicant is in their career. Length does not dictate the quality of the candidate. Your worry should never be the word count or the number of pages because both short and long resumes can impress and promote you to the next stage of the job application.
Short resumes can bring across impactful points with a heavy punch.
Long resumes can contain hyper-relevant details which are very useful to employers who need a comprehensive and holistic view of the applicant
- Length is not the main concern. Concise resumes are key as they are better and less wordy, showing better communication skills.
- To write a quality resume with impactful, relevant and concise sentences, don't drag. Pretend that the resume has a word limit like a Tweet.
- Remove irrelevant work experience and include your achievements.
- Employers disregard temporary and seasonal work, so exclude them.
- Ensure your resume impresses in seconds. Hiring managers have mere seconds to judge and size up each person before quickly moving to the next.
- Make your writing worth my time to read. All information in your resume and cover letter must be worth reading for all potential employers.
Your resume can include answers to potential interview questions the company may have for you.
Formatting a Resume: Using Templates, Font Size & Text Positioning
Most job hunters look up a template online and copy their info into it. This is fine, but I don't have any templates or resume formats here. However, I have the points you should take note of before you do the blind copy & paste exercise.
When Using Templates:
- Professional resume templates are editable in Word, but applicants should be sent as non-editable PDF format because it is the professional standard.
- Choose a simple resume template as it is valued over a flowery, decorative or colorful one. Attracting attention may be conceived as distracting and needless unless you are in creative industries. A small pop of color is fine. Should you be overwhelmed by the number of templates available, stick to a simple, basic template.
- Paid versus free resume samples. I don't think you need to pay for a "premium resume template" or a "creative resume template". Don't waste your money as there is a range of styles and there is no perfect resume template or Curriculum Vitae in the eyes of your future employer.
- You must include your contact details and replace the default phone number used in the sample.
When Using Sample Text:
- Prospective employers love originality. Use your own words and express your ideas as human-ly as possible!
- Copying text or phrases from resume samples may have your effort discarded by a plagiarism checker during the application process. This process is usually automatically processed by computers first to do a first-check.
- Create flow and sequence in your resume. Combination resume templates list skills then work history (instead of the typical another way around). Sequencing based on skills shows your competencies first for jobs that were newly introduced to the industry. A.K.A what you can do, not what you have done. Stick to a chronological resume (sequence of events listed downwards by time) when in doubt.
- A resume builder may be useful in helping you to organize thoughts.
- A resume written in English should be free from grammatical errors. Use spell-check, even when using paid, professional templates.
When Considering the Use of Fonts, Font Size and Text Positioning:
- A modern resume template uses fonts like Helvetica and Opens Sans. Avoid Times New Roman like the plague as it makes you seem backward (boomer!) and not caught up with the times.
- Spend less time on the design and more on the content, language use and delivery. Employers receive a variety of resumes with different functional formats, so minute image placement matters and font design choice are small issues that won't stick.
- Use a consistent theme and font. Your personal preference for the resume format must remain clear - no questions should be raised regarding why header 1 is font size 24 and header 2 is font size 40.
In summary, a resume is intended to be a functional communicative document. Using a plain, basic resume layout presents a professional experience to the hiring manager. Time has proven that such resumes are the most effective and convincing pieces of work. They nearly always end up being the most attractive resumes.