A resume is a marketing tool with the purpose of securing an interview and impressing the reader. It is the only part of your job search that you can control so it is crucial that it is the best it can be when used. Like most things in life, when you ask different people for advice on your resume, you will receive very different opinions. This is because there are no set guidelines for resumes and so people’s ideas are often based on their own experience. I am lucky as I have worked as an agency recruiter, internal recruiter and career manager. So perhaps this means I have a more objective view.
CV’s versus Resumes
Some people refer to their resumes as CV’s. Curriculum vitae or CV’s are very detailed information documents that include all you have achieved and are similar to the story of your life. This is something that is used mainly in the United Kingdom, not Australia. Your resume is between 1 and 4 pages and needs to make it clear why you stand out from the crowd. It is a way of demonstrating your ability to think and communicate.
The best presentation
A surprising statistic is that most reviewers will take 10-30 seconds to review a resume! How alarming when we spend so much time and effort on this document. This means it is even more important to ensure that every word on this document counts. Less on your resume, means more will be read. Great content needs to be supported by good structure. It is important to be consistent with the font you use and the structure of each section. It is recommended that you use simple, clean formats with minimal fancy fonts or colours. Recommended fonts include Helvetica, Arial, Calibri and Tahoma. Having a decent amount of white space on the page is also valuable. There is nothing worse than a resume with a tiny font size and too much information crammed into it. In fact, it is so off-putting that it will usually end up on the, “No” pile.
Having a career summary with one line showing the period, organisation and title for each role you have worked in serves as a nice snapshot of your experience and saves the reviewer a lot of time. If you have worked in more than one country, it is a good idea to add a column with the location. This reverse chronological summary helps reviewers understand your progression and experience.
Core competencies or soft skills are often seen as more important than technical skills. It is essential that these competencies match the role requirements. If you have the space, it is a good idea to show specific examples to support your competencies. 3 -5 core competencies are more than enough.
You need to be sensitive about what your resume shows about you. Most people think that interests are irrelevant on a resume. Employers, however, see interests as a view of the person you are. There is very little on a resume to help a reviewer to understand if you will be a good cultural fit and this is a keyhole into what you are like. If for example you like to travel, employers see this as a positive thing as it is likely that you will be interested in people and diversity. Having played a team sport could also work in your favour since it demonstrates that you enjoy working as a team player in your own time. It may not be the deciding factor, but it is unlikely to have a negative impact. Having, “reading, movies or music” on your resume adds no value, you need to be more specific regarding what kinds of books and movies and whether you play a musical instrument.
It is best not to list your referee details as employers know that you will provide them when you need to. Leaving contact names and numbers on your resume, could mean your referee will be contacted several times and will be less willing to support you when you most need them. If a referee is called unexpectedly, they will be unprepared and will not provide the best possible reference check. I have witnessed employers calling referees without permission and it usually ends badly. Prepare your referees so they understand the role, the organisation and a bit about the person calling them. Certain roles like Government roles require referee details upfront and you will need to provide them.
Supporting your resume through networking will ensure that the right people get to review this vital document and can influence the outcome. This applies whether you are applying to a role or representing yourself directly to an organisation. Having put in all the hard work, you want the relevant people and decision makers to have the chance to see your resume.
Choose the people who provide feedback on your resume carefully. Think of who can be objective and understand what a reviewer will be looking for. Have the confidence to decide whether you take all feedback on board. Perhaps see if there is consensus between the reviewers before making changes and where necessary gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts behind the feedback. Finally, have fun trying different options to work out what will make the difference to secure your next interview.