How to Write a Resume (and Impress Recruiters)
Ask a jobseeker what the most challenging and difficult aspects of a job search is, and you are likely to hear different answers, from writing the cover letter to appearing at job interviews and meeting members of the company’s human resources or senior management team.
Some may even say that waiting is the most difficult part, when they do not know whether the next time the phone rings, it will be a notification that they got the job, or just a telemarketer trying to get them to spend their money.
But you may come across several jobseekers who would readily answer that the toughest part for them is writing up their resume.
After all, it is their weapon, their ultimate tool, in order to get their foot in the door, and be considered to have a fighting chance for the rest of the recruitment process.
But first, what do you know about the resume?
WHAT IS A RESUME?
A resume is a document that jobseekers prepare, containing information about their skills, education and work experience, and submitted to employers or recruitment managers.
It came from the French term résumé, which translates to “summary” or “summarized”. That explains why resumes are often described as short and usually in bullet-point form: because they are summaries.
WHY IS A RESUME IMPORTANT?
You can think of your resume as a written advertisement of yourself. It contains the things that you hope will attract the attention of employers, much like how a product advertisement is designed to catch the eye of consumers. Through the resume, you are trying to convince the employer to “buy” you or, to be more specific, your services as an employee.
The resume is essentially a summary detailing your skills, abilities, accomplishments, and work experiences, with the purpose of getting a job.
- Your resume is the bridge that will link you to your potential employer. Before the recruiter or the employer even meets you in person, their first encounter with you is through your resume. When employers sit down to go over the applications submitted, the first thing they will go over is the resume. Therefore, you have to see to it that you make a good first impression through your resume.
- Your resume represents you. Not only does your resume give the potential employer a glimpse of your background, education, experience and skills, but it also serves as an overall representation of your personality. Look at it from the point of view of the employer. If you have in your hand a resume that looks to be haphazardly put together, completely unstructured and with a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, you will immediately conclude that the person also has that same personality type. Meanwhile, a well-written, well-structured and professional-looking resume also gives the impression that the person who wrote it is also professional, and has the potential of becoming a good employee.
- Your resume will be a useful tool in preparing for the succeeding steps in the recruitment process. Recruiters will develop many interview questions based on what are written on your resume, so if you are careful about what you include in that document, and you are familiar with it, you will have an easier time answering their questions during the interview.
TYPES OF RESUME
Before we can proceed to writing a resume, there are a number of things that we have to know about resume. For starters, what type of resume should you write?
1. Chronological Resume
The focus of this type of resume is the work history or work experience of the applicant, so that is the main body of the resume. It includes all the work experience of the candidate, indicating all the positions he has held in the various companies he has previously worked at, and outlining the responsibilities and accomplishments that correspond with each position.
The chronological arrangement is reversed, meaning the most recent information is listed first, and the oldest appears at the bottom of the list.
2. Functional Resume
While the chronological type focuses on experience, the functional resume is more on skills. Here, emphasis is placed on the skills possessed by the applicant, including the transferable skills that he acquired from his previous work experiences.
This is the preferred form for people with gaps in their employment history, so they can call more attention to their skills and abilities, more than the length of time that they have been working, and where they have been working.
3. Hybrid Resume
Combining the key points of the two types of resume will result in the hybrid resume. It gives heavy focus on the skills of the applicants, but presented along with the relevant information about his work experiences, such as job titles, positions, duration of employment, and the like.
HOW TO WRITE A RESUME
Now you are ready to write your resume. Or are you, really?
There is one step you should make before you can fully get the wheels rolling and start writing your resume. That is the preparation stage.
I. Preparing to write your resume
Perform a self-assessment.
You need to determine what to put in your resume when you get around to writing it. Therefore, you should do a self-assessment. Start by writing down your accomplishments and successes so far. Do not limit yourself to work-related successes and accomplishments, because you may also include accomplishments with respect to your personal life. Basically any experience where you were able to learn something or it helped you grow is worth writing down on your self-assessment list.
When you are done, you are probably left with a very long list. Now you have to narrow that down. Identify those successes and accomplishments that you know may influence the employer’s perception of you. Prioritize those that you deem to be in alignment with what the employer is looking for in the prospective holder of the open position.
At the end of this exercise, you may be left with a fraction of the original list. That’s all right. Your aim should not be to have a very long list, but to have a solid and compact list that will have an impact on the employer.
Conduct skills inventory.
This is where you have to identify the skills that you have to offer to the employer. It won’t do you any good if you forge on ahead and create a resume without knowing what, exactly, you bring to the position and to the company.
List down all the transferable skills that you have. Start from your key skills (i.e. time management, supervision, problem-solving, people management, mentoring and coaching, public speaking, planning and budgeting) to manual or hands-on skills (i.e. assembly, repair and troubleshooting, machine operation, hardware maintenance). Other transferable skills that you may include are leadership skills, people skills, data or information skills, creative or artistic skills and verbal or communication skills.
Next, you have to look into any hidden talents you may have. By going over your previous work experience and analyzing them, you may realize a skills that you didn’t even know you have, and wouldn’t have thought of including in your resume, but would definitely be a positive addition.
Another set of skills you should focus on are your job-related skills, or the skills that you have that apply specifically to the job that you are applying for. For example, a driver or chauffeur should have troubleshooting skills other than being able to drive a car. By identifying these job related skills, it will be easier for you to choose which skills will be presented and highlighted in your resume.
II. Writing your resume
Now you are really ready to write your resume. Below are the important details that MUST appear in your resume.
Include those in your resume
1. Personal information of the applicant
- Your name: Through the resume, you are introducing yourself to the employer, and what are the basics of an introduction? Yes, you should tell them your name. Your name should appear in your resume clearly, and it should stand out on the document, so that it is the first thing that catches the eye of anyone who reads it.
- Your address and contact numbers: Give them a way to contact or keep in touch with you. Include your full address, contact phone numbers and e-mail address. Make sure that you write them correctly. You will not believe how many applications have been set aside by employers because the addresses and contact numbers provided are inaccurate or incomplete. When including your email address, it would be a good idea to have a professional business address. The safest is an address comprised of your name. If you have to, you can maintain your personal email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) but have a separate one (email@example.com) exclusively for professional or business use. Hiring managers are also now known to prowl social networks, so consider adding your profile links, especially if you have considerable professional social media presence, on your resume. But do this only if your social media accounts have professional posts, and not posts about what you ate for dinner or did over the holidays.
- Your age and height: Normally, these should be removed from the resume. However, include these only if they are relevant to the job. Your basis is the job posting and the description, if it specifies an age range that applicants must belong to, or if the applicants are required to be at least a certain height.
2. Education background of the applicant
One of the first things that employers look at in a resume to assess whether the applicant is qualified or not is his education background. List your education history in reverse chronological order. Make sure that the following details are included:
- Name of the schools and the city, town or state where they are located
- The inclusive dates of attendance in the schools attended
- Number of years spent or completed in the schools
- Degrees earned when graduated
- Certificates, licenses and recognitions received, even for minor courses, seminars and trainings participated in
3. Experience of the applicant
This is the part where you will let the employer know the details of your work history, whether related or unrelated to the industry or the job that you are currently aiming for.
This is also best presented in reverse chronological order, with the following details indicated:
- Job title or position
- Nature of the position or job (contractual, volunteer, paid or unpaid)
- Location of the work, or where you worked
- Inclusive dates and duration worked on each job or position
- Main duties and responsibilities performed in each position held
If you also have side projects or side ventures, you might want to include them in your resume. Yes, even if they are only indirectly related to the job you are applying for. The purpose of this is to give the hiring manager a glimpse of your work ethic, and how you use your time to continue pursuing your growth and development, even in between full-time paid jobs.
What about any low-level jobs you may have held in the past? For example, what if you used to work for six months as a barista in Starbucks, and now you are applying for a marketing position in a large company? The barista position seems like it is too trivial to make an impact on your resume. Well, according to author Cody Teets, adding this tidbit may still help your resume, since it shows how much of a worker you are, and also gives an indication of how you have acquired the skills you have today.
4. Skills of the applicant
This is where the results of your skills inventory will come in handy. Include the priority skills that you were able to identify earlier, in order of relevance. Highlight those abilities and skills that specifically relate to the position that you are applying for.
Be specific when highlighting your skills. Saying you have “excellent communication skills” is very broad. What communication skills are you referring to? Your verbal skills? Your writing skills?
Optional information that may be included in the resume
Other relevant information that you may include in your resume include the following:
- Your job goals, usually stated in a single statement. Make sure that your job goal or resume objective is specific to the job you are applying for.
- Any relevant achievements or awards received for your work in the field or industry. Highlight those achievements or awards that are relevant to the job being applied for. This will give hiring managers a peek at your competitive spirit.
- Relevant interests, hobbies or activities that will put you in a positive light with respect to the job.
- Other skills that may not relate to the job directly, but provide good potential for growth, such as foreign language skills
- Employment references, or the people who can say something positive about your personal character and work ethic. References can be classified into two categories:
- Character reference: He will vouch for your personal character and can say something about who you are and how you are outside of work. He could be any acquaintance of yours, but make sure that he is not a member of your family or your circle of friends. Otherwise, you (and they) will lose credibility.
- Professional reference: Usually, he is someone you have worked with in the past, who can tell the employer how you are in the workplace. He can talk about your work ethic and attitudes toward work. To have a strong professional reference, it would be a good idea if he were a former boss or supervisor.
Some experts advise against putting your references in your resume, though. Instead, they suggest presenting them in a separate document to accompany your resume. It is up to you to decide which you think is more fitting.
Exclude those in your resume
There are simply some things that do not have room in a resume, and therefore should not be included. They are:
- Vital statistics such as your height, weight and Social Insurance number (unless, of course, there is a height requirement for the job).
- Personal details, such as your marital status, religious affiliation and sexual orientation. Again, employers may not care to know whether you are married or not. These are to be included only if they are specified in the job posting.
- Interests and hobbies that are irrelevant to the job. Nobody cares whether you love watching television or not. Unless, of course, you are applying for a position in a film production company, then this may have some relevance.
- Tasks or duties you’ve had in the past that did not produce any results, or did not teach you any skill or knowledge. Your experience will not matter to hiring managers if you do not have results to show for them.
- Your grades when you went to school. Very few companies care about your GPA. The mere fact that you graduated is already enough. But if it has been more than 10 years since you last went to school, your grades are no longer relevant. If you have an exceptionally high G.P.A., however, it would make some sense to include it.
- Your salary history. Take note that work experience does not really ask how much you were paid in every other job you’ve held. Do not list this down unless the hiring manager or employer expressly asks for it.
- Reason why you left your old jobs. These are probably going to be asked during the interview, so there is no reason why you should include them in your resume. If you do, you may just end up sounding like you are making excuses for yourself.
- Your photo. These days, adding a photo of yourself on your resume can be quite tacky. It is also distracting. Keep it off your resume.
III. Styling and formatting
There is no specific form or rules for how you should write the heading of your resume, or what should be written on it. You should, however, take care to keep it looking professional. Concise and direct to the point, it should contain the most important information.
The font size and font style
Stick to standard, sans-serif fonts. Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman and Times, are already considered outdated, and even unprofessional-looking. Keep Comic Sans far away from your resume, and those script fonts? They have no place in your resume – any resume, for that matter – so do not even think of using them.
Arial is one of the standard fonts used, often in 11 and 12 pt. Any lower and you’ll have the hiring manager squinting his eyes trying to decipher what you’ve written, throwing it aside when he gets too frustrated. Any larger and you will look like a child playing around with your word processor.
Oh, and do not use five different font styles on your resume. It would make it look too busy, with a lot of clutter. Stick to one or, at most, two.
Never forget that this is an official document, even if it is really talking all about you. Therefore, make sure it looks professional. Forget those colors and flashy graphics that you use in other creative documents. They should not be anywhere near a resume. Keep it clean, keep it crisp, keep it professional.
When styling and formatting your resume, consistency is very important. If your styling and formatting is all over the place, this will not make a good impression of you.
IV. Finishing up your resume
Review your resume. Go over it multiple times if you have to. Have someone else look it over as well, for errors and typos. You should also ask them if your resume is visually appealing or there is too much going on.
If you can, and you have the money for it, there is nothing wrong with having a professional go over it. He may find some things that you missed, and may even make suggestions on how you can improve it.
TIPS AND NOTES ON WRITING A RESUME
Take care not to get the company’s name wrong.
This is a major deal-breaker. If you get the name wrong, the hiring manager won’t even bother going through the rest of your resume. You can’t even take the time out to check what company you are applying to, and no one would want that kind of an employee working with them.
Keep it at the right length.
There is no specific restriction on how long or short the resume should be, although the typical resume can be as short as one page to as long as three pages. However, experts recommend that you keep it concise, which puts it at a maximum of two pages. If you can, you should try to keep it to a single page.
Tailor your resume for every application.
Avoid the “one size fits all” approach, because that might just cause you problems in the long run. You may be applying in three companies at the same time. Do you just go ahead and submit the same resume to all three? You may, but then the lack of customization may put your resume at risk of being ignored or completely passed over.
Avoid being classified as generic. See to it that the information included in the resume are associated or matched with the specific job that you are applying for.
Break long blocks of information into smaller chunks.
There is a reason why resumes are preferred to be presented in bullet-points, especially the list or details. That is because they are easier to read that way. If there are huge blocks or paragraphs of text, it gets exhausting to even just look at them.
Employers will find themselves wading through stacks of resumes, and if they see a large block of text, they may opt not to read it and just ignore it (and the applicant). The solution is to break down these large blocks of text into smaller, readable and more user-friendly chunks. As much as possible, try to assign separate headings for each separate section, to facilitate easier and faster reading.
Proofread, and proofread again.
Performing a basic spell check is not going to be enough, because even these applications are not fool-proof. If you do not trust your proofreading skills and objectivity, have someone else look it over. If you can afford it, have it reviewed by a professional resume writer. Even the smallest misspelling or grammatical error may cost you a job interview spot.
Let the company know what you can do for them.
You already have a clear picture of what you will get if you are hired by the company. You know what they will do for you, but what can you do for them? This is what the employer is interested in, so talk about that, instead of focusing solely on yourself.
Provide only facts, not fabrication.
Employers want honest employees, and if you are caught lying on what you included in your resume, that is a deal-breaker. You may even run the risk of being blacklisted in an entire industry, not just the company you are applying at. Be honest; do not lie on your application and your resume.
Use action verbs as much as applicable.
For example, instead of writing that you are “Responsible for conducting inventory counts”, it would be more decisive if you write it as “Conducted periodic inventory counts”. Employers do not want to read about what you are supposed to do, or what tasks you were supposed to accomplish. They want to know what you actually did and the tasks you actually performed.
Take a positive tone throughout your resume.
Do not use it as an avenue to make negative explanations, such as explaining why you only lasted this long in that job, or why you had to resign this job. A resume is supposed to promote you, not to bring you down, so keep it positive.
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