A resume is your first point of contact with your recruiter, and holds the power to make or break your application. It is what determines whether your application moves past to the interview stage, or is tossed aside with hundreds of others.
The average employer spends only about 6.25 seconds looking at a resume.
Thus, your resume is your first (and possibly last) chance to capture your employer’s attention. Being a brilliant candidate with the perfect skill sets for the job doesn’t suffice if you are unable to communicate it through your resume!
Your resume could be the only thing standing between you and your dream job, then why not do it the right way?
All outstanding resumes can be divided into 4 major components, they are:
- Design and Format
Let’s go over them one-by-one to help you land an interview for your dream job.
Recommended Read: 21 Things You Need To Know To Ace Your Next Interview
I. Create A Blue-Print: The Plan
The best resumes are built through proper planning and forethought, so don’t just go rushing to start writing whatever comes to mind. Creating a structured plan before writing your resume will ensure that it is crisp, to-the-point, and accomplishes your objective (securing an interview) in the best possible manner.
Here are a few things to consider while building your plan:
1. Keep it crisp
Do not fit everything about yourself into the resume, reserve those extra details for the interview instead. The main objective of writing a resume is not to land you a job, but to give recruiters an idea about your education and accomplishments at a glance.
2. Understand your employer and the position on offer
A useful exercise for building an exceptional resume is to take the time to understand your employer first. Read up on the company, its vision and mission, the state of the industry, and the requisites of the position you are applying to, to get into the mind of your employer. This would help you customize the resume to showcase how you are the perfect person to fulfil the company’s needs.
3. Be clear about your career objective
You should have clarity regarding not just the company, but your own goals too, since employers evaluate you on this. Take the time to introspect on why you are applying to the position and how the position will help you achieve your career goals. This will help you form a distinct career objective for your resume, as a way to communicate to your employer that you are a clear-headed and sorted person.
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II. Be Your Own Architect: The Structure
Now that you have built a workable plan in your mind, the next step is to define how you are going to organize and present the information in the form of a structure.
The most important part of your structure is to figure out the skeleton of your resume, i.e., the way you are going to organize the elements in it.
The most relevant and commonly-used sections to be included in a resume are:
Here are a few tips for developing your resume structure:
4. Organize Information
While describing your work experience, you should organize your information using headings and bullet points, instead of writing in long paragraphs with no defined beginning and end. For e.g., you can mention the name of the company you interned in as the heading, and then describe your duties as bullet points underneath it. This way your information would look much more methodized and systematic.
5. Keep Descriptions Short and Simple
Be mindful of how you describe your work/internships experiences. Avoid writing descriptions of essay-like proportions that leave your recruiter snoozing by the end of it, yet don’t keep them so short that the recruiter is left with no idea about the work you did. And remember: bullet points are your best friends.
6. Highlight Academic Credentials
As a fresh graduate, your academic credentials will hold importance for your recruiter in most cases, so highlight it properly. Organized it in the form of a table (or a highlighted section), instead of a paragraph or points. The table can have columns for the name of college/university, course, year of passing and marks/CGPA.
7. Club Together Related Information
All elements from a similar category should be organized together in the same section. For example, all your internships should go under the same section, and should not be combined with your co-curricular activities.
8. Know the Terms
You should be aware of the difference between curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular, as all three are inherently distinct.
- Curricular activities are those that are a part of your academic course. For e.g., projects
- Co-curricular are ones that go hand-in-hand with your academics, but might not necessarily be a part of the syllabus. For e.g., research papers or conferences
- Extra-curriculars are completely separate from the two, and include activities unrelated to academics. For e.g., awards won at a state level sports competition.
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III. Get the Message Across: The Content
The content is the heart of your resume, the one that would actually help you leave a lasting impression on your recruiter. An outstanding resume cannot be achieved without quality content since it communicates your worth through your experiences and achievements.
Here are a few tips to develop impressive content for your resume:
9. Customise. Customise. Customise
With resumes, the phrase ‘one size fits all’ is never applicable. You should customize your content according to the role you are applying to, and should modify it for each job you apply for. For e.g., if you are applying to a content writing position, it would be helpful to include internships done in that domain, along with accomplishments that highlight your creativity and writing skills.
10. Mind Your Language
Pay attention to the language you use when conveying your information. Never use slang or informal words in your resume as they look very unprofessional. Yet at the same time avoid using very heavy-sounding and ornate words. A resume is meant to demonstrate your professional skills to the recruiter, not your English language skills.
11. Action Words Speak Better
Try to integrate action words (such as managed, coached, developed, resolved, etc.) in your resume. These words serve to prime the notion of accomplishment and achievement in your recruiter’s mind. If you need help, there are online resources with a number of action words available for reference. Be careful to use action words only in contexts they are relevant to.
12. Expectation vs Outcome
When talking about your work experience, focus on your accomplishments instead of duties, i.e. focus on what YOU did in the job vs. what the job was. As an example, try to write about measurable outcomes that you achieved through your role with the help of specific numbers.
- Increased social media engagement by 12%.
- Generated 50 leads in a period of 3 months.
- Successfully inducted and trained 20 new staff members.
13. Gorgeous Grammar
This one should go without saying, but always use proper grammar in your resume. If grammar is not a strong suit, then take the help of a friend or an expert, but never put out a grammatically incorrect resume. There are various free online tools available to help with this. Grammarly is a good one.
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IV. Ice the Cake: The Format and Design
Like no cake is complete without the icing, an outstanding resume cannot be achieved without appropriate formatting.
Here are a few pointers for achieving a professional-looking resume:
14. Align Right
Always make sure that headings and bullet points are properly aligned. A few misformatted bullets can leave a bad impression.
15. Colours or Plain Jane
You can play around with the look and feel of your resume, depending on the kind of job you are applying to. For e.g., when applying for a creative job, your resume can incorporate colours and a creative style. For more serious jobs, the resume design can be black and white, grey or in shades of blue/green.
16. The Right Font
The font type and sizes used can transform the entire look of your resume. Make sure you don’t use intricate or hard-to-read fonts. Standard fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Sans Serif, Calibri, etc. are always safe choices. font size should also be legible enough, no smaller than 10 pt., and ideally a 12 pt.
17. NO CAPITAL LETTERS
Avoid writing in capital letters, apart from headings, as they are difficult to read. Not to mention they can give the impression that YOU ARE SHOUTING!
18. Let your Resume Breathe
Don’t pack in the text. Make your resume neat and easier to read by including lots of white space. Include at least one blank line between each section and the line spacing within sections should be 1.0 or 1.15 pts. The page margins all around the page should also be between 0.5-1 inches.
19. Pick a Nice Template
If you are having a hard time deciding what format to use, then you can find online resources for that too. Here is one resource that has brilliant customizable templates of various types.
20. Proofread, Always
Always, always, proofread! This one should be a no-brainer but happens too often. When you apply for a job, you are supposed to present the best side of you. Every aspect of your profile should be presentable, including your resume.
A Few Additional Resume Tips You Shouldn’t Forget
Wait Wait! Here are some additional end notes to remember before you send out your resume to your employer.
21. Size Matters
The length of your resume should not exceed one page. The entire purpose of a resume is to show your recruiter your suitability for the role, at a glance. Don’t defeat it! Think to yourself, “Is knowing this information about me, absolutely essential for the recruiter to take a call about me?” Remove all details that don’t meet this criterion.
22. It’s not a Biography
In order to accomplish the previous point, you should make it a point not to type out every single thing you ever did on your resume. An accomplishment from class 6th may not be relevant to a job you’re applying to after a master’s degree. Include only relevant information from the past 3-4 years, with an exception of really big accomplishments.
23. Keep it Current
A resume is not etched in stone, so you should always keep updating it. Keep adding new information as and when you accomplish something, to keep it current and up-to-date. Before applying to any job, read your resume multiple times to make sure that it contains only information relevant to the job in question.
24. Get a Second Opinion
We may overlook our mistakes, so it’s best to get someone (a friend or an industry expert) to review your resume once, and get a fresh perspective.
As an ending note, remember that a good resume takes time, but when you land the job of your dreams, it will be worth all the efforts and hard work you put into it!
Have any questions about your own resume? Share with us in the comments below!