A resume is a summarised piece of document that should sufficiently highlight your abilities at a quick glance and most importantly, closely represent yourself. As it is the first thing your future employer will look at, it is of utmost importance that you absolutely nail it if you want to land your dream job. This means, no typos, grammatical mistakes, misalignment in format and missing letters, amongst others. Get your peers, family and teacher or boss involved to help you polish and proofread your work. An extra pair of eyes can help you catch typical mistakes you should avoid and you definitely need all the help you can get if you want to land a foot in the narrow door.
According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Human Resources (HR) executives spend less than five minutes reviewing a resume before it gets passed down to the next step in the hiring chain. A majority of 93% of respondents said that “inaccuracies either sometimes or always negatively impacted their decision to extend a job interview.” This means that if you are counting on securing that interview, you should fine-tune your resume until it is top-notch and flawless. The most common mistake people make when crafting their resume is writing one to resemble a monotonous job description. To positively stand out, try highlighting quantifiable, measurable and achievable impacts you can make in the organisation. This technique adds a more persuasive and convincing tone to an otherwise basic and arbitrary resume (more tips shared below).
First, let us take a look at general mistakes you must completely avoid at all costs when putting together your resume. Use these ‘Cs’ as a general guide to create a convincing piece.
It is commonplace for applicants to send out their resume to multiple potential employers. There is no harm in that, however, if you are reusing your resume, remember to customise certain aspects relating to the field and scope. Always double-check that you address the correct employer. This includes the organisation’s name (follow their corporate website when in doubt), job position you are applying for and if necessary, the staff to whom you are sending your resume to. Nothing is more off-putting than to receive a document misspelling your name, or even worse, addressed to someone else entirely.
Comb through your text; scrutinise your grammar and tenses a million times. Refrain from any punctuation mistakes. Something so basic should not be faulted, especially when you have had adequate lead time to prepare and seek assistance if necessary. As small and insignificant as it may seem, a misspelled word or misplaced apostrophe could reflect poorly on your aptitude for bigger tasks. This may potentially dissuade your future employer, causing them to rethink and reevaluate their hiring decision with you.
Within minutes of screening your resume, your employer should be able to gather the most salient information concerning you. Ensure that your resume is reader-friendly by keeping it neat, organised, and aligned. This is a sure way to capture your reader’s attention.
Furthermore, a clean and clearly outlined format will allow your employer to screen your resume quickly, but with many takeaways. Remember to align and divide sections with minimal headers uniformly. This further demonstrates your ability to organise yourself; a quality that can be translated into the workplace.
Clear & Concise
Simply put, be succinct. When going through hundreds of applicants, it is very unlikely that a detailed, six-page resume is examined from front to back. Try to keep your resume within one to two pages and always go straight to the point. Using bulleted points further helps your reader focus on important aspects you wish to emphasise whilst also breaking down large information into bite-size highlights.
Now that you know what to avoid at all costs, let us take a look at some plus points you can incorporate to elevate your resume and take things to the next level.
Create a Cover Letter
It is often unclear when a cover letter is necessary. When in doubt, always go the extra mile. It is always better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Along the lines of keeping things short and streamlined, limit your cover letter to a single page. This preface page should effectively summarise your achievements, passion, aptitude and suitability for the job. It might sound overwhelming and almost impossible, but it really is simple. The key is to focus your content by being industry-specific. Instead of rambling on about your long list of achievements, zoom into areas you think will benefit your future employer. This way, every sentence reinforces why you are suitable and capable for the role you are applying for. While a cover letter might seem irrelevant to some, consider investing time to perfect a short introduction and summary of yourself. It just might be the very thing that lands you your favourite job.
Creativity & Color
An easy way to lead your reader’s eye to notice specific content is to use colours and other visual tools to your advantage. Find ways to make your resume visually appealing by choosing a minimal, but vibrant design template. Using colours and section dividers help recruiters focus on important information and retain their attention with minimal strain. Crafting a creative and colourful resume will also showcase your style and personality in a subtle way. This is a sneaky but sure way to share more about yourself without words. Not to mention, it will definitely be a standout piece from the stack of dull resumes.
Call Out Your Strengths
merit to spotlight on your resume is your skillset and potential. One invaluable asset to note (and continually work at) is problem-solving skills. Most reputable organisations value cognitive abilities as much as they appreciate role-specific dexterity. If you can showcase projects that exemplify a growth mindset, you get bonus points. This is especially important as it demonstrates your willingness to embrace the future (bumps and all). Highlight areas that demonstrate “customer-focus” and other competencies you believe will create value for the company. Be- yond passions, pointedly share areas in which you encountered challenges and how you overcame them. This instantly humanises your resume, making it both realistic and personable.
In this day and age where almost everything is found digitally, you should be too. Set aside time to create a LinkedIn account. It is a place where professionals network, build rapport and some- times even get headhunted by an esteemed company. Think of LinkedIn as the ‘Facebook’ for working professionals. If you are new to the game, do not worry. By creating a profile and getting a headstart, you have time to get acquainted with this new platform and figure out how you can use it to your benefit. Be seen by posting your achievements, such as, articles you have written for reputable companies, sharing posts that interest you, commenting on pages and joining in the discourse. Do not be afraid to use #OpenToWork if you are looking for jobs on LinkedIn too. This is another way for hiring managers to click and view your profile and eventually offer you an interview. Before you know it, you will be better connected with the right people and be on top of your networking game.
We hope these tips help you outshine your peers and create value as you embark into the working world. Always strive for perfectionism in your resume. Even if you have converted your resume working file to a PDF and notice a mistake a minute later, go back and edit it. It might be a hassle, but it is totally worth it if it means landing you your dream job. Happy job hunting!