In this article we cover 10 quick and easy tips on how to write a resume and make sure that it’s up there among the good ones.
After all, it’s your resume / CV that decides whether or not you get invited to an interview, so you need to make it good.
What we cover in this article:
- Initial Appearance – First Impressions Count
- Keep It Punchy
- Cut Out The Mistakes
- Basic Content – What To Include
- Achievements, Not Responsibilities
- Explain Employment Gaps
- Tailor It Every Time
- Be Truthful
- Update Regularly
- Include Relevant Keywords
1. Initial Appearance – First Impressions Count
Employers can receive dozens of resumes / CVs for a single job vacancy, and therefore simply don’t have the time to read every word of every resume / CV.
In fact, employers can often spend a matter of mere seconds performing a quick scan of a resume / CV, and the appearance is a factor in deciding whether or not to spend more time reviewing the candidate.
So make your resume / CV look smart and professional to get past this initial filter.
2. Keep It Punchy
Although there can be differences between industry sectors, and role seniority, a good rule of thumb for the length of your resume / CV is 2 pages.
Any less than this and it looks like you haven’t achieved much or got anything to say. Any more than this and you are probably giving too many details, which can lose interest.
See our related article: How long should my resume / CV be?
3. Cut Out The Mistakes
With so many resumes / CV per role one of the most common reasons for rejecting a resume / CV is because it contains basic errors such as spelling mistakes.
And rightly so.
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If you can’t even be bothered to make your resume / CV error free then how can you expect a prospective employer to believe that you will pay more attention to your job?
4. Basic Content – What To Include
Make sure you include the right type of information on your resume / CV. As a guide, the following are all reasonable sections to include:
A high-level overview of your main skills, experiences and career goals.
This should be easily spotted, and can often be found in the header / footer of each page.
Work Experience / History
A brief description of previous roles that you have held. Be sure to highlight achievements and how you have demonstrated value, rather than simply listing responsibilities or activities.
Education & Qualifications
Starting with your highest level, list out your academic qualifications, including grades attained and place of study.
It is more and more common to include a ‘skills’ section where you can articulate specific skills that are relevant to the job.
Certifications & Achievements
Any professional qualifications or certifications you have can be listed to demonstrate expertise in your field.
If you have any special achievements or awards that are relevant to your application you can list these out to further enhance your credentials.
Interests / Hobbies
Some people feel this type of information has no place on a professional resume / CV – we feel that it does.
This section should be kept very short, but it can be useful to mention activities that demonstrate you in a positive light, or can be used as an ice-breaker during interview.
Even better, you may share a hobby with your interviewer which can help build rapport during an interview.
It is not necessary to include specific names and contact details of your referees.
In the past, it was often suggested that you could at least include a sentence stating that references are available on request, but even this is not required anymore.
It is widely accepted that you will have references available if requested so don’t waste valuable space writing this.
5. Achievements, Not Responsibilities
When you talk about your previous work experience, the aim is to demonstrate how you have added value to a business, and how you are able to do the same for your new employer.
If you simply list your responsibilities from a previous job, that doesn’t say anything about whether or not you delivered those responsibilities well or not. For all your new employer knows, you may have been terrible at your job!
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So try to demonstrate that you were great at your job. Mention specific examples of success, that are measurable, and what you did to achieve that.
For example: “Improved sales by 20% by training new staff on sales techniques”.
6. Explain Employment Gaps
A lot of people have gaps on their resume / CV. And by gaps, we mean periods of time when they were not employed.
This is ok, so long as they are explained on your resume / CV in a way that doesn’t make it look like you were doing nothing useful with your time. Reasons for gaps in employment history such as raising a family or world travel are easy to explain.
Genuine periods of unemployment are a little harder. In this case you should highlight positive activities that you undertook during these times, for example volunteering, or learning a new skill or language.
7. Tailor It Every Time
One of the biggest turn offs for employers when reading a resume / CV is a lack of relevance to the advertised job.
Your LinkedIn profile is the place to have generic information that (see How to use LinkedIn to help with your job search…the basics), but every time you submit a resume / CV you should make sure that you have tailored it to the specific job.
You can do this by understanding the job description and the person specification, and by highlighting all your skills, experiences and achievements that resonate with those requirements.
Failing to do this is just lazy.
8. Be Truthful
In Step 5 we spoke about highlighting key achievements, and in Step 6 we spoke about explaining employment gaps.
In both instances, and throughout your resume / CV, you must tell the truth!
The importance of this cannot be underestimated – at best you will look silly in interview if you cannot answer questions about one of your lies.
At worst – your lies could come back to haunt you in the future and lead to a sacking and / or criminal charges (depending on the line of work and the lies).
9. Update Regularly
Updating your resume / CV regularly is a good way to make sure you don’t forget any key achievements or highlights that support your employability prospects.
If you only ever update your resume / CV whenever you are job hunting, it can be years between updates.
In this case it can be difficult to remember things that may just help with your application.
10. Include Relevant Keywords
Many companies – particularly larger ones – now use software to automatically sift through resumes / CVs looking for keywords relevant to the advertised job.
To make sure that your resume / CV gets picked up by this software you need to make sure that you use keywords that are directly relevant to the job you are applying to.
In many cases, you can take examples from the job description or the job advert and include them in your resume / CV. It is a good idea to include these keywords in the descriptions of previous jobs, or even in your personal profile.