You’ve got 10 seconds – how do you ensure that you’re presenting a professional resume, it meets the employer’s requirements and that you’re one of the five percent of applicants invited to an interview? It seems like a daunting job, but obviously, some candidates do get selected, so why not you too?
When you’ve produced the first draft for what you think is a good resume, use our list of 20 specific actions to transform it into a great resume example.
Aim at the perfect resume
Don’t view writing a resume as a challenge, see it as a process that increases your chances of selection with every step you take. Always remember, the recruiter or line manager simply wants to solve a problem and, if you understand what they want, you can be their solution.
- Meet the main requirements. If you can’t do this, why are you even applying? If you can, check through your resume and tick them all off one by one, because that’s exactly what the reader will be doing. Check you haven’t missed any.
- Use the right keywords. Check the ad, job description and person spec for role-specific words used and ensure your resume includes as many of those keywords as possible. For example, if the Ad mentions they need someone with SQL skills, make sure to say something like, “I have SQL skills which ….”. The keyword ‘SQL skills’ is what will jump out.
- Tell a great story. Make your resume tell the story of your career to show this next role is perfect for both you and the employer. The first paragraph in your profile section should show, “You want a widget manager, I am a widget manager and I could do a great job because …” and then hit them with 3 to 5 bullet points. How can they not want to read on?
- Use context and scale. For an advertised role of customer services manager, there’s a big difference between a candidate who’s been responsible for one small DIY store and a candidate who has handled a national chain of 125 stores. Check what the employer actually wants and make it crystal clear you have that scale of experience.
- Show your added value. So, you have the right qualifications, great skills, and relevant experience? Great, meet the other 99 applicants. Show some added-value which makes them pick you for an interview. Offer examples of extra skills that suggest you might be able to do a better job than the other candidates.
Use a resume format for readability
Busy recruiters and line managers with 100 professional resumes on their desk want information fast and they don’t have time to fully read them all. Your job is to create a resume that is quickly scannable for the main requirements, keywords, headline experience, and added value.
- Use a logical structure. The order of your crafted resume will depend upon the role and industry you’re applying to, but within that, present information in the order expected so that it’s quick and efficient to scan.
- Use titling and white space. The more white space, the better, it focuses a reader’s attention where you want to put it. Clear bold titles for sections (profile, current role, previous work experience, qualifications, etc.) and for roles/employers leaves no doubt what’s to be found whereby a busy reviewer.
- Get to the point. Cut any verbose description, go for the facts, although do make sure your resume is still readable. For each section or employer, use a very short paragraph to set the scene and follow that up with 3 to 5 one-line bullet points.
- Write 2 pages maximum. One page is acceptable for school leavers and recent graduates and several pages would be the norm for many scientific or academic roles, but otherwise, two pages are the norm.
If you’re struggling, take a look at our article How to Write a Great Resume
Style like professional resume writers do
Style is subjective, but a great resume style delivers the right information fast, and in the correct order. Never get creative, just for the sake of it, as your efforts won’t be appreciated. For example, no one cares what color a nuclear missile is, they only care if it will do the job. That missile has a payload on the front, control gear in the middle and an engine on the back. Anything else would be weird, and the same is true when presenting your resume.
- Write for the reader. Who are they? What do they want? You’re selling yourself so use the opportunity to show your personality. You’re aiming to connect on an emotional or subconscious level with the reader, so write in the first person.
- Use a professional resume template. That could be either a plain black-on-white ‘standard’ resume that you construct yourself, or it could be a professionally crafted document that additionally uses layout, color, and formatting to direct attention and influence impression. Choose what’s appropriate for your industry and role-type. Check out our article on How to Choose the Right Resume Template and then take a look at our selection of templates.
- Be selective. Don’t describe every last step and detail of your career, show that you’re someone who recognizes the point and gets straight to it. Present only what’s relevant and important, but don’t get caught out hiding things. If you’re finding this balance hard to get right and missing opportunities, use our professional resume writing service to try and land your next job faster.
Reality-check your resume ideas
More than anything else, this requires your discipline and full attention. When you think you’ve finally arrived at a great resume after many hours, it really is hard to go through it yet one more time, but why risk accidental rejection now?
- Check spelling, grammar, phraseology, and punctuation. Boring, boring, boring BUT absolutely 100% essential. In a competitive marketplace with dozens of applicants a recruiter may forgive the odd small error, but not two. Basic errors show you up as slapdash, and who wants another loose cannon on board?
- Look at the overview. What does the employer really want? Does your carefully crafted resume demonstrate that’s you? Does it do so simply and directly, or are your talents diffused throughout a mish-mash of previous roles? If so, re-do your starting profile summary. Aim for an in-your-face introduction, not an Agatha Christie mystery.
- Check your dates. Nothing causes more anxiety for a recruiter than finding gaps or unexplained overlaps within a career history. If you have a gap, fill it with something – anything, but do so in a positive way.
- Think about your personality. What personal characteristics does the role call for? A thoughtful, measured, analytical and conservative person? Is that how you look or are your words suggesting a different personality? Re-work your resume to avoid hyperbole and demonstrate the characteristics required, even if they’re not explicitly asked for.
Resume tips for submission
When you’ve finally perfected your professional resume, your job isn’t finished yet. Make absolutely sure it gets to the right person, that it’s in the correct format and that it will be well received.
- Submit your resume to a named person. If you don’t have a name, try ringing HR and ask who you should address your submission to. If at all possible, speak with that person, perhaps on the pretext of having a query.
- Add a cover letter or email note. Try not to repeat what’s in your resume, instead of stress what makes your application interesting for them. Use three bullet points in the middle of your introduction to lead them into opening your resume with genuine enthusiasm. Our article How to Write a Great Cover Letter in 6 Steps shows you how to do this.
- Leave out references. Only supply these if you’re specifically asked for them and make sure you’ve spoken to those people beforehand. Load the bullets for them.
- Put your name in the filename. You’d be amazed by how many PDF and DOC resume files are submitted with the filename ‘resume.pdf’. Don’t make your hard to find or they may just open someone else’s file by mistake and like what they see.