How to Make a Perfect Resume

resume

Resume Fundamentals

Your resume or CV is your one and only chance to capture the attention of a recruiter or potential employer, and you have an average of just 6.25 seconds to make an impression. You’ll never get a second chance to make a strong first impression, so it is vitally important to ensure that the impression you make is the right one.

If your resume is bland or uninspiring with a standard format that looks the same as hundreds of other resumes, this will create negative assumptions about your personality and potential job performance.

The thing is, recruiters consider your cover letter and resume a snapshot of who you are. If you put a lot of effort into your resume, this will send a very strong message about your passion and work ethic and demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the position.

This is why it is critically important to have an attention-grabbing, value-based resume that is and customized for the position you are applying for.

What is a Value-Based Resume?

A value-based resume is an employer-focused resume that effectively showcases your key personal strengths and attributes that are relevant to the job you are applying for. It demonstrates how you plan to use your skillset and experience to solve the prospective employer’s problems and meet their specific needs.

The fact of the matter is, companies are not interested in helping you achieve your career goals. They are looking for candidates who are able to show that they understand their company’s problems and challenges and want to help them grow and make more money.

Consequently, your resume should read like a mini-business plan, showcase the “unique value” that you bring, and demonstrate how you plan to use your skills, competencies and attributes to improve the company’s bottom line. This should be the singular focus of your resume.

 

Keep the following points in mind when creating your resume:

Customize Your Resume for the Job

Sending a generic resume to a potential employer is the quickest way to damage your job application. This is one of the biggest reasons why 98% of job applications fail. Your resume needs to be specifically customized to the role you’re applying for. It needs to be a sleek executive/professional style, with a laser focused and targeted message that clearly communicates who you are, what makes you special and the unique value that you bring. All of the various sections of your resume need to work together to show that you’re a perfect fit for the job.

If there is not a clear and obvious connection between the job requirements and your skills, accomplishments and experience, your application is likely to fail. This is why it is critically important to take the time to customize your resume for the job you are applying for.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Many employers today use applicant tracking systems to help them screen resumes and identify qualified candidates. Applicant tracking systems present a considerable challenge for the average jobseeker in the sense that your resume needs to be optimized with the specific keywords referenced in the job posting before being submitted. Keywords are the terms deemed by a specific employer to represent essential job attributes.

This means that if your resume doesn’t contain a certain percentage of the exact keywords used in the original job description, your resume is unlikely to be found during the recruiter’s search for qualified applicants.

How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a type of software interface that is used by companies to manage their hiring process. The system provides an interface for candidates to apply online and recruiters use it to search through those candidate submissions. It is designed to save HR professionals from having to sift through thousands of resumes and cover letters.

When applying for any position, there are certain keywords and buzzwords that commonly occur in that industry. If you have not incorporated these keywords into your resume, you may not be found by recruiters and potential employers. Using keywords effectively in your resume is now critical for being found.

Aesthetics Matter

The content of your resume is what will convince the interviewer to invite you for an interview. However, your resume’s look is just as important as its content. If your resume looks the same as every other resume, you won’t stand out and are likely to be ignored.

It is however important not to go overboard with a “pretty or elaborate” resume. Numerous hiring decision makers may reject your resume if they feel that you are trying to overcompensate for lack of accomplishments or experience by using a graphics-based or colorful resume. Your resume needs to be in a professional, executive format that highlights your most relevant accomplishments.

Fonts: It is essential that you create your resume in a legible, professional-looking font that is aesthetically pleasing and grabs the employer’s attention. It needs to be well designed with clear headings that stand out and lots of white space.

Avoid elaborate fonts, graphics or complicated design elements that might clog how an applicant tracking system reads your resume. Most professionals tend to use serif fonts, which is a stylized font with tails and other decorative markings. Examples include fonts such as Bookman Old Style, Valera Round, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Cambria, Times New Roman or Georgia.

Keep the following points in mind:

  • Do not use font sizes below 10.
  • Use the same font throughout.
  • Do not use thick paragraphs of text.
  • Do not use more than 2 colors.
  • Avoid the use of elaborate fonts.

 

Quantify Your Achievements

Quantifiable accomplishments with hard-hitting numbers show that you’re an achiever and this is the most powerful and effective way to transform your resume from bland or boring to outstanding. Focus your entire resume around “relevant” results you have generated throughout your entire career for previous employers, and showcase those results throughout your resume.

Showing prospective employers exactly what you have achieved for previous employers in the past will not only give them an idea of your strengths and qualifications, it will generate excitement about what you are capable of doing for them and the value that you bring. If you don’t quantify your measurable results, your resume will not be stand out, especially if your competitors have been able to do so.

Use the Right Format

Because of the high volume of responses for most job openings, employers and recruiters now store submitted resumes in applicant tracking systems. This means that if your resume doesn’t contain a certain percentage of the exact keywords used in the job description, your resume is unlikely to be found during the recruiter’s search for qualified applicants.

However, there are times you can afford to push the creative boundaries with a graphical resume. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic design position with a small start-up company and are required to submit your application to a.bc@xyzCompany.com, a graphical resume in PDF format would be appropriate.

You could also consider using a graphical format for your resume if you’re attending a job fair. In this situation, a one page graphical resume with a professionally taken headshot would be the most appropriate type of resume to use. You could also offer your graphical resume as an introduction with your 2 – 3 page professionally formatted resume.

Post an Impressive Video Resume

If you are in the marketing, sales, social media, advertising or branding/PR industry, you can use a short video resume in addition to your standard resume to enhance your job application and engage potential employers. You can also use your video resume to articulate what you can do for the employer and explain why you would be the right person for the job. In addition, you can showcase your presentation skills, give a sense of your most relevant accomplishments and generate excitement about what you bring to the table.

If you’re interested in creating a video resume, you can easily do so using your smartphone or webcam. In addition, Meet the Real Me is a website that helps job candidates make and share video resumes.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when creating your video resume:

  • Keep your video between one and three minutes long.
  • Keep the focus on your most relevant accomplishments, and what you can do for a potential employer.
  • Dress as though you’re attending an interview. This doesn’t necessarily mean a suit. It depends on the role. For example, if you’re interested in an accountancy role, you’d be expected to wear a suit. On the other hand, if you’re applying to a social media role with a small start-up with less than 40 employees, you can be more casually dressed.
  • Be warm and engaging in your video, and let your personality shine through. Stay upbeat and maintain eye contact with the camera.
  • Do not put on false airs and try to be someone else as that could ultimately backfire on you. Just be your true or authentic self.

 

Prioritize Specific Sections of Your Resume

It is important to prioritize those sections of your resume that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you have recently graduated from university and worked your way through doing completely irrelevant jobs, the education and skill sections need to be the most prominent areas of your resume and take center stage at the top of your resume.

If you have any volunteer experience that is relevant to your desired job, place that below the education section, and de-emphasize irrelevant job titles by placing Work History at the bottom of the page.

Don’t Include a Headshot in Your Online Application

Are you considering adding a headshot to your online resume like a lot of people seem to be doing these days? Don’t. While you might think that including a headshot may give you an edge, the truth is, this is a big risk. Most employers try to avoid any type of discrimination, so seeing your picture can make some recruiters feel uncomfortable. You’re not going to gain anything by adding your photo to your resume. Why take the risk?

Furthermore, most of the larger recruiters today use applicant tracking software which may filter out your resume if it doesn’t recognize the image. Unless you’re applying for work as a model, using a headshot on your resume is unnecessary, and generally not recommended.

How Many Pages Should You Use?

Some writers are of the view that having a resume with more than one page is a risk, given the fact that recruiters spend an average of 6.5 seconds scanning resumes. However, the reality is that everybody’s situation is different and there are no hard-and-fast rules that work for everyone.

If you have extensive relevant professional experience, accomplishments and training, it would be a bad idea to try to force all of your information to meet the one-page resume rule. As long as your resume is concise and focused on your key selling points that are specifically relevant to the position, it won’t matter if it spans more than one page. Nevertheless, there is a case for the one-page resume, and if you can get all of your most important information on one page, then you really should.

According to Monster.com, these are the guidelines to follow when deciding on resume length:

Use a one-page resume if:

  • You have less than 10 years of relevant experience;
  • You’re changing career and your experience isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for, or
  • You’ve only had less than three positions with different employers.

Use a two or three-page resume if:

  • You have more than 10 years of relevant experience related to the job in hand; or
  • Your field requires highly specialist technical information, and you need more than one page to prove your technical knowledge.

Explain Any Gaps in Employment History

Having a gap in your resume is not necessarily a big deal. Employers understand that sometimes people may have to take time out of their career to travel, take care of an elderly or sick family member, recover from an injury, etc. It becomes a big deal however, when you don’t address the reason for the gap in your cover letter. This will cause them to make all sorts of assumptions (such as substance abuse, incarceration, instability, etc.)

So, even if you have a perfectly logical excuse, not addressing the reason for the gap would be a serious hindrance in your job search because it speaks to bad judgement and poor decision making. When addressing the gap in employment, explain exactly what you were doing during that period. You will also need to explain how you have kept your skills fresh and relevant during that time.

 

Hobbies and Interests

You should only list hobbies and interests that are professionally relevant or in line with the mission of the company, and can actually enhance your resume. For example, if you’re applying for a position in social media, an interest in blogging will be seen as a strength because it is directly relevant to the position. Equally, an interest in art or photography could be viewed as a positive if you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer.

However, while listing sports like football or basketball as your interests may be innocuous, they won’t really add anything to your resume. You can save that for the interview if during your research, you find that the interviewer is an avid F1 fan, and you’re a big fan of the sport.

Furthermore, there are certain interests you should absolutely leave off your resume. For example, if you have a passion for hunting, you’ll want to avoid putting this on your resume because if it lands on the desk of a recruiter who holds strong views about hunting, it may end up in the recycle bin.

Proofreading

With the amount of time recruiters spend reviewing resumes, things like typos, spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors will spell doom for your application. These types of mistakes make it easy for recruiters to weed out candidates. This is why it is essential to get your resume proofread before sending it out. Your resume needs to be flawless. Meticulous proofreading is essential because it can make all the difference to your application.

Here are the most common errors made on resumes:

Homophones:

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning, and may differ in spelling.

  • Two, too and to.
  • Their, there, and they’re.
  • It’s or its.
  • Loose or lose.
  • Ensure or insure
  • Stationary or stationery

Other mistakes people typically make include:

  • Using should of instead of should have.
  • Using would of instead of would have.
  • Using could of instead of could have.