It doesn’t matter how many times you have changed jobs that writing your resume and cover letter is never easy. Whether you are a graduate looking for the first job or a veteran thinking about taking the next step in your career, you probably need the right practical advice and specific examples to help you nail your resume and cover letter.
If that’s exactly what you need, you are in the right place! Based on previous research and advice from the experts, this is a compilation of what candidates are not doing when writing a resume and what should they be actually doing instead. After this read you will know everything you need about how to write your resume.
Make a good first impression in the first 6 seconds
According to a study carried out by The Ladders, an American job-matching service and employment website, most recruiters make up their mind in the first six seconds of scanning your resume. Surprisingly, within such a tiny timeframe, they are able to notice your name, education, actual title and company and the previous one. That is why it is key to make a good first impression and to do it fast.
To do that you should take time to polish up the specific areas that will catch the recruiters’ eye: mention as soon as possible the most relevant information for the role you are applying to, whether that is a previous position or education.
The sooner you show that you understand the company’s culture, the better. Fitting in with the company’s values and philosophy is becoming increasingly important. To do so, you need to use industry related keywords and show your interest and attitude towards the company and team you would be joining.
You should also leave all negativity behind. Do not include on your resumes your reasons for leaving other jobs or what you didn’t enjoy about certain aspects of previous jobs. Only if they ask you during the interview, you should briefly explain what the situation was and your rationale to change jobs but keep your resume always positive.
When trying to impress your recruiter with your positivism, be careful not to lie about your education, work history or accomplishments. Try to present yourself in the best light possible without exaggerating as this could set up their expectations too high, which is the perfect recipe for failure.
Include specific facts and figures and the right examples
If you are going to say that you are ‘motivated’, ‘hard worker’ and ‘innovative’ you need to provide an explanation and give specific examples. The same when you are mentioning the results you managed to achieve in your previous job. Instead of saying ‘I have great selling skills” you can give an example such as “increased monthly profit by 15%”.
Never include on your resume your salary history or your salary expectations; there will be a moment to negotiate your remuneration. As there will be a time to discuss your days off or work benefits. Although it is not very common, some job descriptions ask you to include your expected salary. In that case, you should better include it on your cover letter. When deciding the amount you give them remember that if you indicate a figure that is too high, the employer may discount you and if you go too low, you might be shooting yourself in the foot. That’s why it is recommended to use terms such as “competitive” or “negotiable” instead of giving a specific fixed figure.
Employers love to know how you found them. So if you are inviting a potential employer to connect on LinkedIn, mention if you met them at a networking event, through the school you went to or read an article about them. However it happened, tell them about it and use this opportunity to show how well you are connected giving some specific names or locations.
Find out what the employer is looking for before applying
It is very important to understand what the recruiter is looking for before you start writing your resume and cover letter for the specific position. Doing the right research about the company and the available role will put you in an advantage position from the beginning.
To be able to see it from the employers’ point of view, read in detail the job description and other similar job descriptions that could give you some clues. You should also visit the company’s website and recent articles about the company on industry magazines. It is ideal to talk to someone who is already working in the company or company’s group, check your social media connections as you may not be that far off from one of them as you may think.
Doing all this will give you a better understanding of the company, the people who work there and what they may be looking for. It will also help you use relevant buzzwords, keywords and industry-specific language. This will give you more chances to access the interview and, once you are there, knowing the employers expectations will help you feel more confident when answering the most difficult or tricky questions.
When this research hasn’t been done, it is a very common mistake on resumes to use vague or general language so the recruiter doesn’t understand what the candidate has done during their career. You also need to be very careful with bullet points, giving a proper job description is key for the recruiter to empathize and continue reading your resume.
Get the format and layout right
It is important to keep the resume as brief as possible, limiting it to one or two pages. Focus only on what is relevant to the job you are applying for and include only your most recent accomplishments.
Keep it simple and include these five sections: your name, up-to-date contact information, brief personal statement, education history and work experience. Regarding your personal information, keep it to name and contact information. Information like height, weight, marital status, sexual orientation, number of children, ethnicity, religion or political affiliations should never be included on your resume.
The exception to this is including other skills, qualifications or awards and personal interests or activities when they are relevant to the role you are applying to. This doesn’t mean saying that you like to go out with your friends and party to show how social you are. But mentioning for instance, that you like mountain walking on your free time as it transmits that you have tenacity and you are constantly challenging yourself.
It is very common nowadays to include links to your professional profiles such as LinkedIn or your personal website if you have one, but you don’t need to include a link to your Facebook. Both on your resume and on LinkedIn, always give yourself a great title. Along with your name, you should always give yourself a professional title that represents what you do. This is the first thing that will catch the reader’s eye, so make sure it clearly expresses what you can offer to the role you are applying for.
In terms of the layout, always use standard A4 size and avoid the following: loud color schemes, tiny or elaborate fonts, fancy borders and anything that may distract your recruiter from getting through your resume quickly and easily.
Use a professional email address
This piece of advice may seem very basic, but some people still use their old email addresses on their resumes and this is completely unacceptable. Although it is more common among candidates applying for their first job, it is also a mistake made by those who haven’t updated their resume in a long time.
When writing your contact details on your resume, you need to think if the email address you are using is professional enough and how will it look to the recruiter’s eye. If necessary, create a new email account. It should just be a combination of your first and last name and if needed, you can include a number or two. Gmail accounts are generally perceived as more professional and up-to-date than other email services.