The resume or curriculum vitae is a crucial document. It’s a one-page encapsulation of who you are, what you’ve done, and why you’d be good for the job on offer.
If you have major gaps in employment, education or experience, you may want to adopt a resume style emphasizing skills rather than the traditional chronological accounts of employment.
“The most important thing is to sell your skills,” suggests Karen Lamothe, Edmonton-based project coordinator for Alberta Learning Information Service. “And when you back up your skills, you have to back it up with the ‘prove-it’ theory.”
Each statement of accomplishment should answer the ‘Five w’s’ (who, what, where, why and when), and every achievement should be put into numbers as far as possible.
“Giving the numbers will help employers see the depth and breadth of your skills,” Lamothe explains. “You need to sell (the employer) the skills, to let them know that you can do the task.”
She also recommends starting the document off with a personal profile, detailing the number of years you’ve been in the industry, your credentials and skills, a few accomplishments related to the job in question, and a brief list of personal characteristics.
Here are some more tried-and-true tips to make your resume as powerful as possible:
Avoid empty statements.
Don’t just say, “Functions as a good leader.” Explain how you have proven your leadership in the past. Employers get loads of these empty statements, and they tell very little about how you perform on the job. If you can’t think of at least one example or experience (not necessarily job-related) that explains your statement, take it off your resume.
Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. While you learned Crafting the perfect resume a lot as a typist in Tehran or a cook in Calgary, the executives at the accounting firm to which you’re now applying may not care. Perhaps driven by insecurity or lack of experience, many prospective employees choose to list every job they’ve ever had. However, in these instances, quality is more important than quantity. It’s much more effective to prioritize and expand on relevant experience.
Highlight soft skills. Don’t have any direct experience to list? Don’t panic. More and more employers are placing value on a worker’s ability to function within the organization. You can teach someone to do a task, but you can’t teach them how to get along with co-workers. Communication skills, organizational expertise, and the ability to function amicably in the workplace are all qualities many of today’s bosses seek. So highlight these.
Avoid computer templates like the plague. Sure, that resume template that came with your software makes your resume look pretty spiffy on the screen. It’s not going to help you out much, however, when your list of credentials looks exactly like hundreds of others. Use computer templates or resume packages to learn the basic structure of a resume; don’t use them for style or design. Take some time to develop a clean, crisp, and unique format of your own. Get professional help, if necessary: it will almost certainly be a worthwhile investment.
Make your first page easy on the eye. Nothing distracts a potential employer more than a cluttered, unorganized resume. To avoid this, make your spacing and formatting consistent, and be sure to leave plenty of white space. This is particularly important on the first page, which should present your most hirable attributes to your future boss. For an extra punch, place the stronger points of your resume in the middle of the page, which is a space to which a reader’s eyes tend to naturally gravitate.
Watch your length. While it may be tempting to keep writing about how well-qualified you are, most employers are very, very busy. As such, it’s best to keep things short and sweet. A twopage C.V. has long been the standard; however, if you can condense it even more, all the better. Anything longer than a pair of pages is too much.
Call in your proofreaders. Having a second, or third, or even fourth pair of eyes peruse your product may seem a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s essential that you have proper spelling and grammar if you want to get your foot in the door. To keep things clean and easy to read, it’s best to stick to point-form text, with consistent use of voices and verb tenses. Such things are easy to forget, so enlisting some proofreaders is a great idea.
Keep things positive. Lack of confidence can be a problem for anyone having difficulty finding work. But developing the confidence to boast of your skills is important. Even if you’re convinced your resume is weak, you should never call attention to any perceived flaws. You don’t want to give an employer a reason not to call you. Focus on the best you have to offer.
- Jane is using a typical, bland computer software template here. It’s boring, and will likely get lost in the pile.
- The volley_grrl_743 email address is unprofessional and juvenile. She needs to pitch it in favour of something more grown-up.
- Jane is not at all consistent in her formatting. Note how some bullet points are missing, while others are out of alignment with the rest of the document.
- She also shifts between point-form and full sentences, making her tone confusing.
- Not only is it unnecessary for Jane to mention her reasons for leaving Northern Career College (it’s the sort of thing best left to an interview), she uses negative language in doing so – a big no-no on any resume.
- With the possible exception of her time at Global Athletic, none of her jobs here is relevant to the position she wants.
- She states in her objective that she wants to be a personal trainer, but makes no mention of any qualification for this until the final sentence on the page.
On the whole, this is an amateurish, poorly constructed document. Jane has not presented her skills in a way that will even capture the employer’s eye, much less his or her attention.
- Jane’s name and contact information are cleanly — and prominently — displayed here. Note the new, professional email address.
- Her objective is concise, accurate, and professional. The formatting and tone are both consistent, and the layout is clean, unique, and easy to read.
- Since Jane does not have a lot of experience, she is wise to highlight her skills at the focal point of the page. Her leadership abilities, friendly personality, and training were all referenced in her first resume, but not in a way that made employers take notice.
- As it should be, Jane’s recent Canadian Fitness Organization education is listed prominently, with her other training included mainly to support it.
- In selectively highlighting interests that support her aptitude for this position, she’s presenting a wellrounded candidate for the job.
- No employment history is listed here, but since she has no direct experience correlating to the job at hand, such information is best held for the second page of a resume.
This is a marked improvement over Jane’s first effort. It’s succinct and clean, and does a fine job of representing her true abilities. While her lack of experience may still hinder her hunt, this resume should at least pique the curiosity of any employer.
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