Effective resume writing

    The correctly worded CV sets you on the path for getting the job you want
    The correctly worded CV sets you on the path for getting the job you want

    The resume is the most subjective document on the planet. It seems everyone has an opinion – so who do you believe and what really constitutes an effective resume?

    The key purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. In other words, it should create sufficient interest for the reader to want to find out more. And once you’re in the interview, a well-crafted resume can act as the interviewer’s script. Most interviewers are time poor and generally ill-prepared, which means they’ll rely heavily on your resume during the interview.  

    So it’s imperative that you spend sufficient time tailoring your resume to suit the job you’re applying for. Only around 50% of applicants do this, so spending that additional time almost guarantees that you’ll be in the top half of candidates.

    What elements should you include in your resume? There are several sections, but based on my extensive experience working in both corporate Human Resources and career coaching roles in Australia and overseas, there are two sections which are non-negotiable.

    The first is a SUMMARY which serves as a ‘hook’ to create interest and have the reader want to find out more. The four elements of the summary are: your profession (e.g. ‘An experienced and degree-qualified marketing professional’); industries and companies you’ve worked in (e.g. ‘Who has worked in telecommunications and finance for organisations including Optus and Suncorp.’); three or four technical skills (e.g. ‘Expertise in event management, social media and public relations.’), and lastly three or four soft or leadership skills (e.g. ‘Strengths include the ability to work with a broad array of stakeholders up to C-level, leading project teams and the ability to manage time and work to priorities’.)

    The second and most important element of your resume are ACHIEVEMENTS. I can’t stress enough how critical these are. In my experience, around 40% of resumes don’t have them and of those that do, many of the achievements are only weakly presented and don’t showcase the individual’s contributions. Achievements should be around 2 lines in length, start with an action verb (e.g. Initiated, led, managed, co-ordinated) and outline what you delivered, ideally quantified. Some examples:

    *Developed a new social media marketing strategy which improved customer conversion rate by 40%

    *Led a project team to organise the annual sales conference for over 500 national attendees which received an average satisfaction rating of 4.8 on a 5-point scale

    Achievements serve as specific and factual examples of your skills and how you have added value, particularly important as the past is the best predictor of the future. To put it more plainly, if you’ve done great things in previous roles, there’s no reason you can’t do so in the future. This is very attractive to potential employers.

    Beyond these must-have elements, you should also include:

    • Personal details – name, mobile, email and LinkedIn URL,
    • Professional experience – covering your last 8-12 years of experience, each role including five to seven ‘key responsibilities’ (what you did in the job) and as we mentioned above, around three to five ‘achievements’,
    • Employment prior to XXXX – any employment beyond  eight to 12 years can be aggregated in this section, without dates (e.g. Marketing Co-ordinator, National Australia Bank),
    • Education – any university or TAFE-related training relevant to the role,
    • Professional development – any company or self-sponsored training relevant to the role,
    • Other sections: IT skills, memberships/associations, voluntary work, languages, referees (include ‘Can be supplied upon request).

    Also make sure your resume is no more than three to four pages in length, uses a common and therefore easily-read font such as Calibri or Arial, and has sufficient white space, especially as only 15 to 30 seconds is spent ‘reading’ the average resume according to recruiters!

    Use these guides to develop and/or update your resume and I can guarantee you’ll gather more interest – and interviews – from employers in your job search. Good luck!
    Wahroonga-based Paul Di Michiel is the author of Fired to Hired, The Guide to Effective Job Search for the Over 40s. Find out more about his career coaching business, The Career Medic, at: www.thecareermedic.com

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