I tell ya’, I get tired of scanning résumés sometimes. Having seen thousands of them while hiring people, I can confidently tell you that the average employer spends only 30 seconds per résumé. What does this mean? It means you only have 30 seconds to make the first cut. Since I see so many badly written résumés and since someone on the Evolt list posted a question about résumés, here’s my first article. Follow these résumé tips and you’ll improve your chances in the job hunt.
Since the objective of a résumé is to get you a job interview, your résumé should keep shouting, “These are my skills, this is what I have accomplished, and this is how I can be an asset to your company”. While no two résumés can ever be alike, keep the following points in mind while creating your résumé.
- Don’t include too many personal details. Exclude information irrelevant to your job such as: Parents’ name: Your parents have nothing to do with your job.
Family history: Employers are more interested in what you can do, not whether your father is with the government or if your sister is married.
Height, weight, blood group, and health: Not required unless you are applying to be a fitness instructor.
Nationality: Not required unless you’re applying for a job abroad.
Languages known: Once again, unless it’s a job requirement, it’s a waste of space.
- Don’t write volumes about the companies where you have worked previously. While it may be good to have worked at a reputed company, a half page description of the company’s activities is hardly required. Your résumé should sell your skills, not your previous employer. However, do point the skills you acquired at your previous jobs.
- Don’t give details of more than the last three to four positions/ companies where you have worked. Omit the rest or put them in a section called “Other positions held”. If you’ve got 15 years of experience, writing about your first job as a trainee is not required and only makes the résumé long. Recruiters who often have to look through tens and hundreds of résumés may skip through your résumé, which is not what you want.
- Don’t give a long list of job responsibilities that you were entrusted with. Give results. Instead of writing, “In charge of training of employees in computer applications”, use, “Trained 35 employees to use Windows 95, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel within 4 months”. This will help your potential employer assess you by what you have done and is more likely to get you an interview. A long list will also make your résumé excessively long. Most résumés should be a maximum of 3 pages in length.
- Don’t-and this is a big DON’T-create “fill-in-the-blanks” types of résumé cover letters. Letters that have blanks for positions and company names like “Application for the position of _____” create the impression that you have been sending them out to plenty of companies, and can’t be bothered to create a proper letter.
- Don’t ever write, “application for any suitable post” in your cover letter. If you can’t decide where you will fit in, don’t expect your potential employer to think of a position for you.
- Don’t photocopy résumés and send them. Get proper prints (preferably on a laser printer). It is very easy to distinguish a photocopy from an original. The minor extra expense is well worth it as an investment in your future.
- Don’t, for heaven’s sake, type out your résumé in all caps and with underlining. This is one sure way to destroy readability. For section headings, use a sans serif font in bold weight instead.
- Don’t mention salary information anywhere. This may put you out of the race at the application level itself. Remember that you have to get to that interview! If your expected salary is specifically asked, put it as “negotiable”. Don’t include a detailed salary history either.
- Don’t include a photograph unless specifically asked for. Passport photos have a way of turning bright, cheerful people into sulky, grumpy, stone-faced people and the recruiter may form a negative impression of you before he/ she even meets you.
- Do give your name and contact information at the very top of the page. This will get the rid of superfluous headings such as “Name” and “Contact Address”. It also makes it more likely that the recruiter will remember your name.
- Do focus on all your achievements in the past. Be sure to quantify everything you have done. Sentences such as “Reduced project expenditure by 20%” and “Increased sales in my region by 30% within 3 months” have more impact than merely “Overall charge of projects” and “Handled sales in region”. They show that you have accomplished something instead of merely being involved in mundane activities. Employers want achievers so your résumé must tell them why they should hire you.
- Do put in skills that are important to the job for which you are applying. For example, If you are applying for the post of secretary, skills such as knowledge of computers, shorthand, etc. are usually required. Once again, be specific. Use sentences such as “Thorough knowledge of MS Word and Excel”, “Typing speed of 60 WPM”, “5 years experience as Secretary to Director” to highlight your skills. Exclude information like “School cricket captain” unless it is relevant to the position.
- Do use good quality paper for your résumé. Superior quality paper makes an excellent first impression and the cost hardly matters. Avoid old, yellowed paper and normal photocopying paper. Remember not to fold the résumé either.
- Do write a proper covering letter to go with your résumé. A cover letter provides a short introduction of you, the position you’re applying for, and the skills, qualifications, and experience you possess. Restrict it to half a page. Don’t use clichés like “I am enclosing my résumé for your kind perusal and consideration”. Most recruiters will just skim over all that.
- Do try and find out who will be reading your résumé and then address your cover letter to them. This will give your résumé a better chance of being read. If you don’t know the person, call up the company, tell the person at the other end that you wish to send a job application and would like to know whom to address it to.
- Do, and please follow this tip, proofread, proofread, and then proofread some more. Make sure you have a printed copy of your résumé and give it a thorough and careful read. Then look at it again after a couple of hours. Once you’re satisfied that there is nothing wrong, give it to a friend and ask him/ her if everything looks right. Spelling and grammar mistakes show that you can’t be bothered reading your résumé carefully. Some recruiters won’t even call you for an interview if they find spelling mistakes. Don’t create a negative impression at the beginning itself.
- Do give your résumé a professional look. Résumés that are typewritten or printed on a 9-pin dot matrix printer don’t really work well. If you don’t have access to a laser or inkjet printer, go to a DTP bureau that will do it for you. Make sure that all section headings are clearly visible and the recruiter can quickly get to the section that he/ she wants to see.
- Do create your own résumé. Don’t merely copy someone else’s and then change the information. Résumés should be different depending upon your qualifications and experience, the nature of the position, etc. A résumé that is suitable for someone else may be totally unsuitable for you. For example, for a person with 20 years experience in Administration, skills and achievements are more important than educational qualifications. For a software engineer with limited experience, however, education and technical knowledge are definitely more important.
- Do go to a professional résumé service if you need help preparing a résumé. By this, I don’t mean your corner typist or your neighbourhood DTP bureau. Résumé professionals will ask you for your qualifications, skills, experience, etc. and then create a targeted résumé for you. Though they may cost more than the DTP fellow, they are usually worth it.
- Do create a targeted r?sum? and not a "one size fits all
positions" one. Each position you apply for may have slightly different
requirements, as will the company doing the hiring. What works for company X
may not suit company Y. You may have to emphasise different things in
different places. Learn all you can about the company that’s hiring and tailor
your r?sum? accordingly.