People write resumes for various reasons. The most common one is to apply for new jobs. However, resumes are often used to apply for promotions within an organisation, or to provide the employer with important information when a position is reclassified. Whatever your reason for writing a resume, its basic purpose is the same: to communicate your experience, skills, and education related to a specific position to an employer. In short, resumes are a marketing tool. Think of your resume as a promotional flyer designed to get you an interview.
Your resume is not an autobiography, or a place to report every experience you have had. It is a place to report the qualifications you have which relate to a specific position. Writing a targeted, effective resume is time consuming, however, it’s not as difficult as many people think. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right way to do it. Your resume will be as individual as you are.
After reading this booklet and attending the resume workshop at Student Employment Services, if you feel you need additional help with your resume, put together a working copy and make an appointment to have one of our employment coordinators critique it.
The first step in resume writing is to identify all of your skills, attributes, and experiences. This is not always easy to do as people tend to be modest and to overlook their own skills. In this case, however, it is important to “blow your own horn” and not to underestimate yourself.
One approach to getting started is to write down everything you have done. You might make headings such as volunteer work, paid work, education, awards, memberships, extra-curricular activities, and special skills, and then list all your experiences under the appropriate heading. This is a good way to ensure that you don’t forget anything.
Another reason to start by listing your experience is that it will help you to identify your skills. Once your experience list is complete, look at each item on your list, and ask yourself “What could I have learned by doing this?” “What skills did I develop?” Then, simply list the skills as they occur to you. Some of these skills will have been developed through work experience or extra-curricular activities, and others through your education.
Innovative Ideas for Job Seekers
- Start experimenting with things you’ve never done (and stop doing what you’ve always done). Think about hobbies or activities you could engage in to develop new skills.
- Cultivate multiple options. If one long empty road stretches through the job search desert, your motivation will disappear very quickly. Picture a river delta with multiple choices – make it up as you go along and go with the flow. You never know what might be around the next bend.
- Instead of asking “What job can I find today?” what if you asked, “What kind of job can I create today?” The slight twist of one word, from find to create, might hold the key to more helpful answers.
- Be childlike. Look at the familiar — their own products, their customers, their work processes — as if seeing it for the first time. Children are often piercingly perceptive, precisely for this reason.
- Ask your friends and (ex) colleagues for five reasons why they wouldn’t hire you. Have a few beers with them, go shopping, do whatever you need to for a relaxed and frank conversation which flows and gets to the crux of why they think you are unemployable. It hurts, but it will help.
- Write 3 hard-hitting industry articles on LinkedIn and then promote the hell out of them. In this situation, quality is far more important than quantity. It is however important that you have over 1000 views for each article with at least 30 “likes” – get your network to do you a favour and give your candidature a human voice. 3 articles will fill the top of your LinkedIn profile page and make you a far more rounded candidate.
- Think about the subtle niche aspects of the jobs that you are applying for. Don’t be obvious in your answers at interview. Be different, be deep, be considered. Pay attention to the minutiae.
- Look at the real “jobs-to-be done” rather than the job you used to do. Put simply, when people become aware of a “job” that they need to get done, they search for a product or service to “hire” for getting the job done effectively. Where is the real need for these companies? Be the answer.
- Put yourself in the position of the company hiring manager. Consider why you would employ yourself. What sort of questions would you ask yourself and what answers would impress you?
- Make the company interviewer feel as if you are already working there. Have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every aspect of the company. Most importantly, be conscious of their culture – mirror the interviewer and act like you are part of the furniture.
- Don’t discuss the job search (much) with your family or close friends. Their picture of who you are (and have been) is far stronger than who you could become. Find someone in your industry with whom to discuss your options, preferably a trusted referral. Explore your options objectively and without emotional baggage. You can be 100% honest and they will add a truly unique perspective.
- Become a referral hub for selected recruiters. This tactic may not pay dividends for this job search, but if you have an ongoing relationships with recruiters as a source of good potential candidates, then they will reciprocate in the future.
- Analyze products, processes, or ideas to see how they work. Getting under the skin of a company is a great way to gain a new perspective, and truly understand what value you may bring.
- Stand out on LinkedIn. Comment on any relevant articles. Like your recruiter’s posts on LinkedIn, not all as you may be seen as a stalker, but just those which resonate. Forwarding job opportunities is a valuable contribution. It might overwhelm your network for a while, but you will be highly visible to those that count.
- Put a targeted ad on social media. Advertise yourself as a potential employee – targeted at employees (of a certain managerial level) at your future companies. Visibility is everything, and you never know who might see it. The outlay on this is far better value than wasting your money on another CV rewrite.
- Set up Twitter job ad searches by position and location (“Purchasing Manager, London”). Many companies use Twitter to blast their open roles ‘out there.’ There is no cost for them, and it makes them seem like an active employer. Engage with their recruitment tweets – RT them, favourite them, put yourself on their radar.
- Make a video CV. If you really want to make your application stand out and secure company interviews which may otherwise have passed you by, a professional (this is important) video CV can be hugely powerful. You have to have the personality to back this up!
- Determine where you are ‘insanely great’ (Steve Jobs) and find where your true talents meet the opportunities of the market. Don’t compromise with this one, otherwise you’ll be looking for a new role before long. Do the Venn diagram thing. What is your sweet spot?
- Don’t follow the crowd. If you have a blue chip background, look at the SME market. If your job search has focused on the big cities, look at the smaller ones who may be crying out for your skillset. Be different and remember that the big fish also hang out in less popular spots. You may lose some tackle to weeds and snags, but you have to keep putting your bait down there.
- Don’t just innovate, but do all the boring stuff as well. Write bespoke cover letters, CVs and online applications. Tick every possible box and spend as much time as possible talking to people – a five minute phone call with a recruiter is worth more than 20 emails. Job search is a hard slog, but at least 30% of it should be above and beyond what your completion are doing. Come out on top!
- Last innovative tip…. Do you really want to work for someone else for the rest of your life, just to be thrown on the scrap heap long before your ‘best before’ date? It is not for everyone. Find your inner passion, and while you are searching try to make some money from it. I did exactly that, and it has turned out quite well so far!
Resumes should be between 1 – 2 pages in length. If your resume is longer than this, you should consider another format. This is important as employers require concise information that is easy to access, and often they will not read beyond the second page.
Your resume should be printed using high quality paper and printers. It is acceptable to use white or shaded paper. Originals are best, but if photocopies are used, they should be of good quality – you may want to use a professional copier.
It is very important that your resume be error free. Read it several times and have friends proofread it as well. An error on your resume is a sure way to get yourself screened out.
Your resume should be well-organized and laid out in a logical manner. It should include white space and adequate margins as this makes your resume easy to read and visually attractive.
Dates can be placed on the right, left or middle of your page. Whatever the choice, it is important that they are placed consistently throughout your resume.
7 People You Need in Your Life
- The Sage – This is code word for mentor. Mentors are people who have been where you want to go. They offer you invaluable wisdom and experience that will help you achieve your goals quicker. Mentors can help you expand your horizon. Everyone needs mentors in both their personal and professional lives. It is true that experience is a good teacher but the best teaching comes through learning from others. It’s fulfilling when we figure out things our selves but at what cost? You don’t have to loose an eye before you understand the importance of wearing safety glasses in a lab.
- The Balcony Friend – These are people on the sidelines who support and cheer you to keep going on. They believe in you even when you do not believe in yourself and abilities. They can be your friends, colleagues, family members, teachers, etc. It is important you appreciate the role these people play in your life so you don’t loose them.
- Goliath – Represents situations or people who make life difficult for you. You often don’t have to look for them; they will come looking for you. For example, situations (physical disability), loved ones, coworkers, bosses, in-laws, out-laws, etc. You are wondering why you need them in your life? Lets look at a rubber band. A rubber band is at its uttermost potential when it is stretched. These situations or people have a way of stretching you by teaching to be patient, thorough, smarter, work harder, bolder, and stronger.
- Dutch Uncle – This phrase is often used to refer to anyone who can rebuke you sternly and bluntly. It does not do us any good when we surround ourselves with “yes people”, or people too scared to hurt our feelings by telling us the truth. Everyone needs such people in their lives. The truth can be far from flattering but like a prescription drug, it makes us better and not bitter in the end.
- Riders – Just like the sage gives you invaluable advice to help you on your journey, you need to have at least someone you are helping as well. The Dead Sea has its name because it receives but never gives. The comforts we get out of life are not just to make us comfortable but also to comfort others. Find someone you can invest in today.
- Flats – Flats are people on the same or lower organizational level than you. They are your colleagues, technicians, janitors, security guards etc. Some people don’t take their flats seriously because they think there is nothing they can offer them. This is very shortsighted thinking. Isaac Newton was a student in college when he discovered the Laws of Motion. He was a student; I assume they had professors and TA’s at that time. A flat today is a CEO tomorrow. The founders of WhatsApp, a company bought for 19 billion dollars by Facebook were Yahoo technicians. Bottom-line, everyone has something to offer, you just have to be humble enough to see it.
- Dream Makers – This represents people who are not just content with having great ideas but translating and executing them to solve problems in a timely and cost effective manner. Dream makers are people with influence – supervisors, team leaders, managers, etc. They are collaborators, innovative, strategic thinkers and risk takers. If you have a dream, you may need to partner with a dream maker to turn it to reality. You are here on earth because you matter. You are here because you can make a difference in your community.Stop waiting for positions, titles or compliments to affirm your gifts and talents. If you have a burning desire then you’ve got to pursue it. Do you have ideas that you believe can make a difference? Share it with a dream maker today.
HOW FAR SHOULD I GO BACK?
There is no easy answer to this question. You should go back as far as necessary to include all relevant jobs and experience.
DO I HAVE TO DO A DIFFERENT RESUME FOR EACH JOB I APPLY FOR?
The most effective resumes are tailored to fit each specific position. You will probably want to highlight different information for every position that you apply to. The only way to do this is to prepare a resume targeted to the particular position. If this isn’t possible, you may want to prepare more than one resume and target each resume at a different occupation. For example, if you have experience in both sales and computer programming, you might want to make one resume which highlights your sales experience, and another which emphasizes your computer experience.
I HAVE HAD THE SAME JOB EVERY SUMMER FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS. IS THIS A PROBLEM?
This can be presented in a favourable manner. Your past employer obviously was pleased with your performance. If you advanced or your responsibilities increased, make sure this is clear on your resume.
I WORKED IN MY FAMILY’S BUSINESS, IS THAT WORK EXPERIENCE?
This is work experience and should be included. Family businesses often provide the opportunity for individuals to acquire skills that they would not be able to in larger organizations.