Writing an effective resume

Updated: Jan 27

(Disclosure: I help people to create winning resumes, which enable them to land in their dream job. If you have a resume, that you want me to proofread, you can click here, or if you want me to create a winning resume, please click here. I provide end to end service in resume building.)

Whenever you are looking for a job, the first word that comes to mind is - resume. Have you ever pondered over - what is a resume?

A resume, is a one or at max, a two page document, highlighting a candidate's qualifications for the jobs that they are interested in. It is a marketing tool for you to communicate and market yourself to the employers. A document, which can make, or break your job prospects.

I am sure, all of us have created this document sometime in our lives. The goal of the document being - to get invited to job interviews. Without an effective resume, you might lose out on some interesting opportunities.

Though, you need to be cautious, when you are designing one for yourself. Always try to remember, a resume is not:

  • a log of your job history

  • a summary of the skills

  • the sole thing to get you a job

A study done by TheLadders reveals that, on an average, a recruiter spends just six seconds on your resume, to decide if you are "a fit" or a "no fit" for the role. Instead of the self-reporting surveys, this study followed 30 recruiters for 10 weeks using eye-tracking gear. Through this, they determined, what recruiters usually see.

To stand out from the crowd and get noticed, you must be clear about what should you put on your resume which describe and kind of brag about your best qualities within this time-span. Though, you must be aware that when you are designing your resume, the approach should always be - "Different strokes for different folks!" So, a resume which has been created for a Sales person would differ from the resume of a Program / Project Manager, a resume of the General Manager - Marketing will differ from an Executive - Finance. The pointers given below are the essentials of an effective resume, but the skill-set and the content will differ, based on the function and role.

So, let's get on with looking at things which make a resume - effective. Before you take off, it is important for you to decide as to what format of resume do you want to use. There are three main types where each one has some advantages and some disadvantages. You should be prudent in picking the best one for yourself.

These 3 formats are:

  1. Reverse-Chronological

  2. Functional

  3. Combination

The details about which format should be used and in which conditions you should not use it are detailed in the picture below.

The next important aspect of your resume is the structure and organization of the sections, that you are including in it. It is important to remember that the components that you choose to include will largely depend on the format that you are using.

The major sections that you will include in your resume will be:

  • Contact Information

  • A winning resume introduction

  • Relevant Professional Experience

  • Academic Details

  • Additional Sections

Contact Information

The details included in this section will be:

  1. Your Name - Largest font - It's all about YOU.

  2. Address

  3. Phone / Mobile Number

  4. E-mail

  5. Website URL or Digital Portfolio link

  6. LinkedIn Profile

A winning resume introduction

An introduction is written with the goal to grab the attention of a prospective employer by highlighting the relevant skills and competencies. There are three ways in which the introduction can be done. These are:

  1. Qualification Summary

  2. Career Objective

  3. Professional Profile

A qualification summary is a bullet point list containing 5 - 6 points of your outstanding career achievements. You should not use generic statements in this section, instead quantify the statements. You should use this if you have few skill-sets to display with lot of experience and the job requires those, available abilities. However, do not use this if, you are an entry level candidate or lack measurable achievements.

A career objective is a set of 2 - 3 sentences focusing more on what you will do, instead of what you can do. You should have sentences framed on your skills and how you will use them. This is a good introduction if you are an entry-level candidate and do not have in-depth experience in the industry for which you are applying for. If you have enough relevant experience or are changing your career path, then this introduction should be avoided.

A professional profile is a combination of both points mentioned above - qualification summary and career objective. You should use this introduction to highlight major achievements in your previous jobs and if you are applying to the job, similar to that of your previous position. Do not use this, if you are an entry level candidate or are yet to reach major accomplishments professionally.

Relevant Professional Experience

This section is the core of your resume, where you prove the skills that you have listed in your qualifications summary. This is the section which the recruiters look for immediately after seeing your name. Always list your present to previous positions held in reverse chronological order.

After each company name, mention the position title along with the start and the end date. For the present position, you can mention the start date followed by "till present." The organization's name should be at least 2 font sizes larger than the remaining text. You should have around 3–5 bullet points of your main responsibilities and achievements under each position mentioned. There are three important points that you must consider while you are writing the bullet points. Each bullet point must:

  • begin with an action verb

  • have a quantifiable point

  • sync with the job duty or responsibility

Some examples of the same are:

  • Trained 120 front line customer service executives, managing customer complaints and guaranteeing quality customer service at all times.

  • Conceptualized and implemented the Retail Academy to prepare the development path for different role holders and filled in 7 vacancies for the function.

  • Spearheaded the sales performance development by launching Stepping Up intervention nationally, thus increasing the national sales by 12%.

Academic Details

Every recruiter looks at your academic details and background with keen interest. After all, this is the section which displays the foundation of your knowledge and expertise. This section becomes more important, if you are a fresh graduate. In that case, you might even consider changing the order of placing your academic details before the Professional details section.

It is suggested that you keep this section of your resume - crisp and to-the-point. You must always include the following:

  • Name of university, college or school

  • Location - City and / or State

  • Date of graduation - Month and year

  • Degree Title - E.g.: Bachelor of Science, Masters in Business Administration

  • Percentage secured or Grade Point Average (G.P.A.)

However, you must include your percentage or G.P.A. only if the percentage is above 80% or G.P.A. is above 3.0. In case it is below these, then you can skip adding these.

Additional Sections

There are some additional sections, which are ubiquitous in modern resumes. These sections can be:

  1. Additional Skills

  2. Soft Skills

  3. Awards, Honors & Activities

  4. Certifications

  5. Publications

The additional skills in the resume are usually the technical skills which might not be central to the role being applied for. When you are applying for a role in Finance, a skill of Computer programming might not be necessary. However, it would be good to include this as an additional skill.

The soft skills are critical to excel in a work environment. When you are applying for a managerial position, it would help to have skills like leadership, adaptability and analytical thinking. It would help to include a few of these on your resume, matching the type of role you are applying for. The list below gives a few of these, for your reference.

An awards, honors and activity section in your resume provides evidence of your abilities to the recruiter and this is something which help you stand out, from the competition. You must ensure that this section does not become too lengthy. In case it does, try to break it up into smaller sections or have them as bullet points.

Having professional certifications in your resume adds to your profile and gives you a step-up. There would be some roles where these are a requirement. However, even where it is not mentioned as a requirement, including these will work to your advantage.

Adding the publications to your resume if you have an extensive educational background or are a thought leader in a given field and have published articles, stories, books or other media is suggested. In case there are some works which are yet to be published, you may mention them and label them as - 'Work in Progress' or 'Submitted for Publication.' This is a section which can be very helpful for students and graduates who have published articles relevant to the job that they are applying for.

Phew!! Finally, the hard work is done. You have all that you need to portray who you are with the skills and competencies. Now is the time, when you need to add the finishing touches and get the document finalized. The following should be the points that you check and tick on your resume finalization check-list.

  • Length of a resume - Ideally one or maximum two pages

  • Font size - Use the 24-12-10 rule (24 for the name, 12 for the body headers and 10 for the bullet points) - Never go below 10 or beyond 16 as the font size

  • Font Style - Choose Easy to read fonts, using the same font throughout

  • Line breaks - Using lines to break the sections is advised but do not use too many line breaks

  • Use effective margins - A basic rule is to stick with one inch margin on all sides

All the tasks are done and you are ready to embark on your journey. Just before that, remember to proofread your resume and edit it if required. You can share your resume with me for proofreading by clicking here.

Does doing all of this sound a little bit too demanding? If so, you can connect with me through my site or you can send me a request by clicking here.

All the best for getting your dream job !!

P.S.: As mentioned in my blog post earlier, I will be sharing other blog posts with reference to the skill-sets and keywords to be used for different functions and roles in another post, sometime soon.

Keywords: #Resumecreation, #Gettingajob, #Dreamjob, #Createresume, #Effectiveresume,



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