What kind of resumé will cause a prospective employer to sit up and take notice? First of all, it’s important to customize your resumé to suit the requirements of the company and the overall field. Also, it’s good practice to include key phrases or specific buzzwords that appear in the job ads you’re applying to. Including those “ping” phrases shows employers that you’ve read each job ad carefully and understand the demands and prerequisites of the job. Another important rule of thumb: your resumé should be no longer than two pages—a recruiter or potential employer will have neither the time nor the inclination to pore over the six-page story of your life. A long and dense resumé could end up filed away into oblivion or, worse, tossed into the recycle bin.
Keep in mind that your resumé is a very powerful marketing tool, so never rush it. Proofread it multiple times, do a spell-check, and always run it by at least one other pair of eyes. In addition, save it and let it “simmer” for at least a few hours before you proof it one last time. Our perceptions tend to glaze over when we’ve worked on even a short document for an extended period of time, and subtle mistakes and inconsistencies can slip under the radar as a result.
When planning the content and format of your resumé, refer to good existing models. Ask friends and co-workers to share their resumés with you—you don’t have to start from scratch! Employment agencies, guidance counselors and career coaches can also provide sound examples of what a good resumé looks like. Structure your resumé with a brief summary of qualifications first, followed by your work experience—and make sure to list your most recent job first. Next, itemize your educational achievements. Be sure to include past and present volunteer work and other forms of community involvement. These commitments can reassure a prospective employer that you are an individual of strong and dependable character.
In your bulleted lists of skills and work experience, use concise, economical language and maintain parallel phrasings—in terms of verb tense, for example—as any kind of inconsistency can hinder your chances of making a good first impression. Stop and reflect on all the attributes that you think will catch the attention of a prospective employer—including awards, achievements, and anything else you are particularly proud of. Your goal should be to give the reader a clear snapshot of what kind of person you are, and to make yourself look as impressive as possible.
Here are a few other tips:
- Include all of your contact information at the top of the page: home address, phone number(s), email address(es) and your website URL, if you have one.
- Use a plain-type font in black ink (no coloured ink or paper).
- Avoid decorative borders or other frills.
- Always be totally honest in terms of your employment and volunteer history.
- Although you can cite your references as “available upon request,” you should choose people who you are certain will provide a glowing recommendation.
If you keep these tips in mind, you are well on your way to creating the perfect resumé and a great first impression.