The job search starts with a resume.
Sure, your LinkedIn page is important. Your network is important. And so is your degree.
Yet, without a proper resume, you’ll be lagging behind fellow job-seekers who managed to sell their qualifications to an employer better.
The resume is your first touchpoint with the recruitment agency or the dream company. If it looks great and buys into what you have to offer, you are getting an interview call. That’s simple.
That’s why they say a good resume is a marketing tool.
So, here’s the question. How do you create a good resume if you have none?
Let’s say you’re just out of college and have zero experience except for a few months in Starbucks. Or, you’ve worked for a friend’s company for a decade and how they’re out of business.
Writing a resume that sells is a challenge. And today we are going to ease this thorny path for you.
Make yourself comfortable, grab a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, and start a word processor (MS Office or TextEdit will work best). We promise that by the end of this article you won’t believe how good your resume looks.
All US resumes have four basic sections: your contact detail, summary or objective, work experience, and education. Any other sections are optional.
That being said, if you have done community service, you add this section and describe your voluntary experience in detail. If no, you just skip it whatsoever.
To get a grasp of how a good resume should look, Google the ‘resume samples’. Review those samples to understand the structure, language, and formatting.
Check out the resume samples written by our in-house experts.
Tip! Beware of copying from someone else’s resume word for word. That’s called plagiarism and is not acceptable. Stealing from the other resume cast a shadow on your professional ethics.
Now that you have an idea of what kind of information your resume should contain, start writing.
Resumes come in a variety of formats and types. To keep things easy for you, we recommend that you use a reverse chronological format. It’s easiest to write, it’s the most popular in all industries and the recruiters love it.
A chronological resume means that you describe the current job first. Your previous job goes second. And so on. (The hiring managers say it’s not necessary to include jobs which are older than 15 years).
All other sections are written based on the same principle. The most recent degree, certification, or voluntary job goes first in the list.
Now that we’re clear with chronology, how do you place sections in a reverse chronological resume?
Here’s how the structure of your resume will look:
▶ Your name and contact info
▶ Career summary/objective
▶ Work experience
▶ Other sections (skills, volunteering, languages, training, etc.)
Tip! If you’re a student or graduate with less than 1 year of experience, it makes sense to put the education above experience. You might also want to be slightly more detailed in this section. We’ll touch upon this in step 6.
Tip! Are you changing careers or switching to a civilian job from the military? Then, a functional resume will be more effective for you. Here, our writers explain how to create this resume type: http://resumeperk.com/blog/write-my-resume-for-me-resume-formats.
You might think it’s no big deal to list your contact information on a resume. Yet, you’d be surprised to find out how many candidates get rejected because of an unprofessional email address, a typo in a phone number, or sharing inappropriate information.
So, here’s professional advice on putting this section together.
✓ Use email, phone and address. That’s the basic information each resume should contain.
✓ Nothing personal. No age, marital status, or nationality. Whereas it’s common in some European and Asian countries to share these details with prospective employers, in the US it’s not appropriate.
✓ Professional links. You may want to include a link to the LinkedIn profile, a professional blog, a GitHub account, or an online portfolio. These details are optional. Yet, if these links present you in great light, go ahead and impress the recruiter.
Good advertisements capture our attention in seconds. Remember when we said that a resume is a marketing piece? You need to get a recruiter’s attention in under 6 seconds. Get noticed or get tossed. That’s how competition for the best jobs works.
But how do you captivate their attention in the first place?
Sure, design matters. We’ll talk about it later.
The best way to lure the hiring person is to place the catchiest things first. That is, in your summary or career objective. How do you know which one to use?
In most cases, you’ll want to use a career summary. It’s a short paragraph introducing you to the hiring decision-maker, playing up your strengths and summarizing what you have to bring to the table if hired.
Tip: Are you a graduate or changing career? Make use of an objective statement instead. In our blog, we share some actionable insights on writing a resume objective.
Here’s an example of a summary of SMM professional:
And here’s the one for a school teacher:
See? These examples show off results. They explain what exactly the candidate excels at. They give the reader the figures. They answer the recruiter’s questions proactively. Pretty smart, right?
You want a summary that distinguishes you from the rest and sells your skills at a glance. So, rely on these principles to write a summary that makes a fussy recruiter slow down and save your resume for a closer consideration:
✓ 3-5 sentences in length. A summary is not your bio. You want to show the most important highlights and encourage them to learn more and read your resume completely.
✓ No personal pronouns. Instead of “I am an experienced senior accountant” say “Disciplined senior accountant with 6+ years of experience”.
✓ Figures, figures, figures. Don’t say “delivered beyond sales targets”. Write “exceeded sales targets by 22% above the company average”. Don’t write “answered calls”. Instead, say “handled 60 client calls daily with 80% satisfaction rate”. Figures show results and build trust.
✓ Be relevant. Apart from sounding impressive, your summary has to be relevant. Use a job listing – it’s a gold mine of information about the employer’s expectations. Show off the required qualifications in the very first lines.
That’s it with the summary. Let’s move on to the longest and most important section of your resume – the work experience.
Professional experience, or related experience, or work experience is the heart of your resume. It gives the hiring manager most insights into how well you performed before, what you specialized in, and which skills you have under your belt.
This section is far too important to list your past duties briefly and call it a day.
Recruiters don’t want superficial statements. They don’t tolerate copy-and-paste from the job description you’ve found online. And they won’t find a two-sentence job description sufficient.
Let’s start with the basics. Include a position name, company name and start-end dates for each job you had. The employers will appreciate if you also add some specifics about the company: size, industry, number of directs, etc.
Use the resume space wisely
Resume space is limited, and so is the recruiter’s time. Thus, you want to get them interested quickly, otherwise, they’ll simply move on to the next document.
What does it mean for you?
You want to be concise and, at the same time, not to leave the hiring person guessing what your strengths are. In other words, you need to strike the balance between being concise and providing the employer with the right amount of details from your work history.
To achieve this, write 5-7 bullet points for each job. This length, resume experts say, in most cases will suffice.
Prioritize. You don’t need to include each and every area of responsibility you had. Omit the obvious and minor ones. Focus on your most notable contributions – the ones showing your ability to make a difference.
Incorporate strong action verbs
The best resume examples use powerful resume words like Initiated, Orchestrated or Developed. Strong resume language helps you sound more accomplished and proactive.
People are using these sophisticated words on their resumes because it works.
At the same time, keep in mind that strong language can’t replace the real, tangible results. Use these words to draw attention to what you’ve done, not just to sound solid.
In the hiring process, the future is now. Your resume will be scanned by robots in the first place. Here’s the figure: 98% of Fortune 500 companies rely on software to screen candidates.
And robots don’t care much about your fancy resume design, witty language or out-of-box interests. They want keywords.
Keywords are the names of skills, qualifications, and personal characteristics that the employer expects from you. And the best place to derive related keywords is the job listing.
For instance, if the job requires Windows troubleshooting skills, use the exact phrase in your resume (provided that it’s true for you). Highlight the key responsibilities and requirements in a job listing, and then insert these words and phrases into your resume.
It takes some effort, but tailored, keyword-rich resumes generate more responses from employers.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
✓ Identified customer needs and offered the best suitable goods to ensure customer satisfaction and generate repeat business
✓ Maintained a cash draw of $2000+ per shift and conducted end of day reconciliation
✓ Improved website navigation, created virtual office tours and incorporated social media buttons, resulting in 2X traffic increase
✓ Led weekly Java workshop to streamline the cross-functional programming
Pro tips for describing your work experience
✓ Be specific. Instead of “Negotiated contracts” write “Negotiated purchase contracts with B2B companies”. Give context for your daily responsibilities. It will give the recruiter a bigger picture of your experience and show your relevance for the position.
✓ Make it presentable. Even if you’ve worked on entry-level jobs, there is always a way to make your experience presentable. Did you serve tables ensuring that the restaurant guests leave satisfied and recommended extra dishes? Don’t be shy to write that you have “strong customer service skills” and “increased an average check”.
✓ Spruce in some accomplishments. Don’t limit job descriptions to your daily tasks only. Show off the moments when you exceeded expectations and over delivered. “Recognized as the restaurant’s Employee of the Month in the second month of hire” and “Exceeded KPIs for sales team by 25% for 4 months in a row” are good examples of accomplishments.
What if you have no experience?
Are you a college student with no commercial experience or no experience at all? Let’s consider the three main situations, and how to write a resume in each case:
✓ You have no relevant experience. Let’s say you’re a marketing student, yet to land your first marketing job or internship. In this case, it’s okay to list irrelevant jobs such as bartender, waiter, computer technician or sales rep.
✓ You have no paid experience. List volunteering, internships, community service and other engagements as your experience. At this stage of your career, it’s not important whether you were paid. What matters is the skills and work ethics that you’ve gained.
✓ You have no experience at all. Recollect any activities which might qualify as experience. Did you babysit your nephews or helped your mother with housing? Did you work in a college newspaper or collect money for charity initiatives? List these activities as if you were listing real jobs, describing your responsibilities.
Tip: if you’re an older professional, you don’t have to list all the jobs you had from the early 90s. Here’s the expert advice: stick to 10-15 most recent years or 5 jobs to keep the resume short. If you’re at your wits’ end and can’t decide what to leave out, consider contacting a consultant for rapid help with resume writing.
If you’re an experienced professional, education is no longer a top consideration for recruiters. Thus, it can be moved to the bottom of the resume. Yet, the education factor is always important. Certain jobs require at least a BA or MA degree. So, make sure you’ve displayed your educational background correctly.
Write your degree, major, and university name. For an experienced professional, these details will suffice. If you’re a recent graduate, read below.
Unexperienced graduates can move this section above experience since it has more weight for your target employers. Apart from basic information, here’s what you can mention:
✓ Academic awards. Cum laude, Dean’s list or President’s list are a huge bonus. Don’t be shy to humblebrag your outstanding academic results.
✓ Relevant coursework. List some of the courses you’ve taken that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
✓ Athletic awards. If you distinguished as a football player or athlete, mention these details too.
By now, you are done with the basic sections of your resume. Yet, you probably have more career information that can impress your target employers. Here are the sections which can add value to your resume:
✓ Skills – this section may include skill sets from technology and industry-specific hard skills to soft ones. Not only skill names serve as keywords, but also let the recruiter see your strengths during the first screening.
✓ Training –education doesn’t end with obtaining a degree. List professional training, both online and offline, to show that you keep up the pace with industry trends and invest in your professionalism.
✓ Certifications – some organizations only employ certified or licensed professionals. Accountants will benefit from listing CFA or CIA certifications. And CPSP certification can help advance your career in sales.
✓ Languages – foreign language proficiency is an asset in a global economy. Mentioning your knowledge of Spanish, German or even Arabic can help you stand out and even secure a slightly higher salary.
✓ Hobbies – show your personal hobbies such as collecting Star Wars movies or composing electronic music. They show your human side and may make a great conversation subject during an interview.
✓ Volunteering – if you have enough paid experience, organize your voluntary and community engagements separately. List voluntary projects as if you were describing the paid experience.
When you have little work experience, listing your skills may be tough. Entry-level professionals can include the knowledge of office protocol and etiquette, time management and communication as professional skills. For more universal skills ideas, read our guide here: http://resumeperk.com/blog/10-professional-resume-skills-for-all-types-of-jobs.
That’s it! At this stage, you are done with the creation of a resume content. Give your resume a few finishing touches, and feel free to use it to apply for jobs.
The content of your resume is the #1 priority. It’s the accomplishments, skills and projects that communicate your professional value and ensure you more interview calls.
Yet, if your impeccable qualifications are packed in a poorly formatted document, a busy recruiter might easily overlook them. The way your resume looks matter a lot for that game-changing first impression.
So, here’s how you make the document shine:
✓ Use a modern font. Arial, Calibri or Tahoma will work best. Keep the size between 10 and 12 points. Thus, the busy recruiters will find it easier to skim the paper through.
✓ Leave enough white space. Forget the one-page rule. Avoid making the document visually busy. Leave white space around the text and between sections.
✓ Format consistently. Think from the reader’s perspective and highlight the most important facts. For instance, it makes sense to boldface the position names and company names and use all caps for section headings.
✓ Add some color. It’s okay to use color to highlight the key achievements, skills, or visually separate the subsections. Yet, beware of the heavy use of bright colors. Only use it to accentuate the key information. An overly bright resume will turn off the recruiters rather than impressing them.
If the resume is irresistibly good, it makes the recruiter pick up the phone and call the candidate immediately. To achieve it, take care of the visual impression your resume makes.
Congratulations on your freshly made resume! Yet, it’s not time to post it on job boards and send out to headhunters. To ensure that no setbacks or errors can lead to rejecting your application, edit and review it first.
To fix the mechanic issues in writing, we recommend using an online spell checker such as Grammarly.com or Online-spellcheck.com. Read the resume text aloud to identify incomplete sentences or awkwardly sounding phrases.
How to make sure your resume is flawless?
Self-editing is helpful as it helps polish minor mistakes. Yet, if you want a resume that truly distinguishes you from the competition, you can’t go without a professional perspective.
That is, if you don’t work with resumes on a daily basis, you might be making mistakes that turn the recruiters off without even knowing it. This is especially true if you’re writing your first resume and don’t have an eye for composing strong career documents yet.
To rest assured that the resume represents you well, it makes sense to show the written copy to professional resumes editors.
Here are the main reasons why working with an editor pays off:
✓ To make sure that the resume is completely error-free, and no recruiter will reject it due to an occasionally misspelled word;
✓ To get a resume that meets the freshest resume writing standards and looks truly modern;
✓ To catch the reader’s eye through the well-thought and accurate resume design that highlights your key strengths just right;
✓ To feel more confident during the job search.
Our in-house PhD editors are ready to take your CV to the next level and maximize its quality. Don’t miss a single opportunity. Get your resume improved at a very affordable fee.
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