• How-to
  • 6 min read

10 Tips for Writing a Great Resume

Penning a great resume is no easy task. However, with the right advice, and the right structure, you can produce a document that really helps you stand out from the crowd. Here are ten great tips for putting together a resume that has real positive impact.

Start with the relevant details

English language resumes tend not to include photographs, which is a common practice in many other countries around the world. In fact, in countries such as Britain and the United States, the less personal information that is included at the beginning of your resume (or CV, as it is called by the British), the better.

So, what should you include? Your name, your abbreviated professional qualifications, your contact details, and any links to professional media sites, such as LinkedIn, or if you have an electronic portfolio accessible somewhere, for example. These details are relevant to your work only.

What shouldn’t you include? Your age, your marital status, your gender, whether or not you are a parent, and links to social media sites such as Facebook. These have nothing to do with your ability to do the job, so there’s no need to include them!

As you can see, there is really not much to include here at all.

Tailor your resume

Now, this may come as a surprise, but you shouldn’t really have just one resume. If you only apply for one job then maybe one resume is sufficient, and the same is true if you post your resume on your LinkedIn site, but it is not uncommon to apply for half a dozen roles at least.

If you do this, then it is vital that your resume is tailored, or adapted, to each and every role. No two jobs are exactly the same, are they? So that means the relevant skills and experience that you highlight will need to be adapted to suit the requirements of that role, as well as the organizational culture of that particular business.

That’s a lot of work, right? Yes, but looking for and securing a new role is like actually having a job ­– just one that you don’t get paid for. Don’t expect a great new job to fall into your lap, and be aware that one standard resume that you flood the market with is unlikely to be the answer. Instead, you need something unique and relevant to the specific role you apply for. Each and every time.

Include a great personal statement

A personal statement, also sometimes called a personal profile or executive summary, is the part of your resume, immediately after your personal contact details, that briefly explains why you are the perfect person for the job. Including this section – which is usually a couple of shortish paragraphs in length – is not common in all cultures, but has become as essential component of English language resumes.

Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager or recruiting consultant. Sometimes it is possible to receive literally hundreds of resumes for one open position, so why would you, or how could you, spend a lot of time going through each and every one, trying to dig out the relevant information?

That’s the purpose of this personal statement: an opportunity to present in just a few lines why you are the perfect person for the job. State who you are, what sets you apart, and what defines you for the role at hand. It’s a sales pitch, but with the relevant information to back it up.

It is the persuasiveness of these lines that will encourage the hiring manager to read on. Or not.

Format it

Your resume needs to look good! Of course, content is important but if your resume is laid out and formatted in such a way that it looks messy and is difficult to read, then the hiring manager may lose patience and overlook you, even though you may be the best person for the job.

Don’t let this happen. Use standard templates that are available on the web, look through plenty of examples, and ask other people’s advice. Show it to family and friends and take their feedback on board. The general rule is to keep the format clean and concise and ensure that your resume is always easy to navigate around in order to quickly find the relevant information, which means using clearly defined headings.

Make sure it’s well written

Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and punctuation oversights are just not allowed on a resume. Of course, there is no law against it, but this is a document that sells you, and what do these mistakes say about you? That you are careless, and do not take the time to proofread. Even if English is not your first language, and perfect English is not expected for the role, at the very least you must take the time to show you put in maximum effort to make your resume as perfect as it could be, which means proofreading it, even if it costs you. You have to speculate to accumulate, as the old adage says.

Fortunately, there are also great online tools, such as Linguix, which can perform the task of proofreading and offering corrections for you. Linguix will point out spelling and grammatical mistakes, offering you alternatives and even synonyms if you would like to mix your language up a little bit. Why not see the improvements it could make to your resume?

Highlight relevant skills and experience

Remember how we spoke about tailoring your resume to the specific job? Well that means that your relevant skills and experience need to be adapted accordingly. You can do this by changing the order of things, bringing certain things to the fore and relegating others.

What is certainly recommended is using the job specification of the job you are interested in to inform this part of your resume. Make sure that your skills and experience, as listed, match the requirements of each and every job that you apply for. Once again, no two jobs are exactly the same, which is why these changes are necessary.

Quantify your achievements

In each previous role that you mention (the highly relevant ones), it’s really important that you talk about your achievements in your role. Sure, you may want to start with your duties in that position, which is definitely relevant, but be sure to leave plenty of room for what you can call ‘successes’ or ‘major achievements’.

With these, which can be bullet-pointed, try to quantify your achievements as far as you can. So, if you were responsible for helping increase turnover, for example, list those numbers. Or if you oversaw an increase in staffing, also include those figures. Numbers stand out on a resume among the text, and also help to put a mathematical slant on your experience and performance, which appeals to many hiring managers. It’s all about producing a combination of skills and achievements that relate to the role you are applying for.

Make it the perfect length

Two pages, delivered back-to-back, or on separate sheets if you prefer! Obviously, it matters not if it’s an electronic document, which nowadays resumes nearly always are. It’s still round about two pages – that’s the perfect length.

Sell yourself, but in the right way

A resume, like it or not, is a sales document, and the product is you. However, the selling should be done with the persuasiveness of the formatting, relevance and suitability to the job that is being applied for, with the job specification always clearly in mind. Using persuasive language, such as meaningless adjectives and rolling out the same clichés, such as being a great team player, adds nothing. Always think about what sets you apart: using the same old tired selling points doesn’t achieve that.

Include a cover letter

The cover letter these days is more than likely a cover email. It matters not, because the principle is the same. We have published previously on how to write a good cover letter, and given you a step-by-step guide to doing just that, but you may ask how your cover letter differs from the personal statement: the third point on this list.

The personal statement makes no mention of the specific company you are applying to, whereas the cover letter will, speaking in particular about where you saw the advertisement, and why you would be a good fit for the company and its culture. The personal statement will speak more in relation to the role itself. Other than that, there are plenty of similarities, although the cover letter may provide a little more detail.

A great cover letter/email will, in many cases, be the prompt to get your resume read. Don’t waste this opportunity. 

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