Among the devastation COVID-19 leaves in its wake, the impact to daily livelihoods in the form of mass unemployment cannot be overstated. Jobs have been lost in the millions around the world for people employed across a myriad industries ranging from hospitality and manufacturing to retail and financial services. Applicants who typically competed with tens of other candidates for available job vacancies are now finding themselves competing with hundreds, if not thousands more — many with the same requisite skills and experience, chasing after limited openings. Writing a Resume which stands-out to recruiters, and highlights your strengths and accomplishments in a clear and compelling way has rarely been more important.
There are two key parts to consider when writing the perfect Resume — Content and Design—each serving a distinct and important function. So getting them both right is essential to creating the perfect Resume.
PART 1 : CONTENT
Treat your Resume as you would a piece of valuable real estate — its limited size making it all the more valuable (a single page is most preferred and save for the rarest of exceptions, it should be no more than 2 pages). And given its limited space, pay close attention to everything you include. The following sections will provide a useful guide;
1. Work Experience
This is by far the most important part of your Resume so don’t waste it by listing out your day-to-day roles and responsibilities, or copy-pasting parts of your official job description. Recruiters can easily figure out your routine tasks given your designation, so instead focus on what you consider to be your greatest accomplishments. Your next employer will be especially keen to know how you approached work during the pandemic — did you simply wait it out, or make the best out of a bad situation;
Example 1: “Amidst the COVID lockdown and shuttering of our restaurants, I developed an extensive take-away menu with dishes that can be easily heated and consumed at home, as well as freshly stored for up to three days”
Example 2 : “During the pandemic, I was involved in assessing its effects on our regional markets, and identifying alternative methods to promote our consumer products — particularly with the use of online sales and social media channels”
Resourceful and resilient employees who turn challenges into new opportunities are especially attractive to potential employers, and will find it easier to find gainful employment in a post-pandemic world.
2. Career Profile
Generally included at the top of a Resume, a short profile summarising your career is one of the first things a recruiter might read, so its purpose is to give a brief introduction to your professional background, and entice them to read the rest of your Resume.
“I am a qualified and experienced HR consultant with a proven track record of transforming HR organisations across multiple industries — where my contributions to employers over the past 10 years have included new policy development, lean HR implementation, and HR automation practices”
Investing in the wrong candidates can be a costly and messy affair, so employers will consider how you can add value to their organisation before calling for an interview. A thoughtfully-written profile therefore is an excellent opportunity to convince potential employers of your worth — by clearly mentioning the value you added and the contributions you made to previous employers.
Depending on which stage of your career you’re in, your education can serve as the most important part of your Resume, or one of its least important. If you’re fresh out of school or college, with minimal work experience (say less than 3 to 5 years), your education will remain a key factor for employers. But If you have over 10 to 15 years of experience, with several noteworthy professional accomplishments to your name, not only will a detailed listing of your educational qualifications seem irrelevant, but could also detract from the more important career accomplishments which warrant a reader’s full attention. So leave out everything but perhaps a mentioning of your most significant educational achievements (i.e. college degrees, professional diplomas, and other higher level qualifications related to your line of work).
“MSc. Finance | London School of Economics (LSE), UK”
Simply naming the qualification and awarding institution (as above) will do — a listing of all the subjects/modules you followed, or the projects you completed within a program is a collossal waste of space.
4. Skills & Competencies
Listing what you consider to be your greatest skills, strengths, competencies etc. satisfy two important functions; Firstly, it implies your suitability to potential employers who may be actively looking for certain skills in order to fulfil specific role requirements — this is especially true in specialised fields such as IT, engineering, or any other technical roles. For example, if you specialise in Cloud-Computing, are competent with Industry 4.0 Smart Factory Models, or consider Financial Modelling to be a strong suit, it makes sense to list these at the outset rather than expect readers to comb through your experience and find them. The second reason to list your skills and competencies is to trigger applicant tracking systems or ATS, which certain employers — particularly those receiving large numbers of Resumes — use to shortlist relevant candidates using specific keywords which a role requires.
Whilst listing out your skills and competencies are important, be honest and prudent in which ones you actually list out. Pick no more than 5 or 6 of the most important ones and give prominence to those that are directly relevant to an applied position (provided you have those skills!), and mention specific skills like “programming” or “graphic designing” over more generic ones like “computer skills”. The point of these is to fulfil a screening requirement and not necessarily to impress employers, so be as granular as possible.
Choosing which extracurricular activities you mention in your Resume depends largely on your level of investment and involvement in those activities in the present context. For example, if you captained your school’s basketball team years ago, this is not as important as playing for your organisation’s team now. If you actively volunteer at a local charity on weekends, this should take precedence over any community projects you did back in college or at your previous workplaces. The point is to include whatever is current and have a bearing on your present (and future) life.
6. Interests & Hobbies
Listing out your hobbies and interests is perhaps the most undervalued aspect of your Resume. Employers prefer to hire employees with well-rounded lifestyles and personalities to match. So if you’re passionate about something (apart from your work that is) — be it writing sci-fi novels, racing vintage cars, or ballroom dancing — make sure to include this in your resume. At the very least, it would be fodder for an interesting discussion at the interview.
7. Personal Information (Contact Details)
The only personal information (unless otherwise required through a job ad) is your contact number and email address which must be prominently listed. While including your home address was normal back when recruiters used snail mail for communication, it is rare nowadays that you would get called for an interview by postal letter. Including your home address is also a security risk you can easily avoid, but if you must include it (maybe you want to show a potential employer your proximity to the workplace), including just the city of residence or street name will suffice — there is no conceivable reason to mention your house number.
You may also include your age or date of birth (some recruiters expect to find it) but it won’t make much difference as recruiters can generally figure out your approximate age from your education/career timeline. Other personal information like gender, marital status, nationality, etc. serve no purpose than to discriminate, so leave them out altogether.
Referees are generally contacted by employees only after at least the first interview (during when you can provide your referees’ contact details if required). So in the interest of protecting your referees’ personal and contact information, avoid listing these in your Resume by simply stating “referees available on request.” This won’t affect your candidacy in any way, but will demonstrate your good judgment to potential employers.
PART 2: DESIGN
Even the best written Resume can end up overlooked if no one reads it. The purpose of good design then is to ensure your Resume stands out from hundreds if not thousands of others vying for the same vacancy, and grabs the attention of recruiters — inviting them to read through its content. Pay attention to the following when designing your resume;
1. Profile Picture
There is strong evidence to suggest that Resumes with clear profile pictures have greater chances of being shortlisted for interviews. It could be that in a social media driven world, we have become accustomed to seeing faces behind the content — making us somewhat weary of those that don’t include one. A professional and pleasant looking (as opposed to a stiff, ID/passport-like photo) also helps recruiters build a subconscious rapport with the candidate before ever meeting him or her in person. So it’s only in the candidate’s best interest to include a profile picture. Bear in mind that certain roles — especially related to client-facing, PR/advertising, and entertainment related sectors — may actually warrant a photo more as a mandatory requirement than an optional one. In either case, make sure the photo is of high resolution (not pixelated or blurry), properly cropped to show your face and with no one else in the frame, and is in a sensible setting.
Avoid using a font that is unique, unusual or difficult to read as this can be very distracting, and detract readers from the content of your Resume— diluting its importance. Also, uncommon fonts may not appear on a recipient’s computer, in which case your Resume will not display as intended. Therefore always use a standard font like Times New Roman, Calibri, Ariel, or Helvetica (my personal favourite) and use a point 10 or 11 size depending on the availability of space (you don’t want it to look overly crowded or sparse).
A resume is a form of advertisement, and like all advertisements, resumes too have evolved in its creativity and have come a long way from being bland and monotonous-looking, monochrome documents. (Find below a few modern resume samples). Don’t shy away from unleashing your creativity when formatting your Resume — so long as it enhances (not distorts) the content.
(NOTE : The above article is a detailed follow up to my previous one on the subject. In that I mentioned my involvement, through my organisation CV Genie in helping people around the world re-create their Resumes in a professional and attractive manner. It is work we take immense pride and pleasure in, and over the years, we have helped thousands of candidates apply for and get interviews to their dream jobs. Despite our best efforts at helping people write and structure their Resumes however, we have much more to learn and offer. So if you think I have missed out on anything important with this article, please feel free to comment below so we can make this a constantly evolving article for our readers’ benefit.
If you would like help structuring your own Resume, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)