Is it the salad itself or the dressing used and the way it is presented that makes the dish more appealing? The analogy, and the answer, are apt when it comes to discussing a resume as well.
The perfect resume must excel in both content and format. Spruce your resume with these simple, effective tips and you will definitely get those interview calls.
What a resume is not
~ It is not a biography.
~ It is not a statement of purpose listing your short-term and long-term goals.
~ It should not just be a long list of landmarks in your professional career.
Think from a recruiter's point of view
I have had to plough through hundreds of resumes for a handful of posts. The ones that stood out, as far as I was concerned, were concise, yet readable.
Your potential employer may not have enough time on his or her hands to read a 10-page masterpiece, so ensure your resume does not extend beyond a couple of pages. Leading newspapers have realised not all their readers have the time to read each and every article, which is why you see the present trend of using summary boxes for long-winded articles.
When you draft your resume, think from a recruiter's point of view. Provide information that a prospective employer needs to know and not the kind of information you want him/ her to read.
An oft-quoted line amongst book critics is that Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life, was a 1,000-page book that had everything in it except what people really wanted to know. Keep this in mind when you are drafting your resume.
The purpose of a resume
A resume or curriculum vitae is a window to you, your personality and your skill sets. Its raison d'etre is to convince a recruiter that you deserve to be called for an interview. It should present you in the best possible light and convince a prospective employer that you can add value to the company.
It should tantalise enough to make an employer pick up the phone and dial your number. Your resume should not simply inform; it should also excite a would-be employer.
The resume can also act as a sample of your skills. If done well, it can show how you can organise a large amount of data in a few words. It can also showcase your skills if you plan to opt for a career in designing, advertising or copywriting.
Here are points you must definitely include:
i. Experience in your profession
Give valuable insights; for example, if you are in the advertising industry, you could mention the big players and important names you have worked with.
ii. Skills gained in the field
Apart from skills you are expected to gain in your field of work, do highlight skills you may have picked up as extras. For example, if you are a teacher, your expected skills would include your command over the language concerned, the ability to handle students and your knowledge about the subject concerned.
However, if you are also involved in organising workshops for teachers, you can also mention your ability to organise events and liaison effectively.
iii. General skills
This could include interpersonal skills, a knowledge of computers, etc. If you know computer packages apart from MS Office, such as Photoshop and Adobe page maker, and if you know how to make a Powerpoint presentation, do mention it. Many recruiters are on the look out for personnel who can multi-task.
iv. Accomplishments in concrete terms
Mention successful projects that you have handled/ been part of.
Focus on career progression, especially if you have been promoted in a short space of time.
If you have won any award or citation such as Best Employee Of The Month, mention it; this will present you in a positive light.
v. Academic record
Give your record in reverse chronological order, mentioning your most recent qualification first.
Packaging and content
Packaging is as important as content -- both should go hand in hand.
~ Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address should lead your resume.
~ The format you use should be consistent. Do not use too many stylistic fonts and don't change the font size too often.
~ The first impression is the last impression, so the first few lines must be really impressive. List about three to four major skills and two achievements in the first summary section. The qualities you focus on should be compelling, not generalised.
~ Using a job objective as a starting point is a good focal point. Here is an example:
Job objective: Senior-level assignments in the area of logistics and supply chain management in the Office Automation, IT/ Telecom industry in a dynamic organisation.
~ What a prospective employer really wants to know is what you can do for them. Instead of just listing your achievements, try and tailor your resume to the needs of the company concerned. It may simply mean changing a few lines here and there on a resume you have already created.
~ Don't be too humble. You have to sell yourself. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Give concrete achievements. For example, if you increased sales by six percent or created a database of clients, mention it instead of making generalised statements like 'used problem-solving skills' or 'created aggressive marketing strategies' that do not speak of actual results.
~ If you have progressed up the ladder in a particular company, you need to point this out. For example, if you joined as a trainee and were then promoted to a managerial level within two years, mention it instead of simply saying you are a manager.
What to avoid
~ Lousy spellings are a real put-off. Talk about your career prospects instead of your 'carrier' prospects.
~ Standardise your language. Use either American English or British English, not a sprinkling of both.
~ Don't exaggerate your skills. It may get you the job, but you will have difficulty retaining the post if you cannot deliver.
~ Don't talk about unrealistic goals: 'I want to progress from a cub reporter to a reporter independently handling a political beat' is realistic, while 'I aim to be editor of the newspaper soon,' is highly unrealistic.
Happy job hunting!
Payal Kumar is chief editor, Manya Education Private Limited.