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Top 10 Tips for Your Resume

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by Helenonthesofa (subscribe)
Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published May 18th 2012
Thinking of starting a new job, or giving your resume a facelift but just don't know where to start. Follow these tips to get your resume to stand out for the right reasons.

Before you job hunt, ensure your resume is up to scratch


1. First impressions count
Your resume is the first thing that a recruiter or hiring manager will see about you. It should look professional, it should be easy to read, it should make a good first impression.

Job In Jeopardy: Unless you are applying for a role that has specifically asked for your mug shot, lets keep the visual first impression for the interview. Adding your photo to the top of your resume is a space waster and totally unnecessary. Additionally, and it's a sad fact to note, discrimination is still a huge factor in recruitment and your photo could say a lot about you that you don't want it to. A picture says a thousand words, so instead of leaving the recruiter to make incorrect assumptions, use your resume space to sell yourself and provide the right kind of information.

2. Keep it relevant
So often when I am reviewing resumes I am relentlessly surprised by the number of people who fill up what should be a concise document with information that is better suited to their memoirs than a job application. Think of what role you are applying for and think of your resume as your only means to convince a recruiter that you can do the role in question. Ensure your resume is a factual account of the relevant skills and experience that you possess to enable you to perform the duties of the role you are applying.

Job in Jeopardy: If you're applying for a role as a bank manager, is it truly relevant to include details of the Best Effort award you received in year 9 spelling competition? I think not. Furthermore, include only relevant job details in your resume. The older you get, the less relevant the paper-round you carried out 15 years ago becomes. The same goes for whether your include details of your hobbies. Is this relevant for your resume, will the fact you can tap dance land you the job of your dreams? If you don't think it's relevant, don't waste precious resume space with unnecessary information.

Every few years carry out a review of your resume and de-clutter unwanted items.

3. Add value
When responding to a job advert, review what the requirements of the role are and ensure that your resume highlights these and creates the impression that you are absolutely, without question, capable of performing the role.

Job in Jeopardy: Don't lie. If the advert calls for certain skills that you don't possess, this is not the time to bend the truth. The interview will ask you all about the facts included in your resume and if you've lied about what you can do, the experienced recruiter will find this out.

4. Check your work
One of my all time pet peeves when reviewing resumes has got to be the fact that despite the resume being the key to a potential new job, so often there is an evident lack of spell check or basic grammar skills. This creates the worst first impression and a recruiter is left thinking. "well, if they can't be bothered to error check their resume, I can't be bothered to read it.".

Job in Jeopardy: Spell and grammar check your resume before you send it to someone else. Get a friend or family member to proof read your work if you need a second opinion. I recall a resume I once reviewed for a proof reader position and their first opening statement was littered with spelling errors in addition to some very dodgy grammar; certainly not a great display of their alleged skills.

5. Maintain professionalism
Present a business appropriate resume throughout by adopting formal language and succinct sentences. Make your point and move on. Don't make the same point over and over again.

Job in Jeopardy: Maintain the same level of professionalism in your cover letter or cover email that attaches your resume. It is good etiquette to address your cover email as if it were a written letter so refrain from too casual an approach. "Yo Dude, here's my CV " may not go down too well.

6. Wise words
Choose your words carefully. Think of what you are trying to say in your resume and ensure that this is the message that comes across.

Job in Jeopardy: Do you ever have that moment when your brain is moving faster or in a different direction to what you are writing. Where the result on the page is different to what you thought it would be? I remember one resume that I reviewed where the male applicant detailed their hobbies. He had meant to write line dancing, but instead wrote lap dancing. I wonder what was on his mind at the time.

7. Don't waste space
In order to keep your resume short and sweet, your should avoid unnecessary space wasters. Think of space on your resume as a hot commodity that shouldn't be wasted. Keep your font size readable and sensibly sized and only include images if they are wholly relevant and required. Topic headers can be a great way to break up different areas but shouldn't take up undue space, that could otherwise be used to summarise the awesomeness of you.

Job in Jeopardy: A resume that doesn't address space wasting antics will end up ridiculously long. As fabulous as any candidate is, if their resume is 10 pages long there aren't many recruiters who'd take the time to read it all.

8. Keep your resume and cover letter separate
Don't underestimate the importance of the cover letter. A cleverly crafted and personalised cover letter will provide the extra detail and clarity in a more personable manner than you are able to convey in your resume. Use the combined power of the cover letter and resume to address role requirements. This will allow your resume to remain concise and to the point, whilst still providing the recruiter will a full picture of what you are all about.

Job in Jeopardy: Incorrectly addressed cover letters create a terrible first impression. There is nothing worse than a recruiter receiving a cover letter that is addressed to one of their competitors all because the applicant forgot to change the last letter they used.

9. What did you do?
Be specific in your resume about what you did and didn't do in terms of project involvement and your role within a team. For a team effort, provide an overview of the project you worked on and then define what your contribution was and the impact that this had.

Job in Jeopardy: Suggesting that you did it all. For a team effort, don't take credit for work that wasn't your own. Not only will this come across as unrealistic or arrogant, you also run the risk of coming unstuck in the interview when they quiz you on the different project components.

10 Clean lines
Recruiters have limited time to read resumes so make yours as easy as possible for someone to read at a quick glance and glean the key facts. Think about creating different sections that cover topics such as qualifications, skills, education, personal information. The reader can use these section headers as a guide to which bits of your resume they want to hone in on.

Job in Jeopardy: A resume with no separate sections or paragraphs is difficult to read and most recruiters won't bother taking the time to find out what you're all about. Make it easy for them.
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