Resumes for Dummies: How to Get That Dream Job
Job applications are an important milestone in life. As you’re sending out piles of resumes to hundreds of companies, you are heralding a new stage of life. Chances are you’re pretty daunted. Think of the importance of a well-presented resume like you think of food. No matter what the food in front of you tastes like, you’d want it to be presented well, right? Especially if you know that it tastes good.
A resume is exactly like that.
Obviously, you want to do a great job on this, so let me answer the big Q: how do you write the perfect resume?
Before anything else, let’s get this out of the way: a CV and a resume are not the same. They both serve the same purpose: they are a list of your experience and skillsets that you write out to secure your dream job. But the key distinction is that they differ in length. CVs are generally longer than resumes, but a resume is what you’re likely to be asked during a job application.
A CV stands for curriculum vitae, which translates to “the course of my life” in Latin. Apt to its name, it is a list of your education history, work experience, achievements, and skillsets. The shorter your career is, the shorter your CV is – but a CV can range anywhere between 2 or 3 and even 10 pages.
A resume is a concise version of a CV. It is the most common document asked for a job application and is usually limited to a single page. What it is essentially is that is a marketing document that presents you as the perfect applicant for potential employers to hire.
Note: There are various formats for resumes. Therefore, it is best to do a bit of research before picking a layout best suited to your line of work.
The Elements: An Essential Resume Checklist
Whether it’s your first job, or you’re a job application veteran, use this list to check if you have all the things you need to cross the threshold of unemployment:
- Your name (duh) and contact details including your email ID, phone number, and address. Potential employers should be able to contact you.
Note: Pair that with a nice profile picture – if asked – that’s ideally friendly, but professional. Don’t add one, if you aren’t asked, though. Although it would make sense to have one, the reason you’re advised to send in a resume without a picture is that it inadvertently affects your chances of being hired. But we’ll tell you more about that later.Image Source: Canva
- Education history: Update your school and college qualifications. You could even include your achievements and accolades as a subsection to give it depth. Extracurriculars are also recommended. Clubs, sporting events, competitions that you represented your school in – that kind of thing.
- Work Experience: As a fresher, this might be the most difficult section to fill up. But what works to your advantage is that you can play around a bit with this one. Here, you can add internships and even clubs or cells that you might have worked at college. Seriously, it works. It’s also a good idea for you to create a story through your work history: in other words, highlight the aspects of the job that show how your experience and prospective job are related.
- Skills/Specializations: In this section, you can add things that you are good at. Make sure the skills you add in this section are relevant to the position you are applying for.
- This one is optional, but it’s a good idea to have a short bio or profile summary in your resume as a preamble that’s also a summary of your skillset and your subsequent professional aspirations. It shouldn’t be over 2 or 3 sentences long.
- Depending on the position you’re applying for, nowadays, it’s also a good idea to add some of your social media handles. A professional networking site like LinkedIn is essential. If you’re applying for anything that involves you being on the internet on a regular basis – like marketing, for example – some employers even ask about your Facebook, Twitter, etc. After all, in today’s day and age, social media has become an important currency of communication.
The Art of Customization: The X Factor
Now that you have all the content that you need for a resume (check!), let’s talk about making it even better. You have all the ingredients, but there’s still something missing. The “X factor”. The thing that gives all your ‘ingredients’ semblance and meaning. For a resume, the “X factor” is the way you customize your applications to make your resume seem more personal and appealing.
You’re probably applying to a lot of places to keep your options open (good going!), and it is best that each application has minor changes. A way to go about this is to give your resume a theme of sorts, that align your experience with the job you are applying for. In fact, if see that your resume already looks cluttered, it’s a good idea to filter out your skills as well. If you’re applying for jobs in multiple fields (this is perfectly normal when you’re applying for your first few jobs), single out the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the organization you want to work with.
General Guidelines: The Resume Commandments
Once you’re done with all of the above things, it’s a good idea to go through this list of guidelines to ensure that you’re going on the right track:
- The key is to hype yourself up. So, even if a skill seems a little tangential, add it because employers like to see versatility. Remember, it’s about marketing yourself.
- But that doesn’t mean you lie. Don’t lie. Just don’t do it. Lies spiral into more lies, and that’s not how you want to start your career, right? What you should be focusing on, instead, is a way to highlight the skills you are most confident about. Provide evidence, and samples if you’re asked. For example, if you say you’re good at writing, find a way to highlight your writing experience. Spinning your skills works to an extent, so long as you know when to stop.
- Give it your 100%. As a beginner, it’s perfectly acceptable to add high school experience (although school will seem like a lifetime away). Over the years, you will gain enough experience for you to be able to single out your most valuable experiences and skills to add in your resume. So if someone tells you that high school doesn’t count, trash that advice. For now.
Note: As you gain more experience in your field, generally focus the resume to the last two years of your job, unless you have exceptional projects/experience to add.
- Maintain consistency. Filling out your resume won’t feel like you’re writing a Beowulf, but grammar always matters. Consistency can be a matter of aesthetics, but it’s also about little things like maintaining consistency in tense and sentence structure. Since you’re listing out your history in a concise, accessible way, the easiest path to stick to is simple past tense.
- As a rule of thumb, don’t clutter, because balance is key: there are ways to showcase your versatility in a single page. In any case, a resume is designed to be concise, so even if your page doesn’t fill up don’t feel daunted because you could actually make it work to your advantage. The easiest way to do this is through the words you use.
- But a far more effective way to approach this obstacle – whichever way you come from – is to make your document look aesthetically pleasing.
Beyond the Commandments: Essential Dos and Don’ts
1. Drop the Objective!
You’d be better off without this one, honestly. However, if you feel the need to include your objective – remember that it’s the first thing your employer will notice and hence needs to be perfect.
Using a statement such as ‘Seeking a role as a research analyst to advance my career in the financial industry’ will only convey your desire to grow as opposed to adding real value to the company.
Try substituting your objective with a tagline simply stating your expertise. It would be sure to drive the message home quicker and better.
2. To(o) Long or to(o) short?
The size of your resume should be the least of your worries, but the contents of it should be your first! Take Faulkner to heart, and kill your darlings. It’ll be worth it when you’re finally chilling in the office of your dreams.
People could either nail the bull’s eye here or miss it by a mile, so make sure you check for all of these things before hitting that ‘Send’! –
How do you know if it’s too long?
- You’ve mentioned hobbies like fishing/listening to music/stamp collecting for a finance job. Important to your life, perhaps, but totally irrelevant to the job at hand. So can it, ruthlessly!
- Every one of your previous job profiles has been described in loving detail.
- Your resume consists of paragraphs instead of carefully constructed sections.
- A portrait sized HD photograph of yours/your name is occupying half of the first page.
How do you know if it’s too short?
- There is no section marked ‘Skills’.
- There’s no white space on your resume.
If you still find it hard, simply ask yourself this before you write anything – “Will this motivate the employer to hire me?”. You will automatically end up adding only relevant information.
- Highlight only your most relevant experience
- Be concise, and use bullet points. Keep it on the DL.
3. All Bark and No Bite
It is extremely important to portray yourself in the best light, however, it is even more imperative to provide brief but conclusive evidence of the same. There is no proof of you being ‘hardworking’ or an ‘excellent team player’, and the HR won’t buy it no matter how bold the font is. Instead of using words that you think will convey your professionalism, construct sentences with conclusive information that will highlight your skills and expertise.
4. Annoying buzzwords and cliches
The one thing that recruiters and employers hate is constructing the idea of a person through their misshapen CV/Resume. If you write words like “go-getter”, “team-player” or “innovative forward-thinker”, they might do more harm than good. Buzzwords like these put recruiters off and put your resume/CV in the generic category.
If you want the recruiters to know that you are a “go-getter” or a “team player”, it is better to illustrate it through examples of the work that you have done in the past.
5. Everybody Lies? But you shouldn’t.
Lying might be portrayed as a very common resume/CV phenomena, but it is better not to do it. Recruiters have access to your details through social media and they will persistently scour through details that do not add up. Fictitious work experience, improved scores in examinations etc will be thoroughly investigated and when you are caught fibbing, you will be out of contention for that role or for any future roles in that company.
Also, even if you manage to get away with lying, the main problem that might hit you in the face is that you will struggle to perform up to the expectations that you set at the start.
6. The Mail Game
The ‘One Size Fits All’ rule is best left to garments on sale and not your resume. Creating one standard resume format to be sent out in bulk indicates a lazy approach and disinterest in a specific job listing. Despite having the required experience, your vague resume could spoil your chances. There are also chances of entering the wrong company’s name – and nothing sends your resume to the trash faster than that! Always take some time to rearrange and edit your resume to suit a company’s specific needs.
7. Aesthetics for the win!
Invest some time in making your resume look visually appealing. You can arrange your sections in such a way that it makes the sheet easier to read. Believe me, your interviewers will be grateful. If visual arts isn’t your cup of tea, take advantage of the numerous pre-existing templates that Canva has to make your document look beautiful. Splash some colour to it, spice up the plain white sheet you would have otherwise turned in. But don’t overdo it (our recommendation: minimalism. You can never go wrong.)
8. Proofreading is the mother of wisdom
You might dismiss spelling mistakes, but we assure you that HR departments won’t! Grammatical mistakes display your lack of attention to detail, and general misgivings of incompetence. All your experience and accomplishments will be for naught if there’s a typo to go with it.
Read it out loud, get a friend to proofread and edit your resume before sending it out – or better still, sit back, relax, and let PaperTrue do it for you. 😉
So, there you have it. We’ll leave you to it. Now, go conquer every interview you have!
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