The nature of our work at Sunsoft involves helping candidates fine tune their résumés and hone their interview strategies. We have talked about some of the important tips to keep in mind when you are appearing for a job interview, and, based on the great feedback we have received from many candidates who seemed to have benefited from them, we thought it would be a good idea to sum up the key aspects involved in preparing your résumé too.
Your résumé is almost always the first contact your potential employer has with you, which makes it absolutely important to create the right impression with it. So, even though you have probably heard or read many of these points in the past, it might still be useful to go through this check-list once before you finalize your résumé the next time you are applying for a new position.
You would notice that we are using the word résumé and not curriculum vitae (CV) here, and it is useful to understand the distinction between the two. The main differences between the two formats are:
- Length – A CV is a detailed document that covers your career achievements in an in-depth manner and can stretch over two or more pages; a résumé is more concise, typically one page long and touches upon the most important aspects of your career.
- Format – A CV is organized chronologically for an overview of the individual’s entire working career; there’s more freedom to tinker with the format of a résumé to showcase the best and most relevant aspects of your career in a targeted manner.
- Customization – Since it covers your career in its entirety, a CV is a static document that doesn’t change based on the position being applied for, with the only possible change being in the cover letter; on the other hand, a résumé should always be customized based on the role being applied for.
For job applications, the standard format used in USA and Canada is the résumé, while in the UK and Europe the norm is to use the CV. For academic applications, even in USA and Canada, the more common format used is the CV. In many other parts of the world, for instance in Australia, South Africa and India, the terms CV and résumé are used interchangeably, but it’s advisable to stick to a résumé format for a job application in the private sector.
Now that we are done with that part, let’s get down to the business of actually making a résumé. Here are some important pointers, divided across a few key aspects.
- Use a logical, clean format, with wide margins and clear headings, and a standard, professional font.
- Use bullet points, wherever applicable, but ensure that they align neatly in one vertical line across different headings.
- Don’t overdo the use of bold and italic type – use them selectively to highlight the most important parts.
- Try out at least 2-3 different formats, look at some good samples from your industry and don’t hesitate to seek help from an experienced person.
- Err on the side of stylistic conservatism. The freedom you have in playing with the format depends on the industry and company your résumé caters to.
- Stick to reverse chronological listing of roles, beginning with work experience, and then following with education.
- Specify YOUR accomplishments, and not just a generic description of the roles you have worked at. As much as possible, quantify your achievements. Again, being clear about the company and the requirements specified for the job is very important.
- Try to keep the most impressive part of your résumé in the top half of the page, as much as possible.
- Limit the résumé to one page, editing it to a crisp set of points that are absolutely essential to the role being applied for. Never dump everything from your academic and professional career on to the page.
- Use keywords, but avoid vague, empty terms like ‘team player’ and ‘hard worker’ that turn up in every single résumé.
Additional important points
- Proofread 2-3 times and get your friends or colleagues to check. The negative effect of even one spelling or grammatical mistake cannot be overstated.
- Mention your email address and phone number clearly. Use a professional sounding email address. If you have a relevant and properly maintained online profile, giving links to your LinkedIn and Twitter pages can be useful.
- Avoid including your photograph, unless specifically asked for.
- Unless you need to explain a change in career or a career gap, stating an objective statement is redundant and adds unnecessary flab – remove it. A one line crisp summary at the top is the most you should use precious real estate for.
- Proofread for mistakes and easy readability again!
Post résumé creation
- If sharing online, share a PDF version, instead of an MS-Word one. Ensure that any links provided work fine on clicking. Name the file sensibly – not just ‘Résumé’, but ‘Your Name – Résumé’ means that the HR person will not have to spend a few seconds renaming your file.
- Be sure of the email address the résumé has to be sent to. Don’t send to the company manager’s address, if the job advert asks specifically to send to email@example.com.
- If sharing a hard copy, take print outs on good quality paper that makes your résumé stand out. Again, be clear about the address it has to be mailed to.
- If the résumé is more for an exploratory purpose and not for a specific job, don’t hesitate to share it with a wide circle of relevant acquaintances in your network, including college alumni and personal business contacts.
- Keep updating your résumé every few months for it to stay relevant and easily shareable.
A good method to follow is to build a master résumé with all your career and education achievements, and then select the most relevant points quickly when you need to create a new one targeting a specific role.
We believe this check-list will stand you in good stead when creating your very important résumé. The experts among you would, of course, know that this is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more detailed ways in which you can sharpen your résumé into a document that truly makes it stand out in a pile of sheets in front of a tired recruiting manager. We would love to work with you in getting your résumé to that stage – you know where to find us!