Your resume can only be as good as the amount of information you provide, but the advice on what to include and the optimal length of the CV differ from source to source, depending on who you want to trust.
In the end, however, most of us tend to make the same mistakes over and over. And, not surprisingly, some of these mistakes cost us dearly.
Fundamental aspects of resume writing
For as long as can be dated, resumes have always been written pretty much the same way. The format hasn’t changed much, and employers still want to see the same kind of information on your file. Technology has come and gone, but the best practices towards the approach have remained pretty much the same.
For which reason, anyone planning a career
Show that you’re qualified professionally
The whole point of having a resume is to showcase your abilities as a potential worker and achiever. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Attach all relevant degrees and certifications. With a whole lot of positions, especially more nuanced ones like an engineer or developer, a strong educational background definitely helps your case.
- Include information regarding relevant volunteer experience and achievements. If there’s anything you’ve worked on is readily available to the public – including past paid and pro bono jobs. You don’t need to include everything, just the most relevant, convincing ones. Here, it’s key to have your attention more on what you achieved rather than what responsibilities you had.
- Contact information is pretty important to have, too. If they are impressed and need to get in contact, give them a way to do it.
- Additional skills are always nice to have on board. For instance, if knowing a second language seems like it will give you an upper edge, go for it. Phrase it such that whoever will be looking at your CV knows how adept you are at the skill. For example, ‘fluent in Mandarin’ or ‘expert at PowerPoint.’
Make sure it’s readable
The core of your CV is the relevant work experience you list. Being able to scan through your information quickly is an essential quality of a well-written resume. An excellent way to make it readable is using a list of short statements (about 2-3 lines) rather than detailed paragraphs.
Don’t use too many words, either. On average, a resume should be about two pages long. If it’s more than that, try to shave off some information that’s not too crucial for the job at hand. Rather than have so much information you could fill a novel, include experiences that you genuinely enjoyed, otherwise, you might end up filling your least preferred position.
Be as descriptive as you can
Being as descriptive as you can while trying to make it as short as possible sounds pretty counterintuitive. However, descriptiveness requires data to back you up not words. Any achievements you use in your resume need to be listed together with percentages and tallies.
For instance, rather than saying ‘was able to increase leads generated and conversion rates through a series of great marketing decisions,’ use quantified pieces of information, like so: ‘grew the number of monthly visits from 1,000 to 10,000 per month and 80% increase in engagement and lead conversion.’
To impress a potential employer, hiring managers need to feel like you can speak their language. Most HR people are great at reading between the lines – dealing with people is the literal definition of their profession, after all.
Relevant keywords can normally be found on their site or even on the job announcement. You can identify them for being repeated twice or more on the same page. Otherwise, a lot of businesses provide comprehensive databases for you to reference.
Why was my resume rejected?
No resume, no matter how well written, cannot be perfect. A range of factors is going to affect whether or not your resume is accepted or not. This could be anything from subjectivity regarding length to simple mistakes within the document itself.
If history is any indicator, people tend to repeat the same mistakes, over and over. Again, a lot of businesses maintain large databases of resumes you can use for your own reference. Even Bill Gates’ own resume is floating around on the internet! For the uninspired, there’s also a pool of people offering writing assignment help you can turn to.
The recruiters have very little time to get a proper impression of you, and you have barely two thousand words to make a good impression of yourself. You’re constrained of both time and the number of characters you can use. On one hand, you could be the perfect person for the job but miss out on a few details that throw you to the rocks.
These are four of the most common signs that your resume needs to be revised before you send it out to a new workplace.
Too long, didn’t read
A funny anecdote regarding marketers is that nobody is more annoyed by marketing speeches than marketers themselves. You know one of those blog stories you click on because they have a pretty catchy title, but it takes forever to get to the point, and you just abandon the whole thing in the middle of it. Believe it or not, HR people are human, too, and the same rules apply. They just move on and throw it on the rejected pile.
Again, your resume is supposed to contain the most relevant positions you’ve been involved in over the past few years. Don’t detail every job you’ve ever worked at, every conference you attended and every club you’ve been involved in. The task at hand is to impress the employer. Select the best of the best and include those in there.
Along the same lines, another one of the most common reasons for companies passing you over for the next person in line despite your obvious proficiency is a lack of orientation towards results.
Despite how it may seem to the layman, nobody likes to pour through thousands of words a day when they could… not do that. Regardless of how magnanimous the words you use are to describe your job, data will triumph over descriptions any day.
Gaps in employment periods
Your resume is really great – your choice of words isn’t too superfluous, you have plenty of experience in the field, and you work for charity a lot. That’s great, but… what’s this? It looks like there’s a whole year where your employment record fell off the face of the earth.
Life is impossible to predict, and a lot of bad things can happen. You could get hospitalized, or someone close to you could desperately need medical attention; maybe you stopped working to devote all your attention to them. Hiring managers are going to understand your genuine reasons for not being employed for a while. If that ‘while’ is a period longer than a year, that is a major red flag.
Where were you all that time? What were you doing and why weren’t you employed? All sorts of questions are going to be raised. If you have the answers, include them all in your resume. If you were working on a personal project, taking a break off to unwind with a new hobby or working for a non-governmental organization, put it all in there.
No matter the company, the hiring manager will be looking for someone who won’t abandon the project mid-way for whatever reason. Even worse, you could have been in prison. You’re very likely familiar with the kind of stigma that revolves around convicts and places of employment. Common, legitimate reasons for an employment gap, however, are taking time off to have a child or attending school.
Making Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
This point doesn’t need much explanation because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Spelling mistakes are either a sign of incompetence or indifference because you didn’t seem to have read over your work. Either way, it’s something that doesn’t bode very well with any hiring manager.
A well-written resume should conflate confidence in the person reading over it. As simple as it may seem to be able to avoid, it’s by far the most common mistake people make in their resumes. It would also imply you don’t have a knack for detail, an often-sought-after characteristic in employees.
You didn’t include a cover letter
You may believe you’re super talented and experienced because you’ve worked with all sorts of industry leaders over the years. That’s all well and good, but literally, nobody knows your life story better than you do. It can’t go on the resume because that’s not what it’s meant for, but it has to count for something and thus has to go somewhere does it not?
What seems like a lack of commitment, thanks to that pesky gap year, may actually have a perfect reason behind it – you may have decided to get a higher education, for instance. Such information is covered in the cover letter.
Your resume, no matter how grand, could not possibly cover the nuances of why you have decided to change careers or why your current role is so different from the former one. All these and more could potentially be important pieces of information to have.
Getting a rejection letter, or worse, getting no reply at all for what could have been your dream job stings. However, it’s one of those things in life you can’t run away from, even considering the amount of time and effort you may have spent to individually tailor your CV for a particular employer.
As distressing as this may be, especially given the kind of hard work you put into crafting their CVs, it’s one of those things in life you just can’t run away from. If you implement the above-mentioned fundamentals of writing a resume and can avoid the common mistakes, your dream job will be in your grasp.
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