How to write a resume

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of effective information out there with free tips on how to write a resume, or resume writing help. Oh sure, you can download one of the crummy templates out there, but they are exactly that, crummy! Besides, where’s the magic in a resume wizard?

Chances are, they are not, and the template was prepared by someone who doesn’t truly know how to write a resume as a professional.

Results talk and the rest walks

Why do I say they are crummy? Well the thing about professional resume writing, just like any other field, is that “stats talk and BS walks” so in other words, has that template got anyone a job interview? Was it prepared and constructed by a professional resume writer who gets a high success/interview rate for their clients, and specialises in resume writing day in, day out? Are these resume writing examples written by a professional resume writer of some years, with success and certification ideally?

So if I were in your position I would be:

a) Looking for resume writing examples from a professional resume writer with excellent results as far as gaining job nterviews for their clients is concerned

b) Looking for free resume writing tips on how to write a resume from someone who is a professional resume writer, has been in business for many years, is published, has excellent customer reviews, and is a certified resume writer with membership to several industry associations

c) Clicking on the “Sample resumes” page on the left hand side of my website navigational bar, to get an idea of what a professional resume looks like, smells like and feels like as far as format and content goes

Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know

Unfortunately there is a whole lot of misinformation, and a small amount of senior, valid information when it comes to tips (especially free ones) on how to write a resume

So let’s assume now that you have decided to test the waters and start applying for jobs. If you are like most people you have either no resume, or a resume that is between 5 and 10 years old that your neighbour/sister/aunty/friend helped you with. as when it comes to resume writing, you just don’t know how. You are now wondering how you are going to update it and get it up to scratch to land you the job of your dreams.

Need a resume but don’t know where to start?

If you are like most people you are thinking “Where do I start? How do I write a resume exactly?” or “I can’t write about myself! What a nightmare…” It is probably for this reason that there are a huge list of searches listed with google for free resume writing tips and how to write a resume. Listed below are some (but not all) of the ‘How to Write a Resume’ principles.

Well there are a few things to think about before you start. If it has been a long time since you applied for jobs, things have changed. Now with the onset of the world wide web, most positions are applied for electronically. Try it. Call a number of recruitment companies or advertisers and their standard response now is usually “email us your resume and we will have a look at it.” As a result of this, there are other factors to keep in mind.

What employers need for a reference check

Namely, references listed in your resume will need to be telephone or email contacts rather than written references. These are very rarely used now. Also, although it is now much easier for you to send resumes off by email to potential employers, this also means that recruiters may now receive up to 500 or 1,000 responses to an advertisement, where previously they may have received less than a hundred.

Consequently, your resume really does need to stand out. Instantly. Your resume needs to make an impact in the first half to one page of your document. It shouldn’t look like all of the other resumes out there – not always an easy task.

So exactly what is a resume anyway? And what’s a CV?

Firstly some definitions. The words “resume” and “CV” mean exactly the same thing. Resume comes from an old French word meaning “summary” while CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, a Latin, for “history of life”. A resume is a summary. Two almost identical things, a summary and life history.

When writing your resume ensure that the font or typeface is more than ten point in size. At least eleven or twelve point. Tiny lettering makes the document difficult to read.

Don’t spend the first part of the resume talking about all your great skills and abilities. To be brutally honest, these skills are the sort of things that anyone could write, and are not what the reader is primarily interested in. They are interested in your professional background. Also, I sometimes notice that a person has “excellent written communication skills” written in a resume as a skill or ability, then go on to notice typographical, grammatical and punctuation problems throughout the document.

Name and personal details. Name at the top. It is silly to write the words “resume” or “curriculum vitae” at the top of a resume. This is self explanatory. A small amount of my clients don’t wish to include their address within their resume, however I always recommend including your address, a contact telephone number and email address if you check them regularly. No silly email addresses either. Use a professional one. I have seen lots of addresses like “crazy wacky at hotmail” or something equally bizarre – not really appropriate for a job hunt.

Date of birth and family status are a contentious issue. Sadly, some employers do still base their decision as to whether to employ someone on a candidate’s age and family status, although strictly speaking they shouldn’t be. I usually recommend not including these things at all.

Underneath, I recommend putting some words/bullet points that describe who you are and what it is that sets you apart. Some examples I have written for clients in the past include “Persistence Plus” and “Exceptional Executive Assistant” or whatever it is that you think sets you apart.

If you have been a stay at home Mum for a few years, this certainly doesn’t mean you have been doing nothing! Far from it.

What sort of skills or personal characteristics can you offer? Can you manage multiple tasks at once? Are you a super negotiator? Have you been volunteering at the local kindergarten? All of these things are very important, and relevant when preparing your resume.

Just because you didn’t get paid to do a particular job, doesn’t mean it wasn’t valid experience.

Go straight into your employment history or professional background. Similarly, if including a career objective, ensure that it really IS a career objective, not a two paragraph description of how great you are. That is what a cover letter is for. The career objective is not the place to rave about your skills, rather to enlighten the reader on your genuine career objective. For example, if you are keen to get your foot into the mining industry door, the career objective is the place to talk about this.

Now, when it comes to professional background, list your most recent positions first. This includes paid and unpaid employment. Don’t just give a long list of your duties and responsibilities. These, in all honesty, can appear boring to a potential employer. For example, if you volunteered at the local kindergarten, don’t write about how you cleaned tables, prepared morning tea and did the photocopying. Did you put forward to the kindergarten teacher or a committee, a workable fundraising idea? Was this accepted and you coordinated the event? Did you raise over a $1000 for the kindergarten? These “highlights” or “key achievements” are like music to an employer’s ears. These show that you can achieve fantastic things and are a lateral thinking employee, able to produce amazing results.

This is an obvious one, but I am surprised at how many people miss this step. Have someone read and check your resume. Preferably someone with an eye for detail, with good grammar, punctuation and spelling skills. I can recall with amusement the story of a client who had been using her current CV for almost ten years, and had never noticed a typo. In fact, no one who had read her CV had pointed out to her that “Alien’s First Aid” where she had completed her training, should in fact have read “Allen’s First Aid.” I did mention to her that the idea of completing training at “Alien’s First Aid” sounded like quite a scary concept!

Keep writing, going backwards chronologically for say 15 years, if you volunteered for the last eight years, talk about the most recent first. Or if you worked for Acme Corp from 2003 to 2005 and Mr Widget from 1999 to 2001 you would talk about what you did for Acme Corp first.

Writing in bullet point form is not only visually appealing, but it helps keep things down to short, succinct sentences. Also use action words when describing what you did. For example, achieved, facilitated, designed, compiled, organised.

If you have a degree, give these details including year completed, name of institution and what studied. You don’t need to include high school in this case.

The same goes for TAFE courses or Diplomas.

In-house training completed as part of a volunteer or working position would be included under “Professional Development” or similar, as would things such as First Aid Training.

List any software you can use, or any additional languages you speak.

If English is not your first language, it is particularly important that someone else checks the grammar in your CV. I have encountered many rather entertaining phrases such as “I always made sure I service the customers well, leaving them intensely satisfied” (full of connotations!) or “It was important to me that I gen the customer well sparkling” (what the?)

Another point to keep in mind is jargon. Many clients use acronyms and jargon such as “EDI” or “ABL” etc. IT professionals seem to be the worst at this in my experience. A golden rule is never, ever, ever, assume that the person reading the resume knows what these terms mean. Always include and list them in full or don’t include them at all.

Don’t go over three to five pages for length in a resume. I have seen many 13 page plus resumes, only to be told “Oh, this is more of a detailed version!” There is no need for that level of detail. It will result in your resume being left until “later” to be read, if at all. Who has the time or the inclination to read something this long, with 9 pages of duties and responsibilities?

Resume templates and samples. These are readily available at no charge on sites such as the Microsoft web site. However, a word of warning: If the reader of your resume is familiar with a Microsoft program such as Word for Windows, it will be immediately obvious to them that you have used a template, and these are not something we recommend as professional writers.

As far as references are concerned, if you have the name, position title and telephone number/email address for at least two referees these should definitely be included. The alternative is a statement such as “Available on request” however many employers prefer that these are specifically stated, particularly governmental employers.

Now that you have finished your new resume, have someone else check it for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors again, as these can mean your resume is instantly disqualified. Or submit your resume to me for a free critique. That way I can guide you not only on how to write a resume, but on how to improve it.

Here’s to wishing you a great new job and every success!

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