A detailed and well written resume is essential when applying for a job, regardless of field or position. It needs to be clear, concise, well formatted and free of errors if you hope to be considered by potential employers. The following checklist will set you on the right path, but seeking professional assistance is highly recommended!
Follow these simple steps to ensure your resume contains the right content and stands out from the competition:
STEP 1: Determine the best layout for your resume
Employers and positions vary, as do applicant experiences and personal circumstances. Therefore, resumes can be written in a variety of styles to suite individual needs.
The two most common styles are Chronological and Functional. While chronological resumes have been the go-to style in the past, changes to the labour market (especially manufacturing), have increased the demand for functional resumes. That said, either style is effective when used correctly and are well written. So, what is the difference between a chronological and functional resume?
Chronological Vs. Functional Resumes
A Chronological resume is designed to display your education and employment experiences in reverse chronological order (most to least recent). Chronological resumes work best when they can demonstrate a long work history in a specific field or with few employers. More importantly, chronological resumes are excellent for demonstrating a history of career progression. If you have steadily climbed the career ladder for example, a chronological resume may be best. On the other hand, if you have jumped from one employer to the next while occupying similar or even the same position the chronological resume format may suggest poor work retention, or seem redundant by listing similar position duties for each employer. In this case, a Functional Resume would be a better option.
A functional resume focuses on key skills and abilities gained through education, employment and volunteer experience without specifying exactly where and when you acquired them. Functional resumes are recommended for individuals entering the workforce (eg: students and graduates with little experience), those entering a new field (eg: a person who has been laid-off and is switching careers) or when employment gaps may be a concern. Functional resumes may also be more effective for those wanting to downplay poor work retention by combining the duties of several similar positions into one skill category. Functional resumes allow you to highlight the skills most relevant to the position you are applying to and group them together, making them stand out to employers.
STEP 2: Preparing your information “Quality is better than quantity”
Determine how to best organize your resume. Use categories such as ‘Education’, ‘Skills’, ‘Accomplishments’, ‘Employment Experience’, etc. to help employers quickly find the information they are looking for. Don’t assume employers will call you if they can’t find the information they want. This is a common mistake that can prolong your job search. It isn’t uncommon for an employer to receive over 100 applications for a single position. If each applicant submits a cover letter and two-page resume that’s over 300 pages of reading for the hiring manager. Application packages that are difficult to read or missing information are often discarded. You will get one chance, so it is important that you get it right!
The best resumes are specific and customized for each job you apply to. If you’re applying to an advertised position, read it over carefully and customize your resume to show that you have the specific skills and experience they’re looking for! You’ve heard it before: “Quality is better than quantity”. Handing out numerous copies of a generic resume is less likely to land you an interview than fewer carefully written resumes that show you took the time to understand the demands of each position and explain why you would be an ideal candidate! A generic resume says, “I want a job” but what employers want to hear is “I want THIS job!” Show them that you’ve done your homework. They will be impressed.
Step 3: Spelling, Grammar and Writing Style!
First, choose a font and layout that is clear, professional and easy to read. While trendy fonts and coloured paper or photos may make your resume stand-out, it may not be in the way you wanted. Creativity is okay, just make sure it’s used in moderation, and in the right places. The layout should be simple and easy to scan for information. Do not include complex tables or graphics that require analysis. Employers just don’t have the time!
Clearly list your contact information, including your name, address, email and telephone number. If this information isn’t clear and accurate, the rest won’t matter! Create a professional email address if you do not already have one. Your friends may think email addresses that include nicknames are funny, but employers will not. Use something clear and inoffensive like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While writing your resume, be concise. It should be 1-2 pages in length and only contain information relevant to the position you are applying to. Again, “quality is better than quantity”. Be professional. Slang, short forms, contractions or emojis should never be used. While they may be acceptable in personal emails or text messages they should not be used in professional documents such as resumes and cover letters.
Focus on experience, responsibilities and skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Do not include personal information such as your ‘hobbies’ and ‘interests’ unless they relate specifically to the position and avoid listing dated or irrelevant work experience. Organize your information using clear headings and subheadings, and refer to the job description while you work to ensure that your resume includes the key words and skills the employer is looking for.
Avoid first-person pronouns (like “I”). Instead use action words to begin each bullet point (like worked, organized, analyzed, managed, led, initiated, planned, tracked, assessed, etc.). Attend to spelling, grammar and punctuation. Mistakes can cause your resume to lose credibility in the eyes of an employer.
Don’t waste valuable space listing references on your resume. You don’t want employers calling your references before interviewing you. Instead, type them on a separate page and let the employer know they are available upon request. Most employers will indicate their reference protocol when they call you to book an interview.
STEP 4: Review, Review, Review!
Carefully review your resume. Did you include information that is relevant? Is it tailored to the job you’re applying for? Did you show that you have the specific skills and experience the employer is looking for? Is it clear, concise and easy to read? Lastly, is it true? While you want to project yourself in a positive light, lying or exaggerating are big mistakes that could easily be uncovered in an interview.
Have someone you trust review your resume to check for any errors you may have missed!
STEP 5: Apply!
If you are printing copies, use quality white paper and ensure that it prints smoothly with no smudges – preferably on a laser printer. Employers like to use a highlighter to mark areas of interest on your resume and documents printed by bubblejet printers may smudge and smear when highlighted.
Do not fold your resume. If mailing or delivering it in-person, place it in a clearly addressed full sized 8½ x 11 envelope with a printed label.
If applying by email ensure you include the position title and reference number in the subject line. The body of your email should indicate your intention to apply for the position and include your contact information. Check to ensure you have attached your documents before sending. When possible, convert your cover letter and resume into a PDF and merge them into one document. This will make the employers job easier and ensure your documents will not become separated or missed!
If you use social media, check your account information and settings prior to submitting your resume. Employers often search potential candidates on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Edit your account or adjust your privacy settings if there is anything that may cast you in an unfavorable or unprofessional light such as party photos, inappropriate language or comments, or links to such content.
Don’t forget to visit our page on interview preparation so you are ready when you get their phone call!