Career Advice

Preparing a resume

Here we address the following points:

1. The Purpose of Your Resume

Remember - a resume is aimed solely at getting you to the interview. Every word on your resume should assure your prospective employer that you could do the job well. Concentrate on those aspects which can bring most benefit to the employer and tailor your resume to the job.

You can think of preparing a resume as a part of a sales pitch where you are the benefit that you are trying to sell. Your resume is your written sales proposal and the interview is your chance to present your proposal (yourself) in a compelling way.

You first need to get the recruiter interested in the benefit - you - so that you get the chance to make your presentation.

2. The Structure of Your Resume

There are typically the following 5 main elements to a resume:
  • Skills
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Personal Interests
  • Contact Details

There is no single perfect order in which to include these 5 elements. You should start with those which your prospective employer will find most important. Typically this will mean including your skills or work experience at the beginning with the most recent experience first. If you do not have any work experience you may want to start with your educational achievements. Naturally your contact details are important - but only if everything else fits. Contact details are the last thing an employer will look for and should be the at the end of your resume.

Keep your resume to a maximum of two pages. Leave out any experience that is not relevant. If you have just left school or graduated a single page would be better.

Ensure that your resume is easy to read. The employer should be able to scan it quickly and obtain the key points. Check your resume several times. Bad spelling or formatting reflects poorly on you. A recruiter will not employ somebody in a job which requires the skilled use of language if the candidate is unable to spell.

3. Addressing the Requirements of the Job

If you are replying to a job advertisement, carefully analyse the wording of it and make sure that your resume as far as possible addresses every requirement. In the absence of an advert obtain as much information as far as is possible about the post so that you can evaluate what skills and experience are likely to be required and ensure that your resume addresses those requirements.

However, do not simply state that you have, for example, "Communications Skills". It is meaningless to make such statements in isolation. They will not impress the employer. Every applicant will claim to have "Communication Skills". Substantiate such statements based on your work experience or other activities.

4. Taking the Employer's Perspective

Once you have finished writing your resume put yourself in the position of your prospective employer. Imagine that you were faced with a hundred or more resumes from applicants for a job of which yours was just one. Imagine also that you had only a very limited amount of time in which to evaluate and short-list the applicants - 30 seconds per applicant. Would you select your own resume for the short-list? If not, don't expect the employer to do so.

5. The Cover Letter

Cover letters should be tailored to the job for which you are applying. It is a good idea to send one whether or not a cover letter is required. Remember to address in a cover letter any points which you are specifically asked to provide in such a letter. This is often the first stage in the sifting process. A letter which does not provide the information required may result in your application being immediately dismissed without any attention to your carefully crafted resume.

Cover letters also enable prospective employers to assess the standard of your written English, so write them with great care. Keep cover letters to no more than one page in length.

Make sure you explain what you are applying for, why you are qualified for the post and how you can add value, and why you are approaching this particular employer.

6. Submitting Resumes On-Line

Websites enable employers to search resumes by using key words. You need therefore need to include key words in your resume. Keep formatting simple. Do-not embed tables, graphics or other objects. Use a serious sounding email address.