What is a Resume?
I will start this blog with a piece of advice: DON’T read it. That is, if you are either of these: Donald Trump, Tom Hanks, LeBron James, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roger Federer, The Beard, Brad Pitt, Steph Curry, Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, Rafael Nadal, et al!
The personalities mentioned here are some of the one-in-a-million people that don’t need a resume because their name is enough. However, for you and me, a resume is our professional identity. It is that succinct, valuable document that will drive our chances of getting selected for a job of our choice.
This blog is for those among you who face these challenges:
- You are convinced that you have a great professional profile, but are frustrated at not getting interview calls
- You believe that you have given a good account of your professional profile in your resume, but are not getting noticed by employers and job portals
- You are unable to describe all your career highlights and accomplishments in a manner that enables your resume to stand out and get noticed
- You are seriously wondering if you need to hire the services of resume writing companies to make your resume more appealing.
This blog will explain the elements and dynamics of a resume that employers cannot take their eyes off. I intend to help you address the issues you may have, such as those listed above, or related ones. I am confident that by the time you have read this blog, you will gained a thorough perspective of what it takes to craft a resume that can no longer be ignored.
Let us get started, then! Let us start by getting an understanding of what a resume is, which will serve as the basis for getting a grasp of how to write one that will land you the job you are looking for.
In the process, you will learn some of the most crucial aspects of rules and conventions concerning how to write a resume that is not only proper and relevant to your profile, but also increases your chances of getting noticed and fished out from among a heap of competing ones.
We will be covering the following topics:
- What is the difference between a Resume and a CV?
- What is the difference between a CV and cover letter?
- What Is the Purpose of Writing A Resume and Why It Is Important?
- How to Write A Resume?
- How to Write a Cover Letter?
- Most Important Resume Sections
- How to Tell Your Story on LinkedIn?
- Various Resume Formats
- What are the common mistakes of a resume? Top Red Flags
- Outdated Resume rules you need to stop following
- How to Write a Resume That Stands Out |17 Simple Steps
- Bonus Resume Writing Tips
The resume is the most accurate and visible face of whatever you are as a professional. The world may recognize a DiCaprio by his face and a Kim Kardashian by something else, but where the average person is concerned, the resume is the mirror that you hold out to your prospective employer. Or, for that matter, anyone that could have a stake in your role and performance as a professional, such as an investor, incubator, mentor, etc.
Before getting to the details of all the elements of resume writing, I will show you the quickest and simplest way to write a resume. You could follow this link to explore how to upscale your resume from an ordinary looking one to a standout one!
Now, as we move on, let me start by clarifying a couple of very simple doubts that many people, especially fresh applicants, have:
What is the difference between a Resume and a CV?
This is one of the basic doubts many people have. In many instances, I have seen people using the two expressions interchangeably, as if they were synonymous with each other.
A resume is a short summary of one’s professional career
A CV is a detailed and lengthy description of the same.
Let me explain an easy and fun way of remembering the difference between a resume and a CV: why do you call the shorter version the resume? Simple: it is concise enough to make the reader want to resume reading for more details!
As far as the meaning of the word, “CV” is concerned, let us do some etymology. CV, as most of you would know, stands for “curriculum vitae”. So, what does this expression mean, and from where is it derived? It is rooted in the Latin words, “curriculum” and “vitae”.
Curriculum, as we know, is the set of lessons and classes we learnt at school or college. Do you remember just any of them being short? I certainly don’t! So, a CV is best understood as something that packs a lot of detail of what it contains. The word “vitae” supplements and fortifies this understanding. It stands for “life”. So, there you have it: it could mean something like “account of my life”. No such account is expected to be short, for sure.
Quiz time, folks!
I will place a small quiz concerning the difference between a resume and a CV to get an idea of how well you have grasped it!
Could you answer which among these positions require a CV, and which of these, a resume?
UN Secretary General
Financial Securities Manager
Professor of Law
Human Resources Manager
Finding it fun to explore this? Write us your answer in the comments section at the end of this blog!
What is the difference between a CV and cover letter?
Let me move on to the next related clarification: the difference between a CV and a cover letter. A CV, as I just mentioned, is a long account of a candidate’s professional life. A cover letter is a summary of that long account, which has a brief introduction to each of the points covered in the CV.
Isn’t this what the resume is, you may ask. Yes, a resume is also brief, but the cover letter is even briefer. It is more like an extract of what you really want to say to your prospective interviewer, such as why you want to change track in your profession, why you want to enhance your learning, etc. In other words, it should just about be good enough to arouse the interviewer’s interest in you.
|Trivia: Contrary to what most people believe, a cover letter is usually not mandatory. In fact, a few Applicant Tracking Systems don’t recognize them.|
Before moving on: wondering what an Applicant Tracking System is? I will give you some detail of it as we move on!
What Is The Purpose Of Writing A Resume And Why It Is Important?
Why is a resume important? Because the resume is the professional equivalent of your biopic. In other words, a resume is a narration of all that you have done from the time you started a career. It highlights everything that matters to your employer: your progress, educational qualification, elevation, notable milestones, strengths and weaknesses, competencies, challenges, and lots more. Think of it as a highly refined and toned-down professional autobiography.
Without a resume, you are a faceless, nameless person to a prospective employer, no matter how illustrious your career could be. The reason: there is no hint of any of your achievements and accomplishments if your resume were not around. Without it, your hiring manager is clueless about all that you have been and have done in your career. These facts highlight the acute importance of a resume to a professional’s life:
Let me pull out some statistics to highlight the criticality of a proper resume:
- A medium-large organization in any industry receives something like 100 to 200 resumes if it has to fill one single job position
- Not even 30% of it get to the second stage, which means that more than 70% of the resumes are thrown out at first glance
- Out of these, anywhere between five and ten are called for an assessment, which is another filter
- Out of these, some three to five are called for the interview
- Finally, one person makes it!
Do these figures give you a perspective of the importance of a resume? This is why I want to list out some aspects of writing a resume, which we hope will make you that one candidate who gets past the door!
How To Write A Resume?
Alright, we arrive at the heart of this blog. So, assuming that you are not one of the biggies mentioned at the start of this blog, let us dissect the art of writing a resume. I reemphasize the word I have used: yes, writing a resume is an art. This is because the necessary details of your career are the raw material, and the candidate has to become a sculptor who gives this material the aesthetic and artistic shape to make it appealing.
Does this mean she has to add fluff? Absolutely not. That is the one thing that one should avoid at any cost, because most interviewers tend to think of this is braggadocio. So, how should you present the material in the resume? What I told you just now gives you an idea: make it to-the-point and crisp. Keeping this in mind, one has to write the resume.
I would suggest this approach of looking at how to start writing a resume: what if you were the hiring manager? What would you look for in the resume? Okay, let us look at it this way: if you, as the hiring manager, were looking for the position of a chef. What would expect you from the resume? Obviously, the candidate’s cooking abilities, what experience she brings into her profile, what she has done till now relating to the job, what she can be expected to bring for your hotel, and so on.
Now, if you were to present the resume of a cook without at any point mentioning anything about your skill and where and how you have put it to use, the first thing that is going to happen is that the person seeing it is going to throw it out.
How To Write A Cover Letter?
Next, let us move on to how to write a cover letter. As I mentioned, it is not mandatory to write one, but if you think it is needed, write it well! Once you understand the reason for which a cover letter is written, you will get a clear idea of how to craft one. The purpose of a cover letter is to entice the reader to explore more about you. It should make her curious to know more about you.
So, if you are stating all that you are going to say in the resume, what is the point of writing a cover letter? It should state the objective for which you want to take up the job, which is something you should never do in the resume itself.
Here are my two cents on how to write a cover letter:
- 1. Offer a handshake: The introduction should be a very juicy essence of your profile. It should state the experience you have had in your position. Explain your career objectives here. Show how this profile fits into the overall vision the organization has and show how your past record aligns with it and how you can facilitate fulfilment of this vision.
2. Show why you are the ideal fit: This is the most important part of a cover letter. It should pull up your experience and show how it matches with what the company is looking for. You should show yourself as someone who fits the bill naturally.
3. Touch upon your education briefly: It is important to just about bring your education to their notice and leave it at that. It should show how your education has prepared you for the current career and how your work experience has honed it. Show how these have combined to give you the expertise that can help the organization. Briefly, mention the key areas you are confident you can help the company realize.
4. Show your interest and your willingness to work: The cover letter should sign off with an interest. This is most obvious. You may have everything it takes to take up the new position but how passionate are you about it? Mention what excites you about taking up the new position. All along, the most important aspect to highlight is the alignment between your interests and the company’s requirements.
Most Important Resume Sections:
Undoubtedly, the prime section of a resume is the heading section. It is like the handshake you offer to the person to whom you are introducing yourself. Yes, other sections are also important, but the heading section is the real primus intra pares among the sections of the resume.
So, what should the resume heading look like?
First things first. The top section is, it goes without saying, the part that first catches the reader’s eyes. So, the resume heading should be placed at the top middle of the resume. It should tell, in brief and simple terms, a summary of the candidate. You should create your resume heading keeping this point in mind.
Let us look at it this way: what is it that makes a reader open a mail? Isn’t it the subject line? You could equate the resume heading with the subject line. The subject line is the opener with which the mail gets uncorked, so to speak. If it doesn’t catch the reader’s attention, no matter what is inside the mail, it will not get read, simply because the reader is not likely to even open the mail and go further.
Similarly, the resume heading should invite and provoke interest in the hiring manager or whoever reads it. I will give you these two examples, which I hope will illustrate what the resume heading should or shouldn’t look like:
Senior Programming Manager
Senior Program Manager
Have 10 years of experience in implementing Unix and Python projects for Fortune 1000 clients located across the globe. Handled teams of 20 or more and oversaw critical projects that improved the company’s bottom-line by over 30% during 2019-20 FY.
Core competencies include Project management, payroll management, market research, and web analytics.
Now, which of these do you consider an effective resume heading, and which of these, an ineffective one? I categorize the first one as an example of an ineffective one. The reason: the intention is definitely well stated, which is that our friend Joe wants to say that he is a senior programming manager and has worked on the many languages that are in vogue today in the tech world.
So far so good, but as a hiring manager, why should I be interested in this? This is why: from what he states in his resume heading, I have no clue to what I can expect from him, because he has not shown that anywhere, unlike Sarah. Sarah has perfectly shown me just what she has done that impresses me as a hiring manager. I know for sure, looking at Joe’s heading, that he has done what all project managers with his level of experience are expected to.
On the other hand, Sarah has pointed exactly what she has done, and more importantly, what it has got for her organization! Do I need to look beyond this much? Full marks to Sarah in this case.
To summarize, a resume heading is effective only when it goes beyond stating the obvious. It should be precise and should contain tangibles, like the ones Sarah has shown.
Career Objective Vs Career Summary
The next section that I will take up in this blog is the career summary. Often, many people see the career objective and the career summary as being the same as each other. They are not. The career objective is what you want to achieve in your career given your skills, abilities, qualifications and such other qualities.
On the other hand, your career summary is what you have done throughout your career as whatever, be it a marketer, a developer, a carpenter, a teacher, or simply anything.
Tip: Mentioning a career objective is important, but NEVER ever mention it in the resume, least of all in the resume heading. This is one of the fundamental blunders a resume can have. Why? A resume should state whatever you are and why you can do a good fit for the opening for which you are applying. Career objectives have no place here because while a resume is what you are, an objectives statement is what you want from the company. Never do the mistake of stating this in the resume.
If you want to state your objectives, think of a better place, such as in your correspondence with the company during the selection phase, or in the cover letter. Putting this detail in the resume spoils your chances no end.
Now, the next important part of your resume: Work experience. One thought that could be running in your mind after reading this is: “Why should I worry about this? After all, I will need to show my work history”. Right, and wrong! Yes, this is what the work experience section is supposed to be.
But come to think of this: if you go on making a list of all the work experience you have had all along your career, do you think the interviewer would be interested? At best, he would go to sleep. At worst, he will toss your resume to the garbage bin.
So, how does one write in this section? Simple: make a mention of the work experience that has relevance to the job you are applying for. Be short and crisp without getting into too much detail. The most important detail of course, is to show what you did and how that will help this organization if you are selected. You should show how that experience helped you overcome challenges and how that skill or experience can help the present company overcome pain areas.
Education or Qualification
Surely, your education is a core component of your resume. Having said that, this is a supplement to your candidature, and not a standalone quality that will in itself do you wonders. It is more like the strong intro you could have. Definitely, a Harvard or an MIT product has a pride of place. Yet, it should only sit comfortably with the rest of the resume and not make a jarring note by screaming loudly.
Make sure it is in tune with the rest of the qualities in your resume. The educational qualification should ideally be mentioned in the initial sections of the resume, after the summary, and should bolster your candidature. If you emphasize too much of only this, the employer is likely to get the impression that after having gained a prestigious qualification, you have not done much else in your career.
What should we write for primary skills in a resume?
The primary skills are the fundamental skills that you carry for the job, like say, Java development. This will determine whether you are a fit for the position you are applying for or not. Here, it is very important that you mention your primary skills, but also back it up with what you have accomplished, and to show how that will benefit the company you are looking to join. This is what rounds up a good primary skills section of a resume.
How to best communicate your ‘soft skills’ in a resume?
Organizations of late have been emphasizing the importance of soft skills. No matter in which position you are working, it is no longer sufficient to have just core skills. You are also expected to be a well-rounded candidate with soft skills, such as leadership, communication, organizing, giving presentations, etc. This has to be mentioned alongside your core competencies.
How to list technical skills on a resume?
And yes, technical skills are a must for a technical position. So, these should also be highlighted. Where? I would say, between the core competencies and your soft skills. Technical skills are your proficiency in a technical area. If filmmaking is your core competency, the niche area that you have honed related to filmmaking is your technical skill. It could be documentary, video creation, animation, or related ones.
When you have been consistently winning accolades, it is great to list them on your resume. However, one mistake many candidates make in this section is by including awards, achievements or certifications that don’t fit into the job requirement. It is understandable for a fresher, but as you go up in your career, what matters to your employers is more of what you won in relation to the current job, rather than something that is unrelated.
Certifications, for instance, are a great value addition to your resume, but if you have been certified as a music teacher and are applying for the position of a marketing executive, does it make sense to include this certification?
How long should a resume or curriculum vitae be?
This is another million-dollar question about a resume. Ideally, most organizations don’t look for resumes that are more than one page long. Yes, as you age in your career, stuffing all your career history in one page is difficult. The simple way to address this issue is to add what is relevant to the opening you are applying for. The same goes for a CV, as well. In the case of a CV, ideally, the first page should list a summary, and the remaining pages should have more detail, which the interviewer may or may not go through in detail.
Writing a resume summary
What is a resume summary?
A resume summary is a condensed statement that describes your candidature pithily and accurately. It is gambit that entices the interviewer to look further into your resume. It should just about give enough to arouse the interest of the interviewer, but not so much that there is nothing else left to explore about you.
How do you write a resume summary?
As I just mentioned, it is important to write a resume summary that encapsulates all that you have done in your career. The most important point again, is to make a mention of what is relevant to the job you are applying for, and to show how your profile will align with the organization’s goals and objectives and how you can take it to its intended destination.
What should be the font size in a resume?
There is no hard and fast rule. It is all a matter of convention. The preferred industry standard or practice could vary from time to time. The rule of thumb should be to ensure that what you have written is not crammed and is legible and well laid out to make a pleasing impression. But don’t worry. You will not be jailed for using a font that is not in vogue. At best, you might put the interviewer off!
Action words for resume writing?
Resumes normally denote action. So, make sure you use actionable words in them. Describe an action verb and then follow it up with the task that you performed, and what results you got out of these. This order is likely to make a better impression on the interviewer. When you state tangible numbers or percentages, and the time period at which you achieved all that you did, it is sure to make a big impact and irons out any vagueness.
Where it is not possible to mention numbers, make sure you show that what you did improved or facilitated things or removed bottlenecks in some or another identifiable area of work. Remember, or rather, never forget that all these have to align with the job you are applying for.
How to Tell Your Story on LinkedIn?
Where marketing yourself in the job market is concerned, LinkedIn is a goldmine, and that is putting it middy. What else does one term a platform that has a membership of half a billion professionals and whose market valuation is the size of a few national economies?
The key to making an impact on a platform like this is to know the audience. You are not addressing school children or rookies among working professionals. It is mostly the cream of professionals that see LinkedIn, and your prospective employer being there is almost 100% assured.
The thing with a mature platform like LinkedIn is to put across yourself, whether it is seeking a job opportunity, or making your viewpoint, in a freewheeling, free flowing story. The most formal content can get interesting when it is put across like a story. And, who is one who can tell a story? Someone whose candidature goes beyond just the resume or CV, right? So, keep these points in mind when addressing your LinkedIn audience:
- Brand, brand, brand! A LinkedIn profile is more than just a resume, as I just mentioned. It should be a lot more interesting when you write your story here. Keep this platform to pitch and promote yourself, rather than go scouting for opportunities. Present yourself (your story) in a manner that captivates and excites your audience, which could include potential employers.
- Start with a flashy description: You may be a jobseeker, but LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to say a lot more about yourself. Brand yourself in standout terms like “problem solver”, “public speaker”, “thought leader”, etc. instead of the bland and inane positions you have come to associate your profile with!
- Build a story around your profile: In any part of your profile, be it the summary, work experience, or your education, make it a point to tell it in a very pleasing manner that appeals to the audience. Make a big thing about the impact you have made to organizations you have worked for. It is sure to get noticed when the relevant HR professional or hiring manager sees your resume.
- Show your credentials in jazzy ways: The purpose of projecting yourself on LinkedIn is because it gives you the chance to do so, something a job portal or a company website which asks for your resume cannot. So, make sure you show all that matters to a prospective employer. Remember to highlight what difference you have made at various stages of your career.
In addition, make the best use of it to present the other side of your personality, such as the social projects you may have undertaken, the orphanage you may visit every weekend, the kind of movies and plays you attend, and so on.
- Build recommendations and endorsements: Recommendations and endorsements are major sections in LinkedIn. Understand how to make the best use of these features. The more recommendations and endorsements you have earned, it goes without saying, the stronger your candidature is. Never lose an opportunity to build a network of past and present colleagues. Their validation is a certificate that can hang around your neck for a long time.
- Keep appearing: Most important of all, LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to present many things about your personality and your proficiency in a way few others can. If you keep contributing to LinkedIn through articles, blogs, etc., or even keep sharing those that you are interested in and you believe people in your groups are too, then don’t waste time. Start writing immediately. This will not only show you as someone who knows what she is doing; it also creates a positive opinion in the minds of someone who could be looking to hire you!
The essence of making yourself seen or heard on LinkedIn is that it should make you stand out without sounding boastful. It should show your professional journey and achievements in such a manner that the person seeing your story should gain solid insights of the kind of professional you are, and the ways in which hiring you is going to benefit her organization.
Various Resume Formats:
Like most types of structured writing, a resume also needs to have a format. In today’s job industry trends, these are the 3 most popular format types:
This is what is also called the reverse-chronological format of resume writing. The name says it all: Start your career history in the REVERSE chronological order, i.e., starting from the latest and then going down to the oldest. The reason for this is simple: what you have done of late is very pertinent as compared to what you may have done a decade earlier.
One fundamental doubt many people have is this: What if I did long back was more valuable and tested my abilities more than what I did lately? Well, I will take this as a valid point. But come to think of how the interviewer is going to see this. For her, your latest accomplishments matter more than what you may have done in the distant past. That event or achievement may have made you proud then, but what matters to the employer is what counts. Having said this, there are instances where such a format also helps. I will come to that in the next section.
So, what all should go into the resume that is written in the reverse chronological order? Obviously, the following:
- Professional experience starting from the latest to the oldest
- Additional skills
- Contact details.
And, your chronological resume is done!
The next popular type of resume format is the functional one. In fact, this is what I had told you in the previous section where I talked about the doubts people may have about a chronological resume. Where there are multiple gaps or shifts in your career history, this functional resume suits best. Come to think of it. You could have shifted jobs or industries or your profile from time to time. In such cases, you need to show that you were more or less equally good at everything you did or tried.
In the functional resume, everything else about the chronological resume remains but for this part.
Now, moving on to the last of the resume formats, we have what is called the hybrid resume format. This again is simple to understand from the name. Some candidates could have a combination of both these factors discussed above. It is all about how smartly you organize the elements of both a chronological and a functional resume to churn out one that doesn’t seem odd.
The trick in working out a hybrid resume is to emphasize your achievements in the beginning and then go on to narrate your career journey. So, finally, it is all about how effectively you balance these aspects so that you have a resume that does not seem disjointed, something that presents holes that employers can pick up easily.
Resume Formats Vs Applicant Tracking System
Ah…remember, I had made a small promise about something? I will dwell a little on the Applicant Tracking System in this section. These days, most hiring companies employ software solutions that will automate many of the processes that they would otherwise be required to do manually. After all, that is what a software solution is meant to be. So, when it comes to the selection process, most organizations run an ATS. What this system does is simple: it is fed certain instructions about what to look for in a resume which it uses to either reject or to pass to the next stage.
When it recognizes words that it is meant to pass, it does it. Or else, it rejects the resume. At its simplest, this is what an ATS does. Now, how do you gatecrash through an ATS? Simple: by outsmarting it. And, how do you do it? Simpler: just simply copy and paste the keywords listed in the job description and place them in the resume!
This is the easiest and simplest means of making the machine get the impression that the resume has all that the organization is looking for. Remember, the ATS is only programmed to read these keywords, and not your face! One tip, though: being smart, make sure you sprinkle these job description keywords and don’t copy them and paste them verbatim, as they are in the job ad.
What are the common mistakes of a resume? Top Red Flags
List of five of the most common resume writing mistakes
With all the best intentions, many people end up making a few mistakes that could scuttle their chances of making it. These are some of the most common mistakes that I see in a resume, in no particular order:
Outdated Resume rules you need to stop following:
- Stating career objective at the beginning
- Giving references in the resume
- Making a list of ALL the jobs you have worked in
- Making a list of your personal details, such as family, children, etc.
- Describing yourself in poetic ways. The ATS doesn’t understand head or tail of these words!
How to Write a Resume That Stands Out | 17 Simple Steps
Before I wind up and get to the final sections of this blog, I would like to summarize for you these 17 steps that, I am confident, when followed, will help you land your dream job with a resume that the employer simply cannot miss:
- 1. List down all that you want to write in your resume
2. Organize the inputs such as education, certificates, etc.
3. Understand the job market well before applying
4. Structure your resume thoroughly, such as in the order mentioned in this blog
5. Give appropriate weightage to each of the sections
6. The heading and summary should make the reader interested in you
7. Use simple but effective words
8. Write action items in a matter of fact manner without going overboard. Remember the golden rule of the tone of the CV: it should speak about you, and should neither shout nor murmur
9. Decide if you want to include a cover letter
10. Maintain a set chronological order
11. Most important of all: Show how your profile fits into the organization’s vision and business goals and show how you can be an asset to it in helping it to get there
12. Learn to use LinkedIn well
13. Proofread and spell check the document. Spelling errors at crucial phases or jumbled order of your career journey can set a bad example
14. Use the right font. Calibri is the most popular one in today’s job market
15. Avoid the red flags mentioned in this blog, as these errors can throw the interviewer off you
16. Your resume is your passport to your career. So, it has to change as you evolve
17. Be CONFIDENT!
Bonus Resume Writing Tips:
Let us wind up this blog with a few bonus resume writing tips!
- What tense should be used when writing a resume? Active
- When writing a resume do you put most recent first: Yes
- When writing a resume should you use “I”? NO!
- Which font is best for resume writing? Calibri, even if you have no particular love for it!
Dear readers, what do you think of the information provided in this blog? We are confident that reading this will help you improve your chances of making it to the next level in your career. Do you too feel so?
Please write to us about what you think about this blog. And yes, please also utilize this space to fill up the quiz we gave you in the beginning! If there is anything that you feel is lacking in this blog, please let us know. We would love to fill this information up for your benefit.
Now that you have gained clarity on how to write a resume, let us get ready for the next step, viz., HOW TO PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW.
Watch this space in the coming days!