Recently, as many of you know, I applied for the job of district manager for the census. I went through the application process, revised my résumé, looked over those skills that I needed to do an interview and eventually I got the job. Part of that job has been recruiting my own team of 36 area supervisors.
Over the past few weeks I have read over 200 résumés. Mostly, these have been written by more mature people, often retired professionals. It’s very clear that quite a few of them haven’t had to write résumés for years. Most of them would have learned to write résumés (or CVs) decades ago. Unfortunately, that’s not the most effective way to write résumés today. A good résumé makes you stand out when you send it or hand it across to your interviewer, and it makes you memorable when people are looking through those applications later on.
These days there are a lot of more mature people who are searching for jobs. So in this newsletter I’m going to give you some tips on how to spruce up your résumé and how to keep it current. Even if you don’t need this information yourself, maybe you know somebody who could benefit from it. Please feel free to share the link to the tips.
If it’s been a long time since you wrote your last résumé, and you need to update it, here are some tips to help you.
- Who are you today?
Over the years your skills, goals, and experience have all changed. You need to let this ‘new you’ shine through in your new résumé. It’s common today to start a résumé with a ‘professional profile’—no more than a hundred words—which highlights who you are, what your skills are, and what the organisation will gain by hiring you.
- Summary of qualifications and proficiencies.
These days you don’t have to list the year of the qualification, the place that you got it etc, the way you used to—although you can do that at the end of your summary. In the summary, you pick out which qualifications are going to be of most use to your prospective employer.
- What have you achieved?
We used to list our employment history, with dates. These days, it isn’t enough just to say that you’ve held a job. What your prospective employer wants to know is what you’ve accomplished. What you actually achieved is what makes the difference between run-of-the-mill employees and excellent employees. If you were promoted quickly within your job, say so. If you supervised a team, saved the firm money, increased turnover, created some new way of working, was put in charge of some aspect of your job—these are the things that make you stand out.
- Update your terminology
Make sure the terms that you’re using in your resume are up-to-date and your examples are up-to-date. Don’t say things like ‘secretarial support’— use ‘office support’ or ‘administrative support’. Change words like ‘personnel’ to ‘human resources’. You don’t have to change the names of departments but you may have to update the names of organisations. Get rid of things that are no longer relevant such as references to computer languages that people don’t use any more, and make sure you include an email address and professional social media links (such as your professional website and LinkedIn.)
- What is a résumé these days?
These days a résumé is not a record of your entire working history. It’s actually a marketing tool that sells you to your prospective employer. For each jb that you apply for, only list your relevant jobs, education and skills. Get rid of the other information. Each résumé that you send out should be individually tailored to the job.
Make it up-to date. You don’t need to include your Uni activities if you’re more than 10 years out of Uni, for example. Your early jobs working in retail are not relevant if you have since embarked on a professional career. You don’t need to list any job that has nothing to do with the position for which you are applying. Your interviewers don’t have much time to read your résumé so they want to be able to see everything relevant at a glance.
- Summarise the old stuff
Summarise any positions that you left more than 10 years ago. Expand on your more recent accomplishments.
- Make sure your résumé looks fresh and contemporary.
- You can use a little bit of colour for example, in headings.
- Use bullet points.
- Add white space.
- Use a contemporary sans serif font such as Calibri.
- Use left-hand alignment for the headings.
- Use links if you are sending a resume electronically. Link to your website, or online examples of your work.
- Revise your résumé on a regular basis, incorporating any new achievements.
- A résumé should be between one and three pages.
Nobody has any time to read anything longer than that (and those three pages should be easy to scan and read. They shouldn’t be written in 10 point!) Be ruthless. Get rid of anything that is not required, and summarise as much as you can.
- Proofread your work
Please, and this is so important, proofread your résumé before you send it out. Get somebody else to look at it. You don’t want to be put into the ‘acceptable’ pile instead of the ‘highly acceptable’ pile because you didn’t take the time to proofread your work. Sloppy proofreading tells your prospective employer that you pay no attention to detail.
If you have any other tips please add them in the comments below.
Until next time, write well, write with passion, and use all your writing for good.