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Job applications are an important milestone in life. As you’re sending out piles of resumes to hundreds of companies, you are heralding a new stage of life. Chances are you’re pretty daunted. Think of the importance of resume writing like you think of a food presentation. No matter what the food in front of you tastes like, you’d want it to be presented well, right? Especially if you know it tastes good. A resume is exactly like that.
So let us answer the big question: how do you write the perfect resume?
Before anything else, let’s get this out of the way: a CV and a resume are not the same. They both serve the same purpose: they are a list of your experience and skill sets that you write out to secure your dream job. But the key distinction is that they differ in length. CVs are generally longer than resumes, but a resume is what you’re likely to be asked during a job application.
A CV stands for curriculum vitae, which translates to “the course of my life” in Latin. Apt to its name, it is a list of your education history, work experience, achievements, and skill sets. The shorter your career is, the shorter your CV is – but a CV can range anywhere between 2 or 3 and even 10 pages.
A resume is a concise version of a CV. It is the most common document asked for a job application and is usually limited to a single page. What it is essentially is that is a marketing document that presents you as the perfect applicant for potential employers to hire.
Note: There are various resume formats you can choose from. So it’s best to do a bit of research before picking a layout best suited to your line of work.
Whether it’s your first job, or you’re a job application veteran, use this list to check if you have all the things you need to cross the threshold of unemployment:
Include your email ID, phone number, and (if you have one) your LinkedIn account. Potential employers should be able to contact you.
This is a short bio that acts as a preamble to your resume. It’s essentially a summary of your skill set and your subsequent professional aspirations. It shouldn’t be more than two or three sentences long, is and usually placed at the top of your resume.
If you’re new to the workforce, this might be the most difficult section to fill up. But what works to your advantage is that you can play around a bit with this one. Here, you can add internships and even clubs or cells where you might have worked at college. Seriously, it works. It’s also a good idea for you to create a story through your work history: in other words, highlight the aspects of the job that show how your experience and prospective job are related.
In this section, you can add things that you are good at. Make sure the skills you add in this section are relevant to the position you are applying for.
If you don’t have a lot of professional experience under your belt, include information about your academic background in your resume. In addition to your school/college qualifications, include your achievements and accolades as a subsection to give it depth. Extracurriculars are also recommended. Clubs, sporting events, competitions that you represented your school in — that kind of thing.
Depending on the position you’re applying for, nowadays, it’s also a good idea to add some of your social media handles. A professional networking site like LinkedIn is essential. If you’re applying for anything that involves you being on the internet on a regular basis — like social media marketing, for example — some employers even ask about your Facebook, Twitter, etc. After all, in today’s day and age, social media has become an important currency of communication.
If you’re in a creative profession (such as content, graphic design, or web development), add links to work samples or a portfolio. Providing examples of your work is an excellent way to substantiate the skills you’ve put in the resume. If you don’t have enough work evidence, create your own samples by working on topics of your choice.
Once you’re done with all of the above things, it’s a good idea to go through this list of guidelines to ensure that you’re going on the right track.
The summary of your resume is the first thing a recruiter will notice. If done well, it can be a powerful introduction to your skill set, your professional expertise, and even you as a person! Craft a summary that conveys why you’re a good addition to the organization, rather than simply stating your career goals.
A resume summary is a also good place for you to highlight some personal (but relevant) interests and qualities – something that will definitely grab the attention of your soon-to-be employer.
Your resume portrays you in the best light, and an effective way to do that is to provide proof! Directly stating your qualifications and job responsibilities definitely show that you know what needs to be done. But that doesn’t demonstrate the impact you’ve made through your work. In each bullet point, highlight how you put your skills and expertise to use. For example:
❌ “Effectively improved sales last quarter”
✔️ “Managed cross-departmental teams to accomplish a stalled development project that effectively led to a 25% revenue increase.”
The one thing that recruiters and employers hate is constructing the idea of a person through their misshapen CV or resume. If you write words like “go-getter”, “team player” or “innovative forward-thinker”, they might do more harm than good. Buzzwords and phrases like these are far too generic, not to mention overused, and are quite off-putting. Hiring managers are not going to buy it, that’s for certain.
If you want the recruiters to know that you are a “go-getter” or a “team player”, it is better to illustrate it through examples of your past work.
Lying might be portrayed as a widespread resume/CV phenomenon, but it is better not to do it. Remember that recruiters have access to your personal details and could do a background check if something doesn’t add up. Fictitious work experience, improved scores in examinations, and such will be thoroughly investigated. And if you are caught fibbing, you will definitely be out of contention for that role or for any future roles in that company.
Also, even if you manage to get away with lying, the main problem that might hit you in the face is that you will struggle to perform up to the expectations that you set at the start.
The “one-size-fits-all” rule is best left to garments on sale and not your resume. Creating one standard resume format to be sent out in bulk indicates a lazy approach and disinterest in a specific job listing. Despite having the required experience, your vague resume could spoil your chances. There are also chances of really silly errors like entering the wrong company’s name – and nothing sends your resume to the trash faster than that! Always take some time to rearrange and edit your resume to suit a company’s specific needs.
Invest some time in making your resume look visually appealing. You can arrange your sections in such a way that it makes the sheet easier to read. Believe me, your interviewers will be grateful. If visual arts isn’t your cup of tea, take advantage of the numerous pre-existing templates that applications like Canva have to make your document look beautiful. Splash some color to it, and spice up the plain white sheet you would have otherwise turned in. But don’t overdo it (Our recommendation: minimalism. You can never go wrong.)
There’s a lot to be said in a resume, but you also have to keep it all to a single phrase. So carefully edit your resume to ensure that everything in it is relevant to the application. Rather than worrying about the length, focus on the text. If you know how to make every word count, you might even get away with a slightly longer resume. Take Faulkner to heart, and kill your darlings. It’ll be worth it when you’re finally chilling in the office of your dreams.
You might dismiss spelling mistakes, but we assure you that hiring departments won’t! Grammar and language mistakes display a lack of attention to detail and general misgivings of incompetence. All your experience and accomplishments will be for nought if there’s a typo to go with it. Read it out loud, or get a friend to proofread and edit your resume before sending it out. If you can afford it, you can also get some professional help to make your resume top-notch.
Now that you have all the content you need for a resume, let’s talk about making it even better. You have all the ingredients, but there’s still something missing. The “X factor”. The thing that gives all your “ingredients” semblance and meaning. For a resume, the “X factor” is the way you customize your applications to make your resume seem more personal and appealing.
You’re probably applying to a lot of places to keep your options open (good going!), and it is best that each application has minor changes. A way to go about this is to give your resume a theme of sorts, that aligns your experience with the job you are applying for. In fact, if you see that your resume already looks cluttered, it’s a good idea to filter out your skills as well. If you’re applying for jobs in multiple fields (this is perfectly normal when you’re applying for your first few jobs), single out the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the industry you want to work in and the organization you want to work with.
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