So your company stocks are laughing stocks, and your boss can’t find his posterior with both hands. Sales are down, morale is non-existent, and when you ask what that smell in the office is, the janitor replies “your career prospects”. It’s time to pack up and find yourself a new job, bro. But before you up and leave, check that resume. Everyone knows how to write one, but can you write a killer resume?
"To be honest, I'm just here to use your toilet. But a job interview's good too."
Killer resumes have a set of qualities, which make them stand out. These are:
- Summaries / Timelines
- Creativity (without being gimmicky)
- Clarity Regarding Your Expectations
- Effective Phrasing
Why a former career in the CIA makes resume writing a nightmare.
If you look on the net, you’ll see a lot of sites that offer to write your resume for you. If it’s a trial or free service, get them to the write a few pages, then do the rest yourself. But unless you’re at the “My wrk is gud” stage, you should save some money and DIY.
Thanks to Jocelyn Mok (freelance HR consultant) for her help in the following.
Your resume should contain relevant information. Damn, I’m like, Sherlock Holmes or something.
But seriously, this isn’t as obvious as it sounds. A lot of people don’t realize what’s “relevant” to an employer. Job experience and education should top the list, but don’t forget hobbies or volunteer activities. If you’re going for an advertising job, for example, hobbies like photography or painting might be relevant. Likewise, volunteer work (such as counselling) might make all the difference in getting a sales job.
"My secretary's checking the relevance of your qualifications right now."
In case the connection isn’t obvious, you can raise it for the employer. For example:
“I believe that making people listen means being a good listener yourself. When I was a counsellor for social services…”
“I can work well with photographers, because as an amateur photographer myself…”
“I have no problems facing down armed criminals, because as a former American high school teacher…”
Jocelyn also mentions that, in some companies, hobbies are important to corporate culture:
“Billabong used to be quite famous for this. They had a thing where everyone who worked for them was a surfer, or was heavily into surfing. Another company I worked for, it was important to them that their staff liked going to concerts. Because they did events. So when they saw a resume that mentioned music, it would immediately be under consideration.”
But don’t get carried away. Mention one or two hobbies that you think may be relevant, and mention why. Put this information in the bottom part of your profile or overview.
2. Summaries / Timelines
"I like to be thorough. So, my timeline starts with my ancestors arriving in…"
There are some resume formats that lack summaries or timelines. As far as bad ideas go, this one is right up there with ringworm diets. Resumes with walls of text are psychologically unappealing, no matter how awesome their content is.
Odds are, the person reading your resume is in a rush. Think about it: if they’re looking for a “network engineer on short notice”, their entire office might be stumbling around without an intranet. If the boss’s lunch was half a bottle of aspirin seasoned with chewed-off fingernails, she’s probably not in the mood to read resumes.
Jocelyn mentions that:
“No one wants to admit it, but when you’re in a rush and there’s so many resumes, you’re not really reading all of them. You’re sort of just skimming and dividing them into piles. If yours doesn’t have a summary or timeline, it might just get thrown aside.”
3. Creative Without Being Gimmicky
Very clever! I'll read it on your way OUT THE DOOR!
Creative resumes might let you do things with the documents after they’re read. They might also have a specific theme to them. For example, a travel writer’s resume may have a border that shows photos of exotic locales, and maybe it can be folded in to form a picture. The trick to creative resumes is to match it your audience. Jocelyn enlightens us:
“Look at the company website, look at the company’s products. That will tell you how liberal you can be with you resume. If your hobby includes things like photography, for example, or you’ve done something unusual, you can include some of your photos.
I read a resume once where the prospective employer had cut-and-fold instructions on the back of each sheet, and you could fold a small model ship. But it was kept to the back, and it didn’t get in the way of the legibility. And it was relevant to his job, which involved sail adventures.”
4. Clarity Regarding Your Expectations
"So you want to work for this beer company to…put hair on your chest?"
Have you ever wanted to buy something, and then been unable to find the price or checkout?
Yeah, it’s frustrating. Sometimes you’re convinced by the pitch, you’d like to pay, you just can’t find the option. Make sure your resume doesn’t make your employer feel that way. You should always include:
- Some idea of your desired pay (if not a number, then write something like “entry level”)
- The key benefits you are looking for
- The prospects you’re hoping to find
- When you expect to start work
If you don’t include these details, your prospective employers will fill in the blanks themselves. Possibly, they’ll assume you want a bigger salary than you actually do.
5. No Buzzwords
"I understand the specific words you use. It' when you string them into a sentence that's the problem."
Drop the clichéd words and phrases. When you pepper your resume with buzzwords, your prospective employer isn’t impressed. In fact, she’s probably rolling her eyes and mentally comparing you to a fertilizer factory. Avoid the following words:
- People person
Jocelyn mentions that:
“None of those words mean anything specific. Rather than say you’re creative or innovative, just explain what you’ve invented. Focus on documenting your achievements in your resume. No need to say you’re resourceful, professional, a people person…promoting yourself is one thing, but when you start labelling yourself, the effect is quite negative.”
Got any questions about your resume? Comment about it, and maybe Jocelyn will help you review it!
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