Resumes That Stand Out
This page will describe some simple yet crucial aspects of building your resume in order to give yourself a competitive edge when applying for a job. A well written resume is one that is simple, well structured and describes your experience in a professional, detailed and readable manner.
There is no formula or “right” way of writing a good resume however there are misconceptions or simple errors that can ruin the chances of an otherwise knowledgeable and experienced candidate.
What you need to be mindful of is that the employer or the agent may have no prior knowledge of you and your achievements and your resume is perhaps the one and only way of demonstrating your background. As a rule of thumb regardless of whether you have cover letters or would like to describe your background to the prospect on the phone, everything about your professional experience must be listed on your resume. If it is not there then you have not done it.
1. How to Structure
The best structure in a resume is a simple and readable structure. Many people and resume writing agencies go to large extents to add colors or flashy options within Microsoft word document. Not only they are not necessary, they can actually work against you.
The best structure in a resume uses appropriate and consistent use of font type, font size, bullet points and simple options such as headings, bold, italic or makes use of tables. You will need to ensure you use the same font type across the entire resume and the headings will need to have the same font size or bold/italic format. In some European countries candidates also include a picture of themselves within their resume. While this is not necessary in Australia, if you do decide to do it you must ensure this is a professional picture rather than a casual picture.
You can start by specifying your name, contact details (phone number and email) and depending on your preference you can also specify your residential address.
You may or may not choose to include this field and specify your objective. If you do decide to include it, you need to ensure it is no longer than two sentences, one sentence specifying your experience that relates to the job, the other your ambitions relating to the job.
Example applying for a job as a Visual Basic Programmer in insurance industry
I have an extensive Visual Basic development background and a bachelor degree in Information technology currently seeking a challenging opportunity within software development in insurance industry.
Using appropriate headings you can choose to list either your education background OR your employment history next. It doesn’t matter which goes first, if you feel the job is putting more importance on education then list that first or vise-versa.
You will need to specify what course you did at what institution and during what years/months. If you have done multiple courses ensure you have listed them within a chronological order from the latest to the earliest.
Example of listing education
Bachelor of Electrical Engineering
University of Technology Sydney – Sydney Campus
January 2000 – December 2004
If you have achieved outstanding results at the university you may include such results (ie: graduated with average high-distinction) right under each education entry. However ensure you have documents to prove, if the employer does enquire.
You must specify the company, the title and the dates you worked. If your previous companies are well-known you must stay away from un-necessary comments about who the company is and what they do (unless if you were operating within a distinctive taskforce within the company that is worthwhile mentioning).
Try to avoid including any obvious or un-necessary information so that you will have more space to include crucial points about your experience. This section is about what YOU did and not what the company or the team you were in did. Although you can “briefly” mention the purpose of the team you must ensure that using the right keywords, you precisely describe your accomplishments within this job.
Do not allow this section to turn into an essay, use precise and to the point bullet points that address your experience, indirectly describing how you will be suitable for the job at hand.
Also stay away from inventing job titles and use the mainstream job titles that are understood by the majority of employers. For example “Software Coordination Officer” is an exaggerated example of how companies and candidates go about inventing titles that are essentially another way of expressing a mainstream job title such as a “Technical Business Analyst”.
XYZ Software Solutions
ERP Senior Architect
June 2006 – July 2008
XYZ software solutions is a medium sized software vendor operating within Enterprise Resource Planning space across Australia and Asia Pacific region with clients ranging from mining to retail and financial industry.
I was assigned as the main architect within the practice that was responsible for maintaining current and future clientele in mining sector.
On job accomplishments:
Manage and oversee 6 full life-cycle implementation of XYZ software;
Provision of architecture framework strategy for clients in Brisbane, Perth and Beijing;
Review, analysis and documentation of the clients’s ERP architecture artifacts;
Design and implementation of best practice architecture which entailed the connections and plug-ins between ERP, CRM and Business Intelligence systems;
Liaison with internal and external stakeholders during the project life-cycle;
Identification of new sales opportunities that resulted in increasing consulting sales activity by 20%;
Offering long-term architecture strategy to XYZ clients resulting in most clients saving up to 40% of their operation cost;
As you can see in the above there is no section called “responsibilities”, simply because the responsibility does not necessary imply what you actually did but rather what you were supposed to do. There is also a short “achievement” section included under the same job to point out some of the stand-out results the candidate was able to achieve while performing the job.
Ensure all jobs are listed in a similar fashion in a chronological order starting from the last job to the earlier roles.
You may or may not choose to include this. This can be included right after the objectives or at the end of the resume under the previous positions (It makes no difference). Some people rather to create a table or to write short sentences about technical or functional skills they have (Again it makes no difference). The only rule of thumb with this is to keep it well structured and to the point.
Years of experience Last used Efficiency/10
Visual Basic 6 Present 8/10
Java 2 < 2 years 4/10
You will need to mention all relevant certifications (ie: ITIL, TOGAF, PMP) within your resume. This can be done under education or better yet under a separate section called Certifications
2. How to use keywords
Another important part to remember is that often your resume is stored on a database application system or an online system. The employer or the agent often run a keyword or skills search similar to a Boolean search to find your resume. Most systems look at the frequency and precedence of the keywords within all resumes against the search criteria to prioritize and list resumes. Frequency of the combination of the keywords is often more important than anything else in order to list your resume above everyone else’s resume.
What you can do about this is to ensure that you think about the combination of keywords in your area of practice and elaborate and mention those keywords within your CV in details. The combination of these keywords will need to be mentioned in a detailed, frequent and yet appropriate manner within the context of your resume. In other words an un-necessary repetition of a keyword may list your resume higher in a search but it can jeopardize your resume writing skills when someone actually reads it..
It is best to describe your experience under each role (and perhaps under the skills matrix/table) using the right keywords without repeating the same thing. For example if the skill in question is Visual Basic you can list some of the main applications you developed or how you used Visual Basic under each role without repeating the same point more than once.
3. Use of colors and other options
Unless if you are applying for a job in an industry/company that requires a lot of art-work and creativity, it is strongly advised to leave your resume in a black and white format. Stay clear from anything on your resume that requires the user to click on something to be taken to another section of your resume. Remember the point of your resume is strictly to demonstrate that through your previous experience and education you meet or exceed the criteria for the job at hand and not how creative you can be with colors or options on Microsoft word documents.
4. Grammar and Spelling
One of the most important aspects of an outstanding resume is good grammar and spelling. This not only plays an important part in how well your skills are understood by the reader but also demonstrates the level of your communication and writing skills (provided you are the one writing the resume).
Do not rely on Microsoft word to fix your grammar or spelling. Read and re-read your resume picking on any potential issues. If in doubt, you can ask an expert or use one of the better online websites that offer grammar and spelling checks to users.
As a final word it is important to be mindful that each resume at first instance is given mere seconds to impress the reader. Often for each job the recipient receives several resumes and it will be difficult to spend time reading a resume that fails to clearly demonstrate experience and capabilities. Resumes that are written in an essay or report format make it increasingly difficult for the reader to make any conclusions and may well be disregarded.