Dos – Best Practices Guide
Why a great Resume could be a foot in the door
You have most likely heard that if you can write a resume that stands out, your chances to get past the first screen and into an interview increase substantially, right? And that that would already contribute to much better odds for success? Be that as it may, recruiters go through hundreds of resumes per day, which makes impressing them a much trickier game than it seems. Fun fact, a simple typo or grammatical mishap has been reason enough to place a good CV in the scrap pile.
But it is not all bad! The Resume, with capital R, can be a powerful gateway to individuality and innovation, and thus can be shaped to reflect your best side.
Of course, each industry has a standard format and hiring executives would, more often than not, prefer it if you stuck to it. That doesn’t mean you ought to go looking for the most widely used template and go with it – it means that you need to find a smart way to respect the industry’s tradition but still manage to throw in a twist to your resume that will make the hiring manager give it a second & third glance.
Therefore, in this article we will cover what we consider to be the best practices in writing a resume that makes a difference. After all, once you know how to do it, putting a successful resume together is easy.
Oh, and just to be nice, we will also provide you with a few high-quality resume templates. Sounds good? Alright. Let’s dive in.
Keep it concise!
First things first – first impressions are crucial.
The number one rule is always “Keep it concise”! You don’t want to irritate the person who will read your resume before he’s even read a single word. In fact, in 99% of cases, junior candidates are expected to submit a single page resume.
So, make sure you remember this when you sit down and think on how to write a resume that will impress the recruiters. Some of them read 1 page resumes only.
The rule of thumb here is 1 page per 5 years of experience, even 10, according to Business Insider’s Guide. This space should be enough for you to fit all relevant achievements and skills you have.
Humility may be a virtue but when it comes to writing a resume that gets you considered, you ought to be saying it how it is, and saying it with confidence.
The main goal is to catch the recruiter’s attention: creating a styled list of your skills and abilities is one way to do get this done. In that sense, don’t be afraid to list your achievements and highlight how and why they are remarkable.
And do not worry, you are not being braggy. You are simply showing that you are confident in your suitability for the position.
Keep it relevant & up-to-date!
Keeping in mind that your resume is the current reflection of you, it is crucial that it is regularly updated and tailored to the specific position you are interested in.
Consider what may happen if this is isn’t the case… You are at an interview and you are discussing how much you enjoyed taking part in your university’s investment club. Naturally, the interviewer glances at your resume for a cross-reference but doesn’t find this information on the page. They point this out to you. You now find yourself in a position where you need to explain that you joined the club not-so-long-ago, that you did not consider it imperative to have it noted down in the first place… Now you are explaining why… Messy.
And what must be the recruiter thinking? They will be perplexed as to why you did not submit an updated resume for sure. Maybe you weren’t that interested in the position; maybe your attention to detail is not as finely tuned as it would optimally be. In any case, not a very flattering side of you to portray.
Moral of the story – make sure you spend some time on your resume before a submission with a new company, industry, etc. Negligence profits nobody!
Make the job description work for you!
In a previous article we already discussed the importance of job descriptions and how both hiring managers and candidates use them as a reference point. Among other things, a job description can give you an idea of the general way the interview will go, a question or two that may be asked, and so on.
But this is not all the ways in which job descriptions come in handy. They also allow you to tailor your resume to the specific position and to use key words that will get the hiring manager’s favor.
An excellent way to ensure your resume is making good use of all the resources available is to follow a plan like the one below when writing or editing it for submission.
- First, read the job description well and create a list of keywords that describe the perfect candidate;
- Second, adapt your resume accordingly – customize your resume for each company and position;
- Finally, optimize your resume for SEO. Yeah, that’s right. Many recruiters filter resumes by keywords. So make sure your resume contains keywords that are part of the job description. Forbes states keywords optimization is crucial for the first selection you need to pass in the digital environment for your resume to reach the recruiters.
Customize it to stand out!
As a rule, generic resumes you send to all companies aren’t the best idea. They are less powerful in attracting the attention of your desired company. If you are not happy with always being below the radar of HR and hiring execs, you need to consider tailoring your resume to the position you are applying for. That way you will be able to control which aspects of your experience you emphasize, what your strong points are for the position at hand, and ultimately who your professional self is.
Let’s say you are searching for a private equity job. You wrote your thesis on a topic directly connected to the activities you will perform: “Screening methods used by Private Equity firms.”
Although this information would typically not be included in a generic resume, it would do a lot of good if mentioned in this instance. Specifically, you are going to attract the attention of people interested in hiring a young professional with a consistent interest in the field.
Conclusion? Whenever possible, remember adjust your resume for the position you are applying for. It may take longer, but each application will have higher chances of success.
Make it “Count”!
Indeed, a super efficient way of standing out and making an impression with your 1 page resume is to quantify your achievements. In other words, provide proof to the readers of your resume that you achieved something important. It will absolutely make a positive impression.
By and large hiring managers like concrete facts, information that “could be touched and felt.” How do you achieve this? Start with an active verb, then measure what you accomplished, provide a baseline for your comparison, and finally specify what you did to achieve your goal.
Consider these two descriptions:
“Graduated from the London School of Economics with excellent grades.”
“Graduated from the London School of Economics with an excellent degree, in the top 10% of a class of 120; accomplished through performance in Financial Math, Corporate Finance, Accounting, and other subjects.”
The second one is better, right? First you present yourself as a successful graduate. Then, specifying that you were in the top 10% makes the statement a lot more powerful. Finally, adding “120” anticipates the reviewer’s question whether 10% is significant.
So, remember that and try to think how you can quantify your achievements. And if in doubt, you can always use the following formula:
- Numerical Measurement of the achievement;
- Efforts to accomplish the achievement.
Reveal your personality – it could make the difference!
Or why the “Interests” section of a Resume is more important than most people think.
Okay, time to go to the self-reflection corner.
Are you the type of person who sticks to the point and only puts directly relevant information in your resume, or are the type who believes it is okay to stray a bit from the well-beaten path and give something extra?
If the former, here is some perspective: hiring managers often want to know how much of a good fit you will be; will you fit right in with the company dynamic, will you click with the people, will the company values speak to you on something more than a superficial level, and so on. And you want to give them a chance to evaluate this!
A subtle way to achieve this is to put that something extra in your resume – share your personal interests. Better still, present them in a way that works for you.
Compare the following statements:
“Watching movies, going outside with friends, playing video games.”
“Traveling to new places, participating in chess tournaments, and acting as head to my college’s Investments club.”
The second set of interests sounds better, right? It involves group activities, shows leadership and intellectual qualities. It gives a more favorable hint about the person’s personality, and it is not as generic as the first one.
Any sports persons out there? If you played any sports, it is highly recommended you proudly add that to your interests. For one, people who were trained in a sport tend to be outgoing and disciplined. In addition, it is likely some of your interviewers played that sport, which will automatically create a connection. To spell this out – it is crucial to attempt to build rapport with your interviewer, and people like others who are similar to them. To be a bit more blunt, top executives don’t just want someone who’s qualified for the job; they want someone who will be interesting to spend time with.
That said, a well-structured interests section can reveal a lot about your personality. Are you an active or a passive person? Are you a leader or do you work better under supervision? Whatever the case is, a thought-out personal interests section can be the difference between a good candidate and a perfect fit. So, when you list crucial milestones on how to write a resume that stands out, don’t forget the “interests” section.
Make it credible!
Some employers ask for references. They want to learn first-hand how you performed and the impression you made at one of your previous jobs.
Ideally, you related to a high-ranking person in one of your previous experiences, and now that person is ready to vouch for you. In this case and for the intended purposes, anyone with the word “manager” in his job title will do the trick.
Note, however, that what you must always do is to talk with the person before listing them as a contact of reference; the last thing you want is for them to be surprised by the call from your interviewers. This can leave an incredibly bad impression.
Sometimes, to avoid the inconvenience of contacting a referrer in vain, candidates write something along the lines of “References Available upon Request” at the end of their resume. Most of the time this works just fine. After all, there is no need to take up space by listing your references, if the person who’s reading the resume does not intend to contact them. If you do want to go the extra mile however, you can include your written references in the Cover Letter but of course make sure you let them know first!
Helpers on the way!
Professional Resume Writers
Well, these are the main guidelines you need to remember when trying to figure out how to write a resume that stands out.
But don’t worry if this seems too daunting for you. We have good news. Tons of professional advisers are available online.
How this works is, you can hire a professional firm that will write your resume for you. Of course, you will still need to submit the information about yourself, and the desired position, but the firm will do the rest and deliver a resume.
Word of caution, when deciding which advising firm to work with, you should carry out extensive research to pick out the one offering the services that best suit your needs. That said, fees may vary from $50 to $250, depending on the type and the quality of service you have in mind.
An alternative way to approach resume creation if a bit uncertain, would be to write the resume with the help of a template. There are tons of resources with predefined resume formats which you can find online, and then adjust them by filling in your personal information (which you will do, of course, with the job description which you are applying for in mind!).
To make this easier, there are typically two types of templates…
These stick firmly to official criteria accepted by all recruiters. Such templates focus more on the content and less on the layout. Using a standardized template is a safe bet and can be used as a starter resume, until you grow more confident in your writing and presentation skills.
The other type of resume templates are what we consider Designer templates. These stand out by being compiled by graphic designers and illustrators and as such the initial selling point of these resumes is layout. Once the first impression is made, however, it still remains up to you to fill in the predefined fields with your experience and qualifications, and make it work for you.
If you are having a hard time finding resources online, here are a couple of places to get you started:
Hloom.com have an impressive database with of resume templates ranging from standardized to more specialized.
Enhancv.com, on the other hand, specialize in designer and personalized resumes and are worth a glance if that’s more the kind of thing you are after.
And these are three complete standard resumes which you can download and edit to make your own.
Be head and shoulders above the others on how to write a resume that stands out!
One last point before we say goodbye, we have put a lot of work into these recommendations and tips and they are valid, specific, and – what we carefully worked towards – easy to implement. We can say this with certainty: you will be one head and a pair of shoulders above the average candidate if you roll up your sleeves and put what you have learned here in your resume!