A guide on how to write a resume
Tips for great resume writing
In order to make the shortlist, your resume must meet most or all of the criteria in the position description. If your credentials are appropriate for the position to which you are applying, here are our tips to make sure your CV stands out.
- Contact details
- Obviously you need to include such basic information as your name, address, telephone numbers and email address. Make sure the e-mail address you use appears professional. email@example.com is not appropriate.
- Professional summary
- Ensure the first area at the top of your resume is a "summary of experience" and includes specific applicable experience as opposed to generalities.
- Consider using words from the job description or posting so that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can recognise them and make a match. This area of your resume should be designed to prove your value proposition and differentiate you from your competition — and shouldn’t list objectives.
- Education and qualifications
- In this section reference your career objective back to the job applied for to give an indication of what you are looking for in your next career move, with an overview of your key achievements.
- Work experience
- This should be listed in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. Include employer names, positions held and primary responsibilities. Use language like “managed” or “oversaw” as recruiters and hiring managers react better to this terminology.
- Quantify your accomplishments where possible. Also, where appropriate, include an indication of salary level achieved and reasons for leaving each position.
- We advise you not to leave gaps in your CV. If you took a year out, carried out an interim assignment, or travelled for six months, say so. If you do include gaps, potential employers can suspect the worst.
- Stating the years, rather than the months you started or finished a role can also send off alarm bells. Writing "2008 - 2009" could be interpreted as employment from December 2008 to January 2009 unless you say otherwise.
- It is also important to include details of two references, such as former employers. If you are a graduate with no work history, include details of a former lecturer.
- Online recommendations are great for showing the skills you are best known for but they are not a substitute for the role references play.
- The referees recruiters and employers value the most are those people you reported to directly. These people can speak about how you used your skills and experience to add value to their organisation.
- Former managers can also speak to your personal attributes such as reliability, ability to build and leverage relationships and whether you collaborate well with other team members.
- Document format
- Most companies will upload your resume into their databases so make sure it is written in a common format. Most applicant tracking systems accept a variety of document formats, including PDF, DOC, TXT, ODF and HTM.
- We suggest using a clean format with no graphics, images or tables. ATS software doesn't pick up images and graphics as they aren't searchable inside the database. Within the text of your resume, it is best not to use any special characters or fonts. Avoid headers and footers, too, as these can be incompatible with most ATS.
- Also, ensure there is plenty of white space. We recommend not placing too much information on one page or using graphics and flowery or small fonts that are difficult to read as they distract from the content.
- If you have your own website profiling your work, include the URL, but do not simply submit the URL address instead of a resume.
- Final checks
- Don't forget to spell check your CV. Remember, it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you, so take the time to get it right. If possible, ask someone to proof read your resume to check for any spelling, layout or typing errors.
- Finally, attach your resume and if requested cover letter to an email, rather than pasting the text into your email program. Pasting text into an email program sometimes causes text to appear on the recipient's screen in a distorted or muddled mess, making it very difficult to read.
- Unless otherwise stated, you do not need to attach copies of certificates relating to educational and/or professional qualifications (including recent academic transcripts) or references from previous employers. You should instead bring these to a job interview.
- Make personal contact
- The best way to make sure your resume is seen is by following up with a phone call.
To make sure you present yourself as the best person for the job, personalise your CV for each position you apply for. Prepare a resume template and adjust for each job application. Expand the section on experience that applies to the job and cut back the space you have devoted to those areas which have little or no value to the role applied for.