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How to write an amazing resume that will get results
September 22, 2015● 8 minute read●
Written by - Jacaranda Team
How do you write an amazing resume that stands out from the crowd?
You probably already know what has to go on your resume. It’s typically some variation of the following:
- Contact details
- Career objectives/overview/summary or opening statement
- List of critical skills and abilities
- Employment history and technical skills
- Personal attributes
- Educational history and qualifications
You should also write a cover letter to send with it, targeting specific people and job openings. Importantly, your resume should be tailored to fit the job you’re applying for. You should avoid ‘silly’ email addresses or other unprofessional behaviour.
Just ticking off this list though doesn’t equate to a great resume. We break down some of our top tips on writing an amazing resume below.
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So how do you write an amazing resume that would make you want to hire yourself?
Copywriting, not copying
Your resume is a marketing tool, designed to reveal something of your ‘brand’: your personality, your style, and your uniqueness that makes you the perfect candidate for the job. You need to sell yourself, but as concisely and articulately as possible.
It’s not about you; it’s about them.
You probably think your resume is all about you. It’s about your accomplishments, your experience, your expertise, and your qualifications. Ideally, though, it’s about your employer. Or, more specifically, what you can do for them, and their organisation.
Your objective should be what you want to deliver, not what you want to obtain from your potential employer. You’re aiming to demonstrate why you’re the perfect candidate: your goals and ambitions are to achieve excellence in a position they have, to use the skills you have to benefit their business, and to demonstrate the qualities they are looking for. It should read along the lines of: ‘A position in an organisation that is seeking (your skills) to achieve (what you can deliver)’. This can be valuable if delivered the right way; that is, not sycophantic (‘A position in the single greatest organisation in Australia’), and not nonchalant or boastful (‘An organisation that will value my tremendous abilities’).
But if you can only come up with something generic and uninspired, do away with it.
Why they should buy your product (you)
You might consider replacing your career objectives with a career overview or summary of qualifications. This could be a few short sentences serving as a teaser of what’s to come in the rest of your resume. List the skills and achievements that make you good at what you do. Do not just list the tasks anyone in your position is expected to do, but what made you particularly adept at doing these. Instead of ‘5 years experience in training recruits’, it may be ‘Achieved highest rate of retention of recruits in 10 years’. Instead of ‘Increased revenue’, use actual figures as evidence. Make sure it’s what your potential employers are looking for: research into the company is mandatory if you’re going to convince them that you can meet their needs.
This section is your elevator pitch, and it can make or break your chances. If it’s not up to par, it can be game over. But if it’s good, the perfectly timed and executed delivery of bite-sized chunks of information can single-handedly win you the job.
Talk the right talk
Write like Ernest Hemingway: good, straight and true. Plain language advocates will tell you that clear communication is your only objective: don’t fill your resume with fluff. Verbose or archaic language or overused business jargon won’t necessarily make you sound intelligent. If you make it to an interview, your potential employer will also notice the disparity between your verbal style and your writing style, which can be a deal-breaker. Do away with unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and make sure every sentence delivers the truth with strength and conviction.
And it might sound surprising, but take yourself out of it. It would be best if you wrote in the first person, but take the pronoun out: instead of ‘I achieved (this thing)’, it should read ‘Achieved (this thing)’.
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Mirror their sales pitch
Part of your research into your potential employer is looking for statements about the philosophies, values, missions, and goals they have.
Their websites and marketing collateral should give you an idea of what they’re about and how they want to be seen. Mirror elements of their key phrases so they see their reflection in you—but not verbatim.
Make no mistakes
Get an editor. If you can afford a professional one, great; otherwise, borrow a friend—a fresh pair of eyes can do wonders for picking up errors, because their brain isn’t accidentally filling in blanks you’ve missed. This can happen when you’re scanning the same information for hours. You already know you can’t rely on your spell checker—it won’t pick up words that don’t belong there if they are real words, even if they dramatically change the meaning of what you’re trying to say.
Failing to correct your errors not only makes you look unprofessional, but it also proves that the ‘attention to detail’ cliché you’ve dropped in may not be so accurate.
When writing an amazing resume, lay it out straight.
You have limited time to convince your potential employer that the rest of your resume is worth reading. You need to establish a hierarchy of information. This should follow what’s essential and relevant to them first, and your headings should contrast enough with your body text, so it is easy for them to find the sections they are most interested in.
There should be enough white space so their eyes aren’t tired—if it’s a strain to read, they won’t bother. Simple typefaces, correct typesetting between paragraphs, bullet points, and broad margins for making notes will all help to make your resume a comfortable and easy read.
Busy, overly colourful resumes can often work against you in a corporate job. But if you’re in a creative industry, like fashion and design, a plain page of text is not likely to stand up against the striking documents showcasing the innovation of your stiff competition.
So what do you do? If you’re not sure, pare back the graphics in favour of clean, legible type—the emphasis must always be on clear communication. But good graphic design, if you can do it (or afford it), can use a simple pop of colour or an exciting alignment. These elements draw attention to critical parts of your resume. They make it easy for your potential employer to navigate to the bits they want to read. If you’re not an expert, hire a professional or use a minimalist, dummy-proof template—or go without.
Including your photo
The consensus is that your favourite headshot has no place on your CV, and some people feel it can make you look naïve, arrogant, or unprofessional.
But there are a few arguments in favour of including an image on your resume: the most substantial being that the digital world we’re living in is primarily visual. If you’re using LinkedIn, you’ll know that it’s entirely acceptable—and expected—to include your photo in your profile. Your profile may serve as a digital adjunct to your resume, and a shared image could enable the potential employer to put the pieces of you together. If you’re not diligent with your social media accounts, they may find unflattering photos of you anyway. You might as well have control over the first impression they’ll get.
Whether you choose to include your picture usually depends on who you’re pitching it to. This is another reason researching the company can be beneficial.
This one can be tricky. It’s no longer conventional to list your interests and hobbies on your resume—the one thing you probably believe makes you different from the rest—unless they linked directly to skills and abilities that your potential employer needs. But being unforgettable isn’t just about being unique; it’s about being easily remembered.
Repetition works: your name and contact details at the top of every page serves to drill your name into the memory while making it easy to reach you. This also ensures they know your resume pages belong to you if they accidentally come loose. You may want to include a URL to your professional profiles or websites to distinguish you from others and makes it faster for the employer to find more information about you.
You need to like—and believe in—what you’re saying because you’ll need it for your real elevator pitch, and your interview.
I know how to write an amazing resume, but what if I need cash now?
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Written by Jacaranda Team