How To Craft the Perfect Resume

Getting hired at your dream firm may be even more challenging given the current economic climate. But what’s standing between you and that coveted job could be something fully within your control – a poorly-crafted resume.

Recruiters take a mere five seconds to scan through the resumes flooding their inboxes daily, so yours must stand out.

Acing that job application can be as simple as paying attention to presentation and highlighting your competencies and the impact that you made at previous roles. Read on for a complete guide to resume crafting that is sure to hit the mark.

Resume vs. CV vs. Cover Letter

First things first – establishing the basics. Terms like “resume”, “CV” and “cover letter” may be mind boggling but here’s their main differences:

  • Resume: a short, single-paged overview of your career experiences.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV): a highly detailed document covering your complete professional history, often 2-3 pages long.
  • Cover Letter: A one-page letter of introduction to an employer submitted together with your resume or CV. Think of this as your first impression to recruiters.

Basic format of a resume

Resumes can be customised to suit the industry you’re applying for or reflect your personality.

The design “rules” are more flexible in the creative fields and allow for more colour. In fact, many creatives create their own unique layouts to grab attention.

However, for the majority of industries, the basic presentation of a top-tier professional resume is standard:

Length

A common misconception is that the longer the resume, the more qualified you appear. However, recruiters spend only a few minutes on each resume. If yours is too wordy, the recruiter may not be able to get the quality information you wish to portray.

So, cut down on the fluff and irrelevant details. Keep to one page for entry level positions, two if you must. For the more seasoned, a three page resume is sufficient.

Presentation

The entire document should have equally-spaced margins with ample white space at first glance. This prevents it from looking too cluttered.

Other considerations include:

  • Even spacing between sections
  • Clear section headings and text alignments
  • Consistent fonts for headings and body texts respectively (Recommended typefaces: Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Garamond, Calibri and Times New Roman)
  • Legible font sizes (Recommended: Font size 11)
  • Use Black fill for text
  • For dates, either all month names are abbreviated or written in full
  • Dates must be consistently bold or non-bold and non-italicised
  • Fullstops at the end of every sentence

As a rule of thumb, resumes should be saved and submitted as a PDF.

How your resume looks reflects your own work ethic and commitment as a candidate. Recruiters may not place emphasis on misspelt words but the fact that you overlooked an error speaks volumes. So, proofread the document before hitting send.

Parts of a resume

1.   Header

This uppermost section should include only the most essential personal details:

  • Full Name, phone number, work email, location (if applicable)
  • Optional: professional title/position, LinkedIn profile, other social media, portfolio websites/blogs
  • Omit birth dates, headshots and unprofessional email addresses (e.g., ilovetoeat12@xyz.com).

2.   Executive Summary

The executive summary is exactly as it sounds – a concise and purposeful selection of your most outstanding achievements backed with metrics. This is where you hook recruiters and reel them in.

It should be about 2-3 sentences. Include your current title and years of experience before going on to mention your top 1-2 educational and career achievements or responsibilities, and finally your goal.

An example:

  • “Analytically-driven Marketing Executive with 6+ years of experience in the consumer goods industry.”
  • “Specialized in data analytics, customer satisfaction and consumer retention.”
  • “Looking for new opportunities as a sales lead for an FMCG company”

Fresh graduates or those with little experience don’t have to include this section in their resumes. They can opt to include a resume objective instead.

3.   Resume Objective

This section answers the question – why are you writing this resume? It details what you hope to achieve in 2-3 sentences.

As mentioned, this section is suitable for those with no prior work experience or those going through a career switch.

An example:

“Public relations graduate seeking employment in the healthcare industry as a PR Executive.”

4.   Key skills

Another important segment to include in your resume is skills. Here, list attributes that make you the best fit for the job.

The two types of skills are hard and soft skills:

  • Hard skills: quantifiable, technical capabilities
  • Soft skills: social skills, communication skills, leadership and management skills, initiative skills

An ideal resume should have a balance of both. This shows that aside from being technically-endowed to do the job well, you’re a joy to work with and are a valuable asset.

When elaborating on hard skills, divide them into levels of experience. The most common way is to rank each skill from beginner, intermediate, advanced to expert. You can even use visuals to illustrate this.

  • Beginner: some experience with the skill through coursework or personal pursuits
  • Intermediate: adequate experience with the skill, have employed it in a work setting
  • Advanced: good understanding and wide range of experience with the skill, able to lead projects and coach other employees if necessary
  • Expert: applied the skill across numerous projects and are recognized for it within your discipline

Whatever the case, be honest with your choice of rankings. If not, you might have to prepare for awkward encounters with your future colleagues.

5.   Work experience

Now onto the bulk of your resume – the work experience. This section is typically listed in a reverse chronological order (most recent career undertaking at the top) and should have the following format and language considerations:

Format:

Each stint should encompass the information below:

  • ‘Organisation, Role’, ‘Role, Organisation’ or Organization in the first line and Role in the line below
  • Dates and duration employed (mm/yyyy – mm/yyyy)
  • Bulleted achievements and responsibilities (each job experience must have at least one bullet point)

Language:

Be specific and descriptive. Begin each bullet point with action-oriented words. It’s time to take ownership of the work you’ve worked hard for, so start off strong. Here’s a useful verb bank for your next resume:

Communication/People SkillsLeadership/ManagementHelping SkillsTeaching Skills
Addressed
Advertised
Arranged
Communicated Composed Consulted
Contacted
Corresponded
Discussed
Drafted
Edited
Formulated
Interviewed
Mediated
Negotiated
Outlined
Participated Persuaded
Presented
Promoted
Proposed
Publicized
Administered Appointed
Approved
Assigned
Authorized
Chaired Consolidated Controlled
Coordinated
Delegated
Directed
Enforced
Executed
Generated
Headed
Hired
Initiated
Influenced
Led
Maintained
Recommended
Supervised
Advocated
Aided
Assessed
Clarified
Collaborated Contributed Cooperated Counseled Demonstrated Diagnosed Educated Encouraged Expedited
Facilitated Furthered
Prevented
Provided
Referred Represented Resolved
Supported Volunteered
Coached
Conducted Coordinated Critiqued
Developed
Encouraged Evaluated
Explained Facilitated
Focused
Guided
Informed
Instilled
Instructed
Motivated
Taught Tested
Trained
Tutored
Analytical SkillsCreative Skills
Adjusted, Allocated, Analyzed, Assessed, Audited, Balanced, Budgeted, Calculated Computed, Corrected, Estimated, Forecasted Managed, Measured, Netted, Planned, Prepared, Programmed, Projected, Reduced, Researched, Slashed, SlicedActed, Composed, Conceptualized, Created, Customized, Designed, Directed, Displayed, Drew, Entertained, Established, Fashioned, Illustrated, Initiated, Integrated, Invented, Modeled, Modified, Performed, Photographed, Planned, Revised
Revitalized, Shaped, Organized, Prepared

As always, keep language succinct by removing fillers and personal pronouns. Additionally, avoid overusing words or risk seeming repetitive and overshadowing significant information.

Language Tip 1: Show, not tell

Take “Spearheaded a team of 4 in the content planning process, increasing followers from 75 to 250 within 3 months” versus “Recruited people for the sales and marketing department“ – it’s obvious which hits harder.

Substantiate each achievement with measurable outcomes or the size and scope of work for a greater persuasive effect. These could be the revenue, size of your team or number of departments supported. Let the results speak for you.

An easy framework to go by is STAR:

  • S for Situation: What was the problem you and your team faced?
  • T for Task: What tasks were involved in that problem?
  • A for Action: What did you do or contribute to work towards the goal?
  • R for Results: What quantifiable outcomes did you achieve?

Also, leave out experiences that ended five or more years ago unless absolutely relevant.

Language Tip 2: Tailor, tailor, tailor

Now might be the time to inform you that your resumes may not even make it to HR. Nowadays, applications are vetted by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), digital software used to filter out the chosen ones from a pool of hopefuls, before they’re screened by recruiters.

Before you get worked up: there’s a way around this and it’s to tailor language to satisfy these bots.

Have the job description opened in another tab and match the keywords or skills mentioned to the vocabulary used in your resume. A plus point would be to research the company and their work and reference their tone and style. This not only shows that you’ve done your homework but can also propel you to the next round.

6.   Education and professional qualifications

This section includes your educational history and any certificates or qualifications under your belt. But keep in mind that they should only be mentioned if they’re substantially impressive or interesting.

For those with no work experience, mention your education at the top before your work experience.

This section should also be in reverse chronological order and be formatted as follows:

  • Course
  • University
  • Years attended (mm/yyyy – mm/yyyy)
  • Optional: GPA, Honors, Minors

Other information

This portion covers miscellaneous information which can show off a bit more of your character.

Generally placed at the end of a resume, it can include language competencies, IT skills (e.g., Adobe Suite, Microsoft Office), and interests (e.g., Reading, Kayaking, Fashion).

Optional segments

Those with a little more room on their resumes can consider adding snippets of extracurricular activities and academic ventures. Experiences demonstrated here should be relevant and transferrable to the position you’re applying for.

Extracurricular and Volunteer Experience:

These include activities that you’ve applied for on your own and are committed to.

Participation in theatre clubs or leading community initiatives have the power to uplift your application as they underscore skills and personality traits unique to the activity.

Take care to include specifics about the duration, responsibilities, associated achievements and type of competitions or events.

Academic projects, research experience and coursework

This segment highlights up to (but not more than) five modules (core and unrestricted) that are closely related to the role at hand. They should be formatted as a list and separated by commas.

In addition, noteworthy academic research pursuits can earn a spot in your resume.

You can also state any exchange and study abroad experiences with the programs taken there. These should clearly show your academic and personal development.

Resume building: Success!

Whenever applying to a role, ensure that your resume includes all the necessary sections mentioned above and tailor-fit your language to the company’s requirements and culture. Speak with a results-oriented voice to further shine through. Then, it’s on to drafting the perfect cover letter and preparing for that interview – you’ve got this.

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