CV Ideas

10 Steps to a Killer Resume

Nigerian Careers Today
You know the feeling. You spend hours, or even days, creating a résumé. You pore over every word of your cover letter and agonize over what to say in your email. Then you hit ‘send’ and wait. And wait. And wait. No one calls. No one writes. You don’t know if anyone even saw your résumé. When this happens, it’s easy to get dejected and worry that employers are not interested in you. Don’t! Remember, they haven’t met you. They have only seen your résumé and that may be the problem. 

An overwhelming majority of job seekers make basic mistakes with their résumés -­ mistakes that ensure that they will not get the interviews they deserve. If you feel as though you’re sending your résumé into a black hole, try this ‘Ten Step Program’ to diagnose problems and get your résumé working for you.

1. Is your résumé the right length? You may have heard that your résumé should fit on one page. This is nonsense. Recruiter or hiring managers don’t care if your résumé is one or two pages long. But they do care whether it is easy to read and gives key information upfront. Your résumé can be one, two, or (occasionally) even three pages. The only rule is that the length should be appropriate for you. If in doubt follow the (very general) rule of thumb that less than 5 years experience probably only requires one page and more than that may need two.

2. Does your résumé clearly position you as someone who can meet the needs of the employer? Think of a résumé as an advertisement for a product, only this time the product is you. Just like any other advertisement, positioning is everything. The person who receives your résumé will scan it quickly ­ perhaps for no more than 20 seconds ­ to determine whether you can help her company. Your job is to say quickly, clearly and loudly that you can! 

Don’t just launch into a chronology of your career history. Instead, determine your own positioning by spelling out your message at the start of the résumé and giving the reader your version of events upfront. For this reason, you should use the first 1/3 of your résumé to create a compelling personal profile which highlights your key strengths in an attractive, easy-to-read format. 

3. Does your résumé begin with an objective? Don’t start with an objective. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t like them because they focus on the needs of the job seeker rather than the needs of the potential employer. Consider this objective statement: “Seeking a software engineer position with a progressive employer where I can contribute to the development of new technologies and work with bright, committed people.” 

This may be very honest but it is irrelevant to the reader, who does not care what you want and only cares what you have to offer. Instead of an objective, try using a positioning statement that clearly and concisely explains what you have to offer.
“Senior Software Engineer with 10 years experience developing leading-edge technologies.” 

Now the reader can immediately see your value to the company. (For even greater impact, tailor this statement for each position so that the reader immediately sees a match between his/her needs and your skills.) 

4. Does your résumé contain specifics? You must place your achievements in context by providing specifics. For example, don’t say something vague like “contributed to product design.” This tells the employer nothing about your actual contribution. Instead be specific about what you did: “Conducted market analysis for (name of product) to determine design and mechanics. Led changes to original design spec. despite initial developer objections. Received critical acclaim and sold over 4 million units.” See how being specific makes a difference? This level of detail shows the reader the contributions you have made in the past (and therefore the contributions you can be expected to make in the future.) 

5. Have you outlined achievements as well as responsibilities? Don’t provide a laundry list of responsibilities without showing what results you achieved. Most employers already know what the main responsibilities of your job were. They want to know what makes you different from all the other applicants. An effective résumé summarizes job responsibilities in a few sentences and then provides details of quantifiable achievements.

Focus most of your résumé on the results you accomplished, not the regular duties of your job. 

6. Are there any typos? Your résumé has to be perfect. Proofread it over and over again. When you are sure it’s perfect, have other people proof it! If even one word is misspelled the reader will assume that you didn’t know how to spell the word (this is bad) or that you didn’t care (this is even worse!) Nothing puts the reader off more quickly than misspellings or typos. 

7. Is the résumé easy to read? At least 50% of the impact of your résumé derives from design. A strong résumé design will pull the eye through the document, making it easy to keep reading and will highlight your key strengths clearly. But if your résumé is badly laid out, disorganized or hard to read, it will be discarded before the reader knows how qualified you are. 

To see examples of how to lay out your résumé, go to the library or bookstore and look in the career section. You will find collections of sample résumés. Take time to understand how the page has been laid out and then apply what you’ve learned to your résumé. 

8. Have you listed irrelevant information? Don’t list your hobbies unless they directly support your qualifications for the position. Don’t detail your marital status or the number of children you have. Don’t mention non-professional affiliations such as political or religious volunteer work unless it directly relates to the position you are applying for. Any personal information runs the risk of turning the reader off. However proud you are of personal achievements, you should not run the risk of alienating someone before you even have your foot in the door. 

9. Are you too modest? Don’t be uncomfortable about blowing your own trumpet. Too many people play down their achievements. While you should never exaggerate on a résumé, you should definitely take credit for the things you’ve accomplished. Some people feel uncomfortable boasting on paper preferring to explain in an interview. But if your résumé doesn’t spark interest, you may never get that opportunity, so don’t be modest!

10. Have you created an internet-ready version of résumé? If you have to post your résumé online, or apply to a job via an online system, you will need to convert your résumé to a text-only format. If you don’t do this, your résumé will be almost impossible to read because most online systems cannot support the type of formatting used in a résumé (bold, italics, bullet points, lines etc.) 

When you send your résumé out, it must speak articulately for you. You can’t explain inconsistencies, clear up confusion or fill in things that are missing. Your résumé has to make your sales pitch in a clear and compelling manner within 20 seconds. Invest the time to make it exceptional and you will see an immediate increase in the response rate.

Free Resume Writing Tips

Lets get one thing out in the open - writing a resume is intimidating for everyone, so don't worry, you're not alone. What makes resume writing difficult is identifying what to include, what not to, what to highlight, what to de-emphasize, etc.  HR professionals and hiring managers receive hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes for any given position; therefore, the bottom line is that they will spend about 10-30 seconds on yours. Organizing information incorrectly could cost you a shot at an interview, unfortunately it's a very common mistake made by job seekers.  For more click HERE

Below we've outlined our tips for composing your resume. Before moving on, we will note that we grew up being a skeptic of paying to have my resume written. However, we’ve changed our beliefs - reason being - Prices for resume writing services these days are fairly reasonable ($90 - $200). These are professionals that do this for a living and study how to position a person's skills for a particular industry.  Therefore, for a few hundred dollars you will be given the edge to get a position that pays a few thousand more per year.  Therefore, it’s a cost of the job hunt process worth paying.  In closing, while the free resume writing tips below will assist you in the preparation of your resume, I would recommend using a resume writing service from the beginning, or using one of the companies that provides a free resume critique after you have completed a final draft of your resume.  If you want a lower cost option, consider using an online resume builder.  The service we suggest it free to try and with a minimal fee you can have your resume reviewed by a professional resume writer.

Enough said, onto the resume writing tips....

Before putting your pen to paper (or fingers to the keys), begin by determining your objective (do this prior to writing the resume).  You should clearly state what sort of a job you want, and know what kinds of skills and experiences are needed to do well in that job. Even if you decide to change your job objective later, it is very important that you decide on a temporary objective for now. After your objective is determined, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective.  As noted above, you have a very small window of time to get the interest of a hiring manager, therefore being general and scattered will insure that your resume is filed in the "circular file" - i.e. - the trash can. Therefore, it is essential that you take the time before you start your resume to form a clear and targeted objective.
Now that you have your objective, you're on your way.  Now lets begin the resume writing process.  Keep in mind, the single and most important goal of a resume is to obtain an interview. It's a marketing tool to get you in the company and in front of your potential boss – that’s it.  Once in, you will need to do the sales pitch, and close the deal. 

With that said, you do not want to go into detail about every accomplishment in your resume. Strive to be clear and concise, as the sole purpose is to have a potential employer contact you for an interview.  Bottom line – you should put yourself in the shoes of the resume reader - when looking at the job qualifications needed for the position; what would you be looking for in a candidate - Obviously, that is what you should include in your resume.

In the body of your resume,
use bullet points with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs. As noted above, resumes are read quickly (usually 10-30 seconds). Therefore, having key phrases standing alone and bulleted will help the reader see the important information at a glance - while at the same time absorbing the most important information.  Again, don't worry about the specifics; you will go into the details during the interview.

Use action words
- words like prepared, managed, developed, monitored, and presented will cause your resume to stand out.
In addition to standing out to a reader - you are also insuring that if your resume is scanned, the computer will pick up on the words. You read correctly, some companies now scan in your resume, and have computers pick the resumes to be looked at. The computers are looking for one thing – they’re looking for keywords that have been picked by the hiring manager. These are action key words that relate to the position; therefore not including them could mean your resume is disregarded as a "non-match". I’ve devoted a section to resume format, and will deal with how to format your resume for computer scanners.  We've compiled a list of action words to include here.

You should always use
%'s, $'s and #'s.  Percentages, dollar totals, and numbers stand out in the body of a resume.  I’ve included an example below of a job duty described with them (correct), and without (incorrect).  As is obvious with the below examples, being specific does not mean being lengthy.

Incorrect: Sold advertising to 15 companies
Correct: Closed 15 strategic accounts billing in excess of $20M a

Highlight your strengths, and what is most relevant to the potential employer. Due to the fact that most resumes are typically reviewed in 10-30 seconds, put forth the effort and determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective. Put the strong and most relevant points first where they are more apt to be read. Doing this will hook the reader, and the rest of your resume will reel them in.
Match the needs of the hiring company - Review job postings online and in the newspapers for positions that interest you. Each listing will almost always have a brief blurb about the company and the position available. Read the job description closely, and use the key words listed in these ads, and match them to the bullet points in your resume.
Chances are that you have some of these as fwkey points already, however if you have missed any, be sure to add them to your resume. It sounds obvious, but its worth mentioning that using a custom resume instead of a generic one will greatly increase your chances of an interview, as you will be a better match in the eyes of the reader – how can you not be? – you’ve tailored your resume to the position.
Above all in your resume and interview - you must be positive.  Therefore, avoid including negative and irrelevant points. If you feel your graduation date will subject you to age discrimination, leave it off your resume. If you do some duties in your current job that don't support your job search objective, do not include them. Focus on the duties that do support your objective, and leave off irrelevant personal information like your race, weight, and height.

Have you taken an advertising class?
  Let me give you one tidbit from my studies that will improve the appearance of your resume.  White space is the open area of an ad, and white space is important to your resume.  Open up the newspaper, and take note of which ads first catch your eye. Are they the ads that are jammed full of text and pictures, or are they ads that have a large amount of unused space ("white space"). This is done to grab your attention, as you are always attracted to open areas. For this reason, don't worry if you are having a hard time filling the page with text; increase your line spacing to compensate – this will increase the white space – and really, that’s a good thing.
How long should my resume be?  What size font should I use? -  The font size should be no smaller than 10 point, and the length of your resume should be 1-2 pages. Yes, you read correctly; you can use more than one page.  But remember, keep it concise.  It's ok to use 2 pages for your resume, however it’s not necessary.
Ask a friend, and get an outside opinion on your resume before sending it off.  You should always have a 3rd party or resume critique service review your resume. You are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to note all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Having someone besides you review your resume will allow you to note how others will view your marketing materials - would your resume impress them? If not, why? Don't settle for - "it's good".  You must encourage the 3rd party to give you feedback and ask questions. These questions from the reader can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume. Take their comments into consideration, and revise your resume to include these items. In addition to adding in missed items, their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader. This valuable input will allow you to clarify your resume based on this input.
OK, you’re ready to start applying for positions – When submitting your resume, you should apply for some jobs that appear to be above your qualifications, apply to positions that are a match, and apply to positions which may be beneath you. Why? Perhaps the position beneath will turn out to be more than it appeared once you interview for them. Or perhaps once you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities. If nothing else, interviewing more and more will increase your interviewing skills. Like anything else, repetition will decrease your nervousness, and increase your skills at attacking the tough questions. 


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