Photo credit in sequence: Aaron Burden, Peter Lewicki, Monda Eendra, Anne Nygard, all @ Unsplash

This article covers some points to consider when writing a resume. With many companies using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to parse and qualify resumes before they reach the recruiter or employer, it is important that you make your resume one that is ATS friendly and that catches the attention of the human eye.

There are two key aspects as to the entire presentation of the resume: the format and the content. Do spend some time to ensure that both aspects are well taken care of, so as to increase the chances of your profile being spotted.


The Format

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The format of your resume simply refers to the way your resume is structured and designed. There are a few golden rules that might be worth keeping in mind:

1. Be organised – Organise your resume into a few key parts. Ensure that the content flows in a methodical and predictable manner such that it is easy to navigate and find certain information, such as your contact details, career experience or education qualifications. A resume would typically comprise these sections:

  • Personal and contact information, including any work authorisations required to work in-country
  • Career experience (or work history)
  • Education and certifications
  • Additional information such as professional memberships, awards, language skills, computer skills, volunteer work, leadership activities, interests etc

You should organise your career experience chronologically, starting with the most recent one, as that gives the reader an idea of your current skills and competencies. For mid-career professionals, you may like to consider sequencing your career experience first, followed by education and any additional information. For entry level candidates, you can list your education qualifications upfront, followed by internship experience and any additional information.

2. Keep it simple – Use a simple and clean design that is easy to read and navigate.

3. Avoid elaborate logos or infographics – Elaborate logos and infographics might become garbled when your resume passes through an ATS. This means that keywords might not get picked up by the system, thereby reducing the chances of your resume getting through to the recruiter or employer.

4. Use one (at most two) professional typefaces – Choose a professional typeface, such as Times New Roman or Arial, and keep to it through your resume. Too many different typefaces might distract the reader from focussing on the content.

5. Keep it short – Try to keep within two (or three) pages. Your resume is not a biography. It is a concise self-introduction that serves to highlight your key experience, skills and competencies, which should be relevant to the position that you are applying for.

The Content

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The content of your resume is the crux of the document, and it should bring out attributes and experiences that make you the choice candidate for the role. It is recommended that you keep your resume short, which means that the content needs to be clear, concise and to the point.

1. Adopt a professional, succinct writing style – Consider using point-form writing to provide a succinct summary of your experience. Avoid writing in first person or verbatim, as such styles tend to be lengthier, and would come across as a personal recount rather than a professional account of your experience.

2. Focus on your key responsibilities and achievements  Be selective about what you include in your resume. Avoid turning your career experience into a list of job descriptions. It would be useful to focus on key responsibilities and achievements that brought about positive business impact or results. In each of these responsibilities and achievements, be clear about the role that you played in the team.

3. Quantify your job experiences – Quantifying your job experiences simply means using numbers and data to provide specific information about your role and achievements. For instance: “Led a team of 5 to achieve 20% YoY sales growth in 2019, exceeding the company target by 10%”. This would give the reader clear and precise information about what you did, as compared to “Demonstrated strong leadership skills by leading my team to achieve excellent sales growth that exceeded the company target”. Quantifying your experiences give a fact-based account of your role, while qualitative adjectives are opinion-based, which is often subjective and open to interpretation.

4. Use keywords – Remember to use keywords at appropriate junctures in your resume, especially keywords that are commonly associated with the role that you are applying for. In addition, if relevant skills were deployed in your job experiences, be sure to include them in each of the jobs where these skills were used. Doing so would improve the chances of getting through the ATS. For example, computer/software skills such as Python, SQL, SAP, Oracle etc.

5. Indicate reason for leaving (for short employment stints) – Most recruiters and employers look for candidates who are likely to stay on the job for some years. There is a multitude of factors as to why employees leave their jobs. For employment stints that are shorter than 2 years, it might be worthwhile to include a short note to indicate the reason for leaving the job, as this would help the reader to better understand your decision, e.g. contract employment, retrenchment, re-organisation, to assume a role with larger responsibilities, family reasons, job misfit, cultural misalignment etc.

6. Interests and hobbies – It is refreshing to include some information on your interests and hobbies, as it helps the recruiter and hiring manager to better understand you as a person, and to know that you can be fun to hang out with as a colleague. If you have been involved in activities that contribute to the wellbeing of the community, your resume is a great place to share this bit of information. 

One Last Glance

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Finally, when you are satisfied with the overall presentation of your resume, take one last glance to check for:

  • Formatting error and inconsistencies
  • Spelling and grammatical errors

Your resume is a brief but important introduction of yourself. So be sure to make a great first impression, and present yourself professionally.

I hope this has been a helpful read. Best of luck with your resume writing!

Photo credit in sequence: Aaron Burden, Peter Lewicki, Monda Eendra, Anne Nygard, all @ Unsplash

This article was first published at the author’s Linkedin page on 19 Apr 2020. See original post here.