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The Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Effective Resume

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Nail that dream job with a killer CV! Skip the emoji overload and learn savvy tips for crafting a resume that bosses will love. Let's make rejection piles cry

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It is easy to get caught up in the hype on social media about new and fancy ways of writing a CV (most of them being championed by influencers and not real career professionals). In the competitive world of job hunting, your resume serves as your first impression to potential employers. So instead of going along with whatever is trending on social media today, it is best to stick with traditional proven strategies in writing your CV. A well-crafted resume can be the key to landing your dream job, while a poorly structured one might just end up in the reject pile. Now we wouldn’t want your CV to end up in the reject pile, would we? So this blog post aims to guide you through the essential dos and don’ts of creating an effective resume that leaves a lasting impression.

1. Dos of Writing an Effective Resume

Start with a Strong Header

Your resume’s header is your introduction, so make it count. Include your full name, professional email address, and an active LinkedIn profile link. These elements make it easy for employers to contact you and learn more about your professional background. Don’t forget your phone number either. While we may have more than one phone number for various reasons, only one should be included on the CV (the most reliable one), something to note. Adding a profile picture to the header section of CVs is trending but I recommend you leave that out unless explicitly stated in a job description.

Craft a Compelling Summary Statement

Using jargon and vocabulary that doesn’t make sense will not cut it as far as your summary statement, also known as profile is concerned. Your summary statement should be a concise snapshot of your skills and experiences. Tailor it to match the specific job you’re applying for, highlighting the key qualifications that make you a perfect fit for the role. For jobs that don’t require a cover letter, your statement is arguably the first real impression you create on your potential employer. So even though it’s usually just one paragraph or consists of a few words, take time to make it stellar.

Highlight Relevant Experience

You might want to note the difference between a CV and a resume because that Knowledge comes in handy here. It is good practice to have one CV that lists all your professional experience and another on that list only the experience relevant to the job you are applying for. Then depending on the situation, use the appropriate one. When listing your work experiences, start with your most recent job and work backward. Focus on describing your responsibilities and achievements, particularly those that align with the job you’re applying for.

Showcase Achievements with Quantifiable Results

Employers love to see concrete evidence of your impact. Whenever possible, include quantifiable results to demonstrate how your work contributed to your previous employers’ success. A good way to achieve this is to include real metrics. For example, if you are an accountant who helped cut down your company’s budget by eliminating losses, include that and specify by what percentage.

Tailor Your Resume for Each Application

Sometimes we get lazy and use the same CV over and over again without any editing. A generic resume won’t cut it in today’s competitive job market. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to go the extra mile to customize your resume for each application by incorporating keywords from the job description and addressing the specific needs of the company. Not many are doing this, the more reason why you should prioritize it.

Include Relevant Skills

You may have skills that are great but not relevant to the job you are applying for. The rule of thumb is to include only those skills that align with the job. However, you may sometimes need to include unrelated skills because they give a general picture of who you are as a person. For example, public speaking may not be essential to an accounting role but can boost your chances because effective communication is a universally relevant skill. That notwithstanding, list both technical and soft skills that are pertinent to the job. Use real-life examples to showcase how you’ve utilized these skills to overcome challenges and achieve goals.

Education and Certifications

Highlight your educational background, including degrees, certifications, and relevant coursework. If you received any honors, awards, or academic achievements, be sure to mention them. Many people these days include their thesis and other academic publications in their CVs, I think you should ignore those completely unless stated in the job info.

Use correct fonts

It goes without saying that selecting the right font for your CV is a subtle yet crucial aspect of presenting a professional and visually appealing document. When choosing a font, opt for clarity and readability over fancy styles. Sans-serif fonts like Arial, Calibri, and Helvetica are popular choices due to their clean lines and modern look. These fonts ensure that your CV is easily scannable, enabling recruiters to quickly grasp your qualifications. Maintain consistency in font style and size throughout the document, using a larger font for headings and a slightly smaller one for the body text. Remember, the font you choose should complement your content rather than distract from it, enhancing the overall impression of your CV’s professionalism and accessibility.

2. Don’ts of Writing an Effective Resume

Avoid Generic Objectives

Skip the outdated practice of including a vague career objective at the beginning of your resume. Instead, focus on a concise summary statement that highlights what you can offer to the employer. Refer to point number 3 under the “Dos” section.

Don’t Overwhelm with Details

Resist the temptation to overcrowd your resume with excessive details. Keep descriptions succinct and relevant, avoiding complex technical jargon that might confuse the reader. Most employers specify the maximum number of pages for the ideal CV so being concise is mostly the way to go.

Omit Unnecessary Information

Trim the fat by leaving out irrelevant work experiences, outdated skills, and personal information like marital status or age. Employers are interested in your professional qualifications, not personal details. But again if your particular job demands some of these details, then by all means provide them. The key is paying attention to the job description and requirements.

Steer Clear of Typos and Grammar Mistakes

Careless errors can quickly derail your chances. Proofread your resume meticulously to eliminate typos and grammar mistakes. Consider using grammar checkers (Grammarly and Wordtune are good examples) and seeking input from friends or mentors.

Avoid Exaggeration or False Information

Honesty is key. Exaggerating your skills or experiences might get your foot in the door, but it can lead to serious trouble down the line. Stick to the truth and let your genuine qualifications shine.

Don’t Use a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Every job is unique, so why should your resume be any different? Tailor your resume for each position to demonstrate your genuine interest in the role and the company. Refer to point 6 of the “Dos” section.

Skip Irrelevant Hobbies and Interests

Unless your hobbies directly relate to the job, they don’t belong on your resume. Focus on highlighting your professional accomplishments and qualifications instead. Hobbies like reading and listening to music are now considered cliché literally. They do not add any value to the CV so best to discard them.

3. Additional Tips for Writing an Outstanding Resume

Formatting and Layout

Choose a clean, legible font and maintain a consistent layout throughout your resume just like discussed in the first point. Also, use bullet points and headings to make the information easily scannable. Don’t fall for the hype on social media that encourages complex and colorful design layouts for CVs, unless, of course, you belong in the creative industry.

Use Action Verbs

Start each bullet point with a strong action verb. This not only makes your accomplishments sound more impressive but also adds a dynamic and engaging tone to your resume and communicates confidence as well.

Include a Professional References Section

Instead of listing references directly on your resume, simply mention that references are available upon request. I always recommend that CVs have two variations; one with referees and the other without. Then based on the need at the moment, use the appropriate one. In selecting referees, choose individuals who can vouch for your skills and work ethic when the time comes.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing an Effective Resume: Recap

More companies and employers are indeed moving away from basing employment decisions on CVs alone. Many now use proprietary in-house software and assessment tools to sift through candidates. That notwithstanding, a good CV remains an indispensable part of the job hunt process. So in summary, here is how to write a good CV;

  • Start with a Strong Header
  • Craft a Compelling Summary Statement
  • Highlight Relevant Experience
  • Showcase Achievements with Quantifiable Results
  • Tailor Your Resume for Each Application
  • Include Relevant Skills
  • Education and Certifications
  • Use correct fonts
  • Avoid Generic Objectives
  • Don’t Overwhelm with Details
  • Omit Unnecessary Information
  • Steer Clear of Typos and Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoid Exaggeration or False Information
  • Don’t Use a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
  • Skip Irrelevant Hobbies and Interests
  • Use Correct Formatting and Layout
  • Use Action Verbs
  • Include a Professional References Section

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