How to develop a successful resume

When it comes to applying for a new job, your resume could be the catalyst to get you that initial foot in the door and secure an interview – but how do you ensure your resume is added to the interview pile rather than into the circular filing cabinet.

Developing a successful resume is easy with a bit of a plan. It’s a case of taking all your skills and experience and tailoring them to the job you’re applying for. But what if you don’t meet the right criteria? Well, the guidance below should help you get started in creating a successful resume and securing your ideal job.

There is no right or wrong way to write a resume but there are some common sections you should ensure that you cover. These include personal and contact information; education and qualifications; work history and/or experience; relevant skills to the job in question; own interests, achievements or hobbies; and some references.

A successful resume is clear, concise and makes every point necessary without waffling. You don’t need reams of paper, just keep things short and sweet. A resume is a reassurance to a potential employer. It’s a chance to tick the right boxes. If everything is satisfied there’s a better chance of a job interview. Also, employers receive dozens of resumes all the time so it’s unlikely they’ll read each one cover to cover. Most will make a judgment about a resume within seconds, so stick to a maximum of two pages of A4 paper.

A successful resume is always carefully and clearly presented, and printed on clean, crisp white paper. The layout should always be clean and well-structured, and resumes should never be crumpled or folded, so use an A4 envelope to post your applications.

Always remember the resume focal points – the upper middle area of the first page is where the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s eye will naturally fall, so make sure you include your most important information there.

The clues are in the job application, so read the details from start to finish. Take notes and create bullet points, highlighting everything you can satisfy and all the bits you can’t. With the areas where you’re lacking, fill in the blanks by adapting the skills you do have. For example, if the job in question requires someone with sales experience, there’s nothing stopping you from using any retail work you’ve undertaken – even if it was something to help pay the bills through university. It will demonstrate the skills you do have and show how they’re transferable.

When you’ve established what the job entails and how you can match each requirement, create a resume specifically for that role. Remember, there is no such thing as a generic resume. Every resume you send to a potential employer should be tailored to that role so don’t be lazy and hope that a general resume will work because it isn’t guaranteed.

Create a unique resume for every job you apply for. You don’t have to re-write the whole thing, just adapt the details so they’re relevant.

Under the skills section of your resume don’t forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. These could include communication skills, computer skills, team working, problem-solving or even speaking a foreign language. Skills can come out of the most unlikely places, and some will be noticed more by certain employers than others, so really think about what you’ve done to grow your own skills. Even if you take examples from being in a local sports team or involvement with charity work – it’s all relevant.

Under interests, highlight the things that show off skills you’ve gained, and employers look for and help you stand out from the crowd. Describe any examples of positions of responsibility, working in a team or anything that shows you can use your own initiative. For example, if you ran your university’s newspaper or if you started a weekend baseball league team that became a success.
Include anything that shows how diverse, interested, and skilled you are. Don’t include passive interests like watching TV or solitary hobbies that can be perceived as you are lacking in people skills. Make yourself sound really interesting.

Use assertive and positive language under the work history and experience sections, such as “developed”, “organised” or “achieved”. Try to relate the skills you have learned to the job role you’re applying for. For example: “The work experience involved working in a team,” or “This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people”.
Really get to grips with the valuable skills and experience you have gained from past work positions, even if it was just working in a restaurant – every little helps.

References should be from someone who has employed you in the past and can vouch for your skills and experience. If you’ve never worked before, you’re OK to use a teacher or tutor as a referee. Try to include two if you can.

It’s crucial to review your resume on a regular basis and add any new skills or experience that’s missing. For example, if you’ve just done some volunteering or worked on a new project, make sure they’re on there – potential employers are always impressed with candidates who go the extra mile to boost their own skills and experience.

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