You’ve had a stellar career and have always gotten jobs through personal connections and headhunters.
This means that you’ve never needed a resume – people knew about your achievements either first hand or through word of mouth.
This time around, you’re job hunting – and your resume is about 20 years out of date. What do you do? Here are 10 resume tips to set you on the right track.
1. Delete Your Objective Statement.
There was a time when an “Objective Statement” was a popular way to kick off a resume.
It was most often a description of nebulous, generic goals which fell into the number one trap of all good marketing (don’t forget that writing a resume is marketing yourself) – it focused on what you want, rather than what you have to offer.
A desire to “obtain a senior position in a Fortune 500 company where I can utilise my management skills” is a valid goal, however the most precious real estate on your resume should not be taken up by that statement – it fails the “What’s In It For The Employer” test.
2. Demonstrate Your Value.
What should you write in place of an Objective Statement, then?
I find that crafting an “Executive Summary” or simply “Profile” section instead works particularly well.
The trick to making it work is in giving it the intensity of a starting pistol’s sound in a 100m sprint.
A marketer would call this your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Call it what you want, it must provide a clear, captivating answer to the question – what’s unique and desirable about you?
In other words, why should a hiring manager choose you over someone with similar experience?
3. Include An Outstanding Cover Letter.
Some resume tips you’ll read online will tell you that cover letters are worthless; others passionately disagree.
The critics of cover letters point to research which suggests that 86% of recruiters and hiring managers toss your cover letter aside without reading it.
The supporters of cover letters (including me) point out that the statistics that make great headlines, often obscure fine detail necessary to make a sound decision.
For example, a cover letter which is initially ignored might be used later to add context to an application when a recruiter is trying to split hairs between two applicants.
It’s also worth noting that most cover letters are, quite frankly, terrible. Combine it with the fact that recruiters are incredibly good at assessing a cover letter with just one glance and I’m not surprised to hear that over 86% are not read.
The real question that remains is – how many outstanding cover letters get read? My bet is, it’s a lot more than 14%. Point is – it’s best to include a cover letter, even if just to be safe.
4. Hammer Home Your Achievements (Not Duties).
Your resume is not just a summary of your titles and responsibilities. It is crucial to illustrate your strengths through a list of your achievements.
Use strong verbs and, wherever possible, quantify your wins.
Perhaps it’s best to illustrate with a few examples:
- “Reached X objective(s) every quarter for Y quarters in a row exceeding target by Z%.”
- “Saved $10 million annually by reducing fixed spending by 10% and variable overhead spending by 14% through cost-improvement initiatives.”
- “Improved customer service satisfaction by 4% annually through supply chain management initiatives and flexible manufacturing practices.”
5. Maintain Strict Focus.
One of the biggest issues you’re facing is that most recruiters are salespeople who are trained in some nuances of HR. Not the other way around.
It means that they tend to view you as a peg of a certain shape which then must fit into a matching hole.
If you’re a senior manager with a wealth of experience, you might be tempted to cover all aspects of your career in your resume and, in doing so, come across as lacking key strengths.
Your resume should focus on one of a few of your key strengths, and consistently emphasise them throughout. If you state in your Executive Summary that you’re particularly skilled at leading Australian businesses into Asia, make sure that throughout your resume you provide concrete examples of successes in this area to paint a clear and compelling message.
(If you have more than one career goal, create a different resume for each).
6. Get The Length Right.
Keeping the length of your resume under control is important, however remember that this goal must be finely balanced with the requirement to deliver a powerful message about your capabilities.
There are exceptions, however, as general guide, a resume of a senior professional will be around 4-5 pages.
7. Use Australian English.
I speak with many executives who have spent a considerable part of their career in the U.S.
For them, the line between Australian and US spelling has become blurry and they use, for example, “specialise” and “specialize” interchangeably.
When applying for a role in Australia, remember that it’s best to demonstrate your familiarity with the local culture by ensuring that Australian spelling is used throughout your resume.
8. Should You Include References?
This is another hotly debated topic amongst HR professionals, recruiters and resume writers. Some resume tips will tell you to leave them out, others will tell you that they’re essential.
In my experience, “References Available Upon Request” works best in the current Australian context.
Referee information serves no useful purpose in the initial stages of the process.
Not including contact information of referees until an offer has been made also reduces risk of privacy issues. It is an unfortunate fact that phone numbers and email addresses of senior executives who act as your referees do have considerable commercial value and have been known to be misused by unscrupulous recruiters.
9. Make It Look Great.
Avoid cramming the resume with text in an attempt to fit more in.
Remember that recruiters of today are extremely UX (user-experience) sensitive.
They’re used to consuming content through websites which are extremely graphic-driven and designed with readability in mind. A page of text which lacks white space and is written in a 8-point font has no power to hold their attention because they’re used to skimming through content, rather than reading it.
10. Do Final Checks.
This point sounds almost too basic to be necessary to mention, but I need to. Spell check your resume – by asking a friend or colleague to read over it.
It amazes me how bad our brains are at picking up on the mistakes that we’ve made.
This happens to me every time I write a blog post. I often re-read it 3-4 times until I’m UTTERLY CONVINCED that there are no mistakes in it. Then I ask someone next to me to proof read it and they’ll find 2-3 mistakes.
Don’t let your own humanity get in the way of getting a job you really want – get someone to proof read your resume.