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12 Tips for Writing an Effective Résumé for a Job Application

Friday | July 1, 2016 | by Annie Paul

12 Tips for Writing an Effective Résumé

I had an uncle who emigrated from India apply for a job that was located in a small town in New York called Dobbs Ferry by calling the company and asking to speak with “Mr. Dobbs Ferry.” We laugh about it now, but blunders like these make the transition into the U.S. and Canada that much more difficult. Luckily, he is now well settled with a good job and a strong circle of support. Not all of us are fortunate as he was. Many of you have immigrated to a new country alone and may be struggling to finish school or find a job.

The first step when applying for any job is to create a résumé that is legal, concise, and impressive. The following outlines what to do and what not to do when creating your résumé.

Here’s a list of the things you should do on your résumé.

Things you should do on your résumé

Create a Headline

A headline identifies who you are as a professional. One example of this would be: “Research Associate–Assisting Businesses by Leveraging Data and Research.” This is completely different from an objective. An objective states why you, the applicant, are looking for employment. Your headline tells companies who you are in a nutshell. Including a headline is not common practice…which makes it more notable in a résumé.

Highlight Your Certifications and Degrees

You worked hard to acquire your degree or certification. You should boost your knowledge! If you have an MBA or a PMP, it is best to write it out next to your name—it should be the first thing a recruiter sees. Additionally, highlight the skills you have picked up either from school and/or previous jobs, such as MS Office, working extensively with social media platforms, SQL, etc.

Share Important Details About Where You Have Worked

Too often, I see résumés where only the company name is listed with the years the applicant worked and very little information about what the applicant actually did. It is important to add other details to help the recruiter and the hiring manager gauge exactly how long you have worked and the responsibilities you had in the position.

Example of detail:

Blogger, XYZ Company, New York, NY                              January 2015 to December 2015

I was responsible for pitching topics, creating original blog content, editing contributing blog posts, collaborating with subject matter experts, and managing the social media platforms for XYZ Company. I covered a variety of topics; including food, music, travel, fashion, and world events. One of my responsibilities was to form relationships with external writers and edit their blog posts to make the content more relevant and audience-friendly.

That’s it. It should be short, simple, and concise. Once you are invited for an interview, you have a chance to expand on your experience—be able to talk about the job in detail in regard to which social media platforms you are familiar with, how you approach blogging, your passion for writing, why you left the company, etc.

If you have achieved something amazing such as significantly boosting a department’s productivity, it also should be mentioned.

Example accomplishment:

At this company, I was in charge of the Sales department. By leveraging data from external and internal sources, I was able to implement some new strategies, which resulted in 50% boost in productivity.

Have Someone Read and Edit Your Résumé

There is a rule when writing anything—read your work out loud. When you read out loud, your brain processes information differently and you will start to notice inconsistencies or grammatical errors that you did not notice before. Once you do that, have someone you trust to edit the résumé. If you do not have anyone, there are a number of résumé writing experts online who can do it for you. If you are still enrolled in university, most likely, your school will have a writing center that can provide some assistance.

Include Ways to Contact You

Always include ways to contact you, such as email, phone number, LinkedIn page, etc. If your résumé is a great match for a position, wouldn’t you hate to miss the opportunity just because they didn’t know how to get in touch with you? If you have a LinkedIn profile (which is highly suggested), the best thing you can do is include a direct link to your profile.

List Your Experience from Most Recent to Least Recent

List your most relevant experiences first. There are many reasons for this—it makes it easier for the recruiter to read, it estimates how long you have been unemployed (or if you’re currently employed), and it provides a logical look at your development as a professional.

The following are the things you should not do on your résumé.

Things you should not so on your resume

Do Not Include Your Picture

As a recruiter for WES, I frequently receive résumés with headshots of the actual applicant. Although this is not illegal, it is still discouraged. One of the greatest assets that the United States provides is its ongoing initiative to minimize discrimination. That being said, there are a variety of anti-discriminatory laws that govern many areas such as employment. Employers are forbidden to discriminate against any applicant on the basis of race, gender, nationality, age, religion, and so on. When an applicant sends a résumé with their headshot, it puts the company in danger. If, for example, the recruiter in the company decides this applicant is not qualified for the position purely based on his/her experience or skill set. Consequentially, the recruiter can reject the application. The applicant can attempt to sue the company for discrimination, stating that the recruiter rejected the applicant based on the picture. This puts the applicant, the company, and any other active participants through a long, expensive, and difficult legal ordeal. The whole experience could leave a bad taste.

In addition to the picture, I highly suggest not including other intimate details such as religion, caste, gender, marital status, etc.

Do Not Lie About Your Experience Or Skills…Or Anything

I once knew someone who was hired because he stated that he had five years of experience with a variety of databases and software. Once he came on board, he asked a thousand questions about everything—information that he should have already known prior to coming on board. Long story short, it was eventually discovered that he lied about his knowledge and he was ultimately fired.

Be honest about everything on your résumé. If you lie about something, it will eventually come up in the future and it will not bode well for you and for others. If you feel like you do not have enough working experience, add your volunteer experience. Also, add your accomplishments from school and languages you are fluent in. Be proud of what you have done so far!

Do Not Add Hobbies and Interests (Unless It’s Related to the Job)

Once, I received a résumé for an associate position in the company. Toward the bottom of this applicant’s résumé was an entire paragraph of her interests—one of which included “eating goat cheese.” This is not appropriate! Now, as a recruiter or as a hiring manager, I am left thinking she is not taking her career seriously. It’s great to have humor on a résumé—but it has to be related and suitable. Instead of putting down how much she loves cheese, it would have been more impressive if she said she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures—it’s more fitting to WES’ mission and outlook.

Avoid “References Available upon Request” Like the Plague

There is no real reason to put down anywhere on the résumé “references available upon request.” As recruiters, we know that we can obtain references if we need to—regardless of what you put on the résumé. If your résumé is already teetering on being too long, this is the perfect place to save some space.

Don’t Make the Résumé Overly Creative

If you have a creative side, by all means, exhibit it! More than ever, companies are looking for individuals with varying levels of creativity because these are the pools of people with the most unique ideas. The best way to catch a sneak peek at your creativity is through your résumé. With many different versions of creative résumés floating around in the viral webs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to live up to those expectations and to make an eye-catching résumé…but it can be done. However, do it in a way that is still readable. Whenever I recruit for a “creative” position, I almost always get at least one résumé that has logos everywhere with legends and gifs and pictures and colors and more. My eyes do not know where to look and I end up thinking, “this résumé is just too much work to understand.” Make it simple, legible, IMPORTANT, and inspired. If you want to show off your creative chops, create an online portfolio and link to it on your résumé instead.

Don’t Include Your Salary Expectations

Your résumé is your presentation of who you are as a professional in your field. It is a snapshot for other people to see. If you include your salary expectations, then you are portraying a false impression of yourself. Employers may think this is a hard number and pass you up when in reality, there is usually room to negotiate. Once you get further along in the application/interview process, it is perfectly acceptable to discuss salary ranges or expectations with your employer then.

Other Résumé Writing Tips

  • If you speak two or more languages fluently, show it off!
  • Don’t put down your high school education, unless you are a recent graduate with no working experience.
  • Don’t make your name so big, it takes up half the page.
  • It’s okay if the résumé is more than one page—as long as it contains relevant information and it doesn’t exceed two pages.
  • Don’t forget to include keywords! Many recruiters search for applicants through keywords to find a good match. Keywords are words that allow people to look for you as their potential employee—so any word that reflects your experience and your skills such as “SQL,” “research,” “statistics,” “digital marketing,” etc.
  • Don’t bad-mouth your past or current employers—you will be seen as immature and vindictive.
  • Don’t print your résumé out on colored paper—it was cute on “Legally Blonde” but it’s not cute in real life.
  • If you have volunteer experience, note that on your résumé—it shows that you are a socially responsible individual—that’s the kind of person an employer wants at their company.

Writing a résumé is no easy task—there are many factors to take into consideration. Nonetheless, the time you put into writing and perfecting your résumé may very well result in getting an interview from an employer. If you do, congratulate yourself! That, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment.

Happy writing!

Annie Paul is the Senior Human Resources Generalist at World Education Services.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).