Looking for a new job, or starting to think about it? There are lots of tools and templates out there to help you write, or update, your resumé – and people you can hire to help you if you’d like – but no matter which route you take, make sure your resumé tells prospective employers these five things:
- Who you are: your name, email address, mobile phone number, location (city/state is enough).
- Your job history: a concise list of your roles, starting with the most recent, including for each: job title, company name/location, dates of employment, key responsibilitiies, and - very important! - your accomplishments. Be as fact-based and specific as possible: in each role, how did your work contribute to the company’s business performance? If you’ve had more than one role within a company - for instance, promotion or internal transfer - list each role and its dates within the company. Employers like to see career progression, and development, when a candidate has been with the same company for a while.
- Your key strengths: what are you really good at? What makes you different from the other applicants who have been working in the same field and are applying for the same role? As a prospective employer, what can we expect that you know how to deliver really well? Everyone has their strengths, and different employers will be seeking different attributes, depending on that particular company’s goals, culture, and challenges. Think about feedback you’ve received over the years, both formally (performance reviews) and informally (from managers, colleagues, friends etc.). Chances are, there will be consistencies in what’s been called out by others as your strengths, and your accomplishments in each role will be linked to these. Make sure your resumé tells that story – and call out those key skills and traits you own, which make you stand out from the pack.
- Education, certifications, training, awards: include any relevant education, training, awards etc. listing the title as well as the institution – if completed, or if currently in progress (and state so).
- The truth: avoid ‘tweaking’ dates, roles, education etc. to make your resumé seem a perfect flow of activity from one to the other. The reality is, sometimes we take time out of the employment stream: to have children, to travel, to look after a loved one, or any other reason. Sometimes we choose to take the time off, sometimes we don’t (like in the case of redundancy/job loss) – but you don’t have to, and in fact should not ever, try to cover over these “gaps”, or make things up. The truth has an uncanny way of coming out – via reference checks, inconsistencies in your replies, lack of documentation when asked, etc. And lying on your resumé is far worse, and far more detrimental to your job search success & credibility, than a gap that can easily be explained: just don’t go there. If you want to add the time off to your resumé as a data point, to explain a gap, great; but if not, be prepared to honestly answer a question or two about it from an astute HR manager or recruiter who’ll pick up on it, and then simply move on.