A résumé is a vital first step in achieving your next promotion. It is, in essence, your personal advertisement, a short document encapsulating your qualifications and experience, a door-opener to that all-important next step, the job interview. The following check list is designed to help you to prepare and present a winning résumé…

1. Format

Résumés can be prepared in various formats, the most common being:

  • Chronological: your experience and information are listed in reverse chronological order, present job being cited first. This format clearly shows your growth and development.
  • Functional: your work experience is arranged in categories such as project management, leadership, personnel administration, stock control, community relations, and finance.

2. Process

The résumé writing process involves the following steps:

  • 1. Assemble the information on yourself.
  • 2. Select information relevant to the position advertised.
  • 3. Decide on résumé section headings.
  • 4. Prepare a first draft.
  • 5. Allow an ‘incubation’ period.
  • 6. Revise your draft.
  • 7. Review it with others – then rework it.
  • 8. Use a high-quality secretarial service.

3. Content

Remember that résumé comes from the French word meaning summary – so your text and headings must be concise, to the point. The document must convey your potential by telling briefly what you have already accomplished…

  • Reveal your abilities, your potential, and what you can offer the employer by citing past experience as proof.
  • Link your experience and skills to the relevant job objectives.
  • Emphasise your achievements rather than simply describe your responsibilities. They are not the same.
  • Use section headings, such as Personal Directory (name, address, contact), Qualifications, Work History, Achievements, Honours, Professional Affiliations, and References.
  • Avoid gaps in employment in your Work History section. A gap in work history is a red rag to employers, and could get your résumé discarded.
  • Don’t make the employer read the entire résumé to realise that you’re the perfect candidate. Hit a home run with strong statements up-front under ‘Summary of Qualifications’.
  • Your résumé should clearly indicate how capable you are of performing rather than leave this important information to conjecture.

4. Style

Style relates to the way you express your content. A sloppy, dull style could cost you that all-important interview.

  • Use bullets to set off responsibilities or achievements.
  • Use action verbs – led, initiated, prepared, reviewed, or headed – to describe your achievements or responsibilities e.g. Addressed delays in mail-sorting procedures by introducing a program which…
    • Minimise the use of personal pronouns such as I, me, my, myself.
    • Avoid long paragraphs. They’re too difficult to read.
    • Avoid narratives and descriptions.
    • Check, and double-check, for typos, misspellings, and poor grammar.

5. Presentation

Your résumé must be visually inviting:

  • Pay particular attention to the components of appearance – typing, layout, margins, typefaces, headlines, bullets, centring, and spacing. Poorly done, they can wreck a good résumé; well done, they can enhance a poor one. When in doubt, use a reputable secretarial service.
  • Do not use borders, artwork, or decoration; and never attempt to be cute or gimmicky.
  • Do not cram the pages. Clutter distracts the reader. Leave plenty of white space.
  • Keep at least a 2cm margin on every edge of your paper.
  • Leave space between paragraphs.
  • Consistency counts: ensure that all headings, indents, margins, typesize, capitals, italics, etc. are uniform.
  • Type or print your résumé on one side of good quality A4 white, cream or light grey paper, preferably via a quality laser printer or top-of-the-line photocopier.

6. Other matters

Also check out these points:

  • Limit your résumé to two or three pages, plus a one-page covering letter.
  • The laws on equal opportunity employment prevent an employer from discriminating by reason of age, race, disability, health, weight, religion, marital status, and sex. Judge for yourself whether to include such data in your résumé.
  • Do not date your résumé. Your covering letter indicates its currency.
  • File a copy of your résumé in a safe place. Update the document regularly.
  • Know your résumé backwards before attending an interview.
  • Take a couple of copies to your interview – just in case they’re needed.
  • Make sure your referees have copies.
  • Be aware of résumé readers’ major criticisms of these documents: ‘too long, too short, too condensed, too wordy, too smart, too amateurish, misspellings and poor grammar, poorly presented, dishonest, lacking information, poorly expressed’.
  • If you do not value yourself highly, others will not value you highly. The way you feel about yourself will show through your résumé.
  • If you post it, don’t fold it.

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