Mention the right things in your resume

Our resume or CV (Curriculum Vitae) is probably the most important document for our professional lives. As such, it’s important to know some of the simple tips and tricks we can use to make them, and ourselves implicitly, as attractive as possible for employers.

From keeping it short and simple, to adjusting the content of the resume to the company and position you are targeting, this article will cover seven of the easiest things you can do with your resume.

Use a simple template πŸ”Ž

Some of the resume templates in MS Word
Some of the resume templates in MS Word

First and foremost, use a simple template for your resume. You don’t have to add all sorts of wacky colors, complicated layouts or, God forbid, WordArt.

If you use Microsoft Word, recent editions even have templates, like those you can see above. If you’re using other software, the web is full of good and simple CV formats.

Ideally, they need to have:

  • One or two colors besides the black text that should be used for the rest of the content
  • A pretty simple layout, one or maybe two columns, if needed
  • Easy to edit and with no weird spacing, since you’re going to constantly update it

KISS: Keep it short & simple πŸ’€

An good resume should be one or two pages long. Ideally, it needs to be printable on a two-sided piece of paper.

Why it’s important to be short

I can immediately sense you thinking of a few objections to the length I mentioned above:

  • I have a lot of experience that I want to showcase
  • I went through a lot of positions, each very different from the other
  • I heard that you need to add as many keywords as possible to get past the automated systems recruiters have in place to weed out unfit candidates

Some of them are valid reasons to go over the two-page limit. However, the person who is holding the interview will be grateful because they don’t have to carry with them a huge stack of paper to meet you.

Also, an interview is usually over in about one hour. You don’t want your interviewer to barely reach the halfway point in your resume when the time is up.

Why it’s important to be simple in your descriptions

Simplicity proves you know how to break down complex topics into easy to understand words. Don’t forget that your resume won’t be examined just by people in the same line of work, but also by non-technical people like recruiters, managers, or HR representatives.

They need to also understand what you did at previous jobs, at least in broad strokes. You will also need to explain your resume during initial conversations, so make sure you don’t use complex sentences.

Don’t bother with trivial skills ❌

Once you gain a bit of experience, it’s better to eliminate trivial skills from your resume. These include things like knowing how to use a computer or email, software like the Microsoft Office suite, and so on.

Of course, if you’re trying to find your first job, it’s probably better to mention them as you won’t have much else to say in your resume.

You should also avoid obvious descriptions like “hardworking” (as opposed to those that say lazy in their resume?) or “detail-oriented”. Try to come up with better words, like user-oriented or curious. For the last one, we have a full article dedicated to curiosity and how it can help you.

Don’t list off every detail unless you want questions about that πŸ‘€

One of my colleagues who also conducted interviews liked to single out all the technologies mentioned in a resume and ask questions about some of the more obscure ones. This helped him figure out if the candidate had actual experience or just listed off buzzwords, hoping to seem as an all-knowing expert.

The lesson is to not list off every detail or technology unless you fully know how to answer questions about that. Don’t say that you worked with Java if you don’t know what a public static void main method does.

Adapt your CV based on the position and company you are applying to πŸ”„

Your resume isn’t set in stone. In fact, you should constantly change it based on the positions and companies you are applying to. Try to add details that tie into the activity that you will be doing if you get recruited.

For example, I was a technical writer before moving to the Quality Assurance realm. As such, I added and reworded experience to exemplify QA-related activities that I did, from working with developers and business analysts, to conducting on my own different tests and registering bugs.

Based on the industry you are applying you can also reword certain things. Financial companies care a lot more about regulation and security than consumer-oriented corporations that favor creativity and experimentation.

Use numbers when describing accomplishments πŸ’―

What sounds more impressive?

  • Improved test coverage across different multiple system components
  • Improved test coverage by 50% across 10 new system components

Both describe the same accomplishment but the one of the actual numbers sounds a lot more impressive. As such, remember to favor figures over vague statements. This shows that your efforts were measured and you weren’t working with ambiguous results.

If you lack job experience, showcase general skills πŸ’ͺ

You may just be starting out or have very little job-related experience. That’s OK, everyone had to kick things off somehow.

In this case, you should use a section in your resume to showcase your general skills and areas where you are most experienced, even if you didn’t do them in previous jobs.

Of course, as mentioned above, be prepared for questions from interviewers, so make sure you list things that you do know how to do.

Conclusion 🏁

Bear in mind that studies have shown that you only need to match 50% of job requirements. As such, make sure you have a good resume using the tips mentioned above and keep on applying.

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