The Christmas and New Year period is a time when a lot of people reflect on the past year and consider their plans for the year ahead. It’s also a time when many of us have the headspace to think about changing jobs. Or, for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, it’s also a time to plan for the future.
But, the past few years have seen competition for available jobs in Australia increase dramatically and, these days, it’s not unheard of to be competing against a few hundred other applicants for the one position.
The first point of contact when applying for a job is your resume. So, if you want to grab the attention of your potential employer it’s worth developing a resume that stands out from the crowd.
Your resume or CV is also your first point of contact, it’s your digital handshake with your future boss. Although you won’t be there in person to charm them and explain the difficult hours you put in to ensure that last year’s merger went smoothly, you’d better make sure your CV does.
At Infodec Communications we are often asked questions about the length of the perfect resume, people who have had a long career also want to know how far back they should go into their employment history, what qualifications should be included, what to do about gaps in the resume, and more.
There’s no denying that the resume has changed over the past few years. While the basics of a solid resume remain the same, the rise of the online space, together with the sharp spike in competition for jobs means that there are a few things you need to know.
We’re in the business of providing highly polished, professional resumes that stand out from the pack. Here are some of the tips we put into practice day-to-day to ensure our clients get the big break they deserve.
1/ Encourage action with active language. Action verbs are powerful words that can quickly position you as a very capable and hands-on achiever. Try to use as many action verbs as possible in your past role descriptions and skillset list. Here are some strong examples, split into three categories:
2/ The basics are obvious, right? You’d be surprised. Be sure to list your name in large, bold lettering and include your address and other contact details in a clear easy-to-access position.
With the rise in popularity of social media platforms, it’s a good idea to show how well you are connected by including things like your Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile and even Facebook address.
Make sure your Facebook account is set to private if you don’t want unwanted viewers and, importantly, make sure you have a top-notch LinkedIn profile, set to impress the socks off anyone who stumbles by. We’ll cover more on the power of LinkedIn shortly.
3/ Make it visually appealing; white space makes for positive impressions. Be sure to set out your resume in a way that is well-spaced and visually appealing. No one likes to wade through a soup of dense information, tied together without paragraphs or line breaks.
If you’re worried about the amount of detail you’ve included, ask yourself what is and isn’t obvious. Be ruthless in your editing so that you can use plenty of white space, making your CV a pleasure to navigate.
Remember, this is your first impression – if your resume appears rushed, boring or over-written, it’s a direct reflection on you, your work ethic and professional ability.
4/ Use effective, targeted titles. The devil is in the detail. You’ll be one of twenty, fifty or even a few hundred applicants and it’s important that your suitability stands out from the start. Subheadings are a great way to include a great level of detail about your experience.
An example of a weak title under work experience would be ‘Project Management’. This title may be used by 80% of your competitors and could be improved by teasing out and showcasing the specific requirements for the role. Here is an example of a stronger title that does just that: ‘Manager of Project Planning, Resource Analysis and Allocation’.
Try to keep the subheadings as detailed as possible without making them too word-heavy or segmented. People with busy schedules just don’t read the way they used to; in most cases your CV will be passed on or thrown out within the first 10 – 30 seconds.
5/ Prioritise. The most important information first, then the vegetables. You’ll want to begin your resume with your previous work experience. This is the information that your prospective employer is really looking for; it’s the evidence that will either make or break your case.
You should list your experience from your current or most recent position first, leading to the oldest relevant position. When listing the responsibilities or skills acquired during these roles, put the same rule into practice. List the most important or the most relevant for the position you are applying for.
Trim the fat early, be smart and prioritise and you’ll have the best chance of keeping them reading for longer.
6/ Be enthusiastic; show your drive and potential for greatness. One of the worst things you can do when compiling your resume is taking a negative tone. Rather than be critical of past employers, focus on the positives that you brought to the table – the changes that markedly improved customer relations, for example, and boosted sales beyond even last financial year’s figures.
7/ Show your commitment with top-notch research. You should never apply for a position without doing a bit of a reconnaissance sweep first. You’ll want to reflect in your cover letter just how much you know about your prospective employer and the company you’ll be joining.
A proven way to show how dedicated and capable you are is to identify some of the pain points that the company may have. Express your understanding of the company’s marketplace, their customers and the requirements they may have.
If you can identify any problems they may have, address them by showcasing how your valuable skillset and extensive experience could remedy the issues.
8/ Aesthetics are important, sure. But one too many flourishes could spell disaster. The look of your CV is certainly an important thing to consider. Try not to get too caught up in looks, though; colour and photographs can in many cases work against you.
As mentioned before, generous spacing and clear, bold titles are very important. It’s equally important to avoid becoming too creative with your resume. This is especially relevant if you’re applying for a bank CEO position rather than an early childhood or graphic design role.
Be aware that while there are many CV templates out there, and many are quite acceptable, there are also quite a number that are simply too flowery for the Australian job market. Adding colours to your CV and graphics or images could see it tossed out within seconds of landing on the desk.
There is indeed a place for clean, modern design when it comes to producing an effective resume however it’s essential to get the balance right.
9/ Brief is best, but is it? Many people will tell you that the ideal CV should be one to two pages in length. While you should try to condense your information into the most potent, bite-sized sentences and paragraphs possible, the position’s criteria actually dictates the length your resume should be.
If you’re applying for a barista position at your local café, you may only need a page-length CV, accompanied by any qualification certificates you’ve been awarded. A CEO position, for example, may require far more evidence and therefore warrant a resume of five or more pages, plus supporting documents.
Brief is best, but you should avoid keeping to the two page rule if the position’s advertisement asks for a great deal of information. We’ve seen applications for university positions exceed six and seven pages.
10/ Keep it formal for the time being; keep the slang for the water cooler. It may seem simple, but a lot of people make the mistake of using language that is too casual. Your resume should be the foremost representation of your potential for professionalism.
The use of slang or industry jargon could turn the reader off immediately. Where appropriate, be sure to only use industry terminology that is consistent with all in the field.
Never use slang terms or hyperbole like ‘break-through sales spike’. Write ‘significant increase in sales revenue’ instead; your prospective employer will appreciate the respectful tone and your claims will be more believable at the same time.
11/ Get yourself an email address that won’t raise eyebrows. Here’s another simple tip, but it’s one that a lot of people overlook. It’s perfectly acceptable to register an email address with a free email host like Gmail or Hotmail. What should be avoided is including an email address like ‘email@example.com’ – it’s just going to look silly and make you appear unprofessional.
A perfectly acceptable solution would be to register an email address like ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or ‘email@example.com’. Another important thing to remember is to avoid using you current work email address. What’s yours is theirs when it comes to email at work and the last thing you want is for your boss to discover you’re looking to jump ship.
When sending your resume via email, attach your CV in .pdf format rather than Word. Your chosen typeface and document spacing might not translate to the receiver’s PC and all your hard work could end up a jumbled mess.
12/ Cover letters should be tailor-made, not a carbon copy. Although it’s been suggested in recent years that the cover letter could be dead, nothing is further from the truth. While it’s true that many cover letters will never be read, if yours is and it’s not tailor-made to the position you’re applying for, it could seriously hurt your chances of success.
To begin, be sure to write your cover letter so that it addresses the general manager or the HR officer if possible. If that information isn’t available, address your letter to ‘Sir/Madam’, ‘Mr/Ms’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’.
Also, start your cover letter by highlighting the position that you are applying for. E.g., ‘I am writing in response to your advertisement for the position of Managing Director that was recently advertised on seek.com.au’.
Be clever about how you write your cover letter; make sure you address the selection criteria by presenting evidence of your skillset and past experience. Offer ideas that you’d like to bring to the table if hired and always be courteous and respectful in your tone.
13/ Solid numbers can turn the tide in your favour – use them as much as possible. If you’ve been instrumental in improving sales figures or increasing staff efficiency, make sure you include the evidence. Including specific figures can really help you present your case here.
For example, instead of insisting that the department you headed saw a significant sales increase, explain that the increase translated to a rise of 2.4% and meant an added $1,766, 000 for the company.
Don’t be afraid to sell yourself here, even if there were other players involved in the success. Remember, they aren’t necessarily applying for this position and as far as you’re concerned, you were an integral part to the company’s success in this area.
14/ Use bullet points to break up body text.
- Bullet points are a great way to break up otherwise dense sections of text.
- Keep your reader on track, point after point.
- Bullet points allow for skills and attributes to appear larger in number.
- These points allow for more to be said in less space.
- Bullet points allow for fast and easy navigation.
15/ Get an editor on board; even the best of us overlook silly stuff. You may have been looking at your CV for days upon days, tweaking it here and there to get it just right for this big upper management role. The more time you spend with a document, no matter how sharp your eyes are, the higher the chance of missing something important.
Get someone you trust to bring a pair of fresh eyes to the table. You’d be surprised by just how many beautifully crafted resumes are ruined by a few typos or the misspelling of the company’s name.
Brief your editor on the position you’re applying for and ask them to proof everything you’re sending in. If you can get a number of people to look over your new CV, that’s even better. Try to get a hold of someone who’s familiar with your industry, also. They’ll be far more likely to pick up on any mistakes you’ve made.
16/ Be LinkedIn for the best results. With nearly 4 million active Australian users, LinkedIn is the most useful and widely used networking social media platforms for professionals. If you haven’t got your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and polished, you’re really letting yourself down.
Your LinkedIn profile is a digital resume and is just as important as the CV you’ll send in with your job application. Remember that the same basic rules apply when crafting your LinkedIn profile: use formal language, action verbs and include as much relevant information as possible.
These days you’ll find that most prospective employers will turn immediately to an applicant’s LinkedIn profile to assess the industry connections they have, the references they’ve received and their ability to be connected and actively pursuing their career in the online space.
For a much more detailed look at what it takes to produce a top-shelf LinkedIn profile, have a read of our article, 5 tips for a striking LinkedIn profile.
These are just a few of the most important things to keep in mind when crafting your resume. There are many more great techniques to bump your CV to the top; host your portfolio online and include a link in your resume, brand your CV with the company’s logo or include a link to a SlideShare presentation that addresses your career achievements in greater detail.
When we are helping clients with their resumes we make sure we look at the company they are applying for an ‘speak their language’.
Have you considered getting professional help? Infodec Communications is a Sydney-based communications agency, highly experienced in researching and producing cut-through resumes that place the competition in the shadows and deliver our clients results.
To celebrate the New Year we are offering a unique discount on our professional resume writing services. Contact us today to discuss the job you want in 2015.