When you’re on the hunt for a job it’s easy to get disheartened by the ‘thanks but you were not successful this time’ emails. No doubt you’ve thought ‘if only I could just get in front of them, I know they would realise I was right.’ So what stands between a rejection letter and an interview? Your resume!
It’s your first impression, and yet too often people don’t give it the consideration and time it needs to truly reflect the best you. Think if it this way. When you head out on the weekend with friends you spend an hour or more getting ready (shower, hair, wardrobe choices, a bit of make-up), but when you apply for the job you really really want, you slap together a letter and CV in under 15 minutes, or worse you spend hours decorating it with glitter and fancy paper so that it doesn’t even resemble you anymore.
In a career spanning more than 20 years in HR and recruitment I’ve seen more resumes than I care to remember. There was the resume with the teabag attached (so I could have a cuppa while reading it), the decorative borders (so decorative it was hard to find the print) or the photo of a topless applicant riding his horse bareback. All of these were memorable but for the wrong reasons.
So, what is the right way to get the recruitment manager’s attention, and for the right reasons? Here’s four easy tips that you can’t go wrong with:
1. Ditch the ‘resume speak’ and use examples instead! A recent study highlighted in the UK Daily Mail highlighted that using clichés and buzzwords to describe your talents could actually be a put off to potential employers. Using words like hard working, enthusiastic and passionate are often an exaggeration of your abilities and might see you in the ‘no’ pile. Focus on marrying these words with actual examples as this will support what you are saying. For example, to show you are hard-working list some projects you’ve worked on or related examples, like charities or extracurricular groups you’ve been involved in or high study achievements. Many of these can also double to demonstrate your enthusiasm (think: sporting groups, committees, or volunteering). If you’re creative, consider including a small example or portfolio section that includes photos of work or links to creative writing or projects. Including these examples will also give the recruitment manager a subject to discuss with you – they’ll use it to assess your passion, interest and commitment (although you’ll feel like it’s just a friendly chat)!
2. Make it professional. When it comes to your resume, avoid colour paper and print. Use a business style font and keep it to a minimum. Use a summary along with personal details and your employment history. It’s a great idea to include stand out achievements from previous roles or school. Don’t include a photo and consider having an email address that is just used for your job hunting. Whatever you do, DON’T send a job application from the address you use for all your friends. No HR manager will take ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ seriously.
3. Don’t include referees to begin with, but keep them in the loop. When and if the Interviewer asks you then provide them with the most suitable referee for the role you are applying for i.e. if you have worked in similar role previously then your direct supervisor in that role. Avoid supplying friends or colleagues as referees and have the courtesy to call your referee to give them a heads up to expect the call. That way you can brief them on the role and they will be prepared (to say great things about you).
4. Invest time in your resume. Spend time putting it together, and continually update your CV with relevant details. Read and re-read it before sending! I cannot stress this enough. Spell check is a great resource, and by all means use it, but it doesn’t pick up a typo like a human can, and if you don’t the recruiter will! And without even trying, you’ve instantly told them you have poor attention to detail and perhaps you’re not as keen on the job as you say you are (because if you really wanted it, you would take the time to recheck your resume, right?). If you’r not feeling confident in what you’ve put together, then get advice. Ask someone you trust to also take a look and give you feedback. Even consider having an expert help you put it together. It’s not as exspenvise as you think, and if it lands you a paid job then it’s money well spent.
Linda Callander has worked in human resources and recruitment for over 20 years and is now the director of hirewell, a company that helps both individuals and small businesses. They run job ready training courses for school leavers and do one-one-one career couching and resume writing for job hunters. Find out more at hirewell.com.au and take advantage of the $99 resume review.