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Writing an Effective Resume

Facts and Fallacies about Writing a Creative Resume.

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There are many facts and fallacies about writing a creative resume and depending where you turn, you’ll get different advice—all presenting itself as the final word on the subject. There are rules to be followed, as we outline below, but there is also room for flexibility:

  • If you send a resume before seeing someone, its purpose is to act as a personal selling document—one that will get you invited to an interview or for a meeting. 
  • A resume is not always the first step in the process to hiring someone—it may be your door opener but you may also use it as a follow-up tool after seeing someone.
  • People who receive resumes often use them for screening you ‘out’ rather than ‘in.’ Be aware that the first person to look at your resume for a specific job is not likely to be the person who will do the interviewing; the person screening out inappropriate resumes may only have a list of criteria to match. Your resume will have to get beyond this point to ensure you are considered for an interview. 
  • When you get to the interview, your resume can act as the agenda for your discussion, giving the interviewer a springboard from which to launch the inquiry. Yes, it is acceptable to keep it in front of you but only refer to it as, and when, you need to. 
  • Layout and design should be legible, consistent and easy to follow, with good clear headings, large easy-to-read typeface—such as Times New Roman, Courier or Arial — and no typographical or grammatical errors. Use good quality, plain paper. (Colored paper or a fancy border doesn’t add anything unless the position in question requires a demonstration of that sort of creativity—for example, the creative area of an advertising department.) 
  • Do not send poor quality photocopies. It doesn’t cost much for good quality reproductions—and this is your career we’re talking about! 
  • Orientate your resume towards specific (and quantifiable) achievements rather than duties and responsibilities. It should tell prospective employers everything that might interest them and nothing that will waste their time. 
  • Keep it honest. Don’t exaggerate your experience to make it sound more impressive. If it can’t stand up to scrutiny in the interview, you will blow your chances of getting the job.
  • Write in clear, concise terms, using active words (eg. accomplished, created, enhanced, launched, negotiated, etc). If you don’t feel comfortable with this, write a factual statement such as: ‘Achieved sales objectives of 250 units per month’. 
  • Keep it succinct. Highlight particular personal achievements. For example: ‘During my period as Manager, turnover decreased 120 per cent.’ If your professional experience is limited, it might be wise to include memberships of clubs or organizations that show commitment to being involved.
  • Do not write a novel. It should concisely paint a picture of you and your job history. Key points should be highlighted to develop interest and excitement about you as a potential candidate. Include the kind of information you would like to know if you were hiring someone. The reviewer must be drawn to wanting to meet you in person. 
  • Put your work history and educational details in reverse chronological order, that is, starting with the most recent. It’s easier to follow. 
  • Don’t use a narrative style.  Highlight your accomplishments in a bullet point format, then you don’t need as many complete sentences. But be warned: brief points must be carefully thought out. At the interview stage, your statements must be backed up by evidence—based on your track record or education. 
  • Be specific in your resume. Use numbers or percentages to illustrate your successes or the impact you can have. Avoid claiming complete responsibility for achievements; implying no one else deserves any credit, which is usually not the case.