Résumé Improvement – Doing it Yourself!

I passionately believe that’s it’s not just what you say that counts, it’s also how you say it – that the success of your argument critically depends on your manner of presenting it.
– Alain de Botton

Resume ImprovementWhy should you bother about résumé improvement? Someone once said that a “first impression is a lasting impression”. Your résumé is the first impression and it could be the difference in you ending ending up in front of the hiring manager or the résumé finding its way into the dustbin!

A company will get hundreds of résumés in response to an opening – be it from job sites, agencies or referrals. The recruiter has very little time to spend on each résumé. A badly written, ill-presented résumé has little chance of making the cut.

A résumé is a personal and creative document and therefore everyone will and must have a unique one, it’s difficult to offer “one size fits all” advice. However after years of being an interviewee, interviewer and a headhunter I do have my take on writing a “good” résumé which I share below.

So pick-up your résumé and pass it through these filters or easier still take advantage of our Résumé Improvement Service and we will create a résumé which will help you shine!

  • First & Foremost – no spelling, tense or grammatical errors please.
  • Never use acronyms unless they are widely known like SEO, UN, WHO, etc.
  • “New age” spellings like txt or gr8 or whtevr will only brand you as frivolous or worse delinquent!
  • Keep consistent fonts, formatting, style, etc.
  • There is no rule about the length of a résumé although many people will tell you there is. If the content is compelling, long copy will sell (with apologies to David Ogilvy)
  • Don’t repeat the same things under different headings.
  • Learn to ‘really’ use Word or whatever other word-processor you like.
  • Leave the fancy business school jargon to the “résumé factories”. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid!) is still the best principle.
  • Corollary to the above, you probably don’t want to get your résumé made at a “résumé factory” – remember you want a “unique”, “personal” & “creative” résumé.
  • Whatever the temptation don’t lie or stretch the truth. These things have a way of catching up with you eventually.
  • Print out your résumé and make sure it looks as good on paper as it does on the screen

I have reviewed hundreds of résumés and you’ll be surprised how many people screw up the basics. I have seen exceptional fresher résumés and horrendous CxO résumés. So get a few people (friends, parents, professional acquaintances, the guy next door, etc) to read your résumé. This will make sure it is readable, understandable and free of errors.

RÉSUMÉ IMPROVEMENT – TIP 1: Probably more of a Rule!
  • Nobody is interested in your gender, nationality, marital status, date of birth, etc.
  • The name of your parents or your family history is absolutely irrelevant.
  • You might have a passport and be ready to fly at the drop of a hat but you don’t need to give the number and the details in your résumé!
  • Do not mention any compensation details. Companies may screen you out if you are paid too less (yes, this is true!) or too high.
  • And worse never add what compensation you expect in the future.
Some of this sounds crazy, but I have actually seen résumés with many of these ‘pearls’!

Most of this information may prejudice the reviewer so leave it out. If the recruiter wants this information they’ll probably give you a form to fill anyway. Finally, gathering such information is illegal in many countries.

RÉSUMÉ IMPROVEMENT – TIP 2: Opening Content & Relevance
  • Your contact details must be really handy. At the top of the first page below/besides your name is the best position.
  • It might be a good idea to put a small paragraph at the beginning which states what you are ‘professionally interested in doing’. Something like “I am keen on a sales position” or “I am keen on a technical analyst role”.
  • Make sure your experiences backs this up otherwise you’re in for a long wait to hear back from the recruiter!
  • Try to include why you have this interest & how it is relevant to the company your sending it to.
  • If you are making a generic résumé leave this out. Companies may screen you out if your objectives are a complete mismatch with the job on offer. A corollary to this is – always tweak your résumé for the specific company & job you’re applying for.

A summary of some key strengths/achievements, etc might be a good option as bullets. Remember KISS. The key word is “summary” – therefore be brief!! For example:

  • Have always been in the top 5 of my class
  • Quick study, am able to pick-up technical subjects easily
  • Excellent analytical skills which I have used successfully in making money on the stock market
  • Great organizer & have used this skill to organize events such as …..
  • Keen sports person, have played for my college team in Basketball
  • Very good speaker & presenter. Have won several debating competitions
  • Comprehensive knowledge of Java & ASP which I have used to develop a web portal
  • Helped collect funds to the tune of Rs.xxx for an old age home
Make this “your” list & be ready to defend what you have written. Avoid the “résumé factory” lists!
You should tone down the adjectives to reflect reality and which you will be able to back-up. Excellent in “C++” doesn’t mean I used to do some programming in class 10th!

RÉSUMÉ IMPROVEMENT – TIP 4: For the Fresher/Academically Focused

Personally, I prefer a résumé without “tables” but this is up to you. Since you may not have much job experience highlighting some of the special things you did in college will be nice.

    • Things like – ‘Stood first in class’ or ‘Secretary Cultural Club’ or ‘Captain of College volleyball team’ or ‘Did a project to identify the boiling point of water which was selected for the National Science forum’, etc.
    • Leave out the stuff about JEE, SAT, CAT, GMAT scores & ranks. Unless your rank was truly outstanding or has some special significance – like top 10 or top 100. The fact that you were 851st is not worth mentioning.
    • Focus on any special projects, internship, etc you did. If you made some real impact don’t forget to mention that.
    • You can safely leave out that you were offered a job by “Acme Inc” in 1990 which you did not accept. Such information is of little relevance. You want to use this as an opening – “Although I was offered a job at Acme Inc after my engineering as a programmer, I decided to pursue a degree in management since I was keen on a sales position with a software development outsourcing company” – or something to that effect.
RÉSUMÉ IMPROVEMENT – TIP 5: For the Professional Part
  • Professional experience, list it out chronologically. Current one first.
  • It’s nice to give the month & year when you started and ended your employment and also the total years spent at a company. It’s a pain for the recruiter to calculate this for every job. A summary of this at the start of this section would be appreciated.
  • Where did you work, what did the company do & what you did there is all important.
  • Mention career progression – ‘joined as trainee became a manager in 2 years due to my diligence’
  • Forget generalities, the more specific you are the better.
  • Add special achievements – ‘met my annual sales quota 3 years in a row’; ‘employee of the quarter for Q2 FY 04’; ‘reduced expenses by 30%’, etc. Again be factual & be ready to defend what you write.
  • Unless you are applying for a hardcore technical job please don’t mention every technical software project you have done & the excruciating details of the exact tools you used! Rather present it as a business solution like – “was a member of the team which helped reduce congestion at Heathrow Airport by developing an advanced ATC system”. If really needed, list all the other projects in an addendum at the end of your résumé.
    • Relevant references should only be provided once the company asks for them.
    • Please leave out “I hereby declare that all the information provided by me in this application is factual & correct to the best of my knowledge & belief – Date: – Signature:” This sort of thing went out with the clerical job at “Scrooge’s accountancy” in 1807! If a company thinks you’re fibbing on your résumé then you’re in trouble in spite of your declaration; go back & read the rules above!!

If all this sounds a bit too overwhelming, take the advantage of our Résumé Improvement Service. We will create a résumé which will help you shine!