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Writing your Resume or CV is THE FIRST STEP to landing a job.
Writing your CV is ONLY THE FIRST STEP towards landing your job.
Which of these statements do you think is correct?
Doesn’t matter. What matters is that your CV should be interesting enough to stand out from that of other applicants. How do you achieve this? Well, that’s simple – just highlight your experience, skills, and qualifications – in that order. But what if you are still green and have little or no experience? What if you have only very few skills? What if How do you make your CV stand out? That’s what this blog is all about.
Why do you need a Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)?
Before we discuss how to write the most impressive resume, let us understand the purpose behind writing a resume. You’re likely thinking that’s a no-brainer – you need your resume to let potential employers know about yourself, your skills, qualifications, experience, and why you are eligible for the job. All of that is true but that is not your end goal. You ultimately want to land the job you are applying for – so that’s your end goal behind writing your CV. In order to do this, you should know what the potential employer – a.k.a hiring manager – is looking for and what he has told the recruiter.
Let’s take the JD (Job Description) of a content writer. Content writing is not something you do off the top of your head – as many employers, recruiters, and even novice content writers are wont to think. The job profile – or job description – of a content writer can demand everything from product descriptions and social media posts to writing white papers and academic papers. It spans across multiple industries, niches, domains, and genres. So, depending upon who’s asking, you should tell potential employers about your skills and experience according to what he needs because he’ll be looking at your resume with that in mind.
When you write your resume therefore, you goal should be to meet the recruiter’s – and more importantly the hiring manager’s – needs.
How do you do this? Well, let us consider the elements of your resume.
ELEMENTS OF YOUR RESUME
This should actually – and logically – be either the last element or the page header of your resume. Sounds contradictory? Well just how many times do you hand out your business card when you are first introduced to someone? About half the time right? Other times you might wait to get to know more about the person you are meeting before handing over your card. It’s the same with recruiters and hiring managers. They’ll only want your contact details once they have shortlisted you. So it’s best to let them read all about you before telling them where they can reach you; but it’s also fine to discreetly display your contact details on the header of your resume – just like when you hand out your business card as soon as you meet someone.
Here you state your objective for your job search – not just the current job mind you, – but your overall goal or objective behind applying for jobs in this genre, domain, or industry. Remember, the same role may have different JD in different organizations, institutions, and even different teams. So state why you are embarking on a job search. This may be pretty broad – such as hoping to work with senior citizens – or more specific like want to work as content writer with digital marketers. When writing your objective think about your current status and where you want to be.
This is the next most important element of your CV. Having stated your objective, it’s time to let recruiters and potential employers know what you have done so far in working towards your objective. For instance, you may have started out as a content writer or Vlogger on YouTube working towards eventually becoming the CEO of a digital marketing or branding company. List your past experience in chronological order. It’s best to begin with your most recent job and work backward to the first job you ever held. But moving from your first to the latest works too if your entire experience fits in one single page. You may also put the most relevant experience at the top and list the rest below that in forward or reverse chronological order. Think about what works best for the job for which you are applying.
Some experts put education before skills while others do the reverse – again it may depend upon your status and the job you are applying for. Either way, skills include things like attention to detail or working comfortably with software that is important to your business or industry. During the course of work you may acquire some on-the-job-skills. For instance, a B.Commerce graduate may learn to work with Tally or execute budget forecasting on Excel. Such skills set you apart from the crowd and should be highlighted. There are also some subtle skills such as body language, oration, public speaking, and presentation that you may possess or acquire through experience. The long and short of it is – it is important to list these skills – also called soft-skills or transferable skills – on your CV or resume, and list them in the order of relevance – how important they are for the job.
Although employers today are focusing more on skill and talent rather than qualification, this does not mean education is outdated. You should list your educational qualifications on your resume. Why? Well consider a scenario – hypothetical as it may be – where two candidates have the exact same skillsets and experience. The only difference is one is a graduate while the other is an under graduate. Who do you think will get selected? Right! Obviously the graduate – and that’s just one reason to list your qualification. Remember that there are still those recruiters and employers who look at education first even when they are looking to hire talent. So yes, list your educational qualification.
There are a few other details you can list on your CV or resume – and these may or may not be relevant to the job profile but still have the potential to attract attention. These include achievements, hobbies, and sports. These are the three main additional details that can make it into your CV but there may be others too depending again upon the job you are applying for.
This is another important component of your CV that deserves your attention. Traditionally, CV’s or Bio-Data – the traditional name for CV – presented information beginning with personal details such as name, address, age / dob, height, weight, and so on followed by qualification and then experience. This was a simplistic approach which is no longer relevant. Recruiters do not need to know your height or weight or even your age. In the post pandemic era, employers, recruiters, and hiring managers are all demanding resumes that are easy to scan and that bring out the eligibility of the candidate instantly. Bots are being used for screening and shortlisting. This means your resume should be formatted in a way that tells the reader – whosoever that may be – about your career path and trajectory. Using headings and other formatting makes it easy for bots to scan your online CV or online profile.
Typically, resumes list the various elements in the order mentioned above and if you want to classify or typify the formats you might put all formats into one of three or four categories –
- Hybrid – a mixture of one or more of the above 3.
But that’s as far as your experience is concerned. Where exactly, and how should you show-off your skills and talents? Should you or should you not list your projects – and how much detail to share about these projects? Should you include your internship and pro-bono (free) work in your experience?
These are some of the questions that plague jobseekers. The answer lies in your current status and the job you are hoping to get. These two factors will determine the format of your resume. And if you are wondering whether you should write a separate resume for each application – the answer is an unequivocal yes – remember we said the goal is to connect and resonate with the employer or hiring manager? Of course you need not write every resume from scratch – you can write one generic CV and then tweak it to suit the JD – and don’t forget to read that – the JD – very very carefully!
Talking about format, the four we listed above refer to experience – so if for instance, you decide to go with the chronological format, you would list your experience beginning with your first job and working down to the present. You would do the exact opposite in the reverse chronological format. A functional resume is one that provides only the relevant information to the reader which is essentially the experience and skillset.
Which Resume Format should you Choose?
The format you choose would be largely incumbent upon your – the candidate’s – current status. Going by experience we’ve classified candidates as fresher, experienced, highly experienced, and sabbatical return. The last refers to those who have taken a career break for some reason. Without being sexist, a woman who has quit her job after marriage and wants to return may fall in this last category. Widows, divorcees, and those who have lost their job also qualify as sabbatical returns.
There are those who may be skeptical about sabbatical returns. To them we say –
With that background here’s our take on which resume format would work best for you –
If you are fresh out of college, you obviously do not have any experience. Before going any further you might want to read our blog on How to Land Your First Job After College. As for your CV, since you have little or no experience to list, your best bet is to go with a functional resume that shows off your educational qualification and skill set. Under skillset you might list any additional – extra-curricular – courses you may have taken such as a course in Tally, GST, MS-Office, personality development, or other soft skills – a.k.a. transferable skills. This will tell the recruiter that even if you have no experience, you definitely have learnt the skills for the job. If you haven’t yet, you might consider upskilling while you job hunt.
You can list your education and skills parallel in a two columnar format or list them one below the other. Either way, it’s best to keep your resume to a single page – after all, you don’t want to sound to bombastic do you? So a simple functional resume is what you should go for.
If you are somewhat experienced but do not have a great many achievements to display, you could go with a chronological resume that lists your experience in a straightforward manner beginning with your first job. That way you tell potential employers that you are proud of your achievement so far yet humble enough to accept that there are people better than you. You can use a two column format to list your skills and achievements side by side with the job through which you acquired them. Do mention your education and any upskills or relevant hobbies and interests.
If you are in your forties or above and have a good deal of experience you should list the latest first, – use the reverse chronological format – and parallel to that, mention what you achieved and / or learnt. At this point in your career educational qualification holds little significance so you could skip that part if you like or only mention the most significant qualification briefly. You should however, mention any extra courses – such as management courses, coding, or other courses – you may have taken and that are relevant to the job you are seeking. The idea here is to portray yourself as a professional and expert in your industry so pay attention to what part of your experience you want to include – you can exclude the irrelevant bits of experience such as working in administrative capacity or on the periphery of the industry. These may be mentioned during the interview.
We’ve already explained what this means, so here’s what you should do in your CV. You are not a fresher because you do have experience. So you should list that in the reverse chronological order along with any additional skills. Don’t forget to mention that you have been updating yourself during your sabbatical and list any certifications, skills, or achievements during that period. Mention clearly that you are returning to work after a break and the reason for that break – even if it is only to be a homemaker. Say that you are ready to learn new skills if required – and mentally prepare yourself to do so.
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