Making your resumé / CV strong

When you’re at school or university, you often hear people talking about your resumé or Curriculum Vitae and it’s sometimes confusing. I’ve only been at school, you might think, what can I put on my resumé?

This post attempts to give you some advice. Overall, remember this: The person reading your resumé is distracted, imperfect, and potentially lazy. Make sure you are giving them the information they need to know to be wowed, as clearly and as obviously as possible.

Content

As with most things you produce, its meat – its content – is more important than how it looks. That said, please check the Formatting inconsistencies section below.

But you’re young, and you haven’t had time to do anything yet, how can your resumé have good content? That is up to you. If you want to be a Social Worker, why not go and volunteer at a nearby drop-in for troubled youths? If you want to be in IT, why not create a simple leaflet offering IT support, and drop it through the doors of some houses in your neighborhood? If you want to be a teacher, see if you can find some relevant experience. Whatever your dreams or goals, get some non-academic evidence of your commitment onto your resumé.

Gaps

A lot of resumé advice talks about avoiding gaps, or explaining them. That should be relatively obvious. If your experience has a gap of six months, were you unemployed, were you seriously injured skiing, or were you doing something you’re embarrassed to report? Whatever the situation, it’s better to have a small narrative paragraph than a complete gap.

But a gap doesn’t have to be an absence of something. You probably need to explain why you qualified to be a journalist, and then worked in McDonald’s or Uber for two years. The answer might well be that you were trying to find the right role, but what were you doing in your free time? Were you just waiting for something to fall in your lap, or were you proactively getting your name out there? Perhaps you entered some writing competitions, or wrote a blog… Now there’s an idea!

Whatever your career goals, make sure you are able to show others, as well as yourself, that you are trying to get there, even if you’re not having the luck you hoped for, or feel you deserve.

Ordering

A lot of people write their resume in a simple fashion, and this is fine. Typically, it will have personal details at the top, education details in another section, and finally a section on your employment history.

  • The education section should be at the top if your employment history is less impressive, and your employment section should be at the top if that is the more impressive part.

Make sure you prioritize what’s on your resumé, because a lot of people will skim-read it in the first review, and if it’s not front-and-center, it may as well have never happened.

Errors

You will find similar advice everywhere, but though I have seen hundreds of resumés, I have seen very few with no spelling errors, no grammar errors, and no inconsistencies in formatting.

This may sound like the complaint of a pedant, but if you cannot make a perfect resumé given all the time in the world, what should an employer expect when you are running up to deadlines, or being asked to be efficient? Attention to detail is a valued trait in many jobs, and inconsistent formatting on your resumé tells a potential employer all they need to know in that department.

Formatting inconsistencies

The best way of removing formatting inconsistencies, is to use Styles. In Word, and every other Word Processor, there are Styles that you can use to automatically format text. Make sure you have a style for your headings, your job titles, your regular text, and any other text that you want to appear in a different font or color. Then, as you write your resumé, select the appropriate style for each paragraph.

A good general rule for life: Try to avoid touching the bold, underline, font-size, and other icons in Word’s ribbon, or in Google Docs’s toolbar, unless you absolutely have to have some formatting within a paragraph.

Summary

In summary your resumé reflects you more than you might intend it to. Make an effort, make it great, make it honest. Finally, make yourself as good as you want your resumé to be, by volunteering or doing relevant work whenever you can.

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