You won’t become the best person you can be by staying in a comfortable job that doesn’t push you to your limits. Moving onwards and upwards with your career can take a series of brave decisions, but ultimately it means that you are able to improve yourself, to fulfil your potential – and to offer the full range of your skills and good will to the society around you.
Doing so is not a simple case of packing your existing résumé off to your dream employers and hoping for the best. Of course, you need to research your sector, the companies you might like to work for, and the skills you need to develop or emphasize to make that leap. But more fundamentally, you need to make sure that your résumé is as strong as it can be: that it both represents your achievements and skills, and that it does so in a way that is likely to be appreciated by recruiters.
Your résumé is still an important document even in the age of LinkedIn, and it is important to know the distinctions between these two selling tools. LinkedIn remains a semi-public, living network that requires continual pruning, and must by necessity have a certain generality to it as you never know who’s looking. Your résumé in pdf format, however, should be closely tailored for the specific job and employer to whom you are applying. It is not a ‘social’ document, so unlike LinkedIn you need to put more emphasis on the black and white details, and less on interaction and personality. For example, including a headshot in your résumé looks unprofessional (while on LinkedIn, a good photo is essential).
Nearly half of employers will check your résumé against your LinkedIn profile to see whether your qualifications and employment history are backed up by personal recommendations. But your résumé itself should concentrate on the facts. List your places of employment in reverse-chronological order, and add just five or six bullet points under each one to draw attention to the skills that you utilized there.
Use numbers to make your achievements more instantly appreciable. Recruiters love numbers – it makes things easier to understand and to put into perspective. They only have a limited amount of time to check through their pile of résumés, so you only have a limited amount of time to make an impact. Keep your résumé to less than two pages, and that way you’ll make sure you’re only including the best stuff – and that they’re more likely to read it all.
A great way to quickly convey your achievements is to structure your sentences clearly and simply: “In x situation I did y, which resulted z”. This straightforward sentence is basically a complete story, yet it’s over in moments, meaning that you really have a chance to communicate something that the recruiter will understand and process. It’s very important that your writing is grammatically correct and accessible. Unfortunately, even if grammar is not your strong point (and you have plenty of others), bad sentence structure can make you look unprofessional. It is also more difficult to read. Unless you’re applying for a creative job, it is better not to be too creative with the layout of your résumé: concentrate on getting the text as good as it can be, instead. Try putting your CV through Grammarlybefore you submit it, to iron out any mistakes you might have missed.
If the process of constructing a résumé seems quite dry, it is not to say that you should not be striving to make a human connection. You can get the edge over your competitors by finding out the name of the recruiter and addressing your submission to them directly – more than one in five recruiters will pay more attention to this personal touch. You should also include a summary statement at the top, which gives you a chance to show your human side. Not too human! Just include three sentences, to give a picture of where you come from, what you want to do, and what unique value you can bring to the role. Think of it like the logline to a movie – just don’t be too dramatic!
Finally, if you want to make sure that you’re being heard, use a service such as Mixmax to track your emails and see when they’ve been opened. Don’t be too intrusive, but do use this information as a prompt to send a follow-up if you notice you’ve been missed or forgotten. That employer needs to know you exist!
An insightful new infographic from the people at NetCredit packs a whole list of such résumé advice into one easy-to- refer roadmap. Check it out, and apply the principles to your CV before you next send it off. Be the best person you can be on paper, and hopefully real life success will follow soon after.