How to write a winning resume

Your resume is one of your most important personal documents for career progression.

Done well, your resume can be your means of standing out in a competitive market, and progressing through to a job interview – taking you one step closer to landing the role you’re hoping for.

Get it wrong though, and no matter how well-suited you may be for the role, chances are you may not even get a foot through the front door.

All candidates have the ability to put together a winning resume. The trick is to tailor each resume you send out to the requirements of the position and the company. It’s a simple way to convince the hiring manager that you’re the right person for the job.

Here’s what you need to know.

Keep it short and sharp

Your resume should be no longer than 3-4 pages. Potentially less if you’re a new graduate without a great deal of experience.

If you have been in the workforce for several years, it can seem challenging to keep your resume within the 3-4 page limit. But it’s a target worth aiming for. Strong resumes are short and succinct. By condensing information down you are demonstrating a number of skills including the ability to identify key facts, while also showcasing your written communication abilities.

What to include

Five key elements should be covered in resume. These include:

1. Your contact details

Make sure that your contact details are up to date, and include both your current email address and mobile number.

2. A summary of who you are

Think of this as your ‘elevator pitch’. It’s a brief overview of who you are that can help the hiring manager understand how you can add value to the company.

3. Your work history

This is the most important part of your resume as it lets the hiring manager know if you have the skills and experience the company is looking for.

This is also the area of your resume that you need to vary when you are applying for a variety of positions. This does mean an extra investment of your time, however no two jobs are the same, and you need to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience that each position demands.

Tailoring your resume is not hard, and it can be done through several steps.

  • Identify what’s most important to the company – review the job ad to identify the responsibilities that are mentioned first. These are the must-haves, so be sure that your resume work history highlights your experience with these sorts of duties.
  • Address lower order skills and experience – the job ad should address the most important skills first. Less essential skills may be mentioned further along. Don’t overlook these requirements. Be sure to address them in your work history to demonstrate that you are the ‘full package’ for a hiring manager.
  • Look for key themes – does the job ad repeat themes such as ‘time management’, ‘leadership’ or ‘collaboration’? If it does, describe aspects of your employment history that address these themes. For instance, if collaboration is a theme, talk about how you have worked as part of a team rather than focusing solely on your individual achievements.

When listing your responsibilities and achievements for each past role, aim to note the value that you added through key projects or initiatives. For example, if you were responsible for implementing new IT security software, explain a clear outcome, such as “this led to a 50% reduction in security threats”.

4. Your education

Include your professional and higher education qualifications. List these in chronological order, starting with the most recent. Include any vocational training or professional certifications that are relevant to the role.

5. Your interests and hobbies

Some companies like to see that job candidates have a work-life balance. Keep this section short, but remember, skills gained through hobbies can be relevant to the role – these too can be tailored for each position you apply for.

Now that you know what to put on a resume, make your first draft. Then, take a break and review it a few days later. With fresh eyes, you may pick up errors or think of additional details that can support your application.

Give particular attention to the achievements you’ve noted to be sure they directly relate to each position you are applying for.

Read your resume thoroughly

Edit your resume carefully to be sure you’ve addressed the criteria the hiring manager is looking for. Ask a trusted friend to proofread what you’ve written – a simple spelling mistake can undo all the good impressions you’ve created, so it pays to invest some time on this final step.

By tailoring your resume to each role you apply for, you demonstrate that you are clearly interested in the position – and the company, and have the skills and experience to make a valuable contribution.

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