Creating a great résumé

Most of us hate the thought of selling ourselves but a strong résumé is often the difference between getting an interview or not. Here we share the experts’ tips on creating a great résumé painlessly.

Robust résumés
For most people creating a professional and engaging résumé is something akin to being asked to swallow castor oil. We know it will be good for us, but it’s about the last thing we want to do. This might be due to a basic reluctance to “boast” or be seen to talk up our own achievements. It may be that the tedious detail of qualifications or experiences from years, sometimes decades, ago have slipped our minds and it’s all too hard to drag this detail out again – something similar to doing a tax return with a lurking suspicion we will get it ‘wrong’ and be ‘found out’ and shamed. Perhaps, for you, it’s all of the above.

So let’s cut to the chase and work through the most painless way of documenting skills, achievements and qualifications in a format that is readily accessible, and able to be re-purposed when necessary.

Career Transition Consultant, Gary Henderson, from Audrey Page & Associates, suggests the best way to tackle the résumé project is to create, in an electronic word document, one master résumé which covers all there is to know about you. This will include education, all work experience including voluntary, project, part-time and community as well as full-time paid work, skills, all qualifications no matter how (seemingly) irrelevant to desired future directions, associations of which you are, or have been, a member, travel, hobbies, family and anything else which might impinge upon your ability to do future work.
Getting specific

From this master résumé, you will now be able to create role-specific résumés when interesting positions appear. Read the position description or work brief carefully, and select only the most relevant information from your master document. Create a new résumé with the date and the name of the organisation and your own name as a file reference. Make sure the prioritising of the information in this document relates to the priorities within the description of the role for which you are applying or the project for which you are pitching.

When describing past work roles, write a brief summary organised into title, reporting to, responsibilities, and concrete achievements. This tailored résumé should run to no more than three A-4 pages – if you can’t elicit interest in a potential hirer by the end of the third page then there is little hope the fourth will set them on fire! When the tailored résumé is complete, don’t just spell-check it – give it to someone you know who has a fine command of your mother tongue and ask them to check it for any literals, grammatical glitches or awkward phrasing. If they know you well they may also suggest any oversights in terms of relevant experience that you may have overlooked either due to forgetfulness or excess modesty.

When your application or proposal is complete don’t just upload it to a job site or email it to the prospective hirer. You also need to print it, on good quality paper, and mail it to the organisation concerned. In an age of email overload it is possible your email has been spammed, or deposited in a junk box, facing the sad and lonely fate of being automatically deleted when your targeted recipient boots off. Another advantage of using snail mail is that the rarity of post can actually make your offering stand out more than your competitors. And finally, the advice from most recruitment specialists – never fail to follow up by phone to confirm your application has indeed arrived, the name of the decision maker, and when they, or a colleague, will respond.

It’s old fashioned, but it works.

This is an edited excerpt of What Next? Your career change companion by Kaye Fallick.

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