How to build a quality resume
First of all I’d like to apologize for my lack of posting this past week. I’ve been busy with job applications and interviews so I’m kickstarting my return to posting by returning to a topic discussed in one of my first posts on this blog, resumes.
Last night a friend of mine asked me a few questions about resumes. My previous post on this topic dealt with how to compile a resume/cv when you work for multiple industries. While I was not successful in securing that job, I have had a few great interviews since that I’m anxiously waiting to hear back from and thought maybe I could pass on a little more job hunting advice.
My first piece of advice has to deal with job application preparation. You can’t apply to a job if you don’t know who to contact or where to find job postings. My industry of expertise is publishing, specifically photography and graphic design. While what you know is obviously an important factor in your job hunt, WHO you know is equally if not more important. In a family of medical professionals, I’m kind of the black sheep and don’t have any family connections to help me in my hunt. Instead, I’ve had to work hard to make important industry connections on my own. I’ve done this by interning at various publications and meeting with art directors to discuss their career path and how I can improve my chances of breaking into such a competitive industry. I also have a bookmark folder of job hunting sites and company career pages that I check nightly to keep on top of new job postings.
So now that you know who to contact and where to look for jobs, you need a resume to show potential bosses exactly what you bring to the table. Here are some pointers to help you build an effective resume:
1) The Header – This often overlooked portion of your resume is actually very important. It tells potential bosses who you are and how you can be contacted. Make sure your name is nice and big and the font is readable. Below your name be sure to include your address, phone number, email, and website (if you have one). It’s important that your contact information reflect the region you plan to be working in. If you’re not living in that region yet, you may want to exclude your address but make sure you have a local phone number. This can be achieved by changing your cell phone number to the region you’re applying to or buying a prepaid cell with a local number. This may seem silly but trust me, there will be people who notice. I actually had an interviewer ask me if I planned on commuting to and from Sarnia for a job in Toronto.
2) The Objective Statement – Many people will tell you that this portion of your resume isn’t really necessary. I find that in most cases it is redundant but I do include a couple of lines so I can customize my resume to the employer and highlight some of the skills I bring to the position. I like to think of it as my cover letter in two sentences. Not everyone has the time to read your entire cover letter or perhaps only your resume was passed on from the HR department. This just shows the reader your interest in the position and that you value the time they’re taking to read your resume.
3) Experience – In the past I used to separate my work and volunteer experience. However, if you’ve ever interned for a company you know that what you did in your internship may be more relevant than some your work experience, especially when you’re just starting out in an industry. Thus, I combine my relevant work a volunteer experience into one section and list any unrelated volunteer work I’m passionate about as an “interest” later in my resume. There are may different ways you can present your experience but you should definitely make sure you list your position, the company you worked/volunteered for, and how much time you spent there. I also find it helpful to list who you reported to, what special projects or publications you worked on, and some of your responsibilities and/or contributions.
4) Education – I list my education after my experience but if you’re fresh out of school you may want to reverse the two. Generally, you want to lead with whatever is most recent. I try to keep this section to a minimum so I can dedicate more of my resume to my experience. Important points to include in your education section are your degree, your school, your graduation date (or anticipated graduation date), and any honours or awards you received during your studies.
5) Qualifications & Certifications – Here is where you can list any professional associations you belong to and certifications you hold that were completed outside of your formal education. I also like to list programs and applications I’m proficient in that will help me in the job I’m applying to.
6) Hobbies & Interests – I don’t actually include these in my resume but if your resume needs some padding or you belong to an association that doesn’t relate to your career aspirations but speaks to your character this is a good place to list it. Some examples of interests worth including in your resume are volunteer work with a group such as big brothers/big sisters or assistance you provide at an animal shelter. You never know where you will find commonality that may give you a leg up on the competition.
7) References – This section is a topic of hot debate and frankly neither side has won the argument. Some people will tell you to just say “references on request”, others will suggest you actually list references. Personally, I say do whatever the job posting asks for and if they don’t specify, do what suits you best. I tend to list my references directly on my resume and this is for two reasons. One, when my mother was hiring a new secretary she gave preference to applicants who listed their references and two, because sometimes it’s your reference that gives you the edge in your job application. How, you may ask? Well in some instances, my reference has been a coworker or friend of the person doing the hiring. You don’t just have to be related to someone to benefit from a little nepotism.
And thus concludes my long-winded breakdown of a good resume. My only other suggestion when building your resume is to have at least one other person look it over before you hit submit. Often a friend, family member, or coworker will find mistakes you may have missed or be able to offer a helpful suggestion that will strengthen your application. Remember to always ensure that you include anything the job posting asked for (reference, portfolio, demo reel, sample of work, etc.) and that the verbiage and style is in keeping with how you present yourself on a daily basis.
If you have any resume suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!