Many job seekers understandably feel a bit intimidated when it comes to writing a resume, and this all too often means they revert to outdated or overly stuffy resume practices.
Unfortunately, this prevents their strengths and personality from shining through. But what employers absolutely don’t want to see these days is a cookie cutter resume that could describe just about any job seeker. So if you’re gearing up for a job search and want to avoid the common clichés and faux pas, here are four of the most important resume writing tips to keep in mind.
1. Ditch the vague “objective” statement
If your resume still opens with an objective statement that says something like “To obtain a position that utilises my education and experience while also providing opportunities for growth and advancement,” now is the time to scrap it. Why? For one thing, it’s generic and tells the employer nothing unique or useful about you, but most importantly, it’s all about what you want rather than what the company is looking for.
Founder of Collegial Services, Robin Reshwan says “Objective statements filled with analogies and quotes may seem like a unique approach for describing one's work ethic or experience but it does little to impress an employer. An employer wants a resume to tell them about a jobseeker's abilities and expertise, not what Steve Jobs thinks about workplace attitudes or performance.”
Instead, include a brief personal statement that highlights your relevant accomplishments, skills and strengths. Be as specific as possible by using concrete examples, but try to keep it at around 150 words.
2. Leave out unnecessary or obvious information
Career coach Hank Boyer says the ideal length for most resumes is two pages, but you should never pad your resume with unnecessary information just to reach the desired length. “Inexperienced individuals shouldn’t add non-relevant, filler content to their resume to get it to two pages,” he says. “Concentrate on facts that are relevant to the employer and the specific position.”
Don’t include lines like “references available upon request” or obvious explanations like “address” and “phone number.” Of course you’d provide references if asked, and anyone reading your resume will be able to recognise an address or phone number without it being spelled out for them.
Instead, focus on tailoring your resume to each application and leave out experience or education that isn’t relevant. You can also use bolding, subheadings, concise paragraphs and bullet points that include power verbs like “created,” “initiated” and “exceeded” to make important information stand out.
3. Exclude phrases like “duties included”
When it comes to resume writing tips, this is possibly the most important one, because it’s a mistake that’s so often made. Sure, you may have been in charge of answering phone calls, training staff or handling customer complaints, but were you any good at it?
“Most recruiters know the general duties related to careers within their specific fields,” says Robin Reshwan. “What really stands out is the impact you had and results you drove within your career.”
Not sure how to put your accomplishments into words? Ask yourself a few of the following questions:
- What problems did I solve for the company?
- Did I exceed my goals or quotas?
- What did I do to provide clients with excellent service?
- Did I win any awards or accolades?
- Did I ever go above and beyond my normal job duties?
4. Lose the photo
A photo is not only unnecessary in most industries, but actually increases the likelihood of race, gender and age-based discrimination. And since employers may often spend as little as six seconds reviewing a resume, you don’t want your photo to distract them from other more important information.
What you can do instead is include hyperlinks to your professional online profiles. This way, once employers have been wowed by your relevant qualifications, experience and accomplishments, they can head over to your LinkedIn to get more information. Just make sure that what they find on your social media profiles will confirm what you’ve said in your resume and won’t hinder your chances of being hired.