This is a guest post by Ozgur Unlu, founder of Interviewjoy.com
One of the best things I did early in my career is to do research and come up with a nearly perfect resume template that will give me the edge in the ever-competitive job search landscape. In retrospect, I think it was the best thing I did for my career.
It is not a surprise though, your CV/resume is almost always your first point of contact, your 30 seconds chance to make an impression on your recruiter. Yet, it is amazing how so many people underestimate the value of a well-structured, precisely written professional resume.
Based on my experiences of reviewing hundreds of CV / resumes in my career, I wanted to share the most important aspects of a perfect resume, the one that will be the only resume you’ll need going forward.
So let’s begin!
Here is a secret that no other online “fancy cv template” websites will reveal: unless specifically asked, there is no difference between a plain text CV and a colorful “designer” CV in the recruiter’s eye. The most important thing is, how you structure the data in your resume/CV so that it catches the eye of the recruiter in the first 5-10 seconds.
Nowadays, there is fierce competition for each open role: It is pretty common to see hundreds of applications for any job opportunity. With the world-wide job cut news spreading due to the economic climate, securing a job gets harder every day. This means that recruiters are hard-pressed to go over many applications in a short amount of time and your CV will not get the attention it deserves.
Having a clever structure in your CV is now more important than ever. Many of us can write pages and pages of content in our resumes, trying not to miss each and every detail about our experiences. But actually, many of those details are not even recognized by recruiters. Let’s look at a heat map (areas on which the eyes of the recruiter focus) of a typical resume:
Here is a very important tip: The recruiter will give most of his/her attention to the top 1/3 of your resume. This is where the magic should happen!
When creating my resume template, I decided the top-most, important areas to be very crucial sections: “Summary of Qualifications” and “Key Strengths”. Having these two sections up top has several benefits:
- They outline the most important factors of your background in a few lines. So even if your recruiter spends a few seconds to look at your CV, you have told him/her nearly everything he/she needs to know in a couple of seconds. That is a big plus with the recruiters!
- You can tailor these sections easily to fit the needs of your current application without touching the remaining bulk of the content. So it gives you flexibility and agility.
- It actually conveys a cover letter’s potential message in a more concise and efficient way.
I would also suggest to skip writing a cover letter for a job application if it is not specifically asked from you. I think that no recruiter, unfortunately, gives enough time and energy to reading it as much as you do.
Remember: A recruiter only goes into the details of your resume if she thinks it’s worth his/her while. It is your resume’s job to make the recruiter think that in the first few seconds.
The resume template I’ve been using to get job offers from companies like Google and Amazon is structured in such a way that it quickly grabs any recruiter’s attention and it gives you an edge over normal CVs.
Now let’s look at the different sections of a well-structured, eye-catching resume in order:
- Name & Contact Info
- Summary of Qualifications
- Key Strengths
- Professional Experience
- Certificates / Secondary Education
- Extracurricular 8. Languages / Computer Literacy
1. Name and Contact Info
Here, be precise: Your name, email address, home address and residency details. Although you are not required to write your birthdate, I think it is best to give that information.
As a bonus and potentially eye-catching point, you can add short but interesting info like your personal website address. (or, e.g. if you are applying for a role involving crypto-currency, you can also write your eth domain name (yourname.eth) if you have it!)
2. Summary of Qualifications
This will be the highlight and most important section of your resume. Here, you can write a summary of your experiences and/or your most important traits relevant for the job in 3 – 5 lines. You can also tailor these to better suit the job you are applying for.
Below is that section I have on my own resume. You can follow a similar structure or adjust it to fit your needs:
Tips about this section:
- Numbers: they are important. Make sure you give relevant numbers about your past (years of experience, budgets, projects completed etc.). This will allow the recruiter to understand your background better. It also gives you bonus points for not being vague. Recruiters don’t like vague statements!
- Do not forget to list global and local experiences.
- Make sure you also list essential points here that can be lost in the content (e.g. a scholarship or an award you got)
- Emphasize your skills relevant to the job you are currently applying.
3. Key Strengths
This section is for general areas of expertise and experience. Think of this part as similar to the “required qualifications” sections of job posts.
As an example, you can customize this section to show that you are a generalist (having experience in many fields), or, if the job requires it, you can show that you are pretty focused -thus an expert- on a certain field.
Here is what I have in my own resume for this section:
The key strengths section area on my resume is tailored for a digital marketing role. You can see that I emphasized PR, Social Media and product management traits that are required for the role. In this section, you can also add your generalist strengths as required for the job, similar to “data and measurement oriented approach” (i.e. “experience in classic visual design principles”).
4. Professional Experience
This is again one of the most important sections in any resume, but remember that the recruiters will want to take a deeper look into this section if liked what they saw in the previous two crucial, eye-catching sections.
Many candidates make the mistake of adding too much content into this professional experience section, making it unreadable by the recruiter. Remember: Your CV’s job is to make the recruiter want to meet with you. You don’t need to write every little bit of your experience to achieve that.
Having too much info here often results in recruiters getting lost in your resume and thus discarding it without realizing your potential. If you can get the attention of the recruiter with your resume and secure a 1-1 meeting, you can always tell the small details in your face-to-face meeting / phone screening.
A couple of essential notes about the professional experience section:
- Do not forget to cover all the basics: company name & location, dates you have worked there and job title (you wouldn’t believe how many people miss some part of this).
- Pay attention to details: Adding the url (company website address) will be a nice touch.
- Numbers are important: Make sure you add specific numbers about the projects/teams you worked on. Missing to add specific numbers makes your CV appear vague and recruiters do not like that!
- Achievements / Awards section: If you have specific points that you would like to highlight you may want to create a specific section for it. This will make sure that it won’t be missed.
Here is how I have it in my own resume:
and the “achievements” section:
The “education” section needs to be filled according to these best practices:
- If you have more than 4-5 years of work experience, then writing the name of the school and your degree will be enough.
- If you are a fresh graduate or have 1-3 years of experience, you want to dig a bit deeper into your education with information about your extracurricular activities in school and clubs/team you have participated.
- Make sure you list any awards/scholarships you got if any.
- It is a good practice to write your grade point average if your overall GPA is >3.00 (out of 4).
If you are a candidate with substantial professional experience (thus the previous sections were rich in content), keep this section clean and simple:
6. Certificates / Extracurricular / Languages / Computer Skills
While this section sometimes does not get the attention it deserves, it can provide a good opportunity to highlight your skills for the specific role you’re applying for, so I suggest filling this section as required for the job application.
For example, if you are applying for a software development role, then you should write down the coding languages you know and your level of proficiency. Similarly, when you are applying for a multinational company/role, it is a good practice to list down the languages you are able to read/write fluently.
..and that is it!
I hope you found this guide useful and that it helps with your next job search. Feel free to click on the link below to download the template with the sections I outlined above, and happy job hunting!