The Secrets to Writing a Killer Resume

Are you still using the same resume format you used in college?

Then you might be in a bit of trouble.

Just like the job market these days, resumes are competitive. Design matters, content matters and how you write about your past achievements is key.

But writing a killer resume doesn’t need to be a headache. With a fair bit of planning and attention to care, creating a high-level professional profile for yourself can take as little time as a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon.

Follow my tips below and you’ll be sure to catch the eye of employers. Or at least – you’ll have just as good a chance as anyone else in your shoes.

Don’t scrimp on design

HR managers do a lot of reading throughout the working week. Why not give their eyes a rest with something pretty to look at? Attractive formatting is the first consideration I recommend aspiring interns think about.

That way, you can choose a perfect template to begin with and upload your content directly onto the design. One-page templates tend to work the best because they’re easier on the eye and make the reader’s job easier – bonus points on you.

Now granted, this can cost a little bit (but not much.) You can either solicit the help of a professional graphic designer, or – if you’re searching for a more economical route – see if there’s anyone on a popular freelancer website who’ll be willing to sell you a unique design.

Hot tricks to remember:

  • Divide each piece of content into easily distinguished sections (e.g. skills, employment experience etc.)
  • Feel free to use colour, but stick to shades suitable to your industry. While fuchsia and mint green might be great for someone looking for an internship in fashion, your best bet is to use neutral colours for applying to business or finance companies (e.g. beiges, greys, black, white, browns, navy etc.)
  • Divider lines, bullet points and relevant graphics are all effective ways to avoid making your reader navigate the infamous “wall of text.” Use them.
  • To photo or not to photo? If you have a professional headshot, it can be cute to pop it into your CV design. However, if you have other professional profiles that include photos (see next tip) this inclusion isn’t always necessary as it can take up valuable space. Besides… your resume is about what you can do, not what you look like.

Make yourself stalk-worthy

We’re in an age where digital is everything. One of the first things a HR manager will do is scope out your presence on the internet.

Make this process easier for them by making your resume an interactive experience.

The best way to do this is to place buttons underneath where you’d normally put your contact information (and perhaps in the footer). These “buttons” are essentially graphic icons that you can easily download on Canva or another site for free. All you then need to do is attach the relevant URL link to the button so that when the reader clicks on it, they’ll be taken to that page.

Not only will you show the reader you’re tech-savvy, you’ll also give them an opportunity to read further details about who you are and what makes you so great!

Important information to include:

  • Full name
  • City and state
  • Phone number
  • Email address (and button)
  • LinkedIn button
  • Twitter / Instagram buttons*
  • Any business pages
  • Official website or portfolio (if you have one)
  • Any blogs or other sites that are relevant

*Note: Here is not the place to include social profiles such as your personal Facebook page. Only include accounts that are professionally relevant.

Create tailored copies

The most successful resume for one job isn’t necessarily the most successful resume for another. Don’t try and conflate all of your skills and industry experience into one resume if it’s looking like too great of a task.

Just do what smart people do and make multiple copies! It’s often the case that as a jobseeker, not only are you looking for internships or positions in your dream industry but you’re also looking for casual or part-time jobs in the meantime, in grad-friendly industries such as retail or hospitality.

Here is a good idea for a suite of separate resumes that could prove useful for you:

  • The Professional Resume – this is the big one, the one you’re using to get into your dream career. Only include information that will help you get there and leave out all the casual and part-time gigs you’ve had over the years that don’t necessarily help your cause. This is one resume where ‘hobbies’ really don’t matter.
  • The Fast Money Resume – this is the smart one, the one you can whip out in a flash when you’re in a pinch and need money fast. It’s probably the one you already have, outlining all of your past roles and experience up to date.
  • The One-Off Resume – this is a resume that you create purely to catch the attention of a specific employer for a specific role. Creating a resume this way allows you to perfectly match your skill set to the position description in question and include relevant keywords (see next tip.) As you progress in your application journey, you’ll find more and more instances where a ‘one-off resume’ will be required. Be sure to save each one over time. You can re-use them as needed.

In short, multiple resumes give you more options and maximise your chance at scoring a niche industry role.

This strategy also allows you to keep a separate resume for less career-specific casual and part-time roles over the summer.

Integrate keywords

Did you know most large HR agencies use keyword scanning software when processing resume applications?

Yep, it’s true. Before your resume even sees the light of human eyes, it needs to pass a robot’s approval first. That’s not easy if you don’t know what the robot’s looking for.

But what the robot’s looking for isn’t some sophisticated algorithm or high-tech formula. All it’s looking for is this:

Relevant keywords.

Keywords are words that typically signify what sort of candidate you are and the skill set you possess. If a job posting includes “SEO blogging” and “expert copywriting” skills in its selection criteria, then the software robot will likely scan for the keywords: “SEO” and copywriter.

Not having the right keywords in your resume can kill your application before a human sees it, even if these words are included in your cover letter.

So think about what words best define you, that an employer would want to know about, and integrate them in the body content of your resume as best as you can.

Leave out the life story

Always had a passion for fantasy novels? That’s great – but not if you’re applying to be a bookkeeper. Lots of jobseekers struggle to strike the balance between personality and professional, so if you feel the same way – know you’re not alone.

But also know that getting too personal too quickly can take up valuable room on a resume. An employer or HR manager wants to know why you’d be great for the role, not what you like to have for breakfast or where you grew up.

Keep it simple and save your personality for where it’s really going to count: the interview.

If the reader of your resume likes what they see, there’ll be plenty of room down the track to let them in on your penchant for puns or your newfound obsession with rock-climbing.

And remember: when it comes to your resume, only include what counts!

Get a proof-reader

A final step that’s important but oh-so-overlooked… checking for spelling and grammar mistakes. Think this isn’t that important?

Don’t be so sure. Many HR managers were English Literature grads once and are accordingly sticklers for perfect syntax. Having a legible, well-written and fabulously flawless piece of content attached to your name (even if it’s just your resume) shows that you have excellent attention to detail.

And that’s something that no employer wants to pass up.

But often in the afterglow of inspiration we feel from having a freshly designed resume, we forget to make sure our ‘you’re’ is a ‘your’ or that our job roles are capitalised.

If this isn’t you’re forte (see what I did there?) – do yourself a favour and get someone else to proofread it. A parent, a sibling, a friend, a professor… anyone who’s not you will do.

They’ll have a fresh set of eyes to laser in on your mistakes and bring them to your attention before you press ‘send.’

If you can afford it, a professional proof-reader won’t let you down.

Yes, it’s an investment, but think about it: you do it once and it’s done…

Just like creating a killer resume.

Ready to get started?

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