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Best Practices: How to write an outstanding resume

Your resume is the most important document in your job search. It is an employer’s first glimpse of you. Recruiters look at thousands of resumes every day. Studies on resume selection processes say that the average CV gets scanned for anywhere between five and 25 seconds. So it is important to understand what employers look for in a resume and it’s worth investing that extra time and attention to get your resume noticed.

A resume will get more easily noticed if you follow these three maxims:  

  • Design your resume to look good
  • Appeal to an employer’s requirements
  • Make your resume an interesting reading
  • Make sure your resume is digital-friendly

Designing your resume to look good

Your resume should be easy for the eye to scan. Name, contact details, experience and education should be easy to find, in a single glance.  
Use a clean, uncluttered, reader-friendly font. Arial and Times New Roman are standard and safe fonts. Other options include Cambria, Calibri and Garamond or Trebuchet MS. The size should be between 11 and 12 for most of the copy.

Use bullets points, but not too many. Since bullet points are meant to draw attention, using more than say, five, takes away from the visual experience. 
Use italics, bold and paragraph headings all selectively. Too many italics or too much bold defeats the purpose of using them to draw attention to certain points.

List relevant experience early on

You don’t want a potential employer to miss seeing what is relevant to him, if it appears too late in the CV.  So don’t arrange your resume chronologically. Instead, include relevant facts that tie in with an employer early on. If, for instance, you are applying to an e-commerce firm, and you have had an internship with another e-commerce firm, it is better to put this fact early on in the resume rather than list it on page 2 under ‘Internships and Other Projects’. It could be under a suitable heading like say ‘Relevant Experience’. 
The caveat is ‘Current Position’ should be listed early on as well, so that a potential recruiter can place where you are immediately.

Use numbers

Quantify your accomplishments, numbers provide much more credibility. If you led a team, state the number of members. If you increased sales in a region, say what the figures were and how much you increased them by.

Make your resume an interesting read

Every organization values a candidate who has the ability to solve problems. Describing a difficult or challenging situation and the steps you took to overcome it may catch the attention of a potential employer.
Pick up the more interesting experiences in your career, and write about those.

For example, ‘Worked with urban planner and architect for a month on his project on Rejuvenation of the Kala Ghoda area in Mumbai’ under the title ‘Projects I have contributed to’ is interesting. On the other hand, ‘Hobbies: Reading, writing and travelling’ are a passé.

Make sure your resume is digital and search friendly

Resumes today are searched digitally. Using the right keywords in your description of job experience or skills will maximize your chances of being found. Determine the right ones by scanning the ad copy for the jobs. Phrases like  analyzed, appraised, estimated, collaborated, allocated, facilitated, forecast, motivated, etc. can be useful words to employ in the description of your skills. Terms like marketing campaigns, customer database, procurement… should be used if relevant. If you have worked in a Fortune 500 company, using ‘Fortune 500’ helps your CV get picked up.
Also, keep a text version of your CV. This version can be sent in the main body of an email. Attachments can be clunky to access or download, so having a well-formatted text version is an advantage. 
A well-crafted CV that follows these four maxims of Looking Good, Being Relevant to the Employer, Interesting Reading and Digitally Friendly will get noticed and shortlisted by a recruiter. Once chosen, such a CV will also form a good basis for the next step in the job search process – the interview.
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