Resumes & Cover Letters

What Makes a Good Resume?

May 12, 2021

Crafting an outstanding resume is the key to marketing your skills and qualities to potential employers. Your resume should stand out from the rest of the applicants so you can be shortlisted.

For your resume to work in your favour, it has to draw the recruiter's interest and showcase your suitability. If you are looking to create a stellar resume that makes you stand out to hiring managers, consider these helpful tips.

Read more: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

Why is writing a good resume essential?

A resume lets you advertise yourself to potential employers and needs to create a positive first impression. The resume is the first document employers look at when reviewing your application. If it's ineffective or poorly written, prospective employers are likely to overlook you as a potential candidate and move on to other candidates with better resumes.

A good resume should describe your qualifications, market your strengths and demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for the job. Hiring managers prefer candidates who tailor their resumes to the job description because it shows you can perform the duties required.

Characteristics of a good resume

Consider including these characteristics in your good resume.

Power words

These are action-oriented words that reflect your unique personality and skills. When you add them to your resume, they can project you as a serious candidate. As well as stating your duties, these words provide a brief and useful context of your experience and the value you bring to an organisation. In addition, power words make you look confident while conveying vital information.

Some strong action words to put in your resume include 'initiated', 'achieved', 'improved', 'established' and 'designed'. Add action verbs throughout your resume to help capture the hiring manager's attention. Also, make sure to include details about how you improved a process or achieved a goal.

Example: Improved CRM accuracy by 35% by establishing a bi-weekly clear-up session involving all sales staff.

Keywords

A keyword is a short phrase or individual word on a resume that ties into a particular job posting. A great resume should contain the right set of keywords that mirror the language in a job description and your field or area of specialisation. Since most recruiters scan resumes for appropriate experience, including keywords will help make your resume stand out from other candidates.

Keywords also help you get your resume past the ATS (Application Tracking System). The ATS software eliminates candidates whose resumes do not have relevant keywords that match the particular job description. This means that it is crucial to add targeted keywords to your resume. Keep in mind that you shouldn't write your resume solely based on the keywords, but, rather, try to include them when discussing your skills, qualifications and work experience.

Example: 10+ years of web design experience

Showcase relevant skills

The goal of a resume is to sell yourself as the perfect candidate for the position. Outlining your skills on a resume shows potential employers that you have the abilities to succeed in the role. This is your chance to emphasise the skills and competencies you possess that make you the right candidate to move to the interview stage.

If you plan on changing industries, check to see if you have any transferable skills from your previous positions that might suit the role you're applying for. Add these skills to your resume, with the focus being on the value you provided to your previous employers.

Example: Created a company culture initiative that raised staff satisfaction by 24% and employee retention rates by 25% over 3 years.

Be confident

How you communicate your experience and accomplishments is crucial in proving whether you are qualified for the position. By taking the opportunity to show your value to potential employers in your resume, you have a good chance of getting to tell them about it in an interview. As a first step, you have to communicate that value in your resume..

You can achieve this by letting the recruiter know what tangible results you got working with other organisations. The results you've been able to achieve and how you outline them in your resume is likely to determine whether you will make it to the next round.

Example: Achieved a 45% saving on expenditures by modifying the budget template.

Include data and numbers

Where you can, try to include numbers, metrics and data instead of just plain text. Numbers give potential employers a good indication of how you are likely to perform in the position you are applying for, with outcomes that show your achievements.

Whether it is sales volume, donations received, profit margins, number of memberships or total number of grants secured, determine the outcomes that you played a role in achieving during your time at an organisation and quantify them. You can also incorporate numbers to show how many staff and customers, or how large a budget you were responsible for. These numbers help demonstrate the weight of your responsibilities and management skills.

Example: Developed a more efficient call script that reduced average customer handling time and achieved a 97% customer satisfaction rating within a 2-month period.

Document Formatting

Formatting refers to how you want to display your resume. There are many ways to format your document, with some industries preferring more creativity than others. Make sure you format your resume so that it is targeted to the role you are applying for, is easy to read and includes all relevant information for the recruiter. Here are three standard formatting options you can choose from:

1) Chronological

This formatting style highlights your professional job experience and is an excellent choice for experienced employees. It gives the employer an overview of your most recent work experience at the top of document, then moves down as you continue to list your previous positions. It is important to include the length of time you spent at each organisation and when. This can be an indicator of your loyalty and commitment to an organisation or role.

2) Functional

A functional format details your workplace success based on the skills you've outlined. Generally, this format focuses on your skills. This type of structure can be beneficial if you are looking to venture into another industry. Generally, employers like to hire people that can learn and obtain different skills. So when searching for the ideal candidate, they look for someone that can adapt to their new role.

3) Combination

As the name suggests, a combination resume blends chronological and functional formatting features. This style of resume is highly recommended if you want to apply for an entry or mid-level position. This is because it demonstrates whether you have both the right skills and experience for the advertised role. If you've only worked as an intern, this format allows you the opportunity to outline the skills you learned during your internship, including the duties and responsibilities you were given.

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Examples)

Tips for writing a good resume

Consider these tips when writing your resume:

Choose your words

Make sure each experience reads as a short statement and not a full sentence. Great resumes use impact verbs like 'lead', 'grew' and 'organised', which allow you to be more concise. This will also give you more space to include achievements and important points you want to cover.

Proofread and peer review

Common, avoidable resume mistakes are one of the reasons employers reject applications. Many recruiters will equate typos and grammatical errors with laziness, so you can't afford to be sloppy in your resume. Triple-check and read your resume out loud before submitting it. It's also a great idea to have a friend or family member proofread it before you hit submit.

Make sure your font, alignment and formatting are consistent throughout the document. Most hiring managers will look at formatting issues as a sign of lacking technical skills and attention to detail. So it is important to make your resume layout consistent and easy to read.

Consider the curb appeal

A resume is a visual document. If it looks like a novel, it may put recruiters off due to the time it takes them to read through it. Try to use an organised, symmetrical layout and allow resting places for the eyes with the use of white spaces. White spaces are the blank regions in your resume that contain no text or imagery. Putting in white spaces makes your resume easier to skim read for the key points.

Be sure to remove skills and work experiences that are unnecessary to the job posting. If you're applying for a creative role, you might want to add some design elements to your resume as it will show recruiters a set of skills instantly.

Keep in mind that your resume is a marketing document meant for the reader. Keep it simple and easy to read and you'll be well on your way to that interview.

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