How to write the perfect resume

More often than not, your resume is the first impression that you'll make on a potential employer. Here's how to present yourself clearly and professionally.

It is worth remembering that each recruiter's idea of a 'perfect' resume will be slightly different. Nonetheless, your resume will in most cases, be the first impression an employer has of you. Indeed a strong resume can occasionally itself secure you a job, especially if you are applying for temporary work. At worst, a poorly constructed resume can give a potential employer a negative impression of you as a candidate and bar you from securing that all important interview.

Taking a little time on design, construction and wording and using the following guidelines to write and submit your resume, will ensure you promote yourself to your best advantage.

Resume structure

Start with your personal details. Full name and contact details including all useable telephone numbers. Avoid superfluous details such as religious affiliation, children's names etc...

Educational history and professional qualifications should follow, including name of institutions and dates attended in reverse order - university before school results. List GPA and any certifications attained. (These details will matter more if you have recently entered the job market, than if for example you left full time education 20 years ago).

Include computer skills and (genuine) foreign language skills and any other recent training/development that is relevant to the role applied for.

The most widely accepted style of employment record is the chronological resume. Career history is presented in reverse date order starting with most recent. Achievements and responsibilities are listed against each role. More emphasis/information should be put on more recent jobs.

A functional resume can sometimes be more appropriate, for example if you have held a number of unrelated jobs. This presentation emphasises key skills which can be grouped together under suitable headings. Career progression and the nature of jobs held can be unclear with this type of resume.

Leave hobbies and interests to last - keep this section short. References can simply be 'Available on Request'. Current salary details should not be included. A good cover letter should always accompany your resume.

Your resume and cover letter should combine to create a picture of you and your career-to-date and illustrate why you are different from the competition! With this successfully achieved (and a bit of luck!) you will secure yourself a place on a shortlist.

General Tips

  • Your resume should be laser-printed in black ink using a plain type face, on good quality white/cream paper.
  • Decorative borders are not necessary, nor are photographs of yourself.
  • If applying by mail, your resume and cover letter should be submitted in a suitable quality envelope, clearly addressed, with a first class stamp. If applying by email, time should be taken designing and formatting to ensure your details read clearly. Send a copy to yourself to check before submitting it for a role.   
  • Your resume should ideally cover no more than two pages and never more than three. Aim to ensure the content is clear, structured, concise and relevant. Using bullet points rather than full sentences can help minimize word usage.
  • A basic resume may need tailoring with each job application to best suit the requirements of the role applied for.   
  • The completed resume needs to be checked carefully for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes - which always leave a poor impression - and to ensure that it makes sense. Ask an 'independent' party to review the whole document before it is put into use.      
  • Remember when writing and structuring your resume that it is essentially a marketing document for you and that a potential employer will use the details provided to form interview questions. It should be clear and easy to read. Gaps in career history should be explained and falsehoods and inaccuracies avoided at all costs.
  • There is no reason to include your reasons for leaving each job on your resume but be prepared to answer these questions in your interview.

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