Marketing Yourself: Let’s Talk Resumes

  • Seeking an opportunity to be invited to an interview?
  • Setting a goal to revise your resume but keep ‘putting it off’ until tomorrow?
  • Feeling stuck on where to begin?

To assist you in putting ‘pen to paper’ (or start typing), we have outlined some insights that may inspire you to cultivate a resume that does justice to your core expertise, unique value and transferable strengths.

FIRST THINGS FIRST…LET’S CLARIFY SOME TERMS  |  Resume versus Curriculum Vitae (CV)

At times, the term ‘resume’ is used interchangeably with ‘CV’, but there is a difference. As a start, it’s worth clarifying an employer’s expectations, so that you provide the appropriate information.

The term CV is an abbreviation of the Latin word Curriculum Vitae, which is literally translated to “the course of your life”. CV’s often aim to be a complete record of someone’s career. They tend to be longer than resumes and underpinned by credentials, covering a spectrum of professional achievements such as awards, publications, certifications, research experience, and professional affiliations and memberships. Vacancies where CV’s maybe the preferred format include roles at academic institutions, research or scientific positions or where people may be applying for international postings.

A resume is typically a summary of an individual’s career through the demonstration of competence, accomplishments and work experience used for employment.

While a resume is more than just a career timeline, it shouldn’t be overloaded with unnecessary details. A well-written resume provides a clear and concise outline of your background, strengths and aims to show the potential value you can offer an employer or organisation. Once invited to an interview, you are better placed to reveal more in-depth information about yourself.

RESUMES  |  One Size Does Not Fit All

There is an array of articles available on the Internet that describe the do’s and don’ts of how to prepare a resume, but in reality, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

The ‘how’ of writing a resume that is best placed to market your experience and strengths to an employer will be influenced by various factors, including:

  • Country and cultural context
  • Industry
  • Market conditions and economic climate
  • Profession and technical specialisation
  • Fixed versus open mindsets about the right person and ‘fit’ for a specific role

BEFORE WRITING  |  Consider Your Objective

In some instances, there will be a fixed mindset about selection criteria, with a strong preference for individuals who bring a specific educational background, qualifications, industry exposure and professional competencies. In other words, a square peg to fit a square hole – without much opportunity for compromise.

There are, however, vacancies, in which companies are seeking high calibre talent, but may not place as much importance on the demonstration of particular industry experience and career trajectory. In these instances, there will be more flexibility or openness with regards to specific functional expertise required from candidates. This offers you an opportunity to market your transferrable strengths and leadership competencies, personal characteristics and virtues.   

So before preparing your resume, determine whether you:

Prefer to stay in the same industry or profession, which means that you would benefit from highlighting career growth and progress attached with a specific field and line of work.
Are seeking a career change – or exploring the opportunity to make a pivotal shift in direction to a new industry, sector or line of work

STRUCTURING CONTENT

Below are suggested resume formats including subheadings to inform you how to structure your content, depending on whether you are seeking to transition within the same industry and/or profession or seek opportunities in a new sector, function or role.

1. Remaining in the same industry or profession?

REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME Emphasise your work history

     
 
  1. VALUE STATEMENT
  2. CONTACT DETAILS
  3. WORK HISTORY, with the most recent role first. Include the organisation name, key roles, dates and achievements/responsibilities
  4. VOLUNTEERING/ADDITIONAL PROFESSIONAL INVOLVEMENT
  5. QUALIFICATIONS AND CERTIFICATIONS
 
     

Shortfalls: Tends to be the most widely used format, but may mean that attention is directed towards work history at the expense of transferable strengths. This may increase the risk of elimination, if you don’t bring more traditional industry or professional trajectory for a role, despite having the capacity to learn the more technical or knowledge-based elements to succeed. 

2. Making a career change?

STRENGTHS-BASED RESUMEEmphasise your core functional/professional and transferable competencies and work history!

     
 
  1. VALUE STATEMENT
  2. CONTACT DETAILS
  3. ‘STRENGTHS’ (see notes below)
  4. WORK HISTORY – with the most recent role first. Include the organisation name, key roles, dates and achievements/responsibilities
  5. VOLUNTEERING/ADDITIONAL PROFESSIONAL INVOLVEMENT
  6. QUALIFICATIONS AND CERTIFICATIONS
 
     

Notes:

For STRENGTHS, include four to five subheadings that describe core functional/technical and transferable competencies with evidence of your experience in quantifiable and/or behavioural terms.  

Functional/Technical

Expertise, technical or product knowledge, or hard skills that apply to a specific profession or organisational function

(e.g., accounting, investment, information technology, engineering, etc.).

Transferable

Referred to as the ‘softer’ or more behaviourally underpinned leadership, self-management or interpersonal competencies that can transit with you from job to job despite the sector, function or industry.

(e.g., strategic leadership, business development, operational management, influence and communication).

Identifying your core functional/professional or transferable strengths is not a straightforward or simple task. You may find the insights and tips on our blog post titled What Factors Drive Your Career Success? – A simple framework to empower how you position yourself for the next opportunity helpful.

 HOW TO WRITE A VALUE STATEMENT

Rather than stipulate your objective at the top of your resume, engage interest with a concise and catchy summary of the unique value you offer potential employers.

Take time to consider:

  • Your WHO: Professional and/or career identity – how you aspire people to talk about your expertise? Who do you service?
  • Your WHY: What is your driving mission, cause, purpose? How do you aspire to help employers or partners? What results would make you proud?
  • Your WHAT/HOW: What combination of experience, knowledge or capabilities differentiates you from others?

To help you prepare a value statement, see our blog post Who Are You? And What Value Do You Bring?

OPTIMISE CONTENT FOR APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEMS

A survey by JobScan revealed that 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or software that assists search firms or companies to collect, organise, and filter applicants for recruitment and selection processes. There are ample articles on the Internet that provide information on the nuts and bolts of the ATS. Below are some tips that may serve to ensure that as a qualified candidate, your resume has a stronger prospect of being shortlisted rather than eliminated due to factors such as formatting or keyword issues.

Tailor Content to the Job Description Every Time You Apply

  • Take time to understand the job that you are applying for – ask questions, obtain a position description, research the company and previous incumbents.
  • Tailor content to include essential information and keywords without overwriting. Prioritise what is relevant in light of a role’s selection criteria.
  • To maximise searchability, identify and highlight keywords including qualification, hard skills or job titles by using the long-form and acronym version (e.g. “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”).

Mind Your Language!

  • Include the keywords mentioned in the job posting.
  • Proactive and action focussed verbs will strengthen your self-marketing power (e.g., directed, created, initiated, solved). Click here for a list of effective keywords, skills, action words and adjectives
  • Avoid clichés.

Accomplishments Over Responsibilities

  • Listing a set of responsibilities and duties won’t necessarily demonstrate how you contributed to an organisation(s).
  • Grab attention with context – provide information that illustrates your results and outcomes.

Quantitative Over Qualitative Information

  • Focus on numbers (e.g., sales, revenue).
  • Rather than simply stating that you performed well, including figures that resulted from your performance gives more support for your abilities.
  • Even if your performance did not directly result in particular numbers, try to illustrate how it contributed to them.

Formatting

Your Full Name and Contact Information

  • Top of your resume – not at the bottom or sides.
  • Bolded or all capitalised.
  • Don’t use headers or footers since this information may be overlooked.

Keep Content Clean, Engaging, and Clear!

  • Use at least 10-point font, half-inch margins, white paper, black ink, aligned columns, and bolded sections.
  • Keep formatting consistent (e.g., bolded titles, bullet points ending with/without a period).
  • Make it attractive-looking, but not too extravagant unless you are in the creative field.
  • Avoid Word templates or the use of tables or columns.

Use Appropriate File Names

  • Avoid random file names when sending your resume.
  • Example for use: FirstName_LastName_Resume.pdf.

Send Your Resume in PDF Format

  • Formatting sometimes changes across different computers, so using a PDF ensures that format remains consistent.

DON’T FORGET THE BASICS

Stick with the Truth!

  • No good can come from exaggerated or embellished information…it will catch up with you.

Avoid Spelling or Grammatical Errors

  • Typos convey a lack of detail-orientation and quality.
  • When using particular forms of spelling (i.e., American, British), make sure you remain consistent.
  • If you need a fresh pair of eyes, ask someone to proofread.

Be Careful of Tenses

  • A rule of thumb: previous experience – past tense, current experience – present tense.
  • Avoid first-person pronouns (i.e., I, me, my).
  • Be consistent.

Refrain From Providing Confidential Information

  • Do not include information that is sensitive for previous employers (e.g., contacts, clients) – it only conveys a breach of trust for the sake of self-promotion.

Outdated Experience Is Simply That – Outdated

  • Leave out information that does not illustrate your experience as relevant to a job role.

No Need to Include References

  • If interviewers are interested in speaking with your previous employers or peers, they will ask for the references at the appropriate time.

Minimise Personal Details

  • Leave out information not relevant to your potential to perform a role, including relationship status, ethnicity, age, and religion should remain omitted.
  • No photos – your appearance is not relevant for your job performance!

COMING SOON! Download our REVERSE-CHRONOLOGICAL and STRENGTH-BASED resume templates that aim to guide layout/structure and content development.

For more insights and practical tips that can assist you to bounce forward after redundancy, build momentum with transition or focus your attention on the ‘what next?’, visit our blog Pause…Reset or Pivot?

REFERENCES

BusinessNewsDaily. (2013, February 25). Words to leave off your resume. Mashable. https://mashable.com/2013/02/25/words-to-leave-off-your-resume/

Cartwright, S. (2019, November 4). 20 resume tips that will get you more interviews in 2020. Off The Clock Resumes LLC. https://www.offtheclockresumes.com/blog/20-resume-tips-for-2020

The Muse. (2016, August 10). 20 basic resume writing rules That’ll put you ahead of the competition. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2016/08/10/20-basic-resume-writing-rules-thatll-put-you-ahead-of-the-competition/#30308a203923

Nevins, M. (2020, March 4). Resume words: Keywords, adjectives, skills, and power verbs. Jobscan Blog. https://www.jobscan.co/blog/resume-words/

Quora. (2014, October 20). 8 things recruiters notice about your resume at first glance (and 4 things that don’t matter). Mashable. https://mashable.com/2014/10/20/resume-first-glance/#6sGdcS8P8kqI

Shields, J. (2018, August 30). 8 things you need to know about applicant tracking systems. Jobscan Blog. https://www.jobscan.co/blog/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-applicant-tracking-systems/


Your Authors

Karen Gotthelf, Founder, Pathways Limited

Registered Australian Psychologist (AHRPA), Associate Fellow HKPS, RIOP(HKPS), Member Australian Psychological Society (APS), MBPsS, Accredited Coach ICF(ACC).
MSc(Organisational Psychology), BSc(Hon)Psych

Dawn Chan, Associate Consultant, Pathways Limited

MSSc (Applied Psychology) CityU, PhD (Industrial-Organisational Psychology) CUHK