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Introduction

Resume writing is a controversial subject - part art, part science. If you ask any two people their idea of the perfect resume, you are likely to get two different and rather subjective responses. However, there are a number of 'do's, 'don't's and common pitfalls, which most HR professionals would agree on. Often these are points which the general public is not aware of, explaining the rather poor response produced by the average resume. Below we discuss a number of different areas which have seemed most likely to confuse our clients:

Length

Far too long - Probably the principal mistake people make when preparing their own resumes. We keep resumes brief and cut out the waffle - 2 pages is generally a maximum, and for those with less experience 1 page generally makes more sense. We also use other techniques such as bullet pointing - these help make your resume easier to read; they help make it punchy. We also exclude irrelevant information which may detract from other more important points.

Detail

We eliminate what a prospective employer would see as unnecessary detail, e.g. we only list years, not months (this also helps to cover up chronological gaps). We look at each piece of information which could be included and think, 'Does this help your case?' If it doesn't then we leave it out.

History

We concentrate on your recent history and summarize older information. Employers tend to be more interested in what you've done most recently, although they generally still need to know the basics of older information.

Interests & Activities

A common mistake is to write far too much in this section. We choose to keep it to a minimum. Additionally, we will generally exclude certain items, e.g. socializing, clubbing, etc. for obvious reasons.

Key Skills

There are different reasons why a Key Skills or Core Competencies section may be included in a resume, for example to highlight particular skills for someone with a great deal of experience or, conversely, to bring out the skills of people with little experience. However, it is not essential and some may argue that it is best to spread evidence of skills throughout your employment history. Specific points should also be addressed in the cover letter, a vitally important part of any application.

Achievements

It is becoming increasingly popular to include an achievements or accomplishments section on a resume which gives you the opportunity to stand out from other candidates by highlighting more than just your job responsibilities. These can be integrated into the career history or included in a separate section in the resume but your consultant will be able to see what the best option for you is.

Layout, Fonts, etc.

It is critical not to go over the top with fancy layouts, fonts, etc. They can detract and confuse. A clear, conservative impression is always preferable, except in specific cases such as architecture.

References

Details of referees generally shouldn't be included on your resume. They clutter it up and, more importantly, you will find that your referees get pestered unnecessarily by time-wasters. By the time they have handled their tenth inquiry of the day, they are a lot less likely to give a helpful response.

Section Order

The order of all the sections of your resume will have been carefully considered by your consultant - the decision whether to put your qualifications before or after your experience being critical. Please accept your consultant's judgment.

Personal Details

Personal details such as date of birth, marital status, etc. should not be included in the resume due to stringent anti-discrimination legislation.

Spelling, Capitalization & Punctuation

When it comes to spelling, your consultant will make any necessary changes to the spelling depending on what country you are looking for work in. They will also check the resume for you to make sure there are no spelling mistakes! In terms of capitalization and punctuation, there are obviously rules of grammar and styling which our writers are familiar with, for example that email addresses are not supposed to be capitalized and bullet points do not need full stops at the end (known as ‘closed’ punctuation).

Spacing

Spacing is very subjective, and a resume that might appear cramped to one person may appear too widely spaced to another. We simply endeavour to strike a balance. One common query is why text on the second page starts lower than that on the first. This isn't by mistake! resumes are typically stapled in the top left-hand corner and if the text on the second page starts too high up it'll be difficult to read because the staple will get in the way. Also, it's always important to allow space around a resume, particularly on a second page, for the reader to make notes.

Letter Writing

Common queries include the difference between 'yours sincerely' and 'yours faithfully'. Trust us, our consultants know the correct forms of address, whoever it is you are writing to.

School Names

Although our application form does ask for the names of the schools and other institutions you attended, only rarely will our consultants include these. As with everything else on your resume, if they're not a selling point, they'll be left out.

Special Cases

While there are standard rules and guidelines that apply when writing a resume, there are certain professions and lines of work that have specific requirements and the rules are somewhat different. Our consultants are all aware of what these professions are and also know just what the differences are between them.

 

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