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The 5 essential features of a professional resume

What makes a great resume? While your resume will certainly be unique to you, there are some features or best practice principles that your resume should include if it’s going to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best.

A professional resume should:

1.     Be relevant

When you have something to say, there’s a temptation to say it all. After all, you never know what the employer is looking for, right? Wrong. From the advertisement and job description, plus some research into the employer’s organisation, you can find out exactly what kind of person and what skills and experience they need. Then you include everything relevant.

A busy hiring manager doesn’t want to see every detail, achievement and responsibility you’ve ever had in your life. In fact, if they have a lot of applications, your resume might only be looked at for seconds. Include the facts and details that relate specifically to the job you’re applying for and you stand a better chance of getting your resume into that shortlist pile.

2.     Include achievements

If you were hiring and one person told you they could do the job and another person proved they could do it, which would you choose? No contest, right?

Include details of your achievements in your resume. For example, which sounds better: I have two years’ experience in sales OR During my two years in sales, I regularly exceeded my targets by 200%?

Offer your future employer some facts and figures to help them make the right choice. You.

3.     Focus on the future

An employer is interested in what you could do for them if they hired you. In other words, they’re interested in your future. Your past is only interesting to them insofar as it predicts what kind of employee you’ll be in the future.

Most people think of their resume as a document that describes their past and this gives you another chance to stand out from the crowd. You have the job requirements and you have an idea of the kind of future career you want. Include in your resume those details, examples, achievements that show what you could (and will) do in your future role. Yes, you’re talking about things you’ve done, but you’re using them as evidence and signposts of what you will do next.

4.     Avoid a lie

It’s tempting, isn’t it? To elaborate a little? Embroider the truth to make you look like a better candidate? But really, it’s never worth it. If you’re caught out, your application is over before it’s even begun. And if you get the job, that’s even worse because now the lie is hanging over you the whole time.

What kind of fibs are we talking about?

  • Claiming experience you haven’t had.
  • Exaggerating your past responsibilities.
  • Listing a qualification or certificate that you don’t have.
  • Taking credit for what someone else did.
  • By all means talk yourself up but stick to the facts.

5.     Be up to date

Don’t let your resume gather dust. After all, life doesn’t stop just because you’re job hunting. You’re actually gaining experience, learning things, achieving more all the time. Before you send your resume to anybody, always read it through and ask yourself, What else have I done lately?