Category Archives: Resume Building

My Struggle with Resume Writing

Jessica Lau

Jessica Lau

As I started to explore my career path and job search, like most other graduates are doing, I have encountered the struggle of creating the “great resume” despite my recruitment experience. It doesn’t matter if you hear about a job through your network or saw it online, you will need a great resume to showcase your experience, abilities and skills to your potential employers.

I began meeting HR professionals, attending different career planning workshops, reading recommended books and following different groups to gain some tips on job search and resume writing. This is where the interesting issue of “how to write a great and effective resume” began and a couple of questions came up. What is a great resume? What do HR professionals look for?

To begin, I have to say I really appreciate all the suggestions and tips given to me by people I’ve met and books I’ve read. I can’t begin to thank them enough for their time, advice and feedback. It’s just I’m really curious what is the general consent out there in regards to resume writing. I am pretty sure there are other job seekers encountering the same issue and struggling with creating a great resume.

Upon attending some workshops and readings, I learned that my resume needed a lot of revamping, which I was prepared for. I began my process of editing, which took weeks as I heard that my resume looked a bit like it was from a template. I was suggested to not use full sentences in my profile section of my resume, as recruiters and hiring individuals don’t have time to read sentences because they have to go through so many resumes. This makes sense. Instead, it was suggested to me to put key accomplishment statements in bullet forms under my profile section. All of my accomplishment statements need to identify the tasks along with answering the question “so what?” Ideally, if there are quantifiable figures, write them down. Sounds simple? Well, that is definitely not the case. As I also need to ensure each bullet statement to be as concise as possible; if it takes up more than two lines then it is too long but if it only takes up one line, it is likely missing something, possibly didn’t answer the “so what?”

Then I met other HR professionals who told me to leave some mystery in my accomplishment statements. At different occasions, I was told to leave out some information in my accomplishment statements so it attracts the recruiters and hiring individuals to wonder how those specific accomplishments were achieved. And I was told to write my profile like a brief biography to let recruiters and hiring individuals know who I am.

So now, a few months since I first began my resume editing, I am still in the process of creating a great resume. I guess what I learned through this process is that different HR professionals will look for and expect different things from a resume. There is no real “right” or “wrong” resume (well, to a certain extent); it really depends on the audience that’s reading your resume.

HR professionals and recruiters, do you have any tips for me and other job seekers on what you look for in a resume? What is your perspective of a great resume?

Agony and Elation: Additional Thoughts for Job Seekers

Nicole Davidson

Nicole Davidson

In my last post, I gave advice to new grads as a fellow job-seeker who had just left the job market. As my new position has a significant recruitment portion, I have spent much of the last two weeks sorting through resumes, many of which are for an entry-level position. My advice from my last post is still ringing in my head, so I wanted to add a little bit more to it, especially after looking through all the resumes which are being sent to me.

Have someone else proofread for you. I really had no idea that people still needed this advice, but given the 100+ resumes I scanned this week, it is evident that there is much work to be done. I understand how there is something painful about exposing yourself this way; resumes, despite their purpose, still feel deeply personal, and giving a resume over to a friend or relative to edit can ignite feelings of fear or vulnerability.  I certainly felt the same way giving mine over to be read- but I did it, and I benefitted from it. Spell-check can’t help you if you don’t know how to use a hyphen, comma, or semi-colon.

Pay attention to your formatting, and be aware of what other formats (plain text, for example) will do to your resume. I received several resumes where there was a definite lack of consistent spacing and consistent format. The writers came across to me as careless and not detail-orientated. I know with my resume, I noticed that some formatting I had done (changes to margins, certain fonts) would translate to an uneven, weird-looking resume. In one case, I noticed my name (in large, bold font) came out looking like comic book writing- not what I was going for. It’s important to be aware, and always check what you resume looks like if you importing it into resume software.

Don’t get too personal. I was shocked by the amount of cover letters I received which divulged significant personal details (the recent loss of a loved one, a bad breakup). I don’t know if perhaps there are other recruiters who might be unfazed by this, but I would definitely recommend erring on the side of caution when including personal details. A cover letter should convey enthusiasm and personality without making the recruiter feel like they are listening in on a private phone call.

On that note, now I’ll get personal (but this is different, you get that, right?).  I wanted to include a few more inspirational thoughts for my last post, which upon re-reading I was concerned came off a more negatively than I had hoped.

I was in a particularly desperate place towards what turned out to be the end of my job search. I believe that there is a certain part of your identity that comes from the work you do, and lacking that piece of identity, especially in the long term, can start to damage your own self-image. I was in a recruiter’s office, waiting to be interviewed, when I saw a quote on the wall which said “the silence is still a part of the music”. I found it to be a comforting thought when considering my own job search, and the larger issue of my own self-image, and I wanted to share it. It can be hard in that moment of silence to appreciate it for what it is, but when the music starts up again you understand its significance.

A mentor of mine tried to convey this idea to me as well when I went to him around the same time to talk about how miserable I was feeling. He seemed surprised that I could have imagined the job search any other way. “Of course you’re unhappy, and of course it’s hard and it’s taking forever,” he said, “how else will you know to appreciate it once it’s over?”.

Related Pages

Agony and Elation: Searching for Work in a Turbulent Job Market, by Nicole Davidson

Keeping a Resume Current: Don’t Just Wait Until You’re Job Searching by Michelle Yao

Branding is About More Than Having a LinkedIn Profile by Geraldine Sangalang, CHRP

Keeping a Resume Current: Don’t Just Wait Until You’re Job Searching

So most of us are guilty of this, myself included, we don’t keep our resumes up to date. We put it off for another day and another time. We say we will do it when we can and then simply add it to our growing list of things to do. But then it happens. We see a posting for our dream job, but the deadline is tomorrow. And then we are left scrambling to piece together an articulate accomplishments-based resume that will get us the interview, and hopefully the job. As many of us know from experience getting the interview is no easy feat and a last-minute resume that is pieced together in haste rarely does the trick.

The solution? There is no easy solution. It takes time and commitment. But here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful

1)     Keep a running list of your professional accomplishments (big projects, initiatives, or events)

2)     Be sure to track any volunteer work or projects that you’re working on

3)     Do some research on current trends for resumes

4)     Set aside some time in your calendar every quarter to update your resume

5)     Ask a colleague in your industry to have a look at your resume

6)     Make a one time investment and seek the professional input of a career advisor

7)     Be mindful of the job postings you are drawn to and the qualifications needed, ensure you are getting experience in these areas through professional or volunteer channels

8)     Make sure that you use results-based phrases throughout your resume

Although it can be time consuming and arduous, keeping your resume up to date helps you keep a running inventory of your accomplishments and skills and also prepares you for networking opportunities. It also cuts down the time you spend scrambling to put a resume together for a job that crosses your path. It also cuts down the anxiety of resume writing when you have no choice because having a base to work from is always better than starting from scratch. So with the New Year upon us, I challenge readers to dust off their resumes and get updating in 2013! Happy writing.