Improve your Résumé
By Esther van West, Employment Consultant, Expertise Limited
I review hundreds of résumés each month. Some are good, but most are not. Here’s some advice on what distinguishes a good resume from a bad one.
What makes a bad résumé bad
- Too long. Anything beyond two pages and it becomes too much to take in. One page should suffice for new graduates and those with relatively little work experience. The candidate needs to highlight only the experience which is relevant to the job or career they are seeking.
- Lack of specific dates. Employers know that it is easy to hide a gap in work history or education by publishing the year but not the month. For example, “2001-2004” for one job followed by “2004-2007” could mean that you took a whole year off in between jobs – say terminating on January 2, 2004 and commencing employment on December 28, 2004. Including the month and year makes the job of employers much easier.
- Errors and poor presentation. At the time the employer receives your résumé, it is often the only example of your work they have seen. If it contains spelling mistakes, typographical errors, or poor grammar, it makes a very bad impression. Actually, more often than not, it is fatal. Which employer wants to hire someone that makes errors? So make sure your résumé is error-free and formatted consistently.
- Too much self praise. As my grandmother used to say: “self praise is no recommendation”! It’s fine to refer to yourself as a “self-starter” or “results-oriented” or “detailed-oriented”, but be careful not to go over the top. Employers are unlikely to take your word for it because they know you are biased! Résumés that contain large sections listing lots of your personal virtues take up valuable space that you could better use to demonstrate that you have these qualities (i.e. in the work experience and/or education sections).
What makes a good résumé good
- Written for a specific purpose. The best résumés are those that emphasis your qualifications and experience in relation to the role you are seeking. The easier you make it for the employer to identify why you are a good fit for the role, the better the chance that you will be selected for interview. So avoid sending the same résumé to every employer. Instead, customize it to the job you are applying for.
- Clear and concise job history. What you have done in the past, and how well you have done it, is of critical importance to an employer. So if you have experience relevant to the job you are applying for, emphasize it. Specifically highlight relevant accomplishments. Less relevant or irrelevant experience can be minimized, but be careful not to discard it altogether. Gaps on résumés are not a good sign for employers.
- Full disclosure of educational qualifications. Be sure to specify details of any professional designations, degrees, diplomas and/or certificates if you have them. If you don’t, be sure to highlight your highest level of education achieved. If you attended but did not complete a programme, be careful not to present this information in such a way that makes it looks like you did. Grade point averages, majors and even relevant course should be listed if they are relevant or help demonstrate that you have achieved success. Be clear with all commencement and completion dates.
What’s your immigration status?
Although not essential to include, it is very helpful to employers when applicants make known their immigration status. Particularly useful is to know if you are Bermudian, Spouse of a Bermudian, or a Permanent Resident Certification (PRC). If you are not Bermudian, but living on island already, it is helpful to know how long you have held a work permit. To feature this information prominently on your résumé is a good idea because it prevents the employer from making a call to clarify.
The ultimate résumé writing tip
Be honest. Stretching the truth will only get you into trouble in the interview or when your references are checked.