As it is, creating resumes that capture a potential employer or recruiter’s attention is difficult. Even more difficult is preparing a winning, job-guaranteeing resume. Jobseekers with experience have at their disposal a huge pool of template options, which they can use to present their work experience and qualifications. Granted there is not a one-size-fits-it-all formula for developing a professional resume, the relevance of a resume format is very vital. Careful, strategic planning is inevitable while creating a resume that presents a jobseeker’s virtues and professional strengths optimally. Resume templates and builders are certainly useful because they offer a guided, systematic method of developing an appealing resume.
Developing Your Professional Resume
Prior adequate preparation is key to developing a winning professional resume. Undertaking an in-depth evaluation prior to commencing the development of a professional resume. In other words, jobseekers intending to develop exceptional resumes must take stock of their work experience and skills to determine their professional worth. The following questions are helpful in conducting a thorough background check:
- What sets me apart from any other jobseeker?
- How highly would my previous supervisors and employers speak of my performance and work ethic?
- To what extent do my skills and proficiencies match the role I am applying for?
- What previous experience have I that is most relevant to the position I am seeking?
- What is the profile of my potential employer?
Notably, some of the questions above might come up during the actual job interview and answering or even merely considering them during the resume development process could prove beneficial in the end.
Besides considering these questions, creating a list of potential employers and target positions. This aids the jobseeker in articulating his/her strengths and capitalizing on highlighting them more emphatically on the resume. Such strengths include disclosure of special trainings, academic degrees and the corresponding awarding institutions.
The Layout of a Professional Resume
Determining the appropriate layout for a professional resume goes beyond choosing the colors, fonts, and design. The type of professional resume chosen determines its layout. Professional resume types include the reverse-chronological, functional, and combination resumes. The difference between a successful application and an unsuccessful one might just be the type and hence layout of the professional resume chosen by the jobseeker.
The reverse-chronological format is the classic standard template for professional resumes globally. It focuses on highlighting career development with time in a chronological order. Given that a resume should bring out the best side of a jobseeker with a history of changing jobs frequently throughout their career should not use the reverse-chronological format. Similarly, jobseekers with a very lean employment history should opt for a different resume type. Conversely, jobseekers with a history of staying with the same employer for long should use this format.
The second professional resume format is the functional format. With this type, focus is on the achievements of the candidate at the expense of chronological advancement. In other words, the functional resume lays less emphasis on career progression and more on performance and results. For anybody with huge gaps in their employment history and would rather not show linear career development, the functional format is most suitable.
Finally, the combination format amalgams the functional and reverse chronological template formats. Thus, it underscores achievements and skills from a chronological angle. The combination resume format is suitable for jobseekers to enter into a different sector or for those that have extensive professional experience.
Professional Resume Sections
Summary and/or objective
Despite each professional resume being unique, most employers often look out for the objective or summary, work experience and education. Normally, the first section in a professional resume is the objective and/or summary statement. It offers the potential employer a snapshot about the candidate and the sort of employment s/he is seeking. Specifically, the summary statements briefly describes the general career trajectory of the job applicant. However, the summary statement fits best with experienced professionals that have achieved significant successes in their long careers. The objective should be kept at two lines maximum. The summary section could be used as a professional profile by highlighting qualifications. A single paragraph or even a bulleted list summarizing the most pertinent experiences and best qualities is generally preferred.
The work experience section could potentially be the most critical selling point of a professional resume. Consistent with the name of the section, it outlines the employment history of a jobseeker including previous roles and corresponding employers and employment dates. Employers refer to this section to determine the extent to which a candidate’s work experience satisfies the requirements for the position sought.
While describing experience, enter both commencement and end dates in the format of month then year (e.g. January 2007 – July 2011) in at least two bullet points emphasizing transferable skills in one sentence ideally. Each work experience bullet should comprise three principal elements. The beginning of the bullet should contain an action verb such as demonstrated, proven, and exercised. The midpoint of the bullet statement should highlight the relevant skill such as communication skills, customer relations, and customer service. The tasks proving the jobseeker’s abilities to undertake the stated skill.
All formal trainings and education whose testimonials and/or transcripts are available appear in the education section. In most cases, it is better that professional resume writers only list educational qualifications attained post-high school. Altogether, jobseekers can include certifications and educational awards that they have earned. Despite this section being more central to a student resume, its relevance in professional resumes cannot be overlooked. In any case, every employer is keen on ensuring that the candidates they choose have the requisite educational qualifications for the position on offer. Professional resumes at times feature ongoing courses that the jobseeker is undertaking especially when they are relevant to the employment position being sought.
Professional resumes should not include references as a rule of thumb. Jobseekers submitting professional resumes should not share private contact information that their references give them openly. Omitting references during the first submission of professional resumes is a best practice. Often, the recruiting agency or the employer will follow up with a request for references. Only then should one share the references’ contacts. In exceptional cases, applicants might include the references in their professional resumes if the prospective employer explicitly states that the applicant submit the resume with contacts to references in the job advert.
In light of the numerous resumes sent to them, most employers and recruiting agencies have deployed hiring processes that are digitized. In most cases, such digitized systems have inbuilt Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) with sorting and filtering capabilities based on selected keywords. The keywords that employers use in such systems are often contained in the job posting. Thus, a jobseeker who creates a professional resume should include keywords contained in the job posting. This will prevent the ATS software from filtering out their resumes on presumption that it does not fit the job requirements. Careful studying of the job posting is the first step to identifying the matching keywords. The job title (e.g. sales manager, legal assistant) is usually the most obvious keyword. Other keywords to feature in the professional resume might include the experience (e.g. 8 years) and educational qualifications (e.g. MBA, PhD, Undergraduate degree, etc.).
Length of Resume
Rarely will professional resumes exceed a single-spaced, A4 page in portrait orientation. This is because it is possible to summarize qualifications and work experiences accordingly. If necessary, though, applicants with extensive qualifications and experience like accomplished academics and executives can lengthen their professional resumes to two A4, single-spaced pages printed on one side.
The cover letter speaks to employers about why a jobseeker is the best choice for the position. A professional resume is normally attached to it to introduce the applicant to the prospective employer. Winning cover letters precede the interviews in telling the prospective employer about the applicant’s background and relevant experience. In other words, the purpose of the cover letter is to inform the hiring organization about the suitability of the applicant and disclose some background information that is pertinent to the position.
Since both the cover letter and the professional resume are complementary, jobseekers should desist from repeating the content of either document in the other to avoid redundancy. Instead, jobseekers should use the cover letter to expound the content of professional resume by detailing its highlights with a view of captivating the interest of the employer.
Choosing from Available Templates
It is recommended that jobseekers look for professional resume templates that suit their skills and background best. The appropriate template enhances the chances of facilitating the employer’s indecisiveness. On the other hand, this means that the correct template can be the reason an employer hires one applicant and rejects the other. Although one might find a good template, it is important that jobseekers evaluate the options available constantly. Due to the uniqueness of each industry specification, including section headings by industry in a professional resume is advisable. Generally, the instructions are to start the writing and complete the final touches later.
Checking in with career services or recruitment officers, professors, and industry professionals to ensure coverage of all the requisite information for the specific industry equips the jobseeker with better insights to develop a professional resume. Even then, creativity is essential while customizing the template selected such that it markets the abilities of the jobseeker clearly. This seemingly daunting task pays handsomely with a dream job when completed diligently.