How to Write a Winning Resume

Limit resume to 3 pages, not 17,000 pages

By Priti Dadlani

Your resume is your first chance to make a good impression when you embark on a job hunt.

A well-written and crafted resume won’t land you the job but it will help you get noticed and get your foot in the door for an interview.

So how do you make your resume stand out from the competition?

Over his 33-year career, Raj Dadlani, CEO and founder of Huntech, a global recruitment firm, has reviewed thousands of resumes to place candidates in computer engineering jobs with the world’s leading semiconductor, telecom, wireless, multimedia and software companies.

Spelling and grammar mistakes in a resume are red flags, which raise concerns of laziness and lack of skill, said Mr. Dadlani.

“I’ve had candidates apply for a design verification engineer role – that pays $140,000 a year, where the job is to find bugs in chips and code – and they submit a resume riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. How does that inspire confidence in a hiring manager?”

Here are Mr. Dadlani’s 10 Tips to Write a Killer Resume:

  1. Think of your resume as a conversation piece. State only truisms in your resume you can speak to. Don’t embellish and don’t lie because you may be asked in the interview to elaborate on what you’ve written. Also, some companies will require proof of accomplishments once you are offered the job.
  2. Stick to one or two pages. For senior roles, you can stretch that to three pages, but any longer than that and you lose the recruiter’s interest (and sound like an egotist).
  3. Focus on achievements and skills mastered in the last five years. Show how your contributions provided quantifiable and measurable benefits to the company.
  4. Don’t submit the same resume for every job. Tailor your resume to the role you’re applying for, which means tweaking your resume every time you send it out.
  5. State only skills you currently use. Don’t include skills you learned in university a decade ago and never used. Put your current skills in the context of your experience to show how you’re using those skills today. Be sure to highlight how you’re a team player.
  6. List experience first, using active rather than passive verbs to describe it. Then list your education, including any degree/certificates, etc., you currently have underway, such as getting your M.B.A. part-time.
  7. Skip these two sections: “Objective” and “References Available on Request.” The first is redundant. The objective is to get the job. You won’t be asked for references unless you pass the interview and are on the verge of being hired.
  8. Mention hobbies/interests. It shows you have a life outside of work and could also serve as a point of connection/commonality with the interviewer. Again, don’t lie in this section because you may be asked about it.
  9. Triple check your spelling and grammar. Mistakes in these areas make a poor first impression.
  10. Add your contact information. Include the best email address and phone number to reach you. This tip seems elemental, but Mr. Dadlani said he often receives resumes with no contact information.

Don’t forget to include a cover letter, no more than one page, with your resume to briefly introduce yourself. State which role you are applying for and where you saw the job ad. End the letter by saying, “Thank you for your consideration.”

There’s a plethora of resume writing advice on the internet, some of it contradictory, so proceed with caution. I’ll give you an overview of some of the best tips.

Every resume is a branding document, according to Liz Ryan in her article How to Write Your Human-voiced Resume. She says most resumes look the same because they contain the same overused words.

Standard resume language like “Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation” brands you exactly like every other banana in the bunch. It’s excruciating for a hiring manager to read a resume that sounds like it was the written by a robot rather than a human being,” says Ryan.

Instead, Ryan suggests putting a human voice on your resume, and provides 10 steps on how to do that. One of them is to share your “dragon-slaying stories.”

“Choose two or three pithy Dragon-Slaying Stories from each job you’ve held, and use them as bullet points to round out our understanding of the wake you left at each of your past jobs. Don’t kill us with tasks and duties we could extrapolate from the job title. No one cares about tasks and duties — anybody in the job would have had the same job description. We want to know what you did when you had the job,” Ryan says.

In his article, How to Write a Killer Resume, Tom Searcy gives four tricks to use in your resume to catch the attention of a hiring manager:

  1. State what problems you’ll solve for the company, particularly in the areas of money and risk.
  2. Explain who you helped. Companies you’ve worked for in the past may not be household names so include a brief description.
  3. Say what difference you made. Talk about specific outcomes you generated in terms of numbers or percentages.
  4. Show how your experience prepared you.

Of this last point, Searcy says, “Your work history is cumulative, leading you on a path to greater opportunities. If you don’t say what you are ready to do next and how, then you’ll leave the conjecture to the reader, who is at best barely paying attention.”

Jacquelyn Smith writes about “5-Star” resumes in her article, 8 Secrets to Writing the Perfect Resume.

The secrets are provided by ZipRecruiter based on an analysis of three million resumes in its database to determine how keywords, length, and content correlate to high ratings. Five stars are the highest, while one star is the lowest.

“Of course there’s no such thing as the perfect resume, but some are closer to perfect than others,” Allan Jones, ZipRecruiter’s chief marketing officer, told Smith.

For example, resumes that used words like project, team and leadership, increased the chances of getting a 5-star rating by 70 per cent.

Meanwhile, resumes that used words like myself, develop and learning, were 79 per cent less likely to get a 5-star rating.

Have you used any of these tips in your resume?

6 thoughts on “How to Write a Winning Resume

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