Resume writing in the digital age

KEY POINTS

Resume writing in the digital age

If you are reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you might be what one would call a ‘job seeker’.

No matter what stage of career you are in, you will need a resume, and you to need to know how to make a resume to successfully to land a job interview. A resume is a written compilation of your education, work experience and accomplishments. It is a primary tool in your job search and is essential to get your foot in the door. Hence, it needs to be carefully written and critiqued.

So, is a resume different from a curriculum vitae (CV)? Are they same as is generally understood or is there any difference? Both resume and CV contain details of your skills, abilities, accomplishments, but there are three primary differences between a resume and a CV –  the length, purpose and layout. A resume is a concise document, typically not longer than a page, or at best, two pages. Also, your resume need not be chronologically ordered and doesn’t have to cover your entire career.

Coming to their respective purposes, you will use a resume to introduce yourself to a potential employer — in a short and quick way. And you will use CV when you want to define yourself and your work within a specific discipline. It is typically used in academic, research positions or for academic or research grant applications.

In the Indian context, our suggestion is that you would be safer to combine the elements of resume and CV, in the sense that you give a brief snapshot of your educational qualifications and other relevant information, but take the effort to give a reasonable depth of chronological information regarding your work experience and skill, that highlights your suitability for the job you are applying to and makes you stand out from the crowd of applicants. Here are the essential components of any resume:

Contact Details: Make sure to include your name, email address and a contact phone number on the resume.

Summary: Kick off your resume with a section that briefly summarises your professional qualifications and experience. This tells what you can do for the employer. Avoid the age-old practice of including a ‘statement of objective’ as the first section of your resume, because it only tells the employer what you want, not what you can do.

Key skills and strengths: Include a list of key skills and strengths. If required and relevant, add a separate section to highlight your technical skills.

Education: Start with the highest qualification. If you wish to use your education to highlight how suitable you are for the job, then it would be a good idea to add a few bullet points on your academic achievements.

Additional certifications: Today, it is common for job seekers to include ‘extra’ certification courses. If you think that these will add to the strength of your resume, add a section on additional qualifications or certifications.

Work experience: Start with the most recent employment and then go backwards. Give the position titles and the period. For each job, list out your achievements or significant contributions. Make sure that these achievements or contributions match the skills and strengths listed earlier in your resume.

References: It would be a good idea to include two references who can recommend you to the job. Ideally, they should be people with whom you have worked before. Provide their name, position title and contact info (only with prior permission of the references).

Once you have prepared your resume, it would be a good idea to get it reviewed. Make sure you get advice from someone who can tell you if something isn’t right.

The transition

In the digital age, the new norm is to go longer (more than two pages) with your resume. With the advent of Internet, employers have changed the way they process resumes. And this demands that your resume design should change too — to ensure you are aligned with the job search skills of the digital age.

The trend of online job posting and job applications has resulted in each job posting attracting thousands of applicants. Most employers today use pre-screening software to target keywords or phrases in your resume that match the job you are applying for. This software goes by names such as applicant tracking systems (ATS) or resume robots.

These systems analyse critical information such as keywords, dates and titles in your resume to evaluate your depth of experience, including how recent and relevant your experience is. If you consider yourself a strong candidate for a position, your resume should be designed so as to get past the prescreening software and land in the hands of a human recruiter.

The key here is to ensure that your resume formatting is simple. Avoid elaborate styling, fonts or images, which the screening software may have difficulty in recognising. Have a strong understanding of your area of work, so you can anticipate the keywords or phrases that potential employers will be using. Make sure to use the keywords or phrases in the correct context or else the human recruiter will still reject your resume. So, here are some tips for digital age resume writing:

Use a simple style for your resume. Don’t use graphics, logos or tables.

Avoid putting content such as contact info, name, etc in header and footers, as most of these software are programmed to reject them.

Mirror the keywords used in the job description given out by the employer. This means that you have to customise your resume for each job application. While you should not copy paste the job description into your resume, be sure to include keywords in an appropriate context in the resume.

Use acronyms and spelled out forms of titles, professional organisations, certifications and other industry specific lingo.

Use bullet points rather than long paragraphs to describe your work. This makes it easy for a person to navigate through your resume.

Take advantage of cloud services while writing your resume. Tools such as Wordle and TagCrowd help you determine the right keywords to be used in your resume for a specific position.

Also, if possible, use the company website for keyword guidance. Employers offer a lot of information about company culture and what they value in employees. This can offer valuable insights into what you can include or not include in your resume.

(The authors are with Christ University, Bengaluru)

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