Preparing the Perfect Resume

Issue 10, February 2009.

As the credit crunch hits the Ukrainian economy many people have recently found themselves out of work and on the job market, making it more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. The best tool for attracting the attention of potential employers remains a high-quality resume, or Curriculum Vitae. The art of producing a resume has evolved over the years but there remain numerous rules which you would do well to adhere to if you want to impress the right people.

Keep it brief
One of the most common traps that candidates tend to fall into is the conscious effort to put as much as possible onto their resume. The idea is clearly to present themselves as someone with a wide range of experience and depth of character. However, the end result is often confusion and clutter. It is important to remember that if you are applying for an attractive position, then you must assume that your resume will be one of many which will be considered. When confronted with a pile of resumes, employers tend to make quick judgment calls and are unlikely to take the time and effort to wade through your entire life story in order to identify the areas which are actually relevant to the job for which you are applying. The ideal resume should be no more than 2 pages long, and preferably should fit onto a single sheet of A4 paper. It should begin with your most current employment and then go back chronologically. Remember that your future employer is interested in what you could bring to the company today, not what you were doing ten years ago.
Tell them what they need to know
Somebody looking for a new financial director may or may not be interested in your language skills, but it makes little sense placing the emphasis on these or any other non-relevant skills which you may have. Each copy of your resume should be tailored towards the position you are applying for. You should look to place greater emphasis on the areas that are directly relevant, while mentioning other notable achievements in passing. Longwinded resumes that read like mini-biographies are generally intended to impress with their depth and diversity, but in practice they tend to create the impression of somebody without any particular direction. Ask yourself what key competencies the employer is likely to be looking for, and then make sure that you have highlighted your experience specifically in these fields.
Move beyond management speak
It is tempting to fill up your resume with fashionable terms like “good team player” and generic terms taken straight out of the latest post-graduate MBA course book. This approach will leave most employers cold. They may well adhere to the general ideas of the modern business world, but they like to communicate with people who actually tell them something rather than parroting standard phrases. When you come to write your resume, make sure that you try and highlight at least one concrete achievement you have achieved in each of your former positions. This will help personalize your resume and make you more appealing as a candidate to the potential employer.
Keep out unflattering references
There is no law stating that your resume must contain references to every job you’ve ever had. If you spent half a year working for a failing company or used to have a job placing the tops on jars of pickled herring, it might be best to simply leave this off your resume. Any periods of prolonged unemployment can be explained away as academic breaks or periods of travelling. There is no obligation to remain in employment throughout your adult life and it is often better to avoid references to irrelevant or unflattering jobs you have had in the past. Likewise, if you left a company on bad terms and anticipate that your former employers hold you in low esteem, it might also be best to leave them off your resume, as this could lead to potential employers hearing negative comments about at just the moment when they were about to offer you a job!
The all-important covering letter
Many applicants spend a lot of time on polishing up their resumes but tend to rush through the process of writing their covering letter. This is a great folly which can easily undermine an otherwise strong application. The covering letter is not simply a brief introduction – it is your chance to stamp your personality on the recruitment process and announce yourself to your future colleagues as someone who can join their company and add to it in specific ways. It should demonstrate a strong general grasp of the type of work on offer as well as an explanation of why you are ideally suited to the job. If you produce the right covering letter, you may even find that your resume becomes of secondary importance.