8 Resume writing tips for 2021

Rajee H. Singhania

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I know a hiring manager who had once rejected a shortlisted candidate because he found his ringtone annoying. Another candidate, who had come through reference, didn’t get shortlisted as he had not updated his LinkedIn profile. As you walk on these eggshells, make sure your first impression not only gets you noticed but also meets the basic criteria for selection. Below are some resume writing tips to make you put your best font, oops foot, forward.

1 Keep it one page- A task well begun is well planned. To give the best direction to your career growth story, think of yourself as the hiring manager. Ashutosh Chaudhary, Project Manager- Google, quips, “I don’t spend more than 30 seconds on a candidates’ resume. In that time, he must tell me his name, location and his two most recent jobs.”

That being said, put all this main information above the fold. Restrict the length of your resume to one page. A CV can exceed this limit. Remember that space is as important as the text on your resume. Edit till you can remove no more and keep the layout clutter-free.

2 Objective- mentioning this is completely avoidable. If your skills for the job are not clear from your work history, then you can start with a summary. In 1-3 sentences, written in the first person, tell your reason for this career choice and years of experience in the same.

3 Contact information- skip typing words like ‘Name’, ‘Phone no.’, etc. Instead, directly type your full name followed by the address, phone number, email id and provide a link to your professional site. You may use H1, H2, H3, and so on, headers for increasing the appeal of the format.

Mention, preferably, just the city name and state. Share a professional email id which comprises majorly your name and has no fancy words. It is recommended to include a link to your LinkedIn profile.

If you are in a creative field, adding your photograph can boost your chances of being noticed and getting shortlisted. But do not try this in a regular job application. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires that no candidates upload their photo. It can even result in your application being rejected. The same thing goes for video resumes.

4 Work experience (Where’s the beef?) – this is the most important section in your resume which requires a lot of thought and deliberation.

i) List down all the activities you did at every job. Give yourself ample time to mull over this. You may need a few days or a few weeks to remember them all if you have a long work history.

Then once again, put on your hat of the hiring manager. What skillset is he/ she looking for? Select the main activities from that list and write them such that your important achievements are mentioned in the first three words.

ii) Use keywords in your resume. Recruiters have tools that scan for keywords to assess a candidates’ suitability. You will find them mentioned in the job posting itself. To save time on customizing your resume each time, you can check out free tools like TagCrowd or subscribe to a one-month free trial of LinkedIn Premium to get the list of top keywords used for your job.

iii) Mention work history in the reverse order. Begin with the most recent job done or list them in the order of relevancy, as is the case where your last work doesn’t reflect your experience needed for the applied job. Maintain a consistent description length for all your jobs. Your most recent job can’t have fewer activities/ responsibilities than the older ones.

It is sufficient to mention only the year spent at every job (for e.g. 2017-2020), instead of including the months. Use bullet points to describe your activities and do not put a full stop at the end.

When you mention the name of your organization, add its location as well. This is useful in verification. If you had to leave a company in less than 3 months, avoid mentioning it.

iv) Quantify your achievements to make them impactful. By how much did the sales increase, expenses reduce? Did you improve the efficiency by cutting the downtime by xx hours? Brought down the complaints/ rejections/ wastages by an x percentage?

v) Put your description in a CAR (Context, Action, Result) format. For example- Developed digital campaign for customer loyalty program which increased retention by 30%. Results can also be in the form of appreciation received from the client. Describe your contributions to the big projects instead of just mentioning ‘played a key role’. For a creative role, provide a link to your portfolio. This could be a google drive.

See if the nature of your position was remarkable. Mention the team-size you managed or your visibility in the top management by outlining your reporting channel, the designation of your reporting manager, etc. Still, if these above points elude you, do not worry. You can mention the volume of work you have handled within a short timeframe, your support to the business goals, ability to work in cross-functional teams, collection of data for analysis, etc.

5 Education- just like in your work history, begin with your recent degree first. Adopt the same formatting style and bold the text for name of the college and year. The line below, in a bullet point, can mention the subject majored in, grade obtained (optional) and any special achievement (optional).

6 Hobbies- don’t dedicate more than two lines to this section. Write two hobbies and keep them specific. For instance, avoid writing just ‘reading books’. Mention it along with the kind of books you read. This section is not to get you shortlisted but to have a conversational topic in the personal interview round. So, choose them wisely.

7 Hygiene factors- avoid the use of articles like – ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘an’ to free up some precious space. Check for impeccable grammar. Use structure parallelism and maintain consistency in grammatical tense throughout the copy. Revisit your resume after a few days to spot any lapses. Avoid mentioning soft skills like ‘team player’ and ‘leader’. They are not needed if you have a long work history.

8 Keep your resume mobile friendly

There is a high chance the recruiter will view your resume from his/ her phone. Use short sentences and adopt a columnar structure, if possible.

Last thoughts

If you are still wondering about hiring a professional resume writer, then here is my thought: a professional writer will come in handy if you feel there is a scope for better articulation and better understanding.

It is also a good idea to periodically check for the latest template styles online. Ensure your resume format is contemporary to catch the eye of the recruiter. Some free tools, like Canva, offer templates based on the industry-type.

Hope these tips have been helpful and add to your confidence at interviews. Good luck!

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Hi, I am a 35-year-old wife and a mother to a 2yr old. Originally from Mumbai, India, I have recently made the US my home. For the last 12years I have been writing articles for increasing public awareness on issues of national interest and some other topics that pique my personal interest. In this process I have published a few books. My debut novel being- Love in a Time Machine, under the pen name- Minoo.

Greensboro, NC
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