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How To Write A Resume That Stands Out

Resume or CV?

What is the difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae (CV) and when should I use what? you may ask, so let’s start by defining the two;
A resume is in general only 1-2 pages and should be written specifically for every job application, but it is a good idea to have a basic template saved with all the general information.
A CV, on the other hand, is a complete overview of your total career. It should include all your work experience and all your education. A CV is always written chronologically.
There are also differences between where in the world you are. For example, in the US and Canada, we use a resume to apply for any job.
In the UK, Ireland, New Zeeland, and EU, they use the CV, never a resume.
In Australia, India, and South Africa, the two terms are interchangeable. A resume is usually used when applying for a private sector job, and a CV when applying for a public service portion.

Types of resumes

Now that we have cleared that out let’s take a look at different types of resumes and when to use them.
First, we have the Chronological resume: this is probably the most common type of resume. The focus of this is your resent work history. Your list should be presented in reverse chronological order with the latest work at the top. In this resume, your goal is to show how your work experience has prepared you for the position you are applying for.
Next, we have the Functional resume; here the focus is on your job experience, where your professional summary, your skills, and experiences are presented in the order which mostly relates to the job you are applying for. This type of resume works very well if you for example have gaps in your employment history, or when you are applying for a job in a new industry.
Last, we have the Combination resume; This is, as you have already guessed, a combination of the chronological and the functional resume types. You use the professional summary, and the skills section, from the functional resume and the work experience from the chronological resume.

How to structure your resume

A resume should include several sections, the order can vary but the all should start with a header and contact information. This should contain your name, phone number, e-mail address, and might also have links to your personal web site, and your social media, if that is relevant for the job you are applying for. It is important that this part is at the top of page one, but do not use the word processing software header to write it. Many larger companies use software for initial screening of applications and they might not be able to extract information from the header of the document.
Next is the professional summary. This should be very short, 1-3 sentences, in which you describe who you are, what you do, and why you are the perfect candidate for the job. It is important that the focus on this short section is on what value you can bring to the company, not what you want.
Then we have the skill section. This part is becoming more and more important as many recruiters are looking for a more specialized background. This section should include skills directly connected to the job you are applying for, but it is also important to add personal growth skills such as communication skills, leadership skills, and organization skills.
We also have a section for work experience. This should be your work history and depending on if you are writing a chronological or functional resume the order can differ in this part. Important for all is that you include company name, titles you had, and a description of your actual work duties, and you can also include some information about relevant accomplishments for each position.
The next section is your education. Often when applying for a job the position requires a certain level of education. This section should not be to long, just state where you went to school and when you attended, and your degree.
You can also add an optional part, additional experiences. Here you can add things like volunteer work you have done, hobbies that can be of interest to the job you are applying for et cetera. The purpose of this section is to present a more well-rounded picture of yourself.

Design and formatting

The object of designing your resume is to make it easier to read, as well as stand out from the crowd. But there is a fine balance between standing out and being cluttered.
Some key points when it comes to design and layout are;

  • Choice of the font; the font you choose must be easy to read. If you are printing your resume chose a serif font, and for digital reading, a sans serif is the most suitable.
  • font-size; I prefer to use font-size 11, but 10,11,12 are all within the readable reach, it depends on what font you choose.
  • margins; as I said it is important that your resume is easy to read, and margins are important. Keep at least 0.7 inches of margin in your document
  • White-spaces; for the same reason as the margin is important, you need to make sure that you add white spaces between the different sections. Avoid cramming too much information into each section.
  • Color; be careful with the use of color. A splash of color can be ok but don’t over-embellish your resume, keep it as clean as possible
  • saving format; unless they specifically ask for a pdf-file in the job posting I suggest that you avoid this format. The reason is that many of the software I talked about earlier will read a pdf-file as a picture, and are unable to extract any information from it. A much safer format is to save as a .rtf or a word document

Editing your resume

Most important when it comes to editing your resume is to let it rest after writing your draft. Don’t start the editing process right after you finish your draft, I would suggest waiting at least 24 hours before looking at it again.
So what is the importance of editing? First of all, you need to catch all misspelled words and grammatical errors. You also need to make sure all names and company names are correct as well as addresses and other factual information.
This is also your opportunity to clean up sections where you have been too wordy, maybe there are ways to express some things using fewer words. You want to use action words with lots of power instead of long sentences.

My final thoughts

It is really not that complicated to write a great resume if you follow the steps in this article. I suggest that you create a template with all the non-changing information, and use that to create each separate resume for each job you apply too. You can take a look at the job posting for keywords that you can use when formatting the resume for that specific application.
It can also be a good idea to review examples of resumes specific to the industry you are applying for. Do an online search and you will find some examples.
Remember to not overfill your resume, keep it easy to read, use white spaces, and don’t “over-decorate”. Good luck with your resume writing.
As always, if you want to watch my video on the topic I leave a link below.