how to write a winning resume

Your resume is vital in securing your dream job, leaving a lasting impression on potential employers and boosting interview prospects. It acts as a professional snapshot, showcasing your skills, experiences, and qualifications, enabling employers to evaluate your suitability for the role.

In today’s competitive job market, where applications flood in, crafting a concise and well-structured resume is paramount. Highlighting your strengths, relevant experiences, and qualifications effectively captures employers’ attention, enticing them to explore your application further.

Success lies in tailoring your resume to the job requirements and presenting information clearly. Doing so significantly increases your chances of grabbing the attention of recruiters or hiring managers during the initial review process.

Ahead, you’ll find ways to make your resume stand out, resume formatting tips and tips from resume-writing pros to help you perfect your resume.

Related: 6 performance and career progression secrets they don’t teach you at school

How to write a resume that stands out

1. Tailor your resume to fit the job description

When applying for jobs, it may be tempting to take shortcuts and send generic applications, but this approach won’t lead to interview success. To stand out, carefully analyse the job description and use its language to demonstrate how you meet the core requirements.

Thorough research is critical: familiarise yourself with the company and tailor your application accordingly to showcase why you are the best fit for the role. In creative fields, consider including a portfolio to showcase your abilities.
Infographic-style or highly formatted resumes may create unnecessary complications since recruiters typically prefer a specific template for all resumes.

Some individuals go above and beyond, like a designer who created an interactive resume or a financial analyst who made a slide deck. However, remember that while these unique formats can be impressive, they should complement, not replace, your standard resume.

2. Highlight the critical skills

A creative resume allows you to showcase the specific skills that a company is seeking, highlighting the value you can bring to their organisation. To make an impact, identify the challenges you can address for the company and emphasise the corresponding skills in your resume.

Engaging infographic resumes are an effective way to present information, capturing attention with visually appealing formats. By focusing on the skills that align with the company’s needs, a creative resume can greatly benefit your job application. An example of this is Phillipe Dubost, a web product manager who created an Amazon page to advertise himself, which quickly gained viral attention.

3. Highlight your achievements

When crafting your resume, emphasise the unique accomplishments that set you apart. Showcase how your previous roles contributed to the organisation through cost savings, exceeding targets, problem-solving, process improvement, or customer acquisition. Quantify your achievements with numbers or percentages when possible.

4. Create a compelling read

Infuse your resume with an enthusiastic, upbeat, and professional tone. Use impactful language to present your accomplishments, placing the most relevant points at the forefront of your resume summary. Utilise action words such as ‘completed’, ‘developed’ and ‘managed’, along with superlatives such as ‘first’, ‘best’ and ‘highest’.

Related: 3 impactful resume templates to guide your resume writing process

5. Use a practical resume format

While there’s no one-size-fits-all resume structure, ensure your layout is practical and easy to follow. Start with your basic details (name, address, phone number, mobile number, and email address) prominently displayed. Next, list your education or training, starting with the most recent.

Finally, present your career history in reverse chronological order, including job titles, company names, dates of employment, key responsibilities, and accomplishments for each role. It’s customary to include references or note their availability upon request at the end of your resume.

6. Ensure clarity

Clear communication is a vital skill in any industry. While attractive graphics and gimmicks may catch attention, they must serve a purpose. Format and present your skills in an easily understandable way, ensuring your prospective employer can gather the necessary information for hiring. Avoid an infographic resume that prioritises graphics over substance to gain the desired recognition.

7. Maintain conciseness

Your resume represents your talents and employability, so include relevant information highlighting your specific skills in relation to the company you’re applying to. However, be mindful of overwhelming the reader. Focus on key skills that demonstrate your fit for the role without overwhelming the resume with excessive details.

8. Follow up after sending your resume

Due to the high volume of applicants, it’s common not to receive an immediate response, even if your application stands out. While avoiding excessive pestering, a polite follow-up after a couple of days shows your particular interest in the specific role, rather than a general job search.

Related: 5 steps to creating your career plan

Crafting a Resume Objective

tips on how to write a winning resume

If you have a clear career goal in mind, consider including a well-written objective statement on your resume. This statement provides an opportunity to showcase your background and achievements, reinforcing your suitability for the job.

What is a resume objective statement?

A resume objective statement, or CV objective statement, is an opening statement at the top of your resume that outlines your work objectives. The aim is to summarise, as concisely as possible, your background, key skills, and your goals.

While some argue that resume objectives are unnecessary or outdated, if crafted appropriately, they can show that you know what you want from your career and have relevant skills and experience.

How to write a good resume objective statement

Like all well-written resumes, your resume’s opening statement should be tailored to suit the job you’re applying for. Aim for one or two sentences summarising your background and where you want to go.

Your objective should directly relate to the job you’re applying for. For example, suppose you’re applying for the manager role at a chain clothing store, but you eventually want to be head of merchandising at a luxury clothing brand.

In that case, your statement should still align with the store manager position and how you’d like to grow within the business.

It’s also important to show that your goals will add value to the business. So, while you want to talk about your career aspirations, you should also include information highlighting your skill set and experience in the field. For example, a poor resume objective would look like, “Seeking a senior accounting position where I can challenge myself professionally”.

A good objective for a resume might read, “Certified accountant with an MBA looking to apply my 7 years’ experience in corporate accounting to grow XYZ Company.” 

Resume objective examples

1. Obtain a challenging leadership position by applying 10+ years of lean management experience to achieve maximum profits and scale at XYZ Company.

2. Utilise my 5 years of Ruby and Python programming experience to develop robust tech solutions as a Back-End Developer at XYZ Company.

3. Career objective: A challenging and fast-paced logistics management position within the private sector where extensive supply chain management experience and a forward-thinking approach are of value.

As you can see in the examples above, the applicant’s education, experience, and value to the company are all made clear within a single sentence.

Related: 9 things headhunters look for in a resume

6 resume-writing tips from the pros

Customise it. “Focus all content purely on the role and industry you’re targeting. Using pages to talk about an unrelated job or field diverts attention from what skills you have, where you are heading and why you’ll be of value to the specific job.”
Gayle Howard, Certified Master Resume Writer

Champion your achievements. “In your job history, focus on achievements, don’t just list responsibilities and duties. Do this by writing a 1-2 sentence overview paragraph on each job role and then a bullet list of specific objective achievements for that role. You can discuss the full specifics at the interview stage.”
Mandy Johnson, Best Selling Author, Speaker, and Business Advisor

Engage. “Make a detailed list of every key skill and quality required for the role and ensure you articulate how your work or other experience demonstrates these.”
Aziza Green, Digital Marketing Pro

Structure is king. “If you’ve had a solid career history with companies and job titles that will enhance your application, add a career summary in a table format, listing the company name and job titles in reverse chronological order.”
Jane Jackson, Career Management Coach and Best-Selling Author

Format appropriately. When writing bullet achievements, put the result first. The formula the professional writers use is this: Achieved XXX (result) by doing XXX (action) to resolve XXX (problem).
Gayle Howard, Certified Master Resume Writer

Keep it brief. “Be clear, concise and keep it relevant.”
Sarah Jensen, Creator of Rock Your Goals workshops

A standout resume is the first step to landing your next job. After that, it’s up to you to fully prepare for the interview process and impress them with your communication skills and expertise.

Related: 10 important career lessons most people learn too late in life

8 resume formatting tips

  • Choose a fuss-free layout that provides enough white space so the resume is easy to read. Ensure the design suits the industry and job function you are targeting (for example, it would be ideal for a graphic designer’s resume to appear more creative than a finance professional’s.)
     
  • Keep the text size no smaller than 10-point font and provide enough white space so it’s easy to read.
     
  • Aim for 2-3 pages to include relevant information for the role – there is no need to include everything you’ve done over your career.
     
  • Ensure your name and contact details (mobile phone and email address are requirements) are clearly visible at the top of the resume.
     
  • Include a career summary or professional profile at the beginning highlighting your relevant experience, core competencies and technical skills. This should instantly capture the reader’s attention and place you in the ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ rather than the ‘no’ pile when screened.
     
  • For each role you’ve held, include the company name, job title and the dates. Start with your most recent role and then add your previous roles in reverse chronological order.
     
  • Describe briefly the scope, responsibilities and essential aspects of each role, to whom you reported, the number of people you managed, the size and type of projects you handled and the size of the budget, if relevant.
     
  • Include bullet points of your accomplishments for each role. These should include the tangible results of your efforts. These accomplishments may be profit improvements, streamlining of processes, time savings, cost savings, improved morale within the department, completion of projects under budget or ahead of schedule, etc.

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