There are a lot of experts proffering that resumes need to follow certain basic rules or be structured according to certain specific formats. While there is some logic to this, it should not be the main focus when you write your resume. Indeed, there is a contradiction between saying that you need to stand out and then suggesting that you follow the same rules that others follow. Thus, abide by the rules that make sense to you while allowing for enough creativity and subjectivity to ensure that your resume shines.
When writing your resume, you need to look at the task as part of a continuum. The resume is only one of the many elements that form part of the job application process. Hence, it needs to integrate into that process in a way that will allow you to make the best overall impression. Think of what precedes and what follows a resume.
Your resume is the main document that will relate your qualifications to potential employers. Although LinkedIn also conveys your qualifications, the information on LinkedIn is often condensed and not as complete. LinkedIn being a social media platform for professionals, its role extends beyond job search and therefore is more intended to promote yourself and build connections. However, once a recruiter is interested in your LinkedIn profile, he or she will ask for your resume to see a more complete picture of your professional background. Hence, knowing that a potential employer will likely look at both your LinkedIn profile and your resume, it is important that they each serve their intended purpose with the least overlap. Although there will be some redundancies, this can be attenuated by having your resume shed a different angle on your qualifications such that your LinkedIn profile and your resume complement, rather than repeat, each other.
While your resume needs to be completer and more detailed than your LinkedIn profile, it need not go to the extreme of revealing all about you. Why? Because your resume needs to be concise. You therefore need to carefully choose what information to include and then decide how best to put that information into words for the most impact. A rule of thumb is to include only “relevant” information, i.e. information that shows why you’re the best candidate for the position you’re applying to. This is more complex than it appears as your resume needs to be simple enough for HR, yet also meet the expectations of your eventual manager, the person who’ll have the final say on whether or not you’re hired. Therefore, if you work in a technical field, your resume has to strike the right balance between incorporating technical terms while still being readable for people without your level of knowledge.
The second reason you need to hold back in your resume is because you need to save some sparks for the interview. While all the key elements of your qualifications and work experience need to be addressed in your resume to make sure that you do not jeopardize your chances of being called for an interview, you need not elaborate on those points. Thus, you need to wet the appetite of the reader while leaving the door open to addressing the details during the interview.
Writing a resume requires a lot of time, attention and reflection. The best practice is to keep your resume up to date, even if you’re working and not looking for a position. Two reasons for this. First, you may see an opportunity that interests you or you may be let go without notice. Either way, you’ll have a good draft resume to start with. Second, if you update your resume regularly, this will allow you to include relevant information while it is still fresh in your mind. Note that this resume that you keep updated will be your “master resume”, a more detailed version of your resume which you can trim and tailor as you see fit, depending on the position you’ll be applying to.
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With this in mind, see what others say about resume writing. Use your judgment in drafting your resume in function of your unique background and what is expected in your industry. Look at your resume as part of a broader process. Believe in yourself and stay positive!