August 18,2023

The Only Resume Writing Guide You Need to Get Shortlisted

Priyam Pragya

Assistant Manager @KPMG India

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Get noticed and shortlisted quickly with this ultimate resume writing guide. Know the do's and don'ts of writing a resume and expert resume writing tips.

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You know what they say: a resume is like a first date 😁 - you want to make a good impression and highlight your best qualities, but it’s ill-advised to portray yourself like someone other than your authentic self.

So let's make sure your resume is a real catch and not just a fishy story 🐠!

However, writing a resume can be like trying to navigate a maze while wearing blinkers.

You're not entirely sure where you're headed, and there will probably be some dead ends along the road. 

It's like trying to summarise your entire life's achievements into a single page, while also making it sound impressive enough to catch the eye of potential employers - Daunting, I know!

And let me not even start on the agony of trying to choose the perfect font (does anyone really know the difference between Arial and Helvetica? 🧐) and wondering if your use of bullet points is too excessive.

But fear not, from writing tips to resume dos and dont’s, I have broken down everything you might need to build a stellar resume in this comprehensive guide!

What is a Resume?

In simple terms, a resume is your “Personal Marketing Tool” that highlights your strengths and achievements, while interview preparation helps you communicate them effectively to potential employers.

The word "résumé" is a French word which means "summary." (Also, it is pronounced as “rez-oo-may”, not “ri-zoom”.) To this day, the primary aim of a resume is to provide a concise overview of one's relevant qualifications and achievements.

While a CV (curriculum vitae) presents a full history of your academic credentials, a resume presents a concise picture of your skills and qualifications for a SPECIFIC role.

But remember, 

Resumes do not get you job offers, but well-written resumes get you INTERVIEWS.

Yes! Your resume is your frontline fighter - if you do not make a good impression here, then all is for nought.

The importance of a Resume that stands out:

Think of your resume as a bridge between you and the prospective recruiter. Thus its importance can never be questioned. 

So, in order to generate a good first impression, your resume must stand out from the crowd.

If you are thinking,  "I can write a good resume” - sure!

But can you write a resume that stands out among a sea of candidates?

Recruiters and hiring managers typically glance at resumes for only a brief period of time, around six to seven seconds, so it's important to quickly capture their attention.

To do so, job seekers must know what to include in their resumes and must avoid common mistakes. 

✅What are some effective strategies for writing a resume that stands out to HR? 

✅What are the key components of a good resume?

✅Errors that should be avoided in today's competitive job market? 

I believe more questions are swirling in your mind, so let’s explore these questions with some important resume dos and dont’s. 

Resume Writing Guide: Best Strategies to Help You Succeed

Here are some dos in resume writing:

▶️ Write a Targeted Resume:

If you’re applying the same resume to every job you’re interested in — stop doing that!

To tailor a resume that fits the job description you are applying for, determine what employers are seeking, and then emphasise those qualities in your resume.

In short, if you’re applying at a MAANG company, read the job description first before you apply with your current resume. 

If you’re applying at Amazon and also at Google, it’s best to submit different versions of your resume if the job descriptions are different. 

It is simply about highlighting different qualities of your candidature and work experience in those different versions of resumes. 

▶️ Use a clear and concise format:

Real estate on a resume is limited. By real estate, I mean space. 

Make sure your resume is easy to read and follow. Avoid convoluted jargon, flowery prose or distracting fonts or colours that can make your resume difficult to read. 

Instead use clear headings, bullet points, and white space to make it easy to scan. Stick to a professional font and keep the formatting consistent throughout.

Reviewing several resume examples or resume templates can further provide inspiration and guidance on how you can effectively highlight your skills and experience in your own resume.

▶️ Use numbers and percentages: 

Whenever possible, use numbers and percentages to quantify your accomplishments. This will help to make your achievements more concrete and impressive.

Example: 

❌Instead of just saying: Improved customer satisfaction levels by implementing a new customer service protocol that reduced the number of complaints.

✅You can say: Reduced customer complaints by 80% through the introduction of a new customer service protocol.

Providing specific details and outcomes can showcase your skills and expertise, making you a more attractive choice to potential employers.

▶️ Use action verbs: 

The use of "action words" or "action verbs" is one of the most important guidelines to follow when resume writing.

Do you know why? 

They are more engaging and can capture the attention of your prospective employer!

Example: 

❌My responsibilities included overseeing a team of 10 employees and ensuring their tasks were completed efficiently. 

Here 'My responsibilities included' is a passive construction that does not emphasise your accomplishments.

✅Managed a team of 10 employees and supervised their daily tasks to ensure productivity and efficiency. 

Here “managed" is an action verb that begins the sentence and emphasises your leadership experience.

By starting sentences with action verbs, you can create a more dynamic and active tone in your resume, and demonstrate your ability to take charge and achieve results.

▶️ Show your personality: 

While your resume should be professional, it's also important to show some personality. 

✅A well-crafted cover letter or personal statement can give your resume a personal touch and highlight your unique qualifications, significantly boosting your chances.

✅Use a conversational tone and inject some humour or creativity where appropriate.

✅ Hard skills get you hired, but soft skills get you promoted - a well-rounded combination of both is key to a perfect resume.

Just remember: Your resume is like a selfie - it should capture your best angle and must showcase your personality.

▶️ ATS optimization in Resume

Wondering what ATS is? 

ATS stands for "Applicant Tracking System," but it's not as friendly as it sounds. 

It scans your resume for keywords and ranks you like a video game character. So, if you want to level up your chances of getting hired, make sure your resume is optimised for ATS. 

Use clear formatting and relevant keywords. Avoid any fancy graphics that might confuse the machine. By doing so, you'll be sure to impress both the robots and the human recruiters alike!

▶️ Keep it up to date: 

Think of your resume as a living document that needs to grow and evolve with your career. Just like a good wine, it gets better with age, but only if you keep updating it! 

So, if you want your resume to be as fresh and tasty as a newly harvested grape, make sure you keep it up to date. 

That way, when a recruiter comes knocking, you'll be ready to uncork your potential and make a good impression. Cheers to that!

▶️ Proofread your resume:

Grammar errors on your resume? Ouch! That's a big red flag. 🚩

Show your attention to detail and proofread, check your resume thoroughly for any spelling or grammar errors. 

Because a single typo or grammatical error can make you look sloppy and unprofessional, and that's not a good look for anyone. 

It's crucial to proofread your resume thoroughly for grammatical errors and typos, or even better, have someone else read it over for you. 

Sometimes, we all need a fresh pair of eyes to look at our resume completely objectively. But do find someone who’s an expert, credible and can give you actionable feedback on your current resume. 

Need an industry expert to look at your resume? Consult a mentor who works in your target company and domain, and get turn your resume into a shortlisting machine! 

That way, you'll impress recruiters and hiring managers alike and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Don'ts to keep in mind when it comes to resume writing:

▶️ Don't forget to include keywords: 

Many companies use applicant tracking systems to filter through resumes. So, make sure to include relevant keywords from your job description to increase your chances of being noticed.

✅Use relevant keywords strategically and sparingly

✅Back up keywords with specific examples of how you have demonstrated the skill in previous roles

▶️ Never lie or exaggerate:

Honesty is the best policy on your resume.  

Lying or exaggerating on your resume might have major ramifications and harm your reputation in the long term.

❌Don't claim to have abilities you don't possess.

❌Avoid exaggerating; Stick to the facts when describing your accomplishments

❌Don't make up job titles, education, references, or awards.

You also might want to read this: Rule no #1 of resume writing 

▶️ Don't include irrelevant or personal information:

Keep your resume focused on your professional qualifications and experience, rather than personal details. 

If you have the following things in your resume, remove them right now.

Resume Dos and Don'ts | Preplaced mentor Priyam Pragya 

Resume Dos and Don'ts

So, avoid including information that is not directly related to the job or industry you're applying for.

Ensure your resume showcases your professional strengths and achievements while avoiding unnecessary information.

▶️ Don't make your resume too long: 

Remember, recruiters and hiring managers have a lot of resumes to sift through, so keep yours short and sweet.

Avoid unnecessary information and filler content - The resume format you choose can impact how effectively you showcase your skills and experience to employers.

Stick to one or two pages, if possible.

▶️ Don't use generic language:

Don't just talk the talk - walk the walk! 

Avoid using clichés and generic language such as "team player" or "hard worker." 

Instead, back up your claims with examples and measurable results that make your accomplishments impossible to ignore.

▶️ Avoid excessive use of buzzwords:

Don't be a buzzword bandit on your resume, robbing it of authenticity and sincerity. 

If you must use buzzwords, sprinkle them in like a master chef, using only the most relevant and appropriate seasoning for the job. 

PS: Buzzwords in a resume are terms or phrases that are commonly used in a specific industry or profession. 

▶️ Don't include your social media handles if they're not professional:

Your online presence is a reflection of your personal brand, so be sure to present yourself in the best possible light.

Keep your social media handles off your resume if they don't represent your professional image.

Yes! Your social media presence can make or break your professional image, so link wisely on your resume.

▶️ Other ResumeDon'ts: 

❌Don’t use fancy fonts or formatting that are difficult to read: Stick to simple, easy-to-read fonts and formatting that will make your resume easy to scan and understand.

❌Don't use personal pronouns such as "I" or "me". Instead, focus on highlighting your achievements and experiences using concise and direct language.

❌Don't list your references on your resume. Instead, have a separate reference sheet ready to provide upon request.

In a nutshell:

Your resume is your first impression - so, make it count! 💪

It can be a daunting task to write a professional resume keeping in mind the resume dos and dont’s, but with the right guidance and effort, you can create a winning resume that highlights your skills and experience effectively.

By following the tips mentioned in this article, you can improve the overall quality and effectiveness of your resume. 

Keep in mind that your resume is a crucial part of your job search, and investing time and effort into making it the best it can be is well worth it in the long run.

If you still have doubts or questions about writing a successful resume, I am here to help. 

I offer personalised guidance and support in 1:1 sessions to create a compelling resume that showcases your unique skills and qualifications and helps you achieve your career goals. 

So, feel free to reach out to me anytime for assistance. I’d be happy to check your resume. 💫

Some resume builder tools like Hypersnap, Skillroads, Kickresume and more can help the process of creating a professional resume much easier! 

But it’s always better to seek resume-building advice from a veteran professional who has read, rejected and shortlisted hundreds of resumes till now. You’ll find such an expert veteran Yoda on this page.

Priyam Pragya

Assistant Manager @KPMG India