After the covering letter, we now come to the second important part of the letter of application i.e. Personal Data Sheet. In the United States, the Personal Data Sheet is referred to as Resume and in Europe, it is called C.V. i.e. Curriculum Vitae meaning ‘Course of Life’. Both the resume and the C.V. are similar in structure and content. We shall use the word resume in this chapter.
A resume is a factual as well as a persuasive summary of a person’s education, employment background, job qualifications and other relevant personal details.
It is a structured, written document. All the job advertisements ask for the resume of the applicant. Even if it is a walk-in interview, the candidate is expected to carry his resume along with other related documents for the purpose of verification. So the first thing that a job aspirant has to do as he begins looking for a job is to prepare his resume.
It may be prepared before drafting the covering letter. Having a resume shows that you are aware of your skills and potential, that you are well-organised and well-prepared for your job search.
A resume is a form of advertising. The purpose of a resume is to kindle employer interest and generate an interview. For an advertised job opening, there would be hundreds of other job seekers with whom you would have to compete for the same position. Therefore, your resume probably has less than 30 seconds to make an impression. So you must take great care while drafting your resume. If required, write several rough drafts before writing the final draft. This will help you to make your resume attractive, comprehensive and compact.
Ideally, your resume should not be more than one page. But if you have a long list of academic achievements, or if you have worked at several places and handled many different job profiles, then you may have to prepare a somewhat longer resume. You should select an appropriate resume format using which you can clearly specify all the important information in a visually appealing manner thus making it easier and interesting for the reader to grasp and verify the facts. Keep the following points in mind while writing your resume-
The appearance of your resume is very crucial. A resume that is too long, too packed with information, typed in poor layout and sloppy font, or having even a single spelling or grammatical error will often be rejected without being read. The first impression of you that gets formed in the mind of your prospective employer is based not on the content but on the appearance of your resume. Therefore, your resume should look sharp. The layout should make the information easy to grasp. For an impressive resume-
Your resume should emphasize your strongest, most impressive qualifications and achievements. It should convey the desired impression by focusing on your strengths, but you must take care not to distort the facts. Avoid exaggeration. Do not claim skills you don’t have. However, make sure that you downplay your weaknesses at the same time. Once you have analysed your skills and you know what you have to sell, then you can shape the elements of your resume accordingly, make it more personalized and thus effective. The bare essentials of a resume are as under:
Heading A resume heading must show at a glance who you are, how you can be contacted and what kind of job you are seeking. Do not use the word ‘Resume’ as the title. Most resume headings often consist of- name, address, phone number and email id center-aligned at the top of the page. But if you have a specific job in mind, use a heading which indicates that.
But once you have worked in your selected field for a year or more, then education is usually given less emphasis in a resume. So if work experience is your strongest qualification, then you should mention the section on employment history first and place a greater emphasis on your accomplishments and you should provide less detail about your academic credentials.
Work Experience This section should list all relevant work experience. The details you provide here help the employer/s to evaluate whether you have the necessary qualifications and decide if you are competent enough for the job. Therefore, your description of your work experience should highlight the relationship between your previous jobs and the position you are seeking. Lay a special emphasis on the skills you have developed while handling those responsibilities. If you achieved something significant while performing your job duties, then you must mention it.
“Devised a new procedure in marketing research which accelerated the process of data collection and analysis”
List your jobs in reverse chronological order. If you are already employed at the time of applying for a new job, then mention joining date and use the phrase ‘to present’ to indicate the period of employment with the current employer.
The section on work experience should include the following details:
You may also include volunteer work, internships, student teaching, research projects, summer and part-time jobs, etc. even if these jobs have no direct relation to your present career objective. These would show that you have the ability to get a job in the first place and to adapt to different work environments. Most employers find this quality quite impressive. However, devote more space to the jobs that relate to your target position.
Relevant Skills In this section, you should describe other miscellaneous facts that relate to your career objective like languages that you are proficient in, your knowledge about computers, other related technical skills, etc. You can include a special section titled “Language Skills” or “Computer Skills” and place it near your “Education” or “Work Experience” sections.
Activities and Achievements In this section, describe any volunteer activities that you participated in and that demonstrate your abilities or work-related skills like leadership, teamwork, communication skills, etc. You may group your activities and/or achievements under different headings like ‘College Activities’, ‘Community Service’, ‘Professional Associations’, ‘Seminars and Workshops’, ‘Achievements, Awards, and Honours’, etc.
Personal Data This section helps present you as a well-rounded personality and enables the employer to know you as a ‘person’. The details that you mention here can be used to initiate conversation during an interview. Thus, list job-related interests and hobbies, esp. those indicating stamina, strength, sociability, etc., that can help you gain an edge over your competitors. Mention your hobbies, travel experiences, or personal characteristics, particularly if they suggest qualities that relate to your career goals.
Remember, your personal details should be listed briefly and modestly. You should omit or downplay references to age if it could suggest inexperience or approaching retirement. You must exclude any detail that could lead to discrimination like references to gender, marital status, religion, or nationality.
References Employers often ask for academic transcripts, samples of your work, or letters of recommendation prior to or after an interview. Be ready to provide these documents as they increase your chances of getting the job. Many potential employers prefer to have actual references on the resume whom they can contact in order to verify the details that you have provided or to get more information about you as a person/an employee. Provide minimum two and maximum four references. Mention their details either at the end of your resume or prepare a separate sheet for “References”. Or you may insert a line at the end of your resume offering to supply the names of references on request.
‘References available on request’
While drafting the list of references, keep the following points in mind-
Supply names of academic, employment, and professional associates- but no relatives.
Provide a name, a title, an address, and a telephone number and email address for each reference.
List no name as a reference unless you have that person’s permission to do so.
Exclude your present employer if you do not want the firm to know you are seeking another position, or add “Resume submitted in confidence” at the top or bottom of the resume.
TYPES OF RESUME LAYOUTS
As a job seeker, you will find that you have many different resume layouts available from which to select the best organizational plan that would help you to focus attention on your strong points. The layout you choose must accentuate the information that directly concerns your career objective and should play down or exclude any details that are irrelevant or that may harm your prospect instead of helping you to achieve your aim. The different resume styles include the Basic Resume, the Chronological Resume, the Functional Resume, the Targeted Resume, and the Creative Resume. The “right” choice of the resume layout will depend on which aspect of your qualifications you want to highlight and your career goal(s).
The Basic Resume It is ideal for those without any work experience. It contains the basic information- contact details, education, activities, skills, interests, summer/part-time jobs, etc. The main focus is on “education and training”.
The Chronological Resume The chronological approach is the most traditional and most common way of organizing a resume and it is preferred by many recruiters. It is best suited for those who have lots of career-related experience. The chronological resume lists a person’s education and employment history in reverse chronological order, starting with and giving more space to the most recent positions. Under each listing, you should describe the responsibilities and accomplishments associated with each job or academic experience. In the chronological plan, the “Work Experience” section dominates the resume and is placed immediately after the name and address and the objective.
The chronological resume has following characteristics:
It highlights the applicant’s impressive career progress.
The applicant emphasizes his achievements by using an indented list.
The applicant’s special qualifications are presented as “Personal Data”.
The chronological resume is used when the applicant wants to continue along the established career path and his career graph shows a positive, upward movement i.e. it is marked by achievements and consistent progress. It is similar to the Basic Resume, but also includes ‘Related Experience’, ‘Additional Experience’, ‘Activities’, ‘Affiliations’, ‘Skills’ (Languages and Computer), ‘Interests’, etc.
It is not advisable to use the chronological layout when-
You are applying for your first job.
You have changed jobs frequently.
You plan to change your field of work.
You are searching for a job after some gap.
The Functional Resume In a functional resume, the primary focus is on your “skills and accomplishments”. Education and experience are mentioned in subordinate sections. This format is effective for people who are entering the job market or re-entering after a considerable gap. It emphasizes capabilities, skill levels, and accomplishments rather than job titles or time spent at various jobs. This plan is best suited for those who want to work in different fields, or those who have not achieved much success in past, or those who have done several unrelated jobs, or those who have been working freelance or part-time.
A functional resume has following characteristics:
The applicant describes experience first.
The use of action verbs and specific facts enhances this resume’s effectiveness.
The applicant’s sketchy work history is described but not emphasized.
The Targeted Resume This kind of organizational plan shows how you qualify for a specific job i.e. what you can do for a particular employer in a particular position. It is best suited for those who have a clear idea of what they want to do and who can demonstrate their ability in the targeted area. List related capabilities and achievements which provide evidence of your capabilities immediately after stating your career objective. List your work experience and education in subordinate sections.
The Creative Resume It is used when applying for creative positions in advertising or entertainment. You can demonstrate your creativity by using elaborate sentence structure, attractive layout, decoration, colour, method of folding, or drastically different writing. It is best suited for people who have an artistic and imaginative temperament.
ESSENTIAL FEATURES OF A GOOD RESUME
No matter which layout you choose for your resume, you can write an “effective” resume only if you keep in mind your target audience (i.e. the prospective employer) and the specific job requirements. A good resume should have the following characteristics:
Your resume should not be too lengthy. It should be concise and relevant. One-page long is ideal.
It should not be sketchy. It should contain all necessary information required for a proper evaluation of the applicant.
Your career goals and job preferences should be apparent from the career objective that you state at the very outset of your resume.
Your resume should be visually appealing. Leave proper margins and enough “white space”. Use proper indentions and underlining. Use good quality paper and print. Your resume should be legible.
The language you use should be simple and easy to understand. Use sentences beginning with action words instead of writing in long, convoluted sentences. Verbose and flashy resumes are ineffective and are often rejected even before being read.
Be careful with grammar. A resume that is replete with spelling and grammatical errors will create a bad impression and the reader will conclude that the applicant does not possess good verbal/language skills. Remember, having good communication skills is an important qualification by itself.
Your resume should present a realistic picture of your skills and achievements. It should not come across as too professional or polished, else it will appear superficial.
Give factual evidence in support of your claims with regard to your academic and professional credentials. Do not be boastful. Be sincere.
Do not include wrong or baseless information in your resume as it would expose your amateurism and reveal your poor understanding of the business world or of the particular industry.