Designing your resume to grab employer’s attention

by Karen Watson on July 31, 2014

Job hunting can be one of the most exhilarating and yet one of the most agonizing experiences in your life. While you look forward to the new chapter in your professional life, finding a way to stand out from other candidates, who are at least equally qualified for the position you want, is a difficult task.

Your resume is the first contact your potential employer has with you. A well formatted and a well-written resume can make a difference between getting the interview and getting the job, and being passed over. Most employers receive a stack of resumes of qualified candidates and scan them quickly before they decide whether or not hey want to read further. You only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression. Don’t panic. Instead, focus on the design of your resume as it is the first thing your employer, whether on paper or in electronic form.

The most commonly made mistake in resume design include using templates that are already available in Microsoft Word. While these templates provide a quick, easy to follow tools to create your resume, they are outdated, and they will make your resume appear generic and uninviting. Additionally, these templates, while well formatted in Microsoft Word, will not translate well when emailed or uploaded to job search engine web sites.

Second most commonly made mistake in resume design is inclusion of graphics on the page. Your picture and/or any other graphics are not appropriate for a resume. Including anything outside of plain text will make you stand out in a way that makes the employer think you are not taking yourself seriously as a professional, and this is certainly not the first impression you want to make. You can find samples of resumes on the Internet; search for resumes by your industry to find the templates that make most sense for the job you are seeking. Than work on a blank page to replicate the look and feel of the resume you like.
The following are basic formatting rules for your resume:
-    Limit the length of the resume to two pages.
-    The page should have one-inch margins, top and bottom, right and left.
-    Use left justification only – as a rule, do not center the content of your resume.
-    The font and font size should be consistent.
-    The bullet points should be basic – use circles or squares, but never any symbols that may not translate well when you email your resume to your potential employer.
-    Headlines can be in all caps; the remaining text should not have special formatting.
-    Do not underline any of the information in your resume. In the world of Internet driven job applications, underlining in a document implies a web link.
-    The font size for headlines should not exceed 14 points; the remainder of the text in the resume should not exceed 12 points.
-    Use the Tab key instead of the Space bar to create spaces between the text in your resume.

As a last formatting check point, ask your friends or your family for help in reviewing your resume. Send the resume file via email to a few of your friends – ask them to review the resume and make sure nothing seems out of place. Print out the resume on paper and review to make sure that margins are accurately set, and that the content doesn’t appear crowded on the page. Keep in mind – when it comes to your resume, sleek simple appearance, and great writing, will get you the job you are seeking.

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While most resumes appear to look the same on the surface, there are key areas that differentiate well-written winning resumes from those that never make it into the hands of the hiring managers. To customize your resume for the job that you want, pay attention to the following three elements: resume style, career objective, and personal profile.

The layout and the style of your resume are as important as the information you are including about your experience and qualifications. The two most commonly used resume styles are chronological and functional. Chronological resume calls for listing your professional expertise in order, much like the name implies, and is used those with some to extensive professional experience. Functional resume showcases your experience by the type of qualifications you have, and is typically used by those lacking professional experience or those changing careers. While there are no set rules on determining the best resume style to use, it is important to keep in mind that the resume format can help or hurt your chances to put your best foot forward. You will want to pick the format that will best highlight your qualifications and your experience. Thus, it is important to understand the difference between the two, as well as research which format is more preferred in the field of your choice.

Career objective is very important to your resume. While there is an ongoing debate about the need for listing your objective on your resume, choosing to include this goal statement shows that you have given your professional growth some serious thought. Consider your career objective as the first impression you make on your potential employer. Make sure that your goals are specific and directional in terms of industry, position title, and future professional achievements. Most people make a mistake of including generic statements under their career objective. To be effective, your statement must tell a potential employer that you know what kind of job you want, what experience you have in order to get the position, and what you are willing do to become a successful professional with the company.

While your career objective tells your potential employer why you are applying for the job at their organization, your professional profile sells your expertise and convinces the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. Your professional summary/profile gives you the opportunity to differentiate yourself, and give your employer an insight into you. Two commonly made mistakes for this section of the resume are poor writing and inclusion of personal information. Note that your age, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliations, etc. do not make a difference on how you handle yourself as a business professional. Such information should never be included in a resume, or any job application materials (even when asked on a job application, such information is optional and is for demographics study only). Make sure this section is well written and error-free. Strong positive statements about your expertise will give a good first impression to your employer. Make sure to proofread the whole resume, with emphasis to this section, as it appears at the start of your resume. An effective personal statement must leave your employer with an impression that you are confident, credible, and professional.

Keep in mind – your resume is your sales pitch, demonstrating your qualifications and experience to your potential employer. Seize the opportunity to put your best foot forward and you will reap the rewards.

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