Creating a winning résumé

A résumé is a sales document which presents a factual account of your skills, knowledge and experience in the best possible light to help you win an interview

1. The importance of a résumé

A résumé is a factual presentation of your skills, knowledge, experience and proven abilities and an indication of your potential.  The résumé is important because it helps you to win an interview and will probably be used by the company to compare you against other applicants.

2. Personalise your résumé

  • Be direct: clearly state your results and achievements
  • Be relevant: your résumé is a sales document not an autobiography. Include evidence of the skills, achievements and experience that will interest the reader
  • Be concise: your résumé should be one page, two pages tops.  If your résumé is longer than that it means you don’t respect the reader
  • Use ‘action-outcome’ language: when you describe your key achievements use action verbs to describe what you did and strong adjectives to describe the outcomes. For example, “Prepared the investment model which was used by XYZ Bank to structure a US$2 billion real estate portfolio.”
  • Tell a compelling story: the experience and activities you highlight in your CV should help to tell your story about why you are are interested in and qualified for the role for which you are applying
  • Easy on the buzzwords: avoid unnecessary jargon and technical language. Your résumé should be easy to understand.

According to Mariam Naficy, qualities to emphasise in your consulting résumé include:

  • Evidence of intellectual curiosity e.g. research thesis
  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills e.g. member of the university debating team
  • Business skills e.g. starting a small business
  • Enjoyment of travel (include this information under “Personal”)
  • Team work skills e.g. university group assignments, work experience
  • Language skills

3. Structure your résumé

Structuring your résumé is important.  There are a few tips to bear in mind:

  • Employ consistent formatting throughout so that the document is easy to scan through and understand
  • Make sure your key selling points are clearly conveyed
  • Place your name, address, phone number, and email address at the top of the résumé

It makes sense  to organise the information on your CV so that it portrays you in the best possible light. The firm you are applying to will be interested in the following information:

  1. Education
  2. Work Experience
  3. Extra-curricular Activities
  4. Skills
  5. Personal (optional)

3.1 Education

If you have limited work experience, place your education first. If you have won numerous honors and awards, you may want to create a separate “Honors” section rather than list all of your achievements under “Education”. If your grades are not good, there are at least four ways that you can paint yourself in a more positive light:

  1. Highlight your marks in a particular subject. E.g. GPA in economics of 4.0
  2. Highlight your marks for particular years E.g. WAM for final year of 82
  3. Highlight your marks in your major
  4. Highlight your work experience. If you have relevant and impressive work experience you should highlight this in your cover letter, and provide supporting details on your résumé

3.2 Experience

Include paid jobs as well as relevant business-related extra-curricular activities; other nonpaid activities can be included under “Activities”.

There are a few tips to bear in mind:

  • Arrange your experiences in a logical order (e.g. reverse chronological order)
  • Outline your achievements and responsibilities
  • Don’t include menial jobs, such as your stint flipping burgers at McDonald’s

3.3 Activities

Include nonpaid activities that you have undertaken outside the class-room. You may want to arrange this section in order of significance rather than reverse chronological order.

3.4 Skills

In my opinion this section is not crucial, but you should consider whether you have any special skills that would be relevant for the job e.g. computer skills, language skills.

3.5 Personal

This section is optional, and can be used to demonstrate your personality by including information which you couldn’t include anywhere else e.g. overseas travel, community service.

4. Sample and template

We invite you to download our Guidebook on “How to create a Winning Résumé” which includes FREE access to the current version of our sample and template résumés (to access the download, you will need to sign up for a member account).

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2 Replies to “Creating a winning résumé”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I read on some websites that when you don’t have an extensive work experience (apart from summer jobs), you should have a rather important skill section where you will list your transferable skills and back them up with a link to your work and academic experiences and short an explanation of what you did.

    Would you agree with this method?

    Thanks,

    Samuel

  2. Samuel,

    Thanks for your comment!

    The short answer is that I agree with this method. It is always important to structure your resume so that you appear in the best possible light.

    My post was perhaps a little misleading, and I did state that the skills section is not too important. I was mainly writing for the benefit of people seeking graduate positions and who have strong education and/or work experience. If you have relevant skills from a range of sources then it would be in your interests to highlight them. You can back these skills up with examples from your studies, work, or extra-curricular activities.

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