A résumé – your future on a piece of paper


Ah, the résumé, that little piece of paper that can literally change your career and your life.

The brilliant Tim McNamara wrote recently about résumés and the importance of being honest, both about your strengths and, just as importantly, about your areas for development on your résumé. I wanted to expand on that and hopefully guide anyone struggling with what other information you should present on your résumé, or rather, how to present it.

Your résumé is the first impression you make on your potential employer or recruiter.

I can’t speak as an employer, but as a recruiter, here are some general tips that we at Firebrand recommend.

If you’re a Creative, take a little time on design, construction and wording. Read Alex Kennings post on a designer’s portfolio for some great insights.

If you’re in Marketing, PR, Communications, Account Services or Digital you should be a little more corporate. Start with your personal details. Full name and contact details including all useable telephone numbers. Avoid superfluous details such as religious affiliation, children’s names etc. I appreciate this is important to you, but tell me in person, not on your résumé.

Then, give me your career goal – what do you hope to achieve by sending this résumé? Tell me what YOU want? “A brand strategist with 10 years of FMCG experience looking for a role in a similar industry that offers exposure to large brands and campaigns, opportunity to lead a team, and a strong career path”, or something like that. Now, that one was fluffy, but I know that this person wants to stay in the same industry, wants to lead a team, and wants to work on campaigns. This already helps me refine her search criteria right away.

You need to include educational history and professional qualifications somewhere. Some say first page, some say last. I personally prefer first, but I don’t think it matters, as long as it’s all there. Include the name of the institutions and dates attended in reverse order – university before high school. Include computer skills and (genuine) related skills there too. Include details on majors chosen or subject choices.

Then comes the full Career History. For most employers, they want to know what you’ve been doing most recently. So reverse date order starting with most recent job is the way to go. Be specific, not just 2011-CURRENT. That doesn’t tell me how long you were there, it could be 2 months or 2 years depending which month you started. Rather include months: Jan 2011 to Current; ABC Limited, Marketing Manager.

List all your responsibilities for that job and try to be specific. Everyone says they work on marketing campaigns and strategies, tell me more – what did you do. Give me an example, or an achievement for each responsibility. Tell me everything you do, not just your key performance area. Don’t assume I know what you do every day, I really don’t. For example — Wrote the 2012/12 marketing strategy for xxx business line and the following brands (A,B,C). This included a full promotional calendar, a digital strategy, PR and media plan and an advertising schedule. Budget was xxx and outlook/roi/result was xxx.

Achievements are key; they bring your role to life. Don’t be modest, and don’t be scared to tell me what you did well. If you launched a product, tell me. If your team did and you were involved, tell me. If you saved money against budget, tell me how. If you grew digital presence through Facebook by % increase, tell me. Each role has its KPAs, but I know you do more. Bring your role to life, and explain more about how you did it, why your campaign was a success. If you have facts and figures, include them.

Do this for each role you’ve had. If you’ve been working for 20 years, then you’ll need to be more detailed for the first role and start to edit down. There is nothing worse than a 10page résumé. Aim for 3-4 pages tops.

There is always a tricky moment when in an interview you’re asked why you left your job, and you were made redundant or you’re uncomfortable with talking about what really happened. To save the difficult questions, include your reasons for leaving a role under each employer. Not every recruiter wants you to include this, but I prefer it. It explains your motivations for changing roles up front. “Moved overseas”; “Made redundant”; “Resigned to pursue a better role with more exposure to big brands”; “Cultural differences”. Be honest, tell the truth, and list it on your résumé. It really does help.

Leave hobbies and interests to last if you feel you have to include them. References can simply be ‘Available on Request’.

Finally, decorative borders are not necessary, nor are photographs of yourself.

Hope that helps!


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