By Joy Ehonwa.
A few years ago I was a Client Service Executive in a PR Agency. The company was new but business had been very good, and with new clients came the need for expansion. We advertised in the famous “Tuesday Guardian” and as you can imagine, the applications poured in. At the time, no HR department had been set up. It therefore fell to me to sort through the hundreds of CVs and decide which ones would be forwarded to the GM, who doubled as HR Manager.
I sincerely set out to read each résumé, so as to give each candidate a fair chance, but no sooner had I started than I realised this would be impractical, given that we didn’t have forever to recruit. I was drowning in resumes, and despite my best intentions, I couldn’t keep up. Some résumés were given the once over and discarded, while others held my attention. When it was over, I forwarded the best résumés to my GM and the most qualified candidates were recruited. I must add that they did not disappoint; they added great value to the company.
So, what makes a résumé stand out from the crowd? How can you help your résumé win the attention it deserves?
1. Tailor your résumé to suit the position you’re applying for. This means that you must read the advertisement thoroughly and know what is required. An advertising agency looking for an Account Executive isn’t looking to recruit an accountant.
2. Sell yourself. Show what sets you apart. Indicate hobbies and past experiences that make you better equipped for the job than most. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should include a personal interest section. In fact, finding a way to work in your interests and passions into the CV without putting them under a heading will underscore your creativity.
3. Use appropriate keywords. Each industry, and indeed each position, has special jargons and phrases that not only suggest that you understand the job you desire, but also inspire a sense of kinship. You can also use phrases from the job description that fit your qualifications — anything from certificates to programming languages and other specialized job-related skills.
4. Focus on results. If you have prior experience, don’t just duplicate your job description. Highlight what you were able to achieve, such as how you provided solutions to challenges. Don’t just mention what you did; state how it affected the company positively.
5. Keep it short and tight. Readers quickly lose interest in rambling résumés that don’t get straight to the point.
6. Use a reader-friendly font size. Trying to keep your résumé down to one page or two by using a tiny font size is counterproductive. If you really have that much to say, structure your CV in such a way that unique selling points appear first. This way, you will catch and hold the reader’s attention enough to read through to the end.
7. If your name is difficult to pronounce, use a shortened form, put one of your other names first, or include your nickname. It may not seem fair, but companies are more likely to call you for an interview if you provide a name they can easily pronounce. I know this. My name is Joy Avwarosuoghene Ehonwa.
A résumé represents a first impression of sorts. It is an opportunity for you to make yourself memorable as an applicant. Potential employers will form an opinion of you based on it, so make it the best that it can be.