Whether or not you’re looking for a job right now, it’s worth making sure your resume is in good shape. You never know when that dream opportunity might come up – and if your current job isn’t looking so secure, you might to be ready to send out applications at short notice.
In a crowded job market, your resume needs to stand out. If it’s currently looking a bit thin, here’s how to improve it:
- Do Some Relevant Voluntary Work
You probably don’t have a perfect work history: perhaps you’ve worked in less-than-ideal jobs, or you’re young and have very little work experience at all. Employers aren’t just interested in your paid work; they’re looking for evidence of your skills.
Volunteering can be a fantastic way to:
- Gain real, practical experience in a particular field
- Build up a network of contacts (who might be able to help you land that next job)
- Demonstrate to employers that you’re passionate about this kind of work
You may well already have some relevant voluntary experience: but is it on your resume? Think about any groups you belong to, or any positions that you hold. Perhaps you’ve led a Scout pack or you’ve arranged day trips for your church.
- Take a New Qualification
Although employers are often more interested in your experience than your education, there are many jobs where qualifications really do count. Even if you’re currently working full-time, don’t rule out the possibility of learning something new – evening classes and online courses can provide a lot of flexibility.
Qualifications can range from relatively informal courses (e.g. learning a language) to industry certification (e.g. food hygiene) to doctoral degrees. Find out what employers in your field are looking for – don’t be afraid to ask around within your network.
And if you’re self-employed, qualifications might not be strictly necessary – but they can help you stand out from the crowd. If you’re a freelance writer, programmer or designer, clients might struggle to understand why your rates are higher (even if you can tell that your work is much better than your competition’s). A relevant qualification or certificate can really boost your credibility.
- Focus on Results
When you’re putting your resume together, don’t get too bogged down in giving details of your past job descriptions. Potential employers are more interested in what you actually did during your previous roles.
What projects did you oversee? Did you deliver any presentations or write reports? Were you responsible for managing any major areas of the business?
Be as clear as you can about what you achieved, and give percentages or figures where possible (e.g. if you increased your company’s revenue or exceeded sales targets).
- Customize Your Resume for Each Job
There’s no rule that says your resume needs to stay the same for every position you apply for
Tailor your resume to each job. That might mean:
- Adding in extra experience that’s relevant to the role
- Emphasizing different aspects of your past experience
- Changing the language that you use to match the job description
Yes, it’s extra work; you might spend 15-30 minutes on this each time you apply to a job. But if these tweaks help get your resume from the huge “no” pile into the much smaller “yes” pile, then those extra minutes were well worth it.
- Get Your Resume Edited and Proof-Read
If you’re at all unconfident about your writing, it’s worth getting your resume professionally edited and proof-read. This isn’t just about picking up sloppy mistakes – it’s about presenting the best possible view of you to your potential new employer.
There are hundreds of companies and individuals who offer specialized resume writing and editing services; try asking around your network to find out who’s reliable, or look for reviews online.
If you can’t afford to pay someone to edit your resume, at least ask a friend to proof-read it – and the same goes for your cover letter. Typos and spelling mistakes create a very poor first impression.
Need some extra help? Dumb Little Man has plenty of advice on resumes:
Have you got any great resume-boosting advice to share? Do any of these tips chime with your own experience? Let us know in the comments!