Resume Writing – Q and A

How many of us get nervous before an interview, or do not know where to start when it comes to writing your resume?

The answer might be “most” of us. Whether an experienced professional or a fresh graduate – irrespective of which industry you belong to, changing jobs and starting off a career can be overwhelming for many.

Hong Kong Desi spoke with Ms Reema Shankar, a seasoned Human Resources Professional, 20 year Hong Kong veteran, a single mother and a passionate baker.

Through a series of articles and discussions, Reema shares with us, some of her experiences, stories and tips that might be useful for many of us in the areas of resume writing, interviewing skills and the art and value of networking.

Reema, what in your view is the first step to finding or changing jobs?

I think this is a no brainer for anyone and most of us already know this. Your resume or CV is the most important document that circulates faster than we know, so it is critical to have one that’s extremely well written.

I have observed many a times – candidates tend to forget that companies and hiring managers look at numerous resumes for various roles during their busy day, and that first impressions last and are hard to change.

I’ve always said to candidates that you want to write enough on the resume for the potential employer to want to meet you, but don’t give away everything. Some things are best discussed and expressed at that face-to-face interview.

That’s very interesting. In today’s socially connected world, an impactful resume reaches the employer before you can meet them, right? So what are the key things to be mindful of when writing a resume?

My opinion is that you must start with your contact details – both an email address and a contact number (do not forget to include a country code) are important – followed by your country of domicile.

You then begin to list your experiences – the most recent ones at the top and going back to your previous jobs if any. It is important to include the company name, your duration in that firm and your title or titles you’ve held. If you have worked across multiple countries, do not forget to mention that too.

I, personally, like to put the education at the end – everyone is interested in your educational qualifications. Putting it at the end gets them to read the rest of the resume first.

Other facts like your language proficiencies, marital status, nationality etc. are good to add but not mandatory.

Bullet points are easier to read than long paragraphs.

Try not to exceed 2 sides of a sheet at the most. Choose words wisely, and consider using new age buzzwords.  For e.g. instead of writings “strong communication skills”, you might want to consider “collaborated and networked to achieve goals”. Examples work wonders.

Someone once told me that I should have a few versions of my resume. Is that true? And if so, why?

That is a good piece of advice. I tend to agree that having 2-3 versions of your resume is a good thing, at least for experienced professionals. As we grow professionally, we develop a variety of skills. Depending on which role you are applying for, your resume can highlight skills related to that role.

As an example, I know of a friend in the HR community who was also a COO – Chief Operating Officer – for a business unit. When applying for a new role in the COO area, he highlighted skills and experiences in that space, more than the HR area.

Alternatively, I have also seen candidates who have one resume and multiple or rather customized versions of a cover note that focuses on the role they are applying for. This also works well.

What is the importance of a summary? Is it really needed? And if it is, what should it really say?

A summary at the start of a resume is quite important though not mandatory. I would do it if I were to apply for a job.

A summary, or an ‘Elevator Pitch’ like I call it, surely catches the eye. A few words stating career highlights, strengths and/or career aspirations in a brief, concise way is a good way to start the resume.

Let’s talk about the don’ts! What should one be mindful of when they present their resume?

I personally think that one should be extremely careful in your choice of words that describe your skill or experiences – avoid the use of extensive technical terms and jargon. Not everyone who reads it might be qualified to understand all of the details.

Also, I think a lot of candidates use abbreviations – I am not sure if that’s appropriate.

It made me chuckle once when someone said in an email to me “PFA my resume for your considerations”. PFA is not a widely used abbreviation, and even if were to be, it is not too appropriate. (PFA – Please Find Attached).

Typos and spelling errors are a no-no. There should be no room for this, and the negative impression it creates is hard to change.

Similarly, multiple fonts and unformatted pages have no room.

A lot of candidates write in first tense – such as “I did this” and “I achieved that”. It gives the impression that you didn’t really collaborate. Phrases such as  “My role was to…” or “Lead a team…” sounds more appropriate in my opinion.

In summary I would say, quantify your resume – add facts or numbers to prove your achievements, keep it concise yet detailed, list your experiences with examples but use bullet points, and do not forget to use words that highlight what makes you unique!

In closing, and before you start sending out your resume – get a friend or a recruiter to give you their opinion. If you want to take this a step further, there are firms that specialize in resume writing, though they might charge you for it. Getting a second opinion and someone to critique the writing will give you an outside trustworthy perspective.

Good luck and I hope you have found this useful.

Reema Shankar – a seasoned Human Resources Professional, 20 year Hong Kong veteran, a single mother and a passionate baker.

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