The visual strength of your résumé

Photo by Jenni C.

There are many common weaknesses on résumés today. Aside from the typical spelling mistakes, most résumés lack visual strength, along with relevant self marketing.

During a competition, résumés are viewed for between 10 and 60 seconds. This is not enough time for reviewers to learn much about the applicant, so having some important information easy to find and recognizable is imperative. This begins with creating a consistent look that reflects your own personal brand and compelling information that draws the reader in. Consistent margins, fonts, text treatments and white space all help achieve visual strength.

Begin with a well-designed header

A well-designed header with a monogram, social media links and contact information will leave the impression that the rest of the document is going to follow the same professionalism. This is part of your personal brand.

Directly below the header should be a word picture of previous experience and the relevant skill set for the role you are pursuing. A profile paragraph or bulleted highlight section sends the message that you know what is relevant and displays that skill set to prove it. I like to call this the thesis. The rest of the document is the defence and proves your claims.

Consider the order of sections

Before proceeding, it is important to pause here to consider the order of sections, which is part of your visual impact. If you have just added new education relevant to the career field you are pursuing, education should be the next section. If you have already worked in the field and your experience is stronger than your new learning, then the work experience should precede the education.

The education section should include more than just a listing of the courses and degrees you have completed. It can also include relevant courses, high marks and even a key project (on two lines). You paid a lot for your education; you might as well use it to market your fresh skills and academic successes.

The work experience section should have a "most recent" listing of the positions you have held over the last five to 10 years and should include your achievements, skills and the scope of the role you played.

Results + Skills + Scope = Effective Bullet!

Each position should have three to seven bullets. As reviewers follow the bullets, they are drawn in by your successes, which are directly connected to your skills. Then the scope adds the qualitative and quantitative information, which underscores the skills. An extra-curricular or volunteer section should also reflect the same format and strength. This is solid self marketing. Simple statements only showing duties will not entice an interview from most employers.

Don't forget the interests section

Other sections may include technical skills, language abilities and, let’s not forget, interests. The latter is a section many people do not think to add or simply do not value. Hiring managers are trying to get a sense of who you are, and listing two or three interests with some context helps meet that need.

All of the above will help to create a visual and content strength that will increase interview offers. Good luck!

About the author

Russell Garrett is a management professional and career consultant with over 20 years of experience in non-profit societies, business, operations, entrepreneurism, counselling, leadership development, motivational speaking and career coaching.

In addition to an education in theology, Garrett is JCLT-certified in the Azrin Job Search Model and a certified trainer in personality awareness.

He has presided and served on several boards for non-profit business development, operations improvements, leadership training, humanitarian fundraising and youth development programs.

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