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First impressions may just be your last

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When we first meet people we ordinarily shake their hands, look into their eyes, smile warmly and politely introduce ourselves. This small action could be the beginning of a lifelong relationship. That is the job of your resume to allow recruiters to look into your eyes, show them warmly who you are and entice them to want to get to know you even more.

Unfortunately for many their curriculum vitae is not the best reflection of them and their skillset. Their curriculum vitae is outdated, laborious and tells the reader everything about their history, but very little about what makes them the best suited for their organisation.

So let’s get back to basics. You’re a talented individual who has acquired a number of skills, your potential employer might not be looking for all of them, it becomes critical that you tailor -make your resume for your reader. It then becomes vital that you read the job description meticulously so your resume highlights how you match the requirements the recruiter is seeking. The use of the same or similar terminology that the job description is using is also an easier way to make the recruiter connect with you and see you as part of the organisation. This connection can also be deepened by adding terminology that the corporate uses internally. You can access the lingo corporates use from their websites; their literature as well as by having conversations with their current employees

We also must be aware that our curriculum vita is compiled for someone else to read. Just like how in school people with neat more legible handwriting tended to perform better in examinations, the same is true in corporate. The easier you make it for your recruiter to read the more you improve your chances of being asked to an interview. You can do this by keeping your resume concise, clear and easily follow. Your resume is one of hundreds that will be reviewed- make it memorable by making it visually appealing, a unique format and giving the information that the recruiter seeks.

Recruiters being human will remember what is distinctive. By keeping a professional aesthetic with the company colour where possible will give you a unique edge over the ordinary black and white.

The content of your resume is also essential. The basics construct of a curriculum vitae typically consist of personal information, education, work history, contact information, references and hobbies. I am of the opinion that in addition to these basics you should also include skill sets overview, a value proposition statement and achievements.

The aim is to highlight the value you bring as an employee. The skill sets overview will show what expertise you have mastered. The value proposition statement is to position the benefits of hiring you; unveiling your brand position and benefits you will bring to the organisation. The achievements section should where possible articulate how you historically have added value, the problems you solved and improvements you made, some examples are as follows: I instituted a strategy that resulted in increasing sales by 22%; reducing costs by 12% by increasing operational efficiencies etc.

The format is an opportunity to take your reader on a chronological journey of where you have been, give them a taste of the flavour of your personality and what experience and expertise you have acquired in the duration of your career. Thus going into laborious detail is not necessary as that is what the interview is for.

Your curriculum vita is an overview to show your competence, suitability for the role and potential ability to fit into the culture of their organisation. To effectively accomplish this, the choice of words when looking at the content of your resume is imperative. The use of generic terms such as “hard working; diligent; committed” have become hygiene factors and I urge you to find differentiating terms to make you stand apart from the crowd with which you are competing with.

The aim of the curriculum vitae is to pick enough interest from the recruiter that an interview will ensue. My hope is that your resume will make such an indelible first impression, that it will lead to a happy and prosperous career.

Vumi Msweli is a South African born career coach, international speaker and CEO of Hesed Consulting, a consulting firm specialising in career coaching leadership acceleration, women empowerment, team dynamics, facilitation and training on the African continent.


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