As the new year unfolds, many of us are hitting the job market, enthusiastically (and not-so-enthusiastically) on the lookout for a first job, a career switch, or a fresh start. This series is intended to help you, as a Muslim woman, prepare for every step and stone on the path to a job or internship.
Before you even begin looking for a job, make sure to shine and polish your resume. An employer’s first impression of you in an official capacity will invariably come through your resume. A good resume tells the employer who you are, your working background, and the skills you offer. Be sure to spend enough time on it and never create your resume the minute before applying to a job. You should always have an up-to-date version at hand that you can tailor for every job you apply to. This article will give you some tips that will make sure your resume is at the top of its game.
STEP ONE: THE FONT
Always choose a basic font. The first reading of your resume may not be by a person. Many businesses use software known as an Applicant Tracking System which scans each resume looking for important keywords. If the software can’t read the font you used, your resume won’t pass to the second reading – the recruiter reading – at all.
Of course, non-traditional fonts aren’t only tough on computer software; they’re also tough on the eyes. Cutesy fonts, in particular, are hard to read and distracting. Employers receive hundreds of resumes for each job they advertise and they only have enough time to skim each one. If your resume is too hard to read, the employer probably won’t even bother.
Use a 10 or 12 point font, in Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana or Calibri, to ensure best results. You can make your headings a little larger, or bolder, than the rest of the text, but make sure not to overdo emphasizing features like bolding, italicizing, and underlining. Also, make sure your formatting is consistent throughout your resume: if you underline one heading, underline them all.
STEP TWO: CONTACT INFORMATION
Make sure to include all your contact information in your resume: your full name, street address, city, state, and zip, home phone number, cell phone number, and email address. It’s not advisable to use your current work email when applying for new jobs, so use a personal email address. It’s better to have a personal email address that you use specifically for official writing; an email address called email@example.com is sure to get your resume tossed out. Your best bet is to use some format of your name in your email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
Be sure to have a voicemail set up for your contact phone number so you don’t miss any important calls!
STEP THREE: FORMATTING
Once again, stick to the basics. Fancy formatting can get just as distracting as a fancy font. Free templates are available through Microsoft Word and online, and are a great starting point for creating your own resume. For those of us that aren’t very tech-savvy, a template does most of the formatting for you, so all you have to focus on is inputting the information. If you are comfortable with formatting, feel free to create your own template, or to fiddle with a template you find online. Even the most basic font and header adjustments can add a personal touch to your resume.
STEP FOUR: THE KEYWORDS
There are two types of keywords required in your resume – the kind you’ll need to get past a machine, and the kind you’ll need to get past a human.
If your employer is using a recruiting management software to screen potential employees, keywords can make or break your resume. Recruiting management software often looks for specific keywords that target the job you’re applying for. How do you know which keywords are important? Look at the job listing. Employers will often pinpoint specific skill sets they are looking for in potential employees. Also look at similar job listings, since similar listings will have similar keywords. Your best bet, of course, is to know the job you’re applying for. The keywords for a customer service representative may be customer service, computer skills, interpersonal skills, etc. Most customer service reps would tell you that those are common skills required by people in their line of work. If you know your field, you will probably be able to list a number of possible keywords.
An important thing to remember, though! The recruiting management software is pretty smart – a chunk of keywords smashed together at the end of your resume isn’t going to get you anywhere. Keywords have to be used correctly and in context for the software to pick up on them.
The second type of keyword is the one needed for the recruiter reading your resume. These keywords are action verbs that describe you and your responsibilities in your previous jobs. Always begin your sentences with these keywords. They make each sentence succinct, powerful and persuasive. For example, an editor’s resume may read: “Was the leader of the junior editors.” The concise and commanding version would be: “Supervised junior editors.”
STEP FIVE: CUSTOMIZE AND PRIORITIZE
Creating a brand new resume for each job you apply to is taxing and time-consuming. It is easier to have one resume that you can customize for each position. The best way to do this is to decide what is relevant to your employer. If you are applying for a job as a preschool teacher, make sure your teaching experience comes at the very top of your resume — no matter how long ago you held that job. Chronological order is not as important as catering to your employer’s needs. Make sure they can immediately see that you have the skills and experiences to make you a worthwhile candidate.
Also make sure to prioritize the details in your previous job descriptions. If you taught at a school where you ran the ESL program, and a potential employer asks specifically for someone with ESL experience, make sure to bring that part of your job to the top of the description. Make sure you think about what your employer is looking for in a future employee.
STEP SIX: PROOFREAD
Proofread. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Ask someone else to proofread. Read that thing until your eyes melt. Make sure there are no errors. Mistakes are often just that — mistakes, but employers will take them as signs of laziness and unprofessional conduct. If they think you don’t care enough about getting the job, they’re not going to spend much time trying to give it to you.
1. Job-Specific Resumes: Some jobs may require specifically customized resumes. For example, graphic design related positions usually require creative, aesthetically-pleasing resumes that display the potential employee’s skill with Photoshop and similar software. Journalism and creative writing positions may also require more out-of-the-box resumes. An actress might shoot a video resume. This is not to say that you need to create an infographic for every resume you write – but make sure you keep in mind the skills of your field. If they are skills that could help enhance your resume’s appearance, use them. Make sure, however, not to go overboard. When in doubt, the safest option is the basic resume.
2. Personal Accomplishments: An interesting personal accomplishment can make any resume stand-out. Make sure to stay relevant. A writer applying for a writing position may list a poetry reading award as an accomplishment. Interesting accomplishments also give you talking points for an interview.
3. Include All Work Experience: While you should tailor your resume for each position you take, do not remove irrelevant job experience. Brief jobs from middle school may not be appropriate, but if you have been working full time (or even part time) since high school, make sure to add that to your resume. A short work history, with only a few relevant experiences, will make an employer wonder why you have not been working. A longer work history, with a couple of relevant experiences, and a handful of irrelevant experiences, will show that you are a hardworker – even if you haven’t worked only in your career. Even a long-time job like babysitting can tell an employer something about you: patience and stamina, for example.
Keep an eye out for the next article of this series!