Your 8 ‘C’s Guide To Writing a Standout Resume

Scholarship Guide student resume

A resume is a summarised document that should sufficiently highlight your abilities at a glance and, most importantly, closely represent yourself. As it is the first thing your future employer will look at, it is of utmost importance that you nail it if you want to land your dream job. This means no typos, grammatical mistakes, misalignment in format, and missing letters, amongst others. Get your peers, family, teacher, or boss involved to help you polish and proofread your work. An extra pair of eyes can help you catch mistakes you may have overlooked, and you will need all the help you can get if you want to land a foot in the narrow door.

According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Human Resource executives spend less than five minutes reviewing a resume before it gets passed down to the next step in the hiring chain. The poll revealed that errors on resumes can prove costly; nearly all respondents (93 percent) said that inaccuracies have a negative impact on decisions to offer job interviews. This means that if you are counting on securing that interview, you must fine-tune your resume until it is flawless!

So, whether you are doing writing your resume for the first time or the hundredth time, follow these 8 ‘Cs’ to guide you in putting together an outstanding one.  

1. Correct Employer

It is commonplace for applicants to send out their resumes to multiple potential employers. There is nothing wrong in that. But if you are reusing your resume, remember to customise it. Always double-check that you address the correct employer. This includes the organisation’s name (refer to their corporate website when in doubt), the job position you are applying for, and, where applicable, the staff to whom you send your resume. Nothing is more off-putting than to receive a document misspelling your name or, even worse, addressed to someone else entirely.

2. Check Language

Comb through your text; scrutinise your grammar and tenses a million times. Refrain from any punctuation mistakes. Something so basic should not be faulted, especially when you have had adequate lead time to prepare and seek assistance. As small and insignificant as it may seem, a misspelling or misplaced apostrophe could reflect poorly on your aptitude for bigger tasks and cause your future employer to rethink their hiring decision with you. If it sounds like we are exaggerating, learn about a rock star’s (Van Halen) notorious “NO BROWN M&M’s” contract clause to understand why the trivial things matter.

3. Clean Format

Within minutes of screening your resume, your employer should be able to gather the most salient information concerning you. Ensure that your resume is reader-friendly by keeping it well-structured and neat. Aim for perfect formatting.  It is also a sure way to tell how well you organise your tasks and thoughts.

Furthermore, a clean and clearly outlined format will allow your employer to screen your resume quickly, but with many takeaways. Remember to align and divide sections with minimal headers uniformly. This further demonstrates your ability to organise yourself; a quality that can be translated into the workplace.

4. Clear & Concise

Simply put, be succinct. When going through hundreds of applicants, it is unlikely a detailed, six-page resume will be examined from front to back. Keep your resume within one to two pages and always get straight to the point. Using bulleted points further helps your reader focus on aspects you wish to emphasise whilst breaking down large chunks of information into bite-size highlights.

Now that you know what to avoid at all costs, let us take a look at some plus points you can incorporate to elevate your resume and take things to the next level.

Scholarship Guide student interview

5. Create a Cover Letter

It is often unclear when a cover letter is necessary. When in doubt, always go the extra mile. It is always better to overprepare than underprepare.

Keep your cover letter to a single page. This preface page should effectively summarise your achievements, passion, aptitude, and suitability for the job. It might sound overwhelming, but it really is simple. The key is to focus your content. Instead of rambling on about your long list of achievements, zoom into areas you think will interest and benefit your future employer. This way, every sentence reinforces your suitability for the role.

Cover letter or not, consider investing time to perfect a short introduction and summary of yourself. It just might be the very thing that lands you your dream job!

6. Creativity & Colour

An easy way to lead your reader’s eye to specific content is to use colours and other visual tools to your advantage. A creative resume can also showcase your personality and help your resume stand out from a dull pool. But be sure to choose your colours and visual elements carefully.

Unless you are applying in the creative field and the colours are fundamental to your intended resume design, avoid using overly bright colours as they can come off as less professional. Light pastel colours or muted natural tones are appropriate options. And when used correctly, they can help draw attention to a section in the resume without being overly flashy. A dark background with white fonts can also achieve the same effect, and it makes a great format for section headers too. 

7. Call Out Your Strength

A common mistake is to write a resume resembling a monotonous job description. Instead, call out your unique strengths and significant achievements and highlight areas demonstrating competencies you believe will create value for the company. This technique adds a persuasive tone to an otherwise basic, arbitrary resume. (Look up more tips on how to write a differentiating career narrative for your CV.)

Many reputable organisations, such as Google, value cognitive abilities as much as they appreciate role-specific dexterity. If you can showcase projects that exemplify a growth mindset, you get bonus points as it demonstrates your willingness to embrace the future (bumps and all).

Beyond sharing your passions, you may also point out areas where you encountered challenges and mention how you overcame them. This instantly humanises your resume, making it both realistic and personable.

8. Connect Online

In this day and age, where almost everything has a digital presence, you should have one too. Set aside time to create a LinkedIn account. It is a place where professionals network, build rapport, and sometimes even get headhunted by an esteemed company. Think of LinkedIn as the ‘Facebook’ for working professionals. If you are new to the game, do not worry. By creating a profile and getting a headstart, you have time to get acquainted with this new platform and figure out how you can use it to your benefit.

Be seen by posting your achievements, such as articles you have written for reputable companies, sharing posts that interest you, commenting on pages, and joining in the discourse. Do not be afraid to use #OpenToWork if you are actively searching for a job. Before you know it, you will be better connected with the right people and be on top of your networking game.

And finally, always strive for perfectionism in your resume. Even if you have converted your resume working file to a PDF, and you notice a mistake a minute later, go back and edit it. It may be a hassle, but it is worth it if it means landing your dream job.

We hope these 8 ‘C’s tips help you in writing an outstanding resume. Look up more writing tips by professional writer Jacqueline Stansilas. We wish you happy job hunting!