HR professionals often only invest a few minutes in the first check of your application. It is therefore important that your résumé is quick to grasp and offers a clear overview of your professional stages. In coaching, I read a lot of résumés, and sometimes I have no idea what someone has dealt with in recent years. Because the content is too subject-specific or so general that it can mean anything and everything. Anyone who tries to prove competence at the highest level with technical terms and overloading their résumé often achieves the opposite: question marks in the mind of the reader. My tips on how to make yourself really tangible with your CV:
Writing a resume: simple tips for more clarity
Yes, I know my idea sounds crazy, and you might even find it frustrating because you’ve put so much energy into your records and weighed every word on the gold scales. But I recommend that you put on the glasses of a non-specialist reader and, with this change of perspective, write a resume that is clear, clearly structured, understandable for everyone, and easy to read and understand.
Structure your résumé chronologically and logically
Almost all applications that I read are already in the chronological order that is usual today: starting from the current/last employment backward to secondary school. My recommendation: structure your résumé using this logic in the way HR professionals are used to today:
- Personal details
- Work experience
- Further training
- Internships/international experience/sideline jobs
- Studies/training/military or community service/school
- Languages and IT skills
- Further knowledge (optional, possibly driver’s license, publications, etc.)
- Interests (optional)
Avoid nested periods
In the classic tabular curriculum vitae, the times are in the first column, followed by the respective positions and activities. Avoid creating further sub-timelines over time, for example, because you temporarily took on additional functions for an employer, for example as a project manager or deputy team leader. Rather, include these functions as part of your duties during this time. When and for how long you did this job is less relevant. And if you are interested, you have the opportunity to ask about it during the conversation.
Avoid headers and footers on every page
Many applicants write their name and full contact details on the top or bottom of each page of their résumé, often supplemented by graphic elements such as lines or colored blocks. I think that in times of online applications and related PDF documents, this is no longer necessary. The era in which a loose leaf of your application lands on the floor after copying and can no longer be assigned to you should definitely be over. Your personal data with all contact addresses on the first page is sufficient. This not only gives you a lot of space on the following pages but also significantly improves the flow of reading the entire document.
Use common item names
The titles of positions in companies are often very different depending on the size or internationality and are employer-specific. If you were to call yourself a “Senior Project Manager”, then call it that on your résumé, even if your official name was “Senior-PMO Tech/ISO 9 × 007”. In my opinion that the designation of your positions in your curriculum vitae may differ in individual cases from the information in job references, especially since it is easy to assign them to the periods and main areas of activity. It is uncertain whether an HR manager will get to your references. Make sure you have more clarity in your resume.
Describe your activities as specifically as possible
It makes a difference whether you write “Customer communication system” as part of your job or “Conception and implementation of an IT system for the standardization and documentation of written customer communication for the field service”. Be specific so that the reader can get a real picture of what exactly you’ve done over the past few years – even if it makes your resume longer. Use terms such as conception, introduction, implementation, collaboration, leadership, initiation, planning, control, etc. to give your tasks the right weight. Even if, even after many years in the profession, you believe that all of this is self-evident and not worth mentioning, an outsider may see it differently.
Avoid abbreviations or write them out
You were responsible for the worldwide CD at the PoS? Congratulations! These were certainly challenging and strategic tasks, but hardly anyone out there who is not a marketing expert will be able to decipher them. If you write instead that you were responsible for “adhering to the company-wide corporate design specifications in all shops worldwide”, then the reader can get a good picture. Engineers, mathematicians and natural scientists in particular should check their résumés on this point.
Keep company data of your (ex) employers short
Sometimes I find out more about the company as an employer, their products, locations, and sales or the number of employees from resumes than about the applicant himself and the tasks he or she held in this position. Keep the statements about your employers as a company short. Especially if you did not work in a managerial or strategic management position there. If the branch of your (ex) employer does not emerge from the company name, this information would be of particular interest to me as a reader and sufficient at first glance.
List only the most important training courses
The other day I read a curriculum vitae consisting of four pages of advanced training. All product training, all English courses, and also every participation in a previous event were meticulously listed there. The same applies here: limit yourself to the essentials. With a selection, especially for the target position, show that you have dealt with new topics in addition to your job and maybe even worked on your soft skills in particular. This is not about completeness, but about the signal that you have attended further training. If, as your new employer, I discover four sides to further training, then I would think about whether you still have time to work in between.
Do without further profiles and overviews
Some applicants come up with the idea of adding further competence profiles or overviews of their soft skills, projects or publications, in addition to their CV and cover letter. If you are not applying for a job as a project manager or scientist, in my experience, these extras are too much of a good thing. Because such attachments seem more like “What I remembered, but I couldn’t find it in my resume and cover letter.” In application coaching, I, therefore, recommend avoiding such extra documents and instead either include important content in the cover letter as text or assign them to the respective positions in the résumé. The same applies here: Anyone who, as an employer, wants a separate competence profile can request one.
Cross out all the bells and whistles
Frills are quotes from famous personalities that some applicants adorn their CVs with. Frills are also the logos, symbols, or color schemes of the new employer, which are integrated into the resume design. Quite apart from legal issues when using someone else’s logos, it is your life. Your application is about individuality and not about the greatest possible adaptation. If you’d like to add some color to your résumé it might be your favorite color or a shade to match your photo.
Make it easy! Score with clarity
Forget the claim of having to bombard the reader of your documents with as much information as possible in order to have a chance at all. But on the contrary! It’s about as seamless as possible, but not about the largest colorful bouquet that you offer.
Decide on the information that is really relevant for the reader and your new position to quickly get a good picture of your professional past and to be able to assess whether you meet the requirements fulfill the position to be filled and also whether you as a person fit into the team and the company.
Make yourself easily accessible with your résumé to give non-specialist readers in particular, such as employees of the HR departments and also headhunters or recruiters, the chance to understand the course of your professional life. Minimize the question marks and maximize the clarity in the minds of the readers of your application. The better you succeed in this, the higher the invitation rate and the more relaxed the personal discussions later on.