Career & Education

Basic guidelines to polish your résumé

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, May 20, 2018

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Dear Georgia R:

As promised in our last edition, this week we will provide you with some basic guidelines that will help you, as well as other readers, in polishing your résumé.

Building an effective résumé is probably the most important exercise you will use in the job-search process. Your aim for this, as well as for the cover letter or other job search letters, is to get the recruiter to notice your application and consequently to invite you for an interview. Bear in mind that there is no magic to this process; it will require that you carefully think through and determine what information is relevant to the reader and how best to present the information to effectively market you as a great prospect. Before we get into the specifics of the résumé content here are a few general rules.


General Résumé Rules

• Keep your focus on the needs of the reader (recruiter or employer). Tailor your résumé to the specific organisation and to a specific job opening or functional area.

• Keep it short and concise. For new graduates or individuals with less than 10 years' experience it should be no longer than one page.

• Only information relevant to the reader should be included. Information that may be of interest to one reader might be very irrelevant to another.

•Include keywords: Appropriately use relevant keywords or industry buzzwords gleaned directly from the job advertisement to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable of industry performance indicators.

• Use facts and figures: As much as possible try to quantify your accomplishments to provide evidence of what you have done.

• Do not state the obvious. Analyse every statement to see the potential impact it will have on the reader. If you served as a cashier don't just say, “collected cash”. Instead, give an indication of the scope of what you did. Consider saying instead, “Collected and accurately balanced daily sales of over $2 million”.

• Be truthful. Do not lie about or embellish any aspect of your training or experience.

• Be prepared to discuss in detail anything contained in your résumé.

• Select a visually appealing layout. By résumé layout we mean aspects such as paper size, margins, font size and style, positioning of writing including indentation of paragraphs, and highlights (eg use of boldface, underline and sectional headers). These are usually based on your personal preferences. Choose a presentation style that allows for the good utilisation of white spaces on the page.

• Select a plain font type and use a large enough font size to ensure the employer has no challenge reading the information.

• Determine the most suitable résumé format that will best present your competencies. Career experts agree that there are three résumé formats: . i) reverse chronological ii) functional iii) hybrid (also called combination). The most popular type is the chronological format. • Avoid online templates, unless you are very savvy with technology, as many are often difficult to manipulate.

• Make it error-free. Ensure the document is devoid of errors of grammar or spelling.

In our next issue, we will take an in-depth look at the content of the typical chronological résumé.

Until then, familiarise yourself with the guidelines given above.



Career Advisor


Carolyn Marie Smith is assistant vice-president, student services at Northern Caribbbean University in Manchester, Jamaica. Submit your questions to her at

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