How To Write A Very Good Resume In Nigeria
Your resume is a marketing document designed to ‘sell’ your skills and abilities to a potential employer. It’s a means of advertising yourself, It’s not the history of your past; it’s an ad. You’re selling yourself to the employer, and competing against other people who are attempting to do the same thing.
Your resume does not have to be one page or follow a specific resume format. Every resume is a one-of-a-kind marketing communication. It should be appropriate to your situation and do exactly what you want it to do.
The main purpose of any resume is to land the interview. A successful resume gets a candidate past the employer’s screening process and places the job seeker in front of a company hiring manager.
The good news is that, with a little extra effort, you can create a resume that makes you stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking. Not one resume in a hundred follows the principles that stir the interest of prospective employers. So, even if you face fierce competition, with a well-written resume you should be invited to interview more often than many people more qualified than you.
Simple guide on how to write each section is given below:
Your name, address, phone number, and email address should be displayed prominently at the top of your resume. It is best practice to use your full name (not a nickname), and if you have also spent time cultivating your personal brand on social networks, it is here that you can provide links to your social profiles (eg. LinkedIn).
So many resumes we see make a gallant effort to inform the reader. But we don’t want the employer to be informed; we want them to be interested and curious. Do not use “I” in your objective. Avoid first-person sentences and language in order to place the emphasis on how you can fulfill the company’s needs rather than your own needs.
Narrow your objective by job type, industry, and/or geography. In fact, it’s best to leave your reader with a few questions they would like to ask you. Check out examples of good objectives:
In this example, you see a collection of brief descriptions versus a formally stated objective in a grammatically complete sentence.
Experienced IT professional offering more than five years of hands-on experience in programming, web development, and IT troubleshooting, and seeks a leadership role in leading a digital organization.
Strategic thinker and communicator. Expert storyteller. A decade of deadline-driven on-air reporting. Ready to pivot to an executive producer role.
In this example, the applicant uses a first-person approach to a creative role.
“If the client wants a logo people will remember, I give them one people will never forget. If they want their brand to communicate, I make it sing.”
This should be a dot-point section (up to 10 points), which outlines your key skills and abilities, and can be made up of both tangible and intangible assets. For example, for tangible skills, think about any computer applications, or software packages you may have experience in – PowerPoint/keynote skills, experience using Excel spreadsheets, etc. In addition, for your intangible skills, think more about the abilities you have such as ‘quick learner’, ‘personable’, ‘reliable’ etc.
I have an advanced skill set in all areas of computer skills including Excel, Word, and Powerpoint.
I have excellent communication skills and have experience in both face-to-face and phone-based customer service.
SKILLS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
You tell the rest of the best of your story. Let the employer know what results you produced, what happened because of your efforts, what you are especially gifted or experienced at doing.
Sometimes the “Skills and Accomplishments” section is a separate section. In a chronological resume, it becomes the first few phrases of the descriptions of the various jobs you have held. We will cover that in a few minutes when we discuss the different types of resumes. When it is a separate section, it can have several possible titles, depending on your situation:
List jobs in reverse chronological order. Don’t go into detail on the jobs early in your career; focus on the most recent and/or relevant jobs. (Summarize a number of the earliest jobs in one line or very short paragraph, or list only the bare facts with no position description.) Decide which is, overall, more impressive – your job titles or the names of the firms you worked for – then consistently begin with the more impressive of the two, perhaps using boldface type.
You may want to describe the employer in a phrase in parentheses if this will impress the reader. Include military service, internships, and major volunteer roles if desired; because the section is labeled “Experience.” It does not mean that you were paid. Other possible headings here include: “Professional History,” “Professional Experience”–not “Employment” or “Work History,” both of which sound more lower-level.
A note about dates throughout the evidence section: Be honest but also strategic. Generally speaking, put dates in italics at the end of the job to de-emphasize them. Don’t include months, unless the job was held less than a year. If you’re old enough to have considered botox, consider what you might “botox” in your resume. The year you earned your degree(s) doesn’t have to be included. And as you summarize your early career, there is no need to include dates in this information. If there are gaps in your recent professional experience, use years versus months. Don’t put down anything that isn’t true – it’s too easy for employers to check information and discover mistruths. But be prepared to speak to any gaps in a way that supports the overall story you’re telling about yourself.
List education in reverse chronological order – degrees or licenses first, followed by certificates and advanced training. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don’t include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards you have won, unless you are still in college or just recently graduated. Include grade-point average only if over 3.4. List selected coursework if this will help convince the reader of your qualifications for the targeted job.
Include advanced training, but be selective with the information, summarizing the information and including only what will be impressive for the reader.
No degree yet? If you are working on an uncompleted degree, include the degree and afterward, in parentheses, the expected date of completion: B.S. (expected 20__).
If you didn’t finish college, start with a phrase describing the field studied, then the school, then the dates (the fact that there was no degree may be missed).
Other headings might be “Education and Training,” “Education and Licenses,” “Legal Education / Undergraduate Education” (for attorneys).
If the only awards received were in school, put these under the Education section. Mention what the award was for if you can (or just “for outstanding accomplishment” or “outstanding performance”). If you have received awards, this section is almost a must. If you have received commendations or praise from some very senior source, you could call this section, “Awards and Commendations.” In that case, go ahead and quote the source.
Include only those that are current, relevant, and impressive. Include leadership roles if appropriate. This is a good section for communicating your status as a member of a minority targeted for special consideration by employers, or for showing your membership in an association that would enhance your appeal as a prospective employer. This section can be combined with “Civic / Community Leadership” as “Professional and Community Memberships.”
Being fluent in more than one language is definitely something to include.
Tread thoughtfully here. While personal interests tend to feature prominently on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, you should weigh how much it can help you when applying for a job—ideally on a case-by-case basis. If you include a section like this, keep the following in mind. Advantages: Personal interests can indicate a skill or area of knowledge that is related to the goal, such as photography for someone in public relations, or carpentry and woodworking for someone in construction management.
This section can show well-roundedness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the goal. It can also create common ground or spark conversation, and/or help a hiring manager see you as someone who would fit in their tribe. Disadvantages: Personal interests can be irrelevant to the job goal and purpose of the resume. Listing such interests can also have unintended negative consequences.
For example, if you’re highly athletic and the people interviewing you aren’t physically fit – or perhaps even self-conscious about that – the fact that you’re super-fit might not play in your favour. If in doubt, do not include a Personal Interests section. Your reason for including it is most likely that you want to tell them about you.
But, as you know, this is an ad. If this section would move the employer to understand why you would be the best candidate, include it; otherwise, forget about it.
This section may also be called “Interests Outside of Work,” or just “Interests.”
You may put “References available upon request” at the end of your resume if you wish. This is a standard close (centred at the bottom in italics), but is not necessary: It is usually assumed. Do not include actual names of references.
You can bring a separate sheet of references to the interview, to be given to the employer upon request.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Remember that you’re marketing yourself. Owning your digital footprint is also about taking advantage of an additional opportunity to make a good impression. Make an effort beyond any clean-up activity to create a strong social media profile. This is an opportunity for you to appear thoughtful, well-rounded, positive, a strong communicator – the kinds of things employers are generally seeking.
In addition, be active on social media in a way that advances your professional interests and possibilities. Engage on networking sites to increase your visibility and searchability with prospective employers. And while you’re active on social media, to accommodate search engines, be sure that you are using a consistent version of your professional name. If you’re “Robert L. Smith” on LinkedIn, you should be Robert L. Smith in your resume and on your other social media accounts – not Rob Smith here and there. Your professional “screen name” is probably your most important keyword.
As mentioned earlier, follow your prospective employer on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Think of what you see as an aggregated news feed about the employer. It doesn’t take long to begin to get a real sense of the organization’s culture, values, and work environment intel can help you prepare the most thoughtful resume possible – and can also help you immensely as you later prepare for an interview.
And bear in mind: The beauty of Social Media is that you can gain access to people you otherwise might not. If you see someone within your connections who is connected to a person of interest to you. Perhaps they are in the field in which you are seeking work; perhaps they work for a company you wish to get into – then ask your contact to introduce you.
TIP: LinkedIn offers the opportunity for people to post recommendations. Be sure to ask people to provide recommendations for you, in particular those people who can speak to the strengths that you most want to be emphasized.
Your resume must be error-free. There are no spelling errors, no typos. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. There are no errors of fact. Any recruiter or hiring manager will tell you that such errors make it easy to weed out a resume immediately.
List information in a consistent way. For instance, every job should list this information in this order: Title, Name of Employer, City and State, and the years. Use boldface, underlining, and italics consistently. If you decide to bold one job title, all titles are in boldface. If you underline one section heading, underline them all.
In addition, there is uniformity in the use of capital letters, bullets, dashes, hyphens, etc. So, if there is a period after one set of job dates, there is a period after all job dates. If one degree is in bold, all degrees are in bold. If one job lasted as 1999-2001 (versus 1999 – 2001 or 1999 to 2000). Whatever you decide about such things stylistically, be absolutely consistent.
DETAILS THAT MATTER
There is a number of details that really matter. Consider all of the following.
Font. Use a font that’s universally readable such as Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Georgia, Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Didot (a good choice for the creative industry). Whatever font you select, use it consistently. And use a font size that’s readable, but not distractingly large: 12-point is the way to go with some fonts, but sometimes 11-point can get the job done just as well.
PDF. Save your resume file as a PDF. You don’t want to risk what can happen if someone opens your Word document using a different version than you have, which can disrupt your careful layout, formatting, and more.
Filename. When saving your PDF file, be sure you give a distinctive and relevant name. Definitively don’t give it a number (e.g., NickSmith_V3.pdf) and don’t call it NicksResume.pdf. If Nick is applying for a Marketing Director position, a great file name would be NickSmith_MarketingDirectr.pdf).
Keep track. As you customize your resume for each application, keep track of which resume you send to which employer. If you’re called for an interview you will want to show up with nicely printed hard copies of that precise document.
Don’t mix first-person and third-person. Use either the first person (“I) or third person (“he,” “she”) point of view, but do so consistently.
Watch your verb tense. If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. Also, if the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will be used again in the future, use present tense – e.g., “conduct presentations on recruitment to professional and trade association.”
Experience first. Experience sections should come before Education. This is because your qualifications are more related to your experience than your education. Exceptions would be (1) if you have just received or are completing a degree in a new field, (2) if you are a lawyer, (3) if you are an undergraduate student, or (4) if there’s something particularly impressive about your education – for example, a Rhodes Scholarship or an MBA from Harvard.
DO’s and DON’Ts
Sell yourself – first and foremost.
Always bear in mind the needs of your customer – the employer. What do they need to know to assess that you’re right for the job and will deliver for them?
Customize your resume for each job application.
Use keywords selected with your prospective employer in mind.
Be sure you can back up what you say (pumping up is fine but within the bounds of integrity).
Use dynamic, high-energy language.
Tighten up sentences where you can. Space is at a premium.
Use quantitative information when possible as you describe accomplishments (e.g., ($1 million portfolio, increased sales 30%, double revenues).
Look at everything you’ve written in your resume and add action verbs wherever possible.
Make your resume long enough to include all relevant information.
Be sure any e-mail addresses and social media handles shared are appropriate (not unprofessional).
Use the same version of your professional “screen name” consistently.
Be unduly modest. You are selling yourself, period.
Wing it. Real preparation and homework are required – no matter how lucky you’ve been in the past.
Include information – even if you’re proud of it – that could be construed as controversial or possibly be off-putting to the employer (e.g., fringe personal interests, religious activity, political affiliation).
List everything you’ve ever done. It’s better to leave an employer a little curious and more apt to interview you.
Include salary information. It is appropriate for you to provide this information only when asked.
Mention reasons for leaving jobs. You can have tactful, professional reasons ready for interviews.
Include references. Provide them when requested, and be sure your references know that an inquiry is on the way.
Try to be funny or cute – no matter how great your personality, these things don’t translate on paper.
Include every single piece of information about yourself – this is not your resume’s job. If the employer wants to know more about you, they’ll ask you for an interview.
Get wordy. Don’t use three examples when one will suffice.
Be hyperbolic. Don’t use more than one power word or adjective in one sentence.
Underestimate the power of reading the job posting carefully and doing all of your homework. An astute hiring manager will recognize that you’ve done your advanced work and will respect that about you.