We all have come across typical sections in a resume – Education, Experience, Extra curricular Activities, Achievements, Areas of Interest etc etc. You should know that Not all of these are essential in a resume.

The only purely essential information in a resume is perhaps Education and a few personal details. Everything else is optional or essential depending upon whether they enhance your brand or do not. So let us briefly review these sections:

Essential Structure of Resume

Name:

1. This is an essential section and should be on top of resume, typically in the header.

2. It should be in a font much larger than rest of the resume. Typically 2 to 6 points larger should suffice.

3. You can choose a different font for Name from rest of the resume, but again, stick to simpler fonts and avoid cursive and stylish fonts which suit personal letterheads better.

4. You can align the Name either right, left or centrally. But do check finally after rest of the resume has been created, to see which way it looks best.

5. You can even capitalize the Name (and various sections) but this is optional.

6. Nicknames and funny names should be avoided unless it is a less serious job profile. Recruiter may just shortlist such a resume with a name like Chintu, Pappu or Bablu to fulfill their curiosity but then you should be impressive enough to nullify any preconceived notions that recruiters may have about you when you face interview.

7. You can however experiment with initializing one part of name to save space and bring some interest. For example, instead of Sanjeev Newar, I can write my name as Sanjeev N or N Sanjeev. This would typically make recruiter assume that I am a south Indian and hence may favor me in an intellectual job role considering the wonderful brand image that south Indians carry in technical fields!

8. It is NOT necessary to put your legal name or a derivative in resume. Some people change their surnames during recruitment process to various reasons. This is perfectly ok. If you think that your name may bring some ethnic or gender bias – unfortunate truths of real life in some places – you can use a smart altered name. But make sure that you are able to justify the change if evaluated later. So if I gave job offer to Mr Rahul Gandhi but finally offer is accepted by a Mr Digvijay Singh, I need to be explained why Digvijay was using Rahul as a facade before I confirm the offer.

9. If you have an impressive designation, instead of putting only in Education column, you can consider putting them in small points after name. But only in brief. So a Munna Bhai, MBBS may be better than Munna Bhai alone! But as a doctor applying for a medical job, putting an MBBS would actually make you look more like Munna Bhai than an MBBS! So avoid it. Use only for prestigious degrees with reference to job you are seeking. Remember that your aim is to advertise to your recruiters and not anyone else!

Personal Details:

1. Include email and phone compulsorily. Give emails and phone numbers that you regularly access. Avoid funky emails for recruitment purpose. I once had a resume with contact email something like [email protected] It straight went to recycle bin. Also if you have posted controversial or crazy stuff on internet with your email address, avoid that email address for recruitment purpose. It is very common to perform google verification of resume details these days.

2. Address may be required in many situations. But these days most resume transfers happen through email and hence this may be optional. Check with your recruiter. If you have to give, give a reliable address. See if you can give a fax number. Rarely would anyone fax you, but this may make you look professional. However in recent era, fax is getting obsolete.

3. Gender is optional. Ideally it should be avoided unless you believe that your name does not convey gender (or misleads on gender) and you have better chances if you clearly disclose the gender.

4. Age in most cases is also optional. But sometimes, you may prefer to mention Date of Birth.

5. Whatever Personal Details you put, either put them on Header or Footer elegantly in smaller than normal fonts. Avoid putting them in a separate section. This is a very common characteristic of most novice resume. They would end the resume with a Personal Details section where they would put all the details, name of father, mother etc. Simply remove these details unless recruiters specially ask for it.

6. Whatever Phone number you give in resume should ideally not have a crazy Hello tune. In fact it is better to avoid anything except normal ring or a soothing instrumental music. People from various cultures may perceive different Hello Tunes differently and create an adverse mindset. Why risk your job chances for such a trivial thing that only brings earnings to your mobile operator. Telecom after all if among the most dubious sectors today as per industry reports!

Job Objective:

1. Once upon a time job objective was an essential component of resume. Not anymore. Because recruiters are bored of seeing the same dialogues written under this section that seem to be copied from a Dilbert book.

So if you want to write something like: “To get a challenging opportunity………high growth environment….leverage skills…….” or something equally/ more high-sounding, please have some mercy on your recruiters.

2. Rather avoid the section completely. Rarely has a recruiter time to read it when he has little time to read Dickens. You can always cover the objective in cover-letter or your placement agent would ensure that your resume reaches target audience.

3. If you indeed want to put it, put something short, sweet and straight. For example, “An entry-level position in credit risk management”, or simply “Corporate Banking” etc.

Education:

1. You need to put years of completion, degrees and institutions. Performance is optional depending upon whether it was a good performance or not. Also experienced professionals typically avoid giving performances in degrees earned years ago.

2. Unless you have been a truly remarkable performer, avoid giving details of Matriculation and Higher Secondary. After all it is obvious that you crossed those hurdles to earn graduation and above!

Remember: Any detail that is not mandatory and also does not enhance your brand value is junk in your advertisement.

3. Performance need not be given only as a CGPA, CPI or Percentage. If you obtained a wonderful rank, put that instead. Instead of 8.67/10, 2nd in Class of 120 would be far more impressive.

4. If you excelled in any particular subject, mention it clearly.

5. Instead of titling the section as Education, you can also choose Academic Qualifications or Coursework or something else to create a differentiation.

Work Experience:

The format of presentation may vary as per the choice of functional or chronological resume. I prefer a hybrid approach, which basically means that you present whatever best creates an impression without considering any information as essential. You can explore more on the 2 standard types of resumes online, and even we may discuss that sometime. But nonetheless, some common points are worth exploring.

1. Dates may be listed only by years. This helps those who want to hide intermediate gaps or short stints.

2. Each work experience should be titled either by your designation/job role or company name, whichever is more impressive. You normally put job roles in functional resumes and designation in chronological ones.

3. If designation isn’t exciting, use a job role. But be consistent across all experiences.

4. Mention your achievements. Your language should be such that recruiter can understand how you benefited the employer. Try translating your achievements in business language that everyone including HR department can understand. If you can give specific numbers, the better.

5. Mention your responsibilities. You can merge achievements and responsibilities if that helps. But your goal should be clearly to convince the recruiter that you can handle very responsible positions.

Remember, it is most important to answer in this section for recruiter: “What is in there for me in this candidate?”

6. Mention any promotions with great show-off. Same with smallest job reward. Blow these achievements as much as you can, without getting bombastic. It need not be a company-wide achievement but a project-team wide, but it deserves a mention.

7. Mention locations for each job. This helps recruiter frame the picture about you better.

8. You should have mention of some specific ‘I did this’ type of achievements. If you do not have so far, make some achievement and flaunt it here after the achievement.

9. Do put some industry specific jargons to impress the recruiter. But do not overdo it. And make sure you can comfortably defend these when asked in interview.

10. It is a good practice, especially for new scouts, to list Summary of Skills before Experience section. This section would contain bullet points of certain profesional skills that would impress the recruiters. Make sure you do not simply copy from Job Description published by recruiters.

11. If you have certain significant achievements, make a section upfront before anything else in resume, and list those here. Make sure that the achievements are presented in a manner that excites your recruiter and not your previous employer.

Many job-seekers who prepare their resume after MBA miss on this and list achievements that may have been wonderful as a Programmer or Engineer but has little relevance as a Business Manager. So you need to change the language to highlight business benefits, and if possible back by numbers. For example, 30% reduction in downtime, 5% improvement in production output, cost saving of USD 10 million in 6 months etc.

An important tip:

If you have to bring focus on certain points in your resume, try to keep them on the left side of the page. English is read from left to right and hence information on left catches more attention.

Conversely, if you do not want recruiters to catch certain weak points, put them on right side. So if you have gaps in your employment history, but do not want that to be taken too seriously by resume, put employment dates on right side and name of company or designation on left.

While this is not foolproof, if you have most of the attractive points put on left and rest of details on right, on overall basis, your resume will definitely improve upon its intended goal.

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