FOR many people, writing a resumé or curriculum vitae (CV) is a difficult experience.

But you have to get it right because it continues to be the fundamental marketing tool for job seekers.

The most important element of your resumé that will separate you from all the other competitors and job seekers are your accomplishments.

A resumé is your main sales brochure or communication tool that helps you in a job search.
Its purpose is ideally to get you an interview, provide talking points during an interview discussion and reinforce your key selling points once you have met an employer.

Typically, the person who reads your resumé will take around 10 seconds to decide whether or not he will read the whole document; even then, he will usually take only a minute or two to read through it.

First impressions

To motivate the hiring manager to read it, your resumé should:

* Be clear, succinct, direct and presented in an attractive, easy-to-read format with plenty of white space;

* Be no more than four pages long. Tip: Only provide details of responsibilities and achievements going back 10 years;

* Include a career summary so that screeners can quickly match you with their needs;

* Provide complete employment histories without unexplained gaps;

* Be achievement focused, as opposed to a job description; and

* Be polished and interesting.

Where do you start?

First, get the basics right by stating your name, address and phone number. Make certain that the e-mail address provided appears professional.

The body of your resumé should be about your professional experience.

Starting with the most recent job, state your employers, employment dates and the positions you have held — going back only as far as the last 10 years.

Next, have a brief section devoted to your key responsibilities covering areas such as team size, management type and regional responsibilities.

Then move on to your achievements. Highlight what you have achieved in your career. Try, wherever possible, to quantify your accomplishments with a number or percentage.

Make sure the information you include sells the skills you are good at, what you enjoy doing and, most importantly, matches the kind of work you are seeking.

In this way, a potential employer can easily recognise if you have the right skills, motivation and fit for the role for which he is recruiting.

Information about your formal educational qualifications, professional development or short training courses, memberships, technical skills and other relevant information can be summarised in a page at the back of your resumé.

Finally, keep your resumé to a maximum of four pages and print it on plain white or cream paper.

The interview

Great news! Your resumé has won you an interview! However, it can also make or break your chances of successfully securing a great job with a potential employer.

Understandably, the pressure to “get it right” can leave job seekers feeling nervous and vulnerable.

That is why, even if your credentials seem to make you a perfect match for the position, it is a good idea to prepare thoroughly for the interview.

The following checklist is a useful guideline:

1. Be familiar with the content of your CV

The hard work and time spent in creating a solid achievement-based resumé also has its benefits and rewards come interview time.

You will be ready to relate various scenarios at the interview that will showcase how your experience and skill set match the requirements of the role.

2. Show how your strengths align with the company’s goals

Showing how your strengths and aspirations align with the company’s goals will help interviewers identify your fit with their organisational culture, which is as much a key to their hiring decision as it is to your long-term job satisfaction.

3. Make a practice trip

Visiting the company in advance can help you gauge the time necessary to arrive at the interview and familiarise yourself with the facility and any security procedures you may encounter.

You might also be able to pick up an annual report or even a copy of the application form so that you can complete it at home prior to the interview.

4. Manage pre-interview stress

Take good care of yourself in the days before the interview.

“Play” the interview out in your mind as you would like it to happen and also use relaxation techniques to calm yourself.

5. Dress for the occasion

Be sure that you are appropriately dressed for your interview, based on the organisation’s culture, as well as the position for which you are interviewing.

Also, try to choose your outfit at least the day before the interview to avoid more stress on the actual day.