3 Things You Must Know To Get Your Resume On Top

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Looking for a job? Check out these 3 tips to master your resume and develop your career - after all: you don't want to stand in your own way!

Prior to becoming entrepreneurs, many people will have endured the application process to gain real-world experience with larger, established companies. While some may jump head first into the startup world, others prefer to learn the tricks of a particular trade in order to later apply them to a unique startup idea. If this is you – you’re a recent graduate, you’re just starting out, and you’re looking for experience with a company before branching out on your own – a large part of navigating a successful application process comes down to turning self-perceived negatives into net positives.

From the resume-writing stage to the interview, the greatest hurdle individuals will often face is: Themselves. Instead of rising to the occasion of an interview, we often fear the opportunity and the potential questions – instead of welcoming them and engaging the employer. Instead of writing the type of crisp resume overworked recruiters appreciate reading, we may overcompensate by providing too much detail to make up for a relative lack of experience. Here are some tips for getting yourself into the right place at the right time:

The Resume

The resume is there to get you the interview. It will not get you the job by itself, but it is there to open the next door for you, where you can truly shine (see “The Interview” below). Unless you already have a long career in business that justifies resume expansion, the resume should be no longer than 2 pages – ideally, one page outlining education and skills, and the other summarizing experience. The order in which you write these should reflect your strengths relative to the position you’re applying for (e.g., if you have mostly business experience, this should be reflected on the first page with your educational background summarized the second; conversely, if you have, say, an MBA but limited experience, the emphasis of your degree should introduce you on the first).

The bottom line: If you’re just starting out, don’t overcompensate by cramming in every detail of the experience you already have. Instead, summarize neatly what you have already achieved, and most importantly – highlight those elements of your experience and skills which are a match for the vacancy in question. This might require a slight rewrite for different vacancies, but make sure you have a version that doesn’t require rewriting it entirely every time, because you’ll be doing this with:

The Cover Letter

This is crucial to do and your first real chance to promote yourself, to demonstrate that you’ve understood the job requirements and that you can relate them to your previous experience. Never, ever send a resume without a Cover Letter – even if the classified ad doesn’t specifically request one – as the Cover Letter will convey the seriousness of your intent, and will be the chance for a more eye-grabbing and interesting read to an employer accustomed to receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of good resumes. As with the resume, the justifiable length of Cover Letters depends on experience: a CEO with 10+ years of experience is justified in taking several pages; if you’re at the outset of your career, however, it should never be longer than one.

The Cover Letter, in this case, will give an employer better insight into your sense of presentation, your thinking, and your ability to gain the experience you might be lacking. How you would fill the gap between your experience and the job requirement can be suggested here, as no employer will expect you to know the job inside out without at least a brief initial period of on-the-job training. However, approach this letter with the utmost care: Be original, sell yourself with confidence, but don’t oversell yourself – don’t make claims you can’t realistically fulfill. Conversely, don’t plead or beg – don’t give personal anecdotes about why you need the job. You can tell an employer why you’d like the job in:

The Interview

Firstly, relax! You’ll likely have many interviews in life, and as you improve, the key to remember is: enjoy it! You may need the job, but counterintuitive as that sounds, you have nothing to lose. You got this far: instead of being nervous, seize the opportunity to have a positive and constructive conversation with a true professional in your chosen field. You don’t need to oversell your enthusiasm, or how much this would be a dream come true; this should be evident in the fluency of your conversation and the communication of your ideas. No employer will expect pre-baked perfection – but they’ll want to see that you have the potential to get there within the context of the job’s demands.

To reiterate: don’t oversell your accomplishments, particularly where it’s clear there’s not yet an exact match between these and the job requirements – but do suggest how your experience has prepared you to overcome this gap, which is an opportunity to showcase your ability to come up with creative solutions to problem-solving in the future. Importantly, be engaging, presentable and well spoken at all times. The first impression is the lasting one, but this doesn’t mean you can trail off during the interview. Be sure to ask follow-up questions, telegraphing enthusiasm, but relate them to the job itself first, and remuneration or benefits only second – the priority in the context of the interview is still what you can do for the business, not what it can do for you. And finally, with enthusiasm for the interview itself – being there! – you will automatically project the confidence you fear might disappear the moment you walk through the door.


This is the first installment in a series of columns. In future installments, I’ll be analyzing each stage in more depth alongside addressing all aspects of the employment process, from promoting one’s strongest attributes, to fielding questions about employers’ needs, bridging the gap between these and educational background, to presentational and oratorical tips, and onto marketing one’s startup experience (!) – and beyond.


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