5 Ways to Instantly Improve Your English Resume
Updated: Feb 26, 2019
How do you usually apply to a job?
No really, it’s not a trick question.
If you are applying to positions in the English-speaking world, then you probably write a cover letter and then attach it, along with your resume and send off an e-mail to a human resources or hiring manager?
This is what most people do. And don’t get me wrong, this is very important. If you don’t apply to the position then your probability of success is 0.
But nowadays technology has made it so easy to apply to positions all over the world that the quantity of applications that companies are receiving is enormous.
This means that your cover letter and resume are more important than ever.
If you don’t stand out with both your qualifications and most importantly how you present your qualifications, then you will end up just another piece of paper in the pile.
In this article I’m going to tell you five easy ways that you can instantly improve your English resume.
This list is based on thousands of resumes that I have seen both working inside of multinational corporations and teaching business English.
If you do these five things then you will instantly separate yourself from the large majority of job candidates and make a great first impression on any hiring manager.
Resume or Curriculum Vitae
While many of my tips in this article can also be applied to the “curriculum vitae” or “CV”, it is worth noting that the traditional CV and resume are similar but not exactly the same.
One of the biggest differences is the length. The traditional resume used by most job candidates in the United States is one page in length.
Academics or executives with a lot of experience working at multiple companies may use more than one page but it is rare.
The longer and more detailed CV is much less common in the United States than the United Kingdom and some other parts of the world.
Your English resume doesn’t have to follow a specific order or template.
Sure templates can be a guide but make the document your own one-page advertisement (two with the cover letter).
People often ask if they should put their professional experience or education first.
My answer is it depends.
In general, the more relevant experience you have for the job, the higher your professional experience should appear on the resume.
For an experienced professional applying to a position in the same industry as her previous experience, professional experience should almost always be first.
However, if you are a student without much relevant experience, or a career changer, then it makes sense to consider putting your education or “skills” first.
For example, let’s say you were a marketing manager but decided to change your life and become a software developer.
You go back to school or take a relevant course and learn how to code software.
These relevant new skills that you have need to find their way to the top of your resume. You have several options; I’ll discuss a few of them later in this article.
Remove the Objective and Highlights
Think of your English resume as a one-page billboard of your qualifications for a position.
If you were paying a lot of money to advertise your company on a billboard, would you waste any space on that billboard?
Your resume is no different.
I see so many resumes and resume templates with an objective, summary and/or highlights.
These three sections end up occupying half of the resume.
You don’t need all of these sections.
A good cover letter should both tell the hiring manager what your objective is and highlight and summarize your relevant qualifications and achievements.
The limited space on your resume is too valuable to waste on duplicate content already included in your cover letter.
If you missed it, don’t forget to check out my article about writing your cover letter in English.
Include a skills, hobbies, interests or additional information section on your English resume. Depending on your goal with this section the name will change.
In most cases the most valuable use of this section is to simply show that you are an interesting person and not a robot.
If you don’t have any hobbies or personal interests then my best advice would be to get a few!
Not only will you give yourself the opportunity to meet new people and grow your personal and professional network, you will also strengthen this overlooked aspect of your resume.
Small talk plays a very important role in business communication in the English-speaking world.
By serving the hiring manager a few ready-made small talk topics, you can increase your chances of getting hired.
While this section is most often found near the bottom of the one-page resume, it too is flexible.
For example, if you are one of those job changers or young professionals with minimal experience, you can use this section near the top of your resume to highlight key information and skills that might otherwise be tough to integrate into your resume.
Vocabulary Makes all the Difference
You’ve worked hard so there is no reason to downplay your achievements. At least not on your resume!
Adjective selection can turn a boring statement into an exciting achievement. The use of numbers can have a similar impact.
Consider the following example resume item:
Managed a team of 20 salespeople (end of 2010) to six consecutive years of revenue growth.
I get the idea but it is far less convincing than:
Led an expanding, multilingual team of 20 sales professionals (end of 2010) to six consecutive years of at least 35% revenue growth.
Quantify as much as you can in your resume. If you don’t have exact figures, use “at least” or “more than” as I did in the above example.
Use adjectives to demonstrate broader, transferable skills.
Don’t put the burden on the hiring manager to match your skills to the position.
If he is looking for a sales manager “capable of working in an international environment”, with one adjective (multilingual) you have shown him why you are the guy for the job!
Customize, Customize, Customize
Continuing with the previous example, every resume that you send needs to be customized.
The few minutes that it takes to tailor your resume to the position and coordinate it with your cover letter, is well worth the exciting new career opportunity that the job presents.
Investigate the company and the position and use your resume to match your skills exactly.
You may have to add or delete a few resume items or re-arrange the sections of your resume, but many times simply adjusting your vocabulary will suffice.
It might not seem like it but from the perspective of the hiring manager, it is obvious who has taken the time to customize their cover letter and resume.
It feels like the candidate is talking directly to you and that’s a great feeling!
If you want the job you need to create that feeling and separate yourself from 99% of the other candidates who end up as indistinguishable names in a pile of resumes.
About the Author
Jason Gower is the creator and instructor of Expand Life Business English courses. He has more than fifteen years of business experience and has learned both German and Spanish to a C2 level. Click to learn more about Expand Life Business English courses.