Recruiters, not surprisingly, are most interested in experience, and they’d rather not have to guess at it. Even if an applicant is completely qualified for the job in question, a poorly-written or disorganized resume will have the recruiter looking to the next applicant in no time.
“You’re moving quickly, you want to be able to look and determine — Is this person qualified, is it someone I want to interview?” shared Jackie Oddoye, a recruiting consultant for Creative Associates.
Recruiters are on tight schedules during field recruiting visits and want to set up as many appropriate interviews as they can for the few days they have in-country. This often means scanning resumes before they arrive to decide on who will be invited for a personal interview.
Burying your experience, not including details of your responsibilities and forgetting to use keywords are common mistakes that can take your resume out of the running before a recruiter even sets foot in a country.
“You see the resume, it has potential and you want to know more, but if the candidate hasn’t given it the attention it deserves, you might have to move on to one that has,” said Amanda Schwartz, Deloitte’s senior recruiter for emerging markets.
Though resume writing norms differ from country to country, recruiters explained there are several common mistakes local professionals make. With a few tweaks, it’s possible to better stand out and sell yourself and your experience better.
Burying your experience
As a general rule, it’s important to tailor your resume to the position and opportunity you are looking for. In doing so, experience most relevant to the desired job should rise to the top.
“Often experience comes last, behind education and various training programs, but I just scroll down until I get to your experience,” said Kathryn Erskine, talent acquisition manager for Creative Associates.
Make sure you highlight most relevant experience first, then follow with your other experience. If it’s a management position, highlight management skills, including the number of people supervised and size of the project, noted Oddoye. And don’t forget to highlight your accomplishments along with your responsibilities, specifically accomplishments that relate to the job you are applying for.
“It’s not only the title, it’s what are your daily job responsibilities,” Erskine said. “Listing those out is really important.”
Hands-on field experience in a technical field is usually more marketable than general management experience, Oddoye suggested. So, if the applicant started in a technical field but eventually became a manager, he/she should be sure to cite technical skills and accomplishments in addition to his or her management accomplishments.
Recruiters agree that it’s also important for applicants to include the names of all the countries in which he/she has worked and lived, as well as all the technical and programming sectors.
Leaving out donor work
Start simple: Make sure to include the name of the project you worked on.
For example, if it’s a malaria prevention project, applicants sometimes fail to include the correct name for the project itself, shared Inga Feldi, who recruits in Africa for DAI.
“As a recruiter you can look up a project, but if the name is incorrect, you have to try to figure it out matching what they’re saying they did with projects that happened at that time,” she said. “And that’s a lot of work.”
Lisa Robinson, a talent acquisition consultant based in Indonesia, recommended indicating who the donor was and in what countries or parts of the country you worked. And while including details of the actual project, remember that it’s your experience on that particular project that the recruiter will be interested in learning.
“Please don’t give us a long paragraph from the project website that just tells us what the project did, but tell us specifically what you did on the project,” she said.
To eliminate questions, make sure you highlight donor work and size of the projects you worked on. And the dollar value of the project is just as important, so include it when it’s compelling, Oddoye suggested.
Those are the details that really matter, Feldi added.
“If someone says that they were managing a regional office of a project, but managing a $2 million project with five regional offices is completely different than being regional manager on a $40 million project with two regional offices. Details like that matter,” she said.
If you have good technical experience but you’re not clear about where this experience belongs or indicate which donor you were working for, the importance can be lost.
Not providing enough (or including too much irrelevant) detail
It’s crucial to provide detailed coverage of your full career. Longer resumes with detail on your work experience are more compelling than shorter resumes summarizing your experience, Oddoye said.
The detail of your work and your accomplishments will demonstrate the depth and breadth of your technical expertise, while showing senior management experience. The resume should “brand” you with specific areas of expertise.
“After quickly skimming the resume the reader should have formed an impression of you as a professional and the breadth of your expertise,” explained Oddoye.
But Robinson pointed out there is always the flip side of providing too much information. She isn’t interested in your hobbies or whether you are married with children.
“I don’t need to know where you went to elementary school,” she said. “And if your GPA at school was bad, don’t include it.”
Relevant experience, keywords
Tailor your resume construction to your level of experience.
Education, training, volunteer experience, certifications and international development associations — if you already have significant experience in the field, push this extra experience to the end. But this experience is important and should be leveraged on the first page of your resume if you are trying to break into the field, Oddoye said.
“Remember the most important and relevant information should be on the front page and it should be what is important and relevant to the job you are applying for and the employer of that job, not what is important and relevant to your life history,” Oddoye said.
Also, don’t forget to write your resume using the same language as the job advertisement.
If keywords aren’t strategically included throughout the resume, it most likely won’t surface when a recruiter searches the company database for those keywords.
Your resume should be written in the same language as the advertisement unless the posting itself states that you should write it in a specific language. For example, if the advert is in English and the requirement is for someone with strong English language skills to work with foreigners, don’t send your CV in another language, even the local language.
Remember that the recruiter or HR professional spends no more than five minutes with the CV when doing the first cut, so if you don’t use the wording from the advert you will most likely not make the shortlist.
“Don’t make the reviewer guess if you actually did work similar to that in the advertisement,” Robinson said.
Using a confusing format
Use a clear format that shows position, duration of employment, project, employer and donor where applicable.
“Don’t use funky margins, colored background or lots of graphics,” Robinson recommended.
The use of tables and other graphics makes it confusing and harder to read, so use a clear font that’s easy to read and bold and italicize where needed to highlight positions.
Getting the job is a combination of having the right skill set and successfully translating it to paper. Still unsure of how to organize your resume? Schwartz recommends applicants spend time looking at other resumes or profiles on LinkedIn to get an idea of what looks good and follow suit.