With the appraisal season around the corner, employees across the country are equal part nervous and excited. The annual performance review, in most cases, determines the future course of action—either to stick with the current employer or move ahead to further one’s career goals.
The beginning of the financial year also means new opportunities for those looking to enter the workforce.
In today’s competitive world, grabbing the attention of the hiring manager is an uphill task. A well-crafted résumé comes in handy to make the right first impression. However, with so many formats and several conflicting recommendations available today—where does one really begin?
The starting, and the most essential point, is to be as authentic as possible, says Yadhu Kishore Nandikolla, the head (human resources) at Hyderabad-based MassMutual India, an IT services and consulting company. Never ever be superficial in CVs; “it is a piece of document that speaks on your behalf to your prospective employer, providing enough reasons why you should be hired. So, it is imperative to represent the true ‘you’,” he says.
While many employees believe that drafting a résumé is possible in a few hours, it’s not the best way forward, considering many companies are now using artificial intelligence systems to wade through hundreds of résumés to find the candidates that seem like a good fit.
So how do you get your CV noticed and remembered?
With employers receiving over hundreds of résumés, it’s easy to miss yours—but not if you include relevant keywords, says Bhakti Talati, a Mumbai-based résumé coach.
“Keywords are words, short phrases and expressions related to the requirements of the job. Read the job descriptions thoroughly and highlight the important keywords. List them under three heads: skills, responsibilities, and qualifications. To be considered a match, keywords should be written exactly as in the job description,” she says. For example, if an individual has “content writer” as a keyword on their résumé, but if a company uses “content creator” instead—it will not be considered a match. “To identify additional keywords, visit the company website and LinkedIn page to understand their values better and how they describe themselves,” she suggests. “Click on the profiles of the company’s employees and search for similar positions that you’re applying to. Industry-specific language and terminology also count as keywords.”
Srikanth Reddy, manager (talent acquisition), at Hyderabad-based software company Progress, urges employees to think twice before stuffing keywords unnaturally in their CVs.
It’s all about striking a balance, he says. “Focus on authentic integration within your experience and achievements,” he adds. “Reading through some of relevant job posts will help identify keywords that are essential for the job role. Employers will clearly lay out their criteria mentioning the primary and desired skills in the job description.”
Stating your responsibilities and personal interests in the CV are no longer enough. To stand out, you need to show your worth, says Talati. “Add numeric data once in every three sentences to show the impact. Incorporate one or two leadership-oriented words every five sentences. Describe your job achievements with different action verbs,” she says. “Don’t just state your achievements—establish context by explaining how you can solve company problems. Write your stories using S-Situation, T-Task, A-Action, and R-Result method. It’s not enough to list your wins, you should also explain how and why they are relevant.”
Reddy agrees, offering an example. If someone is applying for a sales job, hiring managers will be interested to know the sales quota achieved or net retention sales annually. “Tailoring your résumé to the job description is important, emphasizing pertinent skills and experience. Additionally, thorough proofreading is crucial for clarity, conciseness and to show professionalism,” he says.
While keywords and action words help to make the cut, there is a recurring discussion on the right format for a résumé. Should it be plain and simple? Or do video résumés work better in attracting attention? With the existence of a multigenerational workforce, the answer is not so easy. According to PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes And Fears survey, 54% of the Indian workforce are millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), 26% are Gen X (between 1965 and 1980), 15% are Gen Z (between 1996 and 2010), and 5% are baby boomers (between 1946 to 1964)—each has its strengths and USPs.
“While millennials often favour simplicity in résumé design, dynamic Gen Zers prefer video résumés,” says Nandikolla. “The choice between traditional and modern formats depends on the industry and personal preferences.”
For a tailored approach, candidates should align their résumés with both the job role and their unique experience. Utilising data points that highlight successes adds a quantitative dimension.
“A video résumé can be used for profiling your work and is a creative way to show some of your accomplishments but it isn’t a necessary step if you have the key credentials and show some of your interest areas and soft skills that speak to your potential cultural fit in the résumé,” says Nandikolla.
Talati has a few tips for employees to choose the right format for their résumé. “The level of experience is a key factor,” Talati says. “To get noticed during a career transition or industry shift, a combination résumé is ideal. You can send a short clip explaining what has prompted you to make the shift.”
In the case of experienced professionals, the reverse chronological résumé works well. They should focus on showing the impact of their work over listing everything they have achieved, suggests Talati. “To impress recruiters further, consider adding information about your social network, language proficiency, evidence of continuous learning, awards and recognition, volunteering experience, and relevant projects. These additional details provide a more comprehensive view of your skills and suitability for the position,” says Umesh Bamel, associate professor (organisational behaviour and human resource management), International Management Institute, New Delhi.
Lastly, while the use of artificial intelligence tools to write a résumé has its advantages, it’s important to review other aspects. “For instance, is the content generic or meets the needs of the job? Is your personality reflected in the content? Use tools like ChatGPT to improve your sentences, but it would be wise to check the relevance of the tone and language,” says Talati.
It can be an overwhelming process to put everything together for an ideal résumé—that’s why getting an outside perspective always helps. Consider requesting a friend or a mentor to read your CV before hitting the Send button.
Geetika Sachdev is a writer and journalist.