The Most Important Word To Remember When Creating Your Résumé

The world of résumés is full of “rules.” Unfortunately though, there are so many conflicting opinions that writing your résumé can quickly become an anxiety-inducing experience.

There are the obvious things like checking your spelling and grammar and using a clear and easy-to-read format. Those don’t really need any explanation. But what about the rest? Do I need to stick to two pages or is three OK? Should I explain my career break? What order do the sections need to be in? Do I have to include referees, or can I state “available on request?”

These are all great questions, but I want to simplify your thinking by helping you focus on the end game. The point of a résumé is to get you an interview. It’s a document tailored to address the key criteria of the role you’re applying for. You’re showing that you have what the employer is looking for.

The word to remember

So, the single most important word to remember is relevance. I use this word so much when working with clients on their résumés, I sound like a broken record.

So what do I mean by relevance?


A resume is:

A piece of marketing that sells the knowledge, skills and experience you have that the employer is interested in i.e. the things that are relevant to the role.

A resume is not:

A blow-by-blow account of your life story. A recruiter doesn’t want to hear this any more than a stranger you just met at a party would (yawn!).

When a recruiter is short-listing candidates for a role, they’re comparing them to the criteria for the role. Think of the job advert as a simple checklist. Usually the employer will include all of this information in the job advert — which could look something like this…

“To be successful in this role you will need… a degree in X or related discipline, exceptional problem solving skills, proven ability to work independently as well as in a team… etc.”

There it is. That’s what the recruiter is looking for when scanning your résumé for the (scarily) brief window of time that you have their attention (most likely less than 10 seconds in the first instance!).

If the criteria aren’t obvious from the job advert (or the opportunity hasn’t been advertised), create your own. Take an educated guess as to what they would be looking for. For example, if it’s an engineering role perhaps attention to detail, problem solving, analytical skills and communication would be relevant (hint: always include communication).

Ticking all the boxes

Your mission is to show you’re a good match within those few seconds that eyes are on your résumé, and do it obviously. Make sure you’re highlighting the relevant items through your education, work experience tasks, achievements and skills.

Ideally, you want to tick all the boxes. But you genuinely may not have one or two covered. Don’t be deterred (I secured my first professional job from applying for a role that required a PhD I didn’t have). Cover every item you do have with conviction, include a cover letter demonstrating your drive and enthusiasm, and go for it.

Some employers put together a wishlist that can’t be met by anyone, so don’t rule yourself out by assuming you’re competing against unicorns!

So that’s it. Start by identifying the checklist and tailoring your resume to highlight your qualifications, skills and experience which meet the criteria.

Be honest, but remember, it’s marketing.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of

image credit: Bigstock/fizkes

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