If you're the type of person who enjoys helping others, then a job in customer service could be rewarding and fulfilling for you. From retail to hospitality and a number of other industries, the options for a career in customer service are nearly limitless. No matter where your specific interests may lie, you can find a position to suit your short- and long-term career goals. Some common examples of customer service positions include technical support, help desk staff, account manager, call center representative, and concierge.
Despite the high demand for customer service specialists, the industry itself can be very competitive. For this reason, if you're applying for a customer service position, it's important that your resume and cover letter stand out as much as possible. After all, for any one position, it's likely that your application will be just one of dozens or even hundreds that need to be sifted through by a human resources representative. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your customer service resume stands out among others in the pile.
Understand The Need for a Specialized Resume
All too often, job applicants put together a "general" resume that they use to apply for every job with little to no modification. Unfortunately, general resumes don't tend to be very successful—especially for customer service positions. While it can be helpful to put together a "base" resume, it's imperative that you take the time to update and tweak your resume for each individual position you apply for. Today's human resources staff and management teams are looking for job applicants who have tailored their resume and past experience to demonstrate exactly why they're the best candidate for the position. This means your objective, employment experience, skills, and other areas of your resume need to be written specifically from a customer service perspective, and no two resumes you send out should be exactly the same.
Focus on the Most Relevant Experience
While listing your prior employment experience in reverse-chronological order is a common strategy for tackling your "previous employment" section, consider thinking outside of the box. This is especially important for situations where your most relevant professional experience may not be your most recent position. For example, let's say you worked full-time as a retail department supervisor a few years ago, but had to quit your job while pursuing a college degree. Currently, you're working in a non-CSR position on your school's campus. How should you handle this on your resume?
Ideally, your most relevant professional experience should be listed first in the employment section of your resume. This means you may not be working in reverse chronological order. One possible way to handle this is to divide your employment experience into two sections: "Relevant Professional Experience" versus "Other Employment Experience." This way, you can highlight all of your relevant customer service work near the top of your resume (where it's most likely to be seen) and use the other section to show that you've held steady employment in other industries as well.
Revamp Your Job Descriptions to Include "Buzzwords"
More than likely, the human resources or management staff that reviews your resume will not have the time to read it word-for-word. Instead, they're likely to skim your resume to get the important facts they need. As they skim, they'll be looking for industry "buzzwords." Some common customer service buzzwords to include in your job descriptions (if they apply to you) include:
- customer engagement
- active listening
Furthermore, if you have any experience with using social media to engage customers with a previous position, be sure to highlight this; workers in the customer service industry are becoming increasingly relied upon for the management of company social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.
Tailor Your Resume to the Position You Want
Your resume and application for a cashier position should be significantly different from your application/resume for a retail supervisor position. For example, while a cashier resume may highlight your experience in cash handling and problem-solving, a supervisory position should have more of a focus on leadership and communication skills. As you seek out customer service job postings and decide to apply for one, one of the best things you can do is to incorporate as much information about the job you're applying for into your resume.
For example, if a job posting for a call center representative is seeking workers who can work in fast-paced environments and resolve conflicts, then you should tailor pieces of your resume specifically to reflect these abilities in yourself. This may mean including specific examples of other fast-paced positions you've worked in, or examples of situations where you were relied on to solve a problem. The more tailored your resume is to the position you're applying to, the better the chances you'll receive a call for an interview.
Demonstrate Past Accomplishments
One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing a customer service resume is that they fail to highlight their past accomplishments with concrete examples. Don't be modest as you write your resume; this is your time to shine and make yourself stand out from the dozens (or hundreds) of other job applicants. If you were able to successfully lead your sales team to lead the region in sales, or earn an award for customer satisfaction at a previous job, this is something that needs to be included in your resume! Specifically, any awards or special recognition should be included in their own dedicated section, preferably towards the bottom of your resume. You can include job-specific examples of accomplishments within the bullet points of each listing.
Highlight Employment Stability (If Applicable)
Customer service is one of the industries with the highest turnover rates. Specifically, a whopping 70% of customer service workers will quit their jobs within the first year. And of course, turnover is expensive for any business, as it wastes a great deal of money and resources in the hiring and training process. For this reason, an increasing number of companies hiring for customer service jobs are looking for applicants who have a proven record of sticking with their jobs and being stable/reliable.
This is where you should take the time to highlight your employment stability, if applicable, on your resume. If you were with a company for several years, this is something that could help to set you apart from an applicant with similar skills/experience but less stability in employment. If you have gaps in your resume that are more than five years old, you may even want to consider including only your last five years of employment experience so as to avoid having to include those employment gaps—especially if your jobs prior to this point weren't closely related to customer service.
List Relevant Coursework and Education
If you're currently in school or have completed any level of higher education, take some time to review the classes you've taken to see if any of them would be relevant enough to list on your resume. Contrary to what some people believe, you don't need to have obtained a degree to list college coursework on your resume. You can simply list your education as "relevant coursework," and then list the classes with a short description of how they helped you build your skills in the customer service industry.
For example, a class in communications or even a course in a foreign language could be relevant to a job in customer service. That Spanish class you took could make you a more valuable employee when it comes to communicating with customers/clients who speak another language, and your communications class probably taught you some valuable conflict-resolution and general people skills. Why not include them?
A Note About Formatting and Length
One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a customer service resume is that you need to respect the time of the person reviewing your resume. While it may seem like a good idea to send in a three-page resume detailing every job you've ever had, there's a good chance that a resume this long will be immediately overlooked due to its length. Ideally, you should keep your resume to one printed page at most. This doesn't include any cover letter you may choose to include (although even cover letters are becoming less popular these days).
And of course, take the time to make sure your resume is formatted in a logical way. At the very top, you should have your name and contact information (including phone number, e-mail address, and home address) listed. From there, an objective statement with your intent to apply for the specific position can also be helpful to include for larger companies that may be hiring for more than one position at once.
Next, include either your relevant educational or employment experience, followed by a list of specific skills. Then, if you have room, include a list of any relevant awards/accolades. References can be helpful but, unless they're required as part of the application, you may just want to include a note that references are available upon request.
These are just a few important pieces of advice to keep in mind as you prepare a customer service resume. While it will take some time and effort to put together a quality resume, you'll likely find that your hard work will pay off when you receive phone calls for follow-up interviews. Ultimately, a well written resume could be the difference between securing the career of your dreams and missing out on your ideal job.