The first step to getting your dream job is crafting a killer resumé — one that’s clear, concise and demonstrates why you’re the best candidate.
But in an increasingly competitive job market, it’s tougher than ever to create a resumé that will make you stand out among hundreds of other applicants.
Career experts Maureen McCann of Promotion Career Solutions and Susan Murray, chief research officer at the Business Excellence Institute, have seen thousands of resumés between them.
Here, they explain the most common mistakes prospective employees make on their resumés and how to avoid them.
It might seem frivolous, but the way your resumé physically looks can say a lot about you as a candidate.
Your resumé should be organized, easy to read and easy to digest. For example, a disorganized resumé could inadvertently suggest that you’re a disorganized employee.
“You’re always demonstrating who you are… Make it really easy for them to pick you,” said McCann.
“I would say the most common mistake is that people use the template from Microsoft Word ’97, which is more than 20 years old now. That’s not to say you can’t use a template and then make changes to it, but from a visual perspective… you want to stand out in what is a very competitive job market.”
Murray prioritizes clean lines and easily identifiable figures.
“Have the numbers [to explain] what your current role is” and the difference you’ve made at your current company, said Murray.
Start with the most relevant information
Before you put together a resumé, thoroughly research the company you’re applying for.
“You’ve got to know them better than any of your competition,” said McCann. “Then, incorporate what you’ve learned into your reasoning.”
When you’re compiling your relevant skills and experience, do it strategically to avoid “a laundry list of things.”
“Say: ‘This is what I’ve done, and this is where it added value to the company,’” McCann said. “Put the headline at the front, otherwise you’re burying the lede.”
Typically, McCann recommends starting with a brief profile at the beginning, using relevant keywords and career highlights to draw the reader in.
“Grab their attention as quickly as possible, because they’re likely scanning through your resumé very quickly — they’ve got a lot of resumés to go through — so you want to make it really easy.”
Ditch flowery language and long paragraphs
Once you’ve determined your relevant skills and experience, convey them in a way that is straight to the point.
“Keep it in three to five bullets related to each role,” said Murray. “What does your LinkedIn say? What does your Twitter say? If you’re able to do it in a Twitter post, why can’t you do the same with a resumé?”
She goes as far to say you can skip the objective.
“You’re already applying to the job so they know what your objective is,” Murray said.
This will vary from job to job, but for the most part, keeping it concise is key.
“There are certain cases where you do have to write paragraphs, like for a curriculum vitae, which is different than a resumé, but… for most jobs, bullet points will suffice,” said McCann.
This also means removing the “hobbies” subtitle from your resumé.
“I think a resumé should professionally capture who and what you are right now,” said Murray.
Keep multiple resumés on hand and optimize them all for applicant tracking systems
Murray also recommends having multiple resumés in your rotation, depending on the kind of job to which you’re applying.
“If I’m applying for a research project, I have my more academic resumé versus my financial consulting job, [the resumé for which] is way more concise.”
More than 90 per cent of large companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are algorithmic systems that analyze resumés to bring those of the most qualified applicants to the surface.
Unfortunately, if your resumé hasn’t been optimized for your specific role, it could fall through the cracks — even if you’re more than qualified for the position.
McCann recommends tools like Jobscan, which performs a cross-examination of your resumé and the job description to ensure your resumé is optimized to appear should the employer use an ATS.
Hire a professional
If all of this advice is overwhelming or you’re worried about landing the interview, you can always hire a professional to guide you through the process.
McCann recommends Career Professionals of Canada, a directory that you can use to source a resumé writer or career professional.
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