Six Keys To Building Your Resume

Building your resume is not easy. It can be very subjective and there is no magic formula.

Building your resume can be hard, but it can also be very rewarding.

Building your resume can be hard, but it can also be very rewarding.

When building your resume, try to think of what is going through the head of your potential employer. If you have ever been on a hiring committee, or an Admissions committee, from anything to High School volunteer clubs to high-paying positions or elite Universities, you know that there is undeniably an oversupply of skilled labour and qualified applicants in relations to the spots offered. Most people who hire and admit have good intentions and they want to see candidates succeed. However, the nature of their task is to do the extremely painful work of sifting through qualified candidates, trying to pick the best, and to turn-down lots of qualified people.  Hiring committees are painfully aware of how subjective this process is, as most of us have been on the other end of the table (the applicant). The most common way to whittle down the applicant pool is to start backwards: Who can we confidently eliminate first?

Ergo, you can have the best qualifications, but if you make some rookie mistakes in your presentation of your spectacular hard work, this can torpedo your chances at being hired.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you apply for different positions and tailor your resume accordingly:

1. Determine what position am I applying for?  Determining this is the most important piece part and will determine the rest of the content that you write. 

We all have stock resumes with a broad sketch of what we think our strongest experiences, skills, and qualifications are. However, it cannot be repeated enough that in order to really economize your words and create an efficient resume, you must tailor these stock resumes to the particular position you are applying for. Recruiters can smell stock-resumes from a mile-away, they can pick up things that don’t seem relevant, and it may be read as putting in a lack-of-effort in the application process. If a company, firm, organization or government agency isn’t convinced you were serious enough about this position to change up your resume, that does not bode well for trying to convince them that you are committed enough to be hired.

Make sure employers can see (and tell!) the effort that you put in into building your resume!

2. Find a job posting. Read it carefully, underline the keywords, how are you supposed to send the resume to? Does it require a cover letter? Who are you addressing your cover letter too? Is there a Deadline?

Some job postings are for positions to be filled on a rolling-basis. Some positions, like in Warehouses, are first-come, first-serve. Other positions have strict deadlines. These deadlines are often the first ‘test’ for job candidates on their suitability for the position i.e. it’s an extremely simple way of weeding out as mentioned above.

If you are applying online directly through their website, that is great. If you are applying by a job posting service like Monster, Indeed, GoodWorks, etc then you may need to create an account and the job posting may require that you mention how you found this job.

For jobs on these websites that do not have a date, often the positions are open as long as they post is up. APPLY TO THESE ASAP. It is surprisingly common that people will leave a job app open, and then when you refresh the page days or weeks later, the posting is gone.

3. Draw a list of skills and match them to the job posting. Try to match as many a possible, even the ones that seem obvious and not very important. A minor skill, experience or ability can make the difference between you and the next person getting the job.

In trying to communicate with others, a good rule of thumb is that nothing is obvious. For example, let’s say you have a degree in a certain field but you took some specialized courses in college or have done some specialized work throughout your career that is part-and-parcel of that discipline/would be a required course, like organic chemistry for biology majors or how to create draft plans for woodworking. You cannot assume that just because your employer seems to know your field, that they will assume just because you have X degree or Y experience that you in fact know how to do X or Y as required by the job description.

You MUST be explicit when you are building your resume. It is your job as an applicant to make these connections for the reader, not for them to struggle to make them for you. You must spell everything out.

Also, try to match your experience, qualifications, skills, attributes, talents and achievements to the specific wording in the job application.

Thanks to specialization in the labour market, we have created a complex vocabulary of knowledge that is general but also specific to each industry or discipline. For example “Effective resource management” seems clear enough, but depending on the context, this can mean a variety of things. Make sure you know what specific terms are and more importantly, how to link your qualifications within the bounds of that term. 

4. RELEVANT Work Experience.  You need full company names, dates, cities, position, duties and responsibilities.

This may seem tedious and pedantic/a bit too focused on details. Employers will typically look at this AFTER they have had a positive first skim on your resume. Why is this important? Well firstly, you need to show employers that your work history actually seems plausible. For example, did you have two jobs at once? Is there a huge gap in your employment? Do the dates of your education explain this gap? Does your work history show a sense of loyalty to employers, or that you are not one to stick around much?

As you are building your resume, explain some of your duties and responsibilities as necessary. Again, the bulk of your resume and experiences should be relevant work experience, but here you just want to give a flavour of what kind of professional you are.

5. RELEVANT Knowledge & Education. 

Relevance here is the key, and this is probably one of the more intuitive points. If you are applying to be a Security Guard, maybe the fact that you have a Black Belt or you have similar experience (police, military) might be more relevant than the fact that you took a certain course or that you speak another language.

Regardless of qualifications, how you are building your resume can make or break your application.

Regardless of qualifications, how you are building your resume can make or break your application.

The key here is that we often misunderstand “education” to mean a pile of pieces of paper like degrees or certificates. These are important, but employers care less that you have a degree than if your skill set can serve their interests. Do you speak multiple languages, do you have hobbbies, talents, or  achievements,  that can make you stand out? Don’t feel embarrassed to mention these even though they may seem non-professional. A concrete example: many young people are now being hired in Digital Marketing or Social Media positions to effectively help bring corporate marketing strategies into the 21st century. If your rants and raves on Twitter and Facebook are able to get likes, create discussion, and create attention among your followers (i.e. potential clients/consumers), then maybe your social media hobby might be more useful than you think!

6. Professional Achievements are Relevant to the job posting.

This is the flip-side to the above point. Don’t bore or annoy your reader with irrelevant information. A resume is essentially a condensed biography, and you don’t want your reader to have to slog through information they may see as unimportant in order to get to the substance.

There are some things you should always mention when building your resume, which are things that typically “impress” in society under any circumstances. These things usually have to be pretty incredible like joining the military, volunteering in a developing country, graduating with high honours, etc.

However, there are some things that are painful to see on a resume. If you are well on your career, employers really don’t need to know about your grades in college or that you volunteered in student government. Keep it relevant!

There are some tips on building your resume! Share your thoughts in the comments and best of luck in your job search!