Recruiters spend under seven and a half seconds on the first page of each resume – and a poorly-formatted one with even a single serious job-hunting faux pas can quickly get trashed.
A leading career website, Ladders Inc., conducted an eye-tracking study a few years ago to see how recruiters actually look at resumes.
They found that the worst-performing resumes were those that included:
- cluttered layouts characterized by long sentences, multiple columns, and very little white space;
- text flow that did not draw the eye down the page, lacking section or job headers, and;
- a reliance on keyword stuffing.
Those that did the best? Well, they looked good. They had:
- simple layouts with clearly marked section and title headers, all written in a clear font;
- layouts that took advantage of F-pattern and E-pattern reading tendencies, with bold job titles supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments, and;
- a detailed overview or mission statement, primarily located at the top of the first page of the resume.
Even for seasoned job hunters, there can be many pitfalls when it comes to preparing a proper resume for a Canadian job.
That’s because the “proper format” for a resume tends to change with the times and also from country to country.
In the European Union, it’s commonplace to put one’s nationality, civil status, birthdate, gender, maiden name, and, often, marital status in a resume. Not so in Canada. Here, the only personal information that should be included is the applicant’s address, cell phone number, e-mail address and LinkedIn profile.
Europeans and those from Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East are also often surprised to learn that in Canada putting a headshot of yourself in a resume is a no-no.
Here’s how to create a proper resume for a job in Canada.
1. Use The Canadian Resume Style
In addition to the cultural differences mentioned above, it is also a faux pas to state one’s age or describe any physical attributes that are irrelevant to the job. Of course, if the job involves heavy lifting, then, yes, mention that you can lift a lot of weight. But if it’s a sales job, stating you are a bodybuilder is unlikely to be seen in a positive light – unless you’d be selling to that industry sector.
Your resume should focus on your achievements, education, and work experience – not irrelevant personal information.
2. Create A New Resume For Each Job
In today’s competitive labour market, generic resumes scream “LAZY!”
The human resources professional at your prospective place of employment has put time and effort into those job descriptions in the help wanted ad. The least you can do is make note of each requirement and tailor your resume to show how you meet that qualification.
Since a lot of recruiters use online tools to select resumes, it can be helpful to use keywords from the job ad. But don’t overdo it. One of the things that turns recruiters off is a resume that seems to have been created with excessive use of keywords.
The only time an applicant should use a generic resume is when he or she is submitting it to a company’s general pool for future openings.
3. Pay Attention To The Requirements In The Job Posting
The top five points in the job posting’s requirements section are usually the most important qualifications you need to address.
Look them over. Show in your resume how you meet those qualifications without, of course, lying about your work experience or educational qualifications.
Trying to pull one over on a recruiter is a fool’s game. Even if you manage it and get the job despite your lack of qualifications, all you’ll have achieved is the opportunity to look like an incompetent in a job that you can’t do.
Stay true to yourself but showcase those skills the recruiter will want to see in the ideal candidate.
4. A Resume Is Two Pages. Keep It To That.
Even if you’ve got a list of publications a mile long and multiple degrees and a work history that goes back 40 years, keep your resume to two pages. The recruiter doesn’t want an eight-page opus of your life.
Summarize where you can. Keep something for the job interview. Your resume is only to get your foot in the door.
5. Volunteer Work And Awards Count
Work is work is work. It doesn’t matter if it was paid or unpaid if you were exceptional at it and it demonstrates that you accomplished noteworthy things with the kind of skills the recruiter wants to see.
A housewife who manages the family budget, helps coach the kids’ soccer team, drives the bus on field trips, and cooks and cleans for her family is a candidate who brings to a job a whole host of valuable skills, including project management, budgeting, supervisory experience, and facilities management know-how.
Ditto for a dad who built the gazebo and stage for the town park for the community’s centennial celebrations. It doesn’t matter if it was paid or not. It still showcases his skills.
Volunteer work matters. Any awards you won also matter … IF they demonstrate skills relevant to the job. A champion yo-yo award will not impress the recruiter when you apply for a position in the accounting department.
6. Format Your Resume With White And Black Space
A resume is a visual thing. The black text and white space on the page need to be balanced. Too much black text and the effect is overwhelming. Too much white space and the recruiter may be underwhelmed.
The trick here is to use a clean, sans serif font and bold headlines for the main sections.
With three main sections, such as qualifications, professional experience and education, the text gets broken up into three blocks.
This is considered to look neater and more professional.
7. Proof Read Your Resume.
Yes, it took you a while to produce your resume. The deadline to apply is looming. You’re frazzled and you just want to get it out. So, you hit the Send button and off it goes.
And then … you realize you typed in the company’s name incorrectly or misspelt the employer’s name – or your own name.
This shouts, “Incompetent!”
Everyone makes typos. It’s a small thing. But it’s amazing how a badly-placed typo can trip up an application.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Get another coffee or tea, sit down, and calmly proofread your resume. You’ll be happy you did.