Ask a Recruiter: How do I Write a Good Resume?


The art of writing a good resumé is taking on renewed importance as unemployment rates remain high and the number of candidates vying for the same job increase. Yet many job hunters are making mistakes that eliminate them from the short list, say recruiters.

“It is a very competitive landscape,” says Jackie Chua, general manager of the Full Time search arm with The Bagg Group in Toronto. “There are lots of resumés to be reviewed.” Spelling and grammar mistakes, fluffy or vague language and bad formatting are still prevalent when sifting through a stack of resumés, so many recruiters say there is a need to get back to the basics….

Many organizations use applicant tracking systems that will automatically search for certain keywords used in the job postings. If those words don’t appear in a job hunter’s resumé or cover letter, they could be weeded out, so make sure to read the posting carefully.

Tailor your resumé to each organization and align it and your cover letter with the needs of  the organization and the posting, demonstrating you have done your research. It all starts with the first document a recruiter will see.

Cover letters should be no longer than three concise, succinct paragraphs outlining your skills, education and experience in relation to the job posting. In the last paragraph, outline why you are interested in the job and the company by showing you have done your research on the firm.
Most recruiters advise against using a functional resumé that groups skills; instead, utilize a more effective chronological resumé that highlights jobs individually. Professional experience and education should be first and second on the resumé. Avoid using corporate job descriptions, since your job has likely evolved or expanded during the time you have worked there. Instead, use concise language to be as specific as possible about key roles and the achievements you have reached, such as milestones and performance targets.

In both cover letters and resumés, make use of white space to avoid clutter. Similarly, avoid long bullet lists and compress the points into smaller groups that are easier to read.

The standard format is Microsoft Word, but pay attention to the job posting. There has been a trend toward using Adobe Acrobat (.pdf ) documents, but Word is preferred unless an alternate format is requested in the posting.

Stick to the past 10 years, other than any very important previous experience, since you can elaborate on older experience if asked.

Use positive language and make sure all dates are accurate, since recruiters often verify this information. If you fudge a date, it could come back to haunt you if you get the job…. it’s more important than ever to keep in mind most resumés are not just submitted electronically, but also viewed in that format. Too many people leave the spelling, grammar and formatting functions turned on when submitting a document, only highlighting and magnifying mistakes and generally cluttering the document.

Job hunters can set themselves up for success long before they even start looking for a job if they keep their resumé current. It’s easy to forget key information as time passes, so keeping a document updated on a regular basis will help ensure it stands out and includes all relevant information.

Finally, check with references that they are OK with you using them, but don’t list their names and contact information on your resumé. Just note that references are available upon request, and tell your references what you are applying for so they can have some thoughts prepared if contacted.

Throughout the process, keep in mind the person reading the document. And remember the document’s purpose.”A resumé isn’t to get you a job, it’s to get you an interview,” Ms. Chua says.

excerpts from the National Post, FP Careers, Wednesday November 16, 2009

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