5 tips to tailor and update your resume

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According to career experts, the biggest mistake people make when preparing resumes is using the same one over and over again for all applications (The biggest mistake on a resume, Peter Harris, Workopolis). Many applicants send a “catch-all” resume, hoping to hit all requirements with a generic document. But in the highly competitive Canadian job market, each employer is searching for a unique set of skills that would best fit their corporate culture. So in order to catch their attention, you would need to pattern your resume after their specific needs.

To do this, you should review the job description, draft the resume to reflect only relevant information, use powerful words, make sure that your resume is easy to understand, and that it is error-free. Easier said than done right? This is why we have prepared our top five resume tips to help you customize and update your resume:

  1. First of all, what does “tailoring” your resume mean?

    Tailoring limits the information in your resume to reflect only those that are relevant to the specific employment opportunity. This means that you include only the details that will make you a prime candidate for the particular position. It also requires that you use specific keywords used by the prospective employer.

  2. Go back to the Job Description

    To know the keywords, you have to refer to the job description in the want ad. Pay close attention to the job summary and job duties. Take note of the job titles, industry buzzwords, as well as the verbs used. These specific keywords are what the hiring managers are looking for in your resume.

    Look at your generic resume and look for the parts that fit the requirements listed. These will be the elements that you will need to emphasize and place in the top two-thirds of the page (after your name and details, of course). It is possible to list too many jobs or volunteer experience, especially for seasoned employees. But listing down all of these can water down the relevant elements. So include only the most recent ones. If you feel that some of your older job or volunteer experience need to be mentioned because of achievements or skills learned, place them in the “Other relevant experience” section.

  3. Use powerful words and numbers

    Avoid using passive wording when you describe your achievements or relevant work experience. Words not to use: helped, handled, worked. Instead, use spearheaded, launched, collaborated, or planned and implemented. Also, describe the specific ways by which your work contributed to the company. The best way to do this is to mention specific figures when appropriate. For instance, “Spearheaded a clean-up campaign boosting office efficiency by 25%”, or “Launched a new insurance product that expanded the company’s portfolio and contributed $2M in sales.”

    Also, avoid using trite adjectives like creative, excellent, motivated, and hard working. Harris, in his article “The ten words you need to cut from your resume now” (Workopolis) suggests demonstrating these traits instead by the quality of your work. If you have listed that you have contributed to your company’s efficiency or have brought in millions to the company, you won’t need to state that you are an excellent employee.

    Also, do not end your resume by stating “References available upon request” or writing down your references outright. It is understood that you will need to provide these when the prospective employer asks for them.

  4. Format

    Choose a format that is simple and easy to understand. Unless you are applying for a graphic design position, making your resume decorative can backfire. Remember, a hiring manager goes through hundreds of resumes in a day. You will be making his job easy for him if your resume looks uncomplicated. Also, avoid overly emphasizing things using boldface or larger font sizes. Go for a uniform look that looks professional and polished.

  5. Edit, proofread, then edit some more

    This is the most crucial part before sending out your application. It will ensure that your resume is error-free and concise. The best way to edit and proofread is to save your document and come back to it after a while. Being too close to what you are writing may make you blind to some errors. Better yet, ask somebody else to check the document for you. Look out for spelling and grammatical errors. It will also be good to fine-tune your sentences by weeding out unnecessary words.

    It pays to make your resume easy to read and understand. It makes it all the more powerful when you minimize the clutter and go straight to the point.

Sources: Optimize your resume if you want to get the job, Peter Weddle, Career Cast.com; Tailor, tailor, tailor your resumes, Taunee Besson, Career Cast.com.

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Community Resources

To know more about resume-writing, download this guide from Manitoba Career Development.ca: A guide to writing resumes.

Most settlement provider organizations help in resume-creation and provide other career supports. A good organization to go to is Manitoba Start. You can also check other organizations that can help you on this page: Immigrant Serving organizations (under Employment).

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