5 tips to tailor and update your resume

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Career experts say that the biggest mistake applicants make is using the same resume for all job applications (Workopolis). They send a “catch-all” resume, hoping to hit all requirements with a generic document.

This doesn’t work because employers are looking for specific skills and job experience that meet their needs. To get their attention, your resume should directly answer these needs.

Follow these steps to tailor your resume:

  1. Know what “tailoring” means

    Tailoring means limiting the information you put in your resume. You limit it by including only the details that are relevant to a specific employment opportunity. You also use the keywords in the job ad.

  2. Go back to the Job Description

    Read the job description on the job ad. Pay attention to the requirements and duties. Copy the job titles, as well as the verbs used. These keywords are important because companies use automated systems when scanning applications. Only those that contain the keywords pass the initial screening.

    Look at your resume and highlight the parts that fit the requirements listed. Place them in the top two-thirds of the page (after your name and details). Include only the most recent relevant positions. It is possible to include too many jobs or volunteer experience, especially if you’re a seasoned employee. You can move relevant job experience beyond 10 years in the “Other relevant experience” section of your resume.

  3. Use powerful words and numbers

    Avoid using passive words when you describe your achievements or relevant work experience. Don’t use words like helped, handled, or worked. Instead, use spearheaded, launched, collaborated, or planned and implemented. It is important to describe the specific ways by which your work contributed to the company. Quantify as much as you can. For instance, “Spearheaded a clean-up campaign which boosted office efficiency by 25%”, or “Launched a new insurance product that expanded the company’s portfolio and contributed $2M in sales.”

    Avoid overused adjectives like creative, excellent, motivated, and hardworking. In the article “The ten words you need to cut from your resume now” (Workopolis), the author suggests demonstrating these traits by the quality of your work. If you already mentioned that your efforts increased your company’s efficiency by a certain percentage, or you have brought in millions to the company, you won’t need to state that you are an excellent employee.

    Don’t include the line “References available upon request” or indicating your references outright. It is understood that you will need to provide references when the prospective employer asks for them.

  4. Format

    Choose a simple and easy to understand format. Unless you are applying for a graphic designer/artist position, making a decorative resume can backfire. Even then, the employer’s Automated Tracking System (ATS) may not be able to read an overly designed resume. Go for a uniform look that looks professional and polished. Also make sure that your resume is saved in the employer’s preferred file formats, which are usually docx or pdf.

  5. Edit, proofread, then edit some more

    This is the most crucial part of the process before sending out your application. Check spelling and grammatical errors, and fine-tune your sentences by removing unnecessary words. The best way to edit and proofread is to save your document and come back to it after a while. Being too familiar with the content can make you blind to errors. If possible, ask somebody else to review your resume for you. Read: Tips when proofreading and editing your work for more tips.

It pays to make your resume easy to read and understand. It makes it more impactful and attractive to employers.
Article updated November 22, 2023.
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

Many immigrant-serving 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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