Episode 4: Resume writing tips from a resume expert

Episode 4: Resume writing tips from a resume expert


This is Safe for Work, the Workopolis
podcast. Hi I’m Sal Ciolfi and today on the podcast: resume writing. You know, in
theory it sounds really easy. A short document listing all your experience and
skills. But in practice, writing an effective resume can be a soul-crushing
endeavor. To save our souls, we’re here with Sonya Matheson, Workopolis’ employer branding and recruitment services manager. Hey Sonya. Hello how are you? I’m good, thanks. So you’ve been working with resumes for
quite a while, right? Yes I have. So I have been in the field of talent communication, talent acquisitions for about 15 years now, and recruiting and resume
screening and talent acquisitions goes hand in hand so I’ve done a lot of
projects as part of whole 360 onboarding solutions for my clients, and
I don’t want to wager a guess as to how many resumes that I have seen. There’s been a lot. Great so, what do you think are the most important components of a
resume? What’s really essential? I think what’s really essential: quantifiable
skills. Hands down. If you’re a salesperson you want to talk numbers and
targets. If you’re a project manager, you want to talk project size and budgets. You know,
demonstrated experience, what did you do, how did you improve the business, how did
you make your mark in your team and in the business as a whole? I think that
being too vague on a resume, it really seems like you’re hiding something. So
it’s really great when you can have some demonstrated experience on the resume I guess that kind of helps illustrate that value you can bring to a company right? It absolutely does. I mean I think that that one of the things that people
really do tend to get into and when I start reading resumes and I start
crossing is when, you know, there’s a lot of- when you use industry jargon, or
when there’s a lot of, everyone tries to put there, you know, I laugh I go you know
get it put your resume writing pants on and you go out and use these big words
that you’ve never used in actual conversation. And you string them all
together and at the end you’re like what did I just read? So I think, you know, be real, you know, and be yourself. Be, use language that people can understand and please avoid the word passionate. Like
you know I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who’s passionate about working at
a call center, for example. I mean you might love working in a call center, but
I, you know, I hope that you find your passions outside your work and in your
everyday life. Fair enough. OK so what, aside from avoiding the word passionate,
what are some other things that people could do to really make sure their
resumes stand out? Because I’ve read the average job posting gets 250
applications. So what can people do to make sure their resumes get
noticed? Well if I’m recruiting and I’m screening resumes. I love it when
people list their skills right at the top. So let’s say I’m looking for someone
with C Sharp, right, and if you summarize your skills right at the top, and that’s
one of them, then I know that’s a trigger for me that I should be delving deeper
into this resume and really start saying now with the demonstrated experience
with that is. I also think that you have to be clear, to the point. You know
fancy fancy formatting is is really often, it’s often sort of messed up when it enters an applicant tracking system so sometimes people have
all the best intentions of really you know making this really cool resume but
once it goes through an ATS, it really just comes in as a blank page or it’s
all jumbled. OK let me stop you there because there’s a couple things I want to ask you about. So first, for people that don’t know what it is, what is an applicant tracking system? Yes OK. so an applicant tracking system is normally a tool that’s used by employers
to help corral the resumes. All the individuals that that want to apply for
an organization, an applicant tracking system normally will power, it’s the engine that powers your career page. So if you’ve ever applied for a job and
you’ve been asked to put in all of your information, you’re, you know, answer a
bunch of field questions that type of thing, chances are you are applying to an
applicant tracking system. And almost all employers are using them nowadays. And it also helps on the back end for the recruiters to be able to track
candidates, see where they are in the process, make notes, share and do all
that good stuff on the back end. Right so that is an applicant tracking system. OK and then when it comes to formatting, because I’ve
struggled with this a lot over the years, does that really matter if it’s not
going through an applicant tracking system, and if so, what formatting is the most
effective for resumes? Well I I personally feel that that really clean
and simple is is the best way to go. At the end of the day, what you want to
ensure is that your resume is concise, to the point, up front with all of the
relevant information, it includes the jobs and the skills that are exemplary
about what you possess. When it comes to formatting is concerned, you know, as I
mentioned before you know you can have a really really cool fancy format,
especially you know if you’re in the marketing or advertising field or
something like that, or or design field, but very often a lot of the integrity of
your resume, sort of, you know, it’s lost if it goes into a system that
actually can’t read that resume. So you you know, you kind of, it’s all for naught,
and and I don’t know very many recruiters that if they get a jumbled or a
blank resume are going to go through the extra effort of calling that applicant,
right, so you really want to make sure that your formatting is clean and easy.
Word document, PDF, out you go. Great so you said skills at the top, clean
easy format, any other tips and tricks that you recommend? Well you know I really do, I recommend that if you have a LinkedIn profile, you should definitely
add it to your resume. I know years ago I was recruiting for recruiters.
And I had a recruiter come through who only had 50 contacts on their
LinkedIn. And that was, you know, the most powerful networking tool for
professionals right now and and it’s, if you’re a recruiter, you’re not using
that, right? And it was so obvious to me I was like, well this recruiter’s not using the
tools that are easy, that are at their disposal. I also think that you know if
you you’ll want to cover your bases. So if you’ve had several jobs at one company,
that’s great but list the most relevant skills and and you can sort of put the
various titles there and you know but just make sure you’re listing the
relevant skills rather than maybe listing each one separately and making your resume super long for people to have to go through. I also cannot stress enough, you know,
your friend or family member proofread it. I’m in this business and and I
actually had my friend proofread my resume and she found two spelling mistakes. So I’m like it can happen, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Because I’m, you know. But definitely those are things that I would recommend. And on the topic of length, I’ve often read that two pages is sort of the unwritten rule. Do you
think that’s that’s true? I think that’s a myth. You know, I’ve heard that a lot
and in my opinion I think that I would much rather as a recruiter go through
four pages of great experience then understand that person maybe doesn’t
have that skill because they just think they were trying to fit it into a two
page format. I think that as long as the experience is relevant, you can you
can add a little bit more length because that’s really what a recruiter is
looking for. OK. What about people that have been working either, you know, self-employed or freelance. How can someone approach that when it comes
to writing on a resume? Absolutely, well if you if you are a
self-employed individual, you’re a freelance individual, you’re still learning
extremely valuable skills. And if you’re applying to a position, you know, my
recommendation would be, even if it’s with a you know, with an organization,
my recommendation sort of goes back to the first thing I said: keep your
demonstrated skills first and foremost. What you learned, what you accomplished.
Let’s say you had, you were contracted out with certain companies. You’re a freelancer, but you, you know, worked with different company projects. You still made an
impact to the company. As a freelancer or a self-employed individual,
you’re still somewhere doing impactful, meaningful work, right, and I think that
as long as you can demonstrate how those skills could be transferable to the role
that you’re applying for, then I I don’t really see that as a huge deterrent. OK. Do you think that applicants should be tailoring their resume to every
application? Yeah that’s a really good question. Personally, I have several versions of resume. So I have, I mean, they’re very
similar format but they’re slightly different. So you know I don’t tailor for
every position, but let’s say I have one for, you know, I have a very diverse background. So I have one for employer branding, which is something that has been part of
my career in the past. I have one for client management, and one for recruiting. I mean these are things even though all of the roles that I’ve
held have different components of these things what I’ve done in those resumes
is I’ve sort of, I’ve brought those pieces of the work to
the forefront, to really make it relevant for the role that I am that I’m trying
to apply to. And are you doing that by bringing specific skills from those jobs up to
the top? Absolutely I do and you know and I make sure they’re easy to read, I
make sure that you know if I was working on a project that’s relevant to
employer branding that you know I’m going to mention that project on my
resume. And for maybe another role that was more you know it’s more
relevant for talent acquisition, those are the ones I’m going to highlight. So I
have a couple of versions and and for when I am looking for jobs those, you
know, I use them to sort of tailor to which types of roles but not
exactly to the role. I do however tailor my cover letter. So I think that if there are
some serious must have qualifications, then I really make
sure that my cover letter addresses that if my resume doesn’t speak for itself in
those aspects. Well the next question then is: is the cover letter dead? Is it
still relevant? You know what? I believe that it is it
has changed but I still think it’s relevant to have. Because I have done
recruiting for some clients that absolutely insist on a cover letter and
some who wouldn’t ever read a cover letter. You know, it is just
something they scan through and whatnot. It, no matter whether or not
you’re writing a formal cover letter or you’re just simply sending an email or
something like that I mean you do have a couple of sentences there to to sort of
introduce yourself and speak briefly as to why you would be a great fit for the
organization. I think it’s important to always have a cover letter sort of at the ready, you know, and and when you have the opportunity to use it, use it.
Sometimes you know sometimes you might not send
the resume with a cover letter and sometimes you might. But people do still
ask for them. Do you think a cover letter is best used to sort of showcase more of
your personality or to really highlight those important skills that maybe the job description’s asking for? I think it can be both. I think that,
you know, writing, when you’re doing business writing, I think then it’s very
important to allow some of your personality come through. I mean you know business writing is so structured but at the same time you know you do have the
opportunity to to show a little bit of your stuff that you’ve got in
your skill sets. And I think that the cover letter you know it’s a really nice
little summary. If somebody is only looking at your cover letter and they’re
looking at it and they’re going “wow this is well written! Oh, one two three, they’ve hit these
three points.” You know, the likelihood of them going through your four-page resume
is probably more likely. OK. So we’ve touched on formatting
issues that people may run across. What are some of the common mistakes that job
seekers make when it comes to writing resumes? Funnily enough – I laugh about
this but it’s so true – the worst culprit above all else is inappropriate email
addresses. You would be surprised at how many resumes I get with these email address and they’re like extremely inappropriate or silly or you
know bordering on offensive. Maybe, you know, maybe you just clean that up a little
bit folks. But also you know I see a lot of lack of contact information. You know
language like big mistakes when it comes to spelling
errors or grammar errors, that type of thing. Using lots of acronyms that are
really industry specific, right, and especially when I’m doing a lot of IT
recruiting or engineering recruiting, you know, I’ll get a resume that’s 18 pages and the first two pages are acronyms. And I’m sitting there going
okay so I, what? I’m looking at these things and I know you’ve got lots that you want
to you know you want to tell people about but you have to be cognizant of
that. And you know listing experience or jobs that you know you might have held
before your professional career started. So you know for example, maybe
you worked at a grocery store, which is fantastic but now you’re an engineer. You
know, maybe take that experience that you don’t feel was relevant to the role
you’re trying to get now, take that off your resume. It really has no business there. You know, if you ever, if you do get the opportunity to interview and you want to draw on
experience that you had from before you became an engineer, great. You can speak
to it. Doesn’t need to be on the resume. OK from there, so what would you say is
the best piece of advice for someone that’s writing their resume right
now? Well my biggest piece of advice to anyone who asks me now is, the way
the company screen resumes, they’re changing. It’s changing all the time.
You can’t always depend on an industry expert to be screening your resumes. So
if you are, you know, going back to engineering, let’s pick on engineers, but
if you are applying for an engineering role, you don’t necessarily know that an
engineering manager is the one who’s going to be reading your resume. It could
be a human resources person who, or a third party outsource person who might
not be an engineer by trade. So I think that if that’s the case you need to, you
know, not make assumptions that somebody is going to know “if I worked with this, I
naturally worked with this.” You have to list your knowledge and your skills,
keeping in mind that the individual who is reading the resume may not be at that
trade. It’s very common now to outsource this. So I think that you have to take
that into consideration. I mentioned it before: keep your resume clean, concise, easy to understand your skills. And highlight those skills with your demonstrated
experience. So if you have the ability to show that you’ve hit your target 103 per cent every year for the past three years, great. Put that on there
because it’s very important and they’ll qualify it later when they actually have
the conversation with you. Most importantly though I think above
all else is be genuine. Don’t lie about what you can do if you can’t
do it. I mean it will come out and I know that seems like such an easy thing, but
it’s true. People you know people will very often they’ll apply to
jobs that they actually do not have any relevant experience for. And, you know, you
have to be realistic of whether or not you can do that job.
And I think that that is a very important part of job hunting. Amazing. Thank You Sonya. You’re welcome. You may have saved someone’s soul, who knows? Ah, perfect. It’s not as hard as you’d think. I think my last thing I will say is when you get
into that interview, remember: recruiters want you to be the candidate. They don’t
want to exclude you, they want you to be the candidate because once they fill
that job, they can move on to the next job, exactly. So you know when people get in there, they get so scared “oh my gosh they’re trying to get rid of me.” They’re not, they’re
actually wanting you to be the one so always remember that when you go into an
interview. Amazing. Sage advice. Thank you Sonya. Thank you. If you’d like more resume tips and hacks, please check out our blog at workopolis.com/advice. Safe for
Work is produced by me, Sal Ciolfi, Paige Magarrey, and Madisyn McKee. Music by the band Code Pie. You’ve been listening to Safe for Work, the Workopolis podcast.

One thought on “Episode 4: Resume writing tips from a resume expert

  • Before you even start putting down information for your Resumé, it is very important to know thyself. Make an inventory of who you are and what you have to offer to future employers. If you don't know the product – yourself – how can you sell yourself to a future employer. Your Resumé is your business card, it is your brand and it must reflect that. If it does not, you'll never be invited to an interview. Also, you cannot make a one size fits all Resumé, you must tailor your Resumé to each job you apply for. Good blog….

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