They are tedious and time-consuming prospects. Ever the mystery, you’re not sure what to include on them, what to leave out, how to say this, how to say that.
I get it. And you’re not alone.
I was invited to review resumes for attendees at the TorontoJobs.ca Career Fair attendees.
The line-up to gain some resume guidance was about 70 people deep for 4 hours. So when I say you’re not alone in your confusion or concern over your resume, I mean it.
And believe it or not, everyone shares many of the same questions.
Here are a few that I was commonly asked, along with my advice.
1. 2 pages? Fewer bullets? Only show my city? Is that allowed?
Aside from being truthful, there is no resume law. You don’t need to be concerned about whether something is “allowed” or not. What you need to be more concerned about is readability, scanabilty, and general aesthetic. You need to make it something that people want to read. You also need to ensure you’re doing your awesomeness justice.
So for page length, here’s my rule of thumb: If you can say everything you need to say on 1 page, without your resume looking like word salad, go for 1 page. If you can’t, go for 2 pages.
Fewer bullets? Yes. Please. Every resume I saw at the career fair overused bullets. Without exception. Every. Single. One. Check out this post and refer to the Bullet Barf point for advice on effective Work Experience-section structure.
Only show my city? Again. Yes. Please. Not sure why? Check out the same post’s point about eliminating identity theft bait.
When refining your resume, stop worrying about the “rules” and imagine yourself as the recruiter or hiring manager and ask “Would I want to read this?” Let this perspective guide you through the process.
2. But I am a team player/trustworthy/detail-oriented with good communication skills. Why can’t I show this?
Everyone is these things. Don’t waste resume space stating you have qualities that you’re expected to have at the most basic level. Instead, swap out these words for very specific skills that you possess. So considering you are detail-oriented, maybe you are really good at analysis? Or reporting? If you are a team player and great with people, perhaps you have a knack for client services?
3. I’ve been unemployed for 1 month/6 months/1 year. How do I hide this?
Attempting to hide something in your career journey that you’re not proud of is a slippery slope.
What can you do instead? Insert what we resume writers refer to as a “Career Note” where you briefly discuss what you’ve been filling your time with during your period of unemployment.
Done some temping? Talk about it. Gone back to school? Say so.
Anything that shows you’ve been doing what you can to keep your skills fresh, or better yet, acquire new ones, is career note gold. Show it off!
4. I took this job to make ends meet. Should I show it?
Usually. In some way.
Going back to #3, the Career Note, it is best to be fully transparent about the jobs you’ve had. And recruiters get it. In this economy, holding out for that dream gig isn’t always feasible.
If the job was long-term, consider what skills you exhibited that were transferable or valuable to the jobs your applying for now. And then highlight that stuff.
5. My degree name isn’t recognized in Canada. How do I display it?
Get it checked.
This is actually something that we resume writers don’t talk about more, and I think we should.
Sometimes post-secondary education acquired overseas is not recognized by employers. It could be that the degree doesn’t match North American naming conventions, or other reasons that we aren’t necessarily privy to.
So what’s the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success?
Get your credentials assessed.
In Canada, you can contact any one of the designated organizations in this list issued by the Federal Government and get your degree checked for equivalency.
If it’s equivalent, great! Say so beside your degree name so you’re answering the recruiters’ question before it’s even asked.
If it’s not equivalent, don’t lose hope. There are organizations that can help guide you with acquiring the skill set or education you need to be competitive in the Canadian job market.