If you are currently on the job hunt in Alberta, you are likely VERY aware that the job market is tight and there is a lot of competition for jobs. Recent reports have our unemployment rate hovering around 8.3%. This is down slightly compared to late 2016 when it peaked (hopefully!) around 9% but still very high when compared to two years ago when it sat at 4.6%.
I’ve been lucky to have had stable employment since I graduated University almost a decade (yikes!) ago. I’m only on my second job in that time period, and the one move I made came out of connection in my industry. I know networking isn’t everyone’s favourite thing (personally, I hate it), but having an ‘in’ can be the exact thing you need to set yourself ahead of the crowd. While you’re working on meeting the right person, you will also want to make sure your resume is looking good and will get you an interview. I’ve had to look in my share of resumes and let me tell you, resume writing is not a skill everyone has! Particular things drive me nuts when I’m browsing through a stack of resumes. Then there are the things that will get you moved to the keep pile almost instantly. It is SO easy to avoid simple mistakes, you just have to be careful! Let’s talk about that. What can you do to improve your resume and what do you need to make sure you avoid at all costs.
1. No Pictures
Nothing catches me off guard more than someone who includes a head-shot on their resume. I realize that in some places this is the norm, but here in Canada it most certainly is not. The only reason it might not be a hard pass is if you’re applying for a modeling position, but if that’s not the case then just don’t do it…ever.
2. Spelling and Grammar
You would be shocked how many resumes that I have read that have spelling or grammatical errors in them. Come on people! This is the easiest of easy fixes. Use the built in spell check on your computer and take advantage of free grammar programs to catch the most obvious errors (I like Grammarly). Then get someone to proofread your resume to make sure there is nothing you’ve missed or maybe a more efficient way to say something. Not taking simple steps like this makes you look lazy and nobody will want to hire you. It might sound harsh, but if I’m going to through a bunch of resumes, any with spelling or grammar errors will instantly be put in the ‘no’ pile. #sorrynotsorry
3. Short and Sweet
Keep things concise, so the person looking at your resume actually takes the time to read through it. I highly recommend keeping it all on one page if possible. You don’t necessarily have to put every single position you’ve held on your resume. If there are jobs that don’t apply to the job you’re applying to then feel free to leave it off. It’s more important that you show your potential employer that you have the skills they are looking for. Basically, if you are applying for a job as an architect, you don’t need to include your job history as a line cook. I’m also not a fan of the ‘Objective’ section that is included in most resume templates. It just feels so fake and unnecessary.
4. Reliable References
You can hold off and not put your references directly on your resume, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to include them. The chances of a potential employer contacting them before you go in for an interview is slim (checking up on references sucks). Keep the number of references limited to 2-3 and make sure they are good ones. The last thing you want is to have a successful interview and then have one of your references not give you a glowing review. This is why you always, always need to check with people before you list them. If you are having trouble coming up with references, then think outside the box. It doesn’t always have to be an old boss, you can use a co-worker or a family friend that can speak to your personal attributes. A good reference from a not so great source is still better than a bad reference from a more credible source.
5. Qualifications are there for a Reason
It might seem like a good idea to apply for ALL the jobs, but it really isn’t. There is nothing more frustrating than reading a resume and wondering why the heck someone applied to the job. On just about every job posting you look at there will be a list of qualifications or required skills, make sure you fit the bill. If not, sorry, but keep on searching. If you are dead set on getting a particular type of job that you consistently don’t have the qualifications for then it might be worth your while to work on that. Maybe there’s a course you can take or some other job you can get to build your experience. It might not be ideal, but it’s better than doing nothing. Sometimes you have to spend a bit of money to better your education because getting your dream job.
6. Employment Gaps
There’s not much that scares away a hiring manager more than an unexplained hole in your work history. If you have lots of short term jobs and gaps between them all, it makes it look like you aren’t able to hold down a job and that no one else wants to hire you. Be aware of this and try to cover yourself. Obviously lying on your resume is not the way to go, but leaving out a few details can help you get your foot in the door. Instead of putting down exact employment dates maybe just organize it by year, so it doesn’t look like you’ve been off work for as long. Details like this are always easier to explain in a person so make sure your resume highlights only the positive.
7. The Dreaded Cover Letter
I hate cover letters, I hate writing them, and I hate reading….but, you know what? Write one anyways! This goes back to the laziness factor. Taking the time to introduce yourself through your cover letter makes it look like you are more serious about getting the job. It might not even get a second glance from a prospective employer, but it’s not going to hurt your chances. You’ll want to follow many of the same tips we’ve talked about for your cover letter; proofread, keep it concise and highlight your qualifications. Make sure you personalize at least a portion of it to the company you are applying to so it doesn’t look like you just have a generic letter for everyone. Hopefully, these resume tips will help you on the job hunt, and if you’ve got other tips, please feel free to post them in the comments.