Canadian Résumés from the Employer’s Perspective
By Sharon Graham.
Résumé strategists from across Canada discuss the current needs of employers and how to write a résumé that meets those needs.
Career Professionals of Canada recently completed another successful Advanced Résumé Development Certificate Program. Participants contributed to a discussion about how differing perspectives create a variety of challenges for their clients.
Independent recruiters and hiring managers see things differently from job seekers. Although a résumé must be authentic to a candidate, it must also address the specific needs and preferences of the recipients. Somehow, the document must simultaneously match the job description while distinguishing the candidate from all other applicants. This paradox causes a conundrum for an applicant who may need to modify a résumé format to emphasize strengths and mitigate concerns. Dealing with this contradiction can be a “balancing act” for the résumé strategist.
Résumé strategy is constantly adapting to changes in technology, business, and social media. Most Canadians don’t have current and ongoing exposure to résumés. Through no fault of their own, they may be “stuck in the past.” Yet, when it comes to this most important job-search document, recruiters and hiring managers have clear ideas about what they want to see. Having said this, they may not know what a good résumé is until they see one. Many practitioners find that when employers see strong alternative versions of résumés, they’ll often select those candidates.
Résumé strategists bring a different perspective to the job search than an employer or recruiter. The goal is to develop a document that will market the job seeker by intentionally distinguishing them from the rest of the applicants. The purpose of a résumé is to feature a person’s value proposition. However, when it comes to structure and style, employers are specific about their preferences. If we ensure that we create something that is not too far “out of the box”, then employers will look at it. But we also need to be sure that what we create will showcase the unique value that our client brings.
Be Mindful of the Employer’s Preferences
Paula Wischoff Yerama, Executive Director of the Career Development Association of Alberta, has worked extensively with employers. “The feedback I receive about what employers want from a résumé has been somewhat contradictory to what career development practitioners consider to be best practice.” Employers tend to want résumés structured in a formulaic way. For example, an employer might want to always see education first – even if it is not relevant to the position that they are targeting. Or, an employer may feel that it is important to include duties and responsibilities.
One of the best ways to alleviate concerns is to bypass the formal application process altogether, but that isn’t always realistic. With mid- to large-sized organizations increasingly using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), it is especially important to know what format and style the employer is looking for. Because of these diverse preferences, Paula recommends that the best approach to writing résumés is to “be mindful of what the employer is looking for and to make sure that information is presented in a way that will get the candidate screened in rather than screened out.”
Take a Tactical Approach to Résumé Writing
Certified Career Development Professional Sandra Hebert reaches out to employers and recruiters in her role as a career consultant and facilitator. When it comes to résumé formatting and style, she finds that “employers’ preferences can be as diverse as the applicants they seek.” Responses to the most basic questions are often contradictory. “We can see that differences exist, not just between résumé strategists and recruiters.” For example, some prefer profiles and others objective statements, while others prefer neither – opting to go directly to the experience section. For these reasons, it is not appropriate to use a fixed formula when writing a résumé.
Sandra suggests taking a tactical approach to developing each résumé. The strategist should start by drawing out a great number of impact statements, incorporating duties, skills, and accomplishments. Once done, the list can then be ordered and the weakest statements eliminated before writing the résumé.
Develop Relationships With Employers
It is advantageous to know who the recipient of the résumé will be before it is sent in. Shelley Jessop, Career Coach at McBride Career Group recommends going a step further. She suggests that it is critical to develop a deep relationship with a potential employer to “get a feel for” what they are looking for before submitting the résumé. “Even though each company, and to some degree, each hiring manager, has their own individual philosophy, it just shows how important it is to do the groundwork on researching companies as part of the job search process.”
Identify the Employer’s Lingo
Esther Schvan, career transition coach, trainer, and facilitator, suggests that there is no better way to create instant rapport with an employer than by reflecting their language in the résumé. “It is only when an employer can see their needs reflected in a résumé from the get-go that they will be interested enough to continue reading and to eventually pursue this specific applicant.” Esther recommends writing with the job description and the company in mind. “Pepper the résumé with buzzwords and jargon to hook the employer. Use terminology that is relevant not only to the present but also to the future of the industry.” This will make the employer want to learn more in an in-person meeting with the candidate.
Be Authentic in Your Representation
Employers will discount a résumé if they perceive that the information provided is not supported by tangible experience. Natalie Roper, Advisor of Student Learning and Professional Development at Concordia University – Institute for Co-operative Education, has found that competencies and statements listed in the profile need to be backed up. She spotlights the importance of ensuring authenticity in a résumé with an example: “I had one student write how she was able to work with people at all levels of an organization with excellent interpersonal skills in her profile and when I read through her résumé she had never even worked in an organizational setting. In this case, it becomes an easy elimination factor because the person can be perceived as unaware.”
Address Elimination Factors
Kim Donovan, Career Developer at WCG Services in Calgary, suggests that the most important thing is to address elimination factors to ensure that the résumé makes it through the initial scan; at the very least, concerns related to initial review and proofing of the documents. Spelling and grammar, in particular, need to be looked at closely. Lorraine Morris of Next Opportunity Résumé Writing and Career Coaching, goes one step further, recommending that résumé strategists need to be aware of issues such as faulty parallelism and misplaced or dangling modifiers.
A thoughtful, strategic résumé can present a candidate most effectively. Although employers have preferences, most agree that they are looking for a candidate that offers something distinctive. In most cases, if they do receive a strong alternative version of a résumé, they will seriously consider the candidate.
The Advanced Résumé Development Certificate Program is designed to enable practitioners to write strategically. As part of the program, participants receive a complimentary copy of The Canadian Résumé Strategist, our 150-page Certified Résumé Strategist eGuide. The certification program includes a debrief of sample résumés and discusses many of the techniques that professional résumé strategists have featured in the Best Canadian Résumés paperback series.
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