Your resume is the first impression an employer will have of you, and you have less than thirty seconds to make it. It’s important that you customize your resume for each position that you apply to, so that you can highlight your relevant skills and experience based on the job posting. Here are some basics to get you started.
- Keep your resume no longer than two pages. If it’s any longer, nobody will read it.
- Proofread your resume. Most employers will discard resumes with spelling or grammatical errors.
- Customize your resume for each position. Look at the job advertisement and highlight your relevant experience. Use the language that is in the advertisement.
- Be consistent in your formatting and verb tense.
- Consider providing a URL to your online portfolio, blog or video.
- Don’t lie on your resume. If you get caught, you’ll lose the job and the reference.
- Don’t clutter your resume with too much text. Allow for some white space to make it visually appealing.
- Don’t include a lot of vague statements. Instead, provide the employer with examples of your accomplishments.Quantify using numbers to highlight your success.
- Don’t include personal information such as your photo, birth date, marital status or religious belief on your resume. It is inappropriate and unprofessional.
How to make your resume stronger: Telling the employer about your accomplishments
Accomplishments separate average employees from real achievers. They give employers an idea of what they can expect if they decide to hire you. Most employers are particularly interested in how you saved money or increased profits. By including specifics such as percentages or dollar amounts, you make your accomplishments sound even more impressive. Keep in mind that the employer can verify your claims with your reference.
Create your own achievement statements by considering the following questions:
- Did you create or change a procedure that resulted in an increase in productivity or a decrease in costs?
- Did you oversee a project that had positive results?
- Did you solve a problem for your organization?
How to make sure your resume passes the first screening
Since the employer receives hundreds of resumes for each position, each resume goes through a quick screening. During that screening, a person or computer will quickly scan the resumes for keywords which are relevant to the position. If your resume does not contain the required keywords, it won’t be considered further. Keywords are also important for when your resume reaches the employer’s database. In order for your resume to be selected, you need to correctly predict the words that the employer will use as search terms and include them in your resume.
Follow these steps to identify most commonly used key words for your position:
- Look at the job advertisement and highlight all the words that are repeated or emphasized.
- Imagine that you were hiring for your target position. Which keywords would you use to find suitable candidates?
- Talk to people who work in your field and ask them what they think the most important keywords would be.
- Narrow your list down to twenty keywords and include them somewhere in your resume.
Cover Letter Basics
Many job seekers don’t pay enough attention to their cover letter when they are applying for a job. While it’s true that some employers don’t read them, others look at them closely. Since you never know what will interest an employer, it makes sense to use every tool that’s available to you. A well-written cover letter can show the person behind the resume, convey passion for the position or the organization, demonstrate that you’ve done your research and draw connections between the requirements and responsibilities of the position and your previous experience. Here is a template to help you write a cover letter that will set you apart from your competition:
Your Address (you can use the same “Header” as you used on your resume)
City, Province, Postal Code
Contact's Name (research the company to find a contact name)
Address, City, Province, Postal Code
Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. (Contact’s Last Name) or Dear Hiring Manager:
INTRODUCTION: Tell them why you are writing. Name the position for which you are applying, how you heard about it and the date of posting. You can refer the employer to the attached resume in this paragraph or wait until the last paragraph.
BODY: Tell the employer how your skills match those needed for the job. Use resume verbs like planned, organized and completed to describe your skills as they relate to the job. When answering an advertisement, make sure to include all the requirements listed in the ad. This makes it easy to match you to the job. Always refer to the job posting.
FIT: You may want to add a paragraph outlining why you would like to do this job or work for this specific company, and how they match your goals and interests. Mention something you have learned about the company during your research. This is your chance to show the employer your interest in the company and that you have done your homework.
CLOSING: Ask for an interview. Use the closing to suggest a meeting to further discuss your qualifications, and that you are awaiting an immediate and favorable reply. You can refer to your attached resume here if you have not mentioned it earlier. Always thank the employer for their time.
Since up to 80% of jobs are not openly advertised, it is important to use proactive strategies in your job search.
Researching potential openings
- Identify companies that recruit in your area.
- Create a list of 15-20 target companies.
What is networking?
- Developing and maintaining relationships with others.
- Making contacts with people who may be able to help you with your job search.
- Networking is the best way to find employment.
- Networking doesn't just occur in person; it also includes social interactions on platforms such as Linkedin and Facebook.
Who should be part of your network?
Your network can include a variety of people, including family, friends, past and previous colleagues, past and previous supervisors, professors, classmates, alumni from your school, neighbours and people who work in your field of interests.
- Research all 15-20 companies on your target list.
- Always prepare a cover letter for each company.
- Address your letter to the person responsible for hiring in the department in question.
- Avoid “To Whom It May Concern” letters.
- Focus your cover letter on a specific job.
- Avoid asking about “any available position for someone with my skills and qualifications.”
- Follow up with a telephone call one week later.
- Confirm receipt of your resume and request an information or employment interview.
- Learn as much as you can about the job, the company and the department.
- Review your skills and accomplishments, so you are ready to talk about them.
- Identify the skills that are required for the job and how they match the skills you have to offer.
- Prepare answers to the most common interview questions.
- Practice your responses out loud to yourself or with a friend.
- Prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer.
- Find out where the interview will be held and how long it will take you to get there.
- Be prompt – it’s best to arrive about 10 minutes early.
- Wear your best business attire, and make sure you look tidy and professional.
- Bring extra copies of your resume and references.
- Carry a notebook and a pen.
- Smile, be warm and personable.
- Don’t sit until asked to.
- Shake hands firmly when the interviewer offers to do so.
- Watch your body language. Don’t fidget, fiddle with your hair, swing your legs or rock back and forth.
- Try not so say “um,” “uh” or “like.”
- Maintain eye contact.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question.
- Describe your accomplishments and skills and how they apply to the job
- Don’t use one word answers, but don’t talk too much.
- Be positive. Avoid negative words like hate, dislike, refuse.
Dress for Success
When you consider that the employer will be making a judgment on you before you even open your mouth, you can see how important it is to look good. Try to get a sense of the organizational culture so that you can plan your outfit around it. However, keep in mind that you are always expected to dress formally for an interview.
Behavior- Based Interviews
Behavior-Based interviews assume that past behavior predicts future behavior. The employer will ask how you handled a specific situation in the past to determine how you might handle the same situation if you encounter it in this job. For example, the employer may say, “tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker,” or “give me an example of your problem-solving skills.” Since many employers use Behavior-Based interviews, it’s a good idea to have a few stories on hand to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience required for the job so that you’re ready.
Preparing for a Behavior-Based Interview
At a Behavioral interview, you can use stories from your education, work experience, co-op job, field placement, volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, hobbies and family life. Consider your target position and try to determine what type of experience may interest them. For example, if you are applying for a position in sales, they may want to hear about your interpersonal skills and your ability to be persuasive. However, if you’re applying for a position as a manager, they may be more interested in your leadership and organizational skills.
S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Results) Method
The S.T.A.R. method is the best way to answer behavioral questions. For example, if the interviewer asks about a time when you solved a problem, you can say, “I worked at a fast food restaurant and people were complaining because the system of lining up was confusing (Situation). I went and talked to a few of our customers and customer service clerks to get their feedback (Task). Then I bought some markings to put on the floor to show the customers where to line up for each cash register (Action). After that, the complaints stopped and the customer service clerks mentioned that it made their job easier (Result).” Have a few of these stories on hand, but don’t memorize them. You want to tell the story naturally as you would in a conversation. It may be helpful to write down your STAR answers in sentences or at least key words to help your practice and remember your examples.
Start-Up Resources for Entrepreneurs
Have you ever considered starting your own business? Self-employment may be a viable career option for you. If you have an idea for a business but don’t know where to begin, here's some information to help you get started:
- Service Canada - Services for You – Business: This website provides basic information for new entrepreneurs, including relevant legislation and regulations, business planning guides, financing options, registration and HR concerns.
- Service Ontario - ONe-Source for Business: This website offers a multitude of practical resources for entrepreneurs, including information on registration, permits, licenses, taxation, financing, and compliance and insurance (WSIB). This site also offers a variety of tools and resources for entrepreneurs that are just starting their business.
- Enterprise Toronto: Providing assistance both online and at their locations at City Hall, North York and Scarborough Civic Centres, Enterprise Toronto is an excellent resource for small business owners. Enterprise Toronto provides free assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them succeed. Support provided includes one-on-one consultation and advice, assistance with business planning and registration, coaching on various business challenges, training and networking opportunities, information on government programs, and access to Toronto’s small business resource library.
- Futurpreneur: Futurpreneur helps young entrepreneurs aged 18-39 launch and grow their business. This program provides assistance with business planning and offers entrepreneurs access to online business resources, financing, and professional mentors.
- Summer Company: Through Summer Company, you can get two things - 1) Start-up money to kick-off a new summer business, and 2) Advice and mentorship from local business leaders to help get the business up and running. Learning how to run your own student business is one of the best summer jobs you can have. You get to be your own boss while learning what it takes to manage a business. Sales, marketing, invoicing, bookkeeping, customer relationship, management – these are just a few of the highly useful skills you will develop.
- Rise Asset Development: Rise provides financing and mentorship to entrepreneurs living with mental health and addiction challenges who are interested in pursuing self-employment. They offer a Youth Small Business Program for individuals from 16-29 years of age who have self-identified as having experienced a mental or addictions challenge.