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Tips for Writing Effective Resumes: Audio Interview

In this interview we discuss tips for writing effective resumes with Michelle Pandith and Carolyn MacDiarmid, employment specialists with CCRW’s Workplace Essential Skills Partnership.

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Interviewer:  Welcome to this Project Aspiro Audio Feature. Today we’ll be talking about tips for writing effective resumes with Michelle Pandith & Carolyn MacDiarmid, Employment Specialists with CCRW’s Workplace Essential Skills Partnership.

What are some of the keys to an effective resume?

Carolyn: Well one key is to always have an objective and rather than having a long objective that winds and takes up a lot of space on your resume, all the employer needs to know is the name of the position for which you’re applying and the name of the company .

So if you’re applying for a customer service position with CNIB all your objective has to say is Customer Service Representative with CNIB. After the objective you should have a profile that highlights your strengths and your achievements as they relate to the position you’re applying for. In your work history you should start with your most recent employment and you shouldn’t go back more than 10 years unless you held a position over 10 years ago that was directly related to the type of work you’re applying for. So if you’re applying for a management position and you held a management position, let’s say, 11 years ago, then it’s okay to include that on your resume.

For each work entry name your job title first and then the name of the company that you worked for. Generally speaking, most employers are more interested in knowing the type of work that you performed rather than where you performed it. Another point would be when outlining job duties refrain from using the expression “Was responsible for…” Everybody is responsible for a number of duties when they are employed but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they carried them out. So rather than using this expression sound proactive and use past tense active verbs such as maintained, completed, managed, coordinated, etc.
Interviewer: Okay, what speaks more to what was accomplished.
Carolyn: And a very important point, the last point I’d like to make is to always have someone with strong writing skills proofread your resume and cover letter, because if the employer receives a multitude of response to a single position, they will use every strategy available to them to put you out of the running, so to speak, so you want to stay in the running, make sure there are no errors on your documents.
Interviewer: Okay great, that’s some great advice.
Michelle: And just another additional tip, it’s always important to remember to that the job posting is your guide to how to write your resume. So you want to customize each resume to that job posting and make sure you’re a good match, and try to focus more on your accomplishments rather than just simply your duties.
Interviewer: Okay great, that’s great. So we’ve talked about some keys to effective resumes, what about the style or format of resumes, is there one that’s preferred?
Michelle: Yes, actually there is. There are 3 major styles of resume. So you have the chronological, the functional, and the mixed, or combination resume. The functional is actually the least desirable and that’s just feedback we’ve received over the years through employers.

The chronological, as Carolyn talked about earlier, it’s actually a reversed chronological history of the jobs you’ve held where you describe what you did and accomplished at each job going back about 10 years. A mixed resume or combination is where you might divide your experience into relevant experience and list your jobs in reverse chronological order and then have another section of additional experience. That way you can customize your job history to the type of work you’re applying for. So like I said, those two, chronological and mixed, are more desired by employers than the functional resume.
Interviewer: Okay, is that because they’re just more used to seeing that?
Michelle: You know what, those two styles of resumes are more clear. It gives the employer a clear idea of where you use certain skills in what jobs, also a very clear picture of your work history. So unfortunately if there are any gaps or anything like that it will stand out a little more. Now that doesn’t mean that the employer is going to disregard your resume, but it’s just, you know employers normally look at resumes for about 3 seconds, and these two styles give them the information quickly so that’s what they prefer.
Interviewer: Okay so we talked a bit about having someone proofread your resume. Is there anything else that you might want to have someone do, in terms of reviewing your resume?
Carolyn: Well if you haven’t written your resume for a period of time, you could get assistance from a professional in the employment field, as trends do change over time, and that person could be able to guide you and give you advice with your resume writing. For the final copy, do have someone check it, someone with strong writing skills. If the person does not have strong writing skills, chances are they won’t pick up on grammar and spelling errors. As I said earlier, a single error could put you out of the running for a position so do make sure that your documents are error free.
Interviewer: Okay, sounds good. And what about thinking about people who are blind or partially sighted, is there anything that you recommend specifically in regards to resume writing?
Carolyn: If you are blind or partially sighted you might want to get someone to double check your formatting before you submit your resume. Then you could ask someone to review your document before hand and not submit it not knowing that there’s an error on it. However having said this, people who are partially sighted or blind if they have strong writing skills they won’t need someone to do this.
Michelle: In some cases it certainly could help. I know we’ve experienced folks who perhaps there was an indent that shouldn’t be there or something was tabbed over or it’s not quite in-line with something else. Minor glitch, but it’s an easy fix, so for anyone it’s great to have someone go over your resume, and that includes people with vision loss.
Interviewer: Okay great. And so on that note, do you recommend to clients you work with with vision loss or another disability, do you recommend that they disclose that in a resume?
Carolyn: That would be up to them and it wouldn’t be the resume, it would be the cover letter there’s no right or wrong time to disclose it’s strictly a personal choice and it would never be done in the resume, it would be in the cover letter stage.
Michelle: That’s something we certainly coach our clients with. It’s difficult to make that decision on your own so to work with an employment counsellor and figure out if that’s the right choice for you or not, is a good idea.
Interviewer: Okay great. Well that’s provided us with a lot of information about writing effective resumes and thanks so much for talking with us today.
Michelle and Carolyn: Thanks for having us.