Your Resume Part 5 – A Counter-Example

The major struggle of the Fintelligence project is getting in front of educators and asking them to allow me to volunteer my time to speak about Career and Financial Literacy in front of students. More often then not, teachers I speak with are interested but there is very little follow up. It’s likely that having an outsider speak to their students is such an uncommon part of their daily work processes that I just slip through the cracks. I’m frustrated by this and need to find a better way.

I’m motivated because there is a not only a lack of information in the areas of career and financial literacy, the little that is out there is often mis-information (even from sources that may be the most well-intentioned).

For example, here’s a resume template I recently found on the Career Planning section of a local high school’s website. This is what is being touted as a good example for students to follow. No wonder most (every?) resumes I get has the line “Work well independently and as a team member” in the Skills section.

On the surface, there’s nothing that stands out as wrong in this example (except for the typo under Education). However, there’s also nothing that stands out at all – this is the main problem. As I’ve discussed previously, resumes are intended to get you an initial (typically phone) interview. Typically, employers receive hundreds of applications and must narrow the list of applicants to a manageable size. If you want to get on the call list, your resume must stand out.

Instead of using this example as a starting point for your resume, it may be instructive as a counter-example to illustrate the points discussed in our previous posts.

1. Assume the Reader is Lazy

You need to catch your potential employer’s attention in 15 to 30 seconds or risk being relegated to the “B” pile. It just does not make sense to use the top one-third page of the resume to give address, a weak objective statement and to only convey that the applicant is a grade 12 honours student who will likely graduate high school at the end of the school year.

I’m assuming in this example that the applicant is applying for a job in the automotive industry. Sending a resuming to a company in the auto industry and stating this as an objective is redundant. Its much better to use this valuable space to tell the employer who you are and what you want. For example, something like the following would be much more informative and interesting as a summary-level statement.

“A driven and energetic high school senior with diverse work experience in retail, customer service and warehousing, I am passionate about cars and seek part-time employment in a dynamic and challenging work environment in the automotive industry.”

2. No Keywords

Employers scan resumes for familiar keywords. These are terms, skills, experiences that align with their industry (typically words that can be found on the original job post). Given the applicant is applying for a position in the auto industry, it would make sense that the resume should contain some words that may be specific to that environment.

Note that “punctual”, “quick learner”, “internet”, “email” are not keywords that will stand out to most employers. 

3. No Outcomes

For a Grade 12 student, having three previous jobs is impressive. However, the bullet points under each job merely provide the job descriptions of each position. This is something the reader already knows. I’m pretty sure most people know someone who works at Toys-R-Us stocks shelves, does inventory and provides customer service. 

It would be much better to tell the reader something she doesn’t already know such as outcomes the candidate actually achieved during their previous employment. For example, the key success metrics at Toys-R-Us and how the applicant was able to achieve them.

4. Unnecessary Information

“Work well independently and as a team member”, and “Quick learner and punctual” are barely skills – they’re actually self-assessed claims that almost everyone uses on their resume (I don’t know why). I see it on most resumes likely because many templates written by people who ought to know better include it. These statements are lazy and add nothing to an application. They’re a waste of valuable space. Worse, they tell the reader that you didn’t spend time thinking about how you can really add value. 

It would be much better to write real tangible skills in this section that may be of interest to a potential employer. In this case, perhaps things like having experience with warehouse inventory (the applicant likely has that from the BAX Global job), workplace health and safety (from WHMIS training at McDonalds), customer service, etc.

As discussed previously, stating “References available upon request” is really an unnecessary use of space.

Ultimately, if you’re reading this, the good news is that if students are taught to follow this example, then those who actually engineer their applications with appropriate keywords, outcomes and remove unnecessary clutter will really stand out. Good luck getting on the “A” pile.

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