The perfect resume: Why is it important?

5 min | Travis O'Rourke | Report | Resumes & cover letters

A man in a blue shirt and glasses makes some notes while on his desk with a computer to his right.

April 22nd, 2024

A well-crafted resume is more than just a formality; it’s the bridge to your future career paths. It’s essential for everyone, from industry veterans to those just stepping into the professional world. Let’s delve into the reasons why your resume is so crucial:

  1. Making a memorable introduction: In the competitive job market, your resume is your ambassador. Employers are inundated with applications, so yours must rise above the rest. Consider it your personal pitch, highlighting your competencies, background, and the distinct advantages you bring to the table.
  2. Personalization makes a difference: A generic resume won’t cut it. Customize your resume for each application, reflecting on the job specifics and the employer’s expectations. Align your skills and accomplishments with the role you’re eyeing, ensuring you present yourself as the ideal candidate.
  3. Navigating the ATS hurdle: Today’s job market often involves navigating Applicant Tracking Systems, which filter resumes based on keywords and pertinent information. To ensure your resume makes it through these digital gatekeepers, it’s imperative to craft it with care, peppering it with terms pertinent to your industry and underscoring your successes.

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Optimizing your resume’s impact: update frequency guidelines

Your resume is not just a document; it’s a dynamic record of your professional journey. To ensure it remains an effective tool for career advancement, regular revisions are crucial. Here’s a guide to the frequency of updates:

  • Twice a year: Even if you’re satisfied in your current position, it’s wise to refresh your resume semi-annually. This practice helps you document any new accomplishments, skills acquired, or expanded duties.
  • Active applicants: For those during a job search, it’s important to update your resume immediately with any significant changes. This ensures that you’re always ready to present the most complete and current picture of your professional capabilities when opportunities present themselves.

Keep in mind, your resume reflects your professional narrative. Maintain its shine, ensure its relevance, and let it serve as a key to unlocking your future career achievements.

Download our resume template to start

Understanding the role of your resume

Your resume serves as a crucial professional narrative, underscoring the significance of your abilities, background, credentials, and key achievements to prospective employers. Recruiters typically glance at resumes for a brief period—often just a few minutes—making it vital to succinctly highlight your most relevant triumphs. The ultimate goal of your resume is to pique enough interest to earn an invitation for an interview.

Articulating your professional value

It’s imperative to effectively display your skills, experiences, and the potential worth you can add to the company.

Ideal resume length

A single-page resume may suffice if it neatly summarizes your qualifications, but the standard resume length is approximately two pages.

How long should a resume be?

Strive for a resume that spans two pages. If it extends well beyond this, consider paring down or summarizing information that isn’t pertinent to the job you’re targeting.

Customizing your resume

Consider the job’s critical skills and qualities, and then assess your resume. Are you allocating space to skills and experiences that are misaligned with the position? If the answer is yes, it’s wise to either remove such content or articulate it more concisely. Prioritize clarity over wordiness.

When to opt for a one-page resume

There are instances where a one-page resume is appropriate. The primary aim in creating your resume is to effectively relay your skills, experience, and potential contributions. If you can do this compellingly on a single page, that’s great. However, it’s important to note that a two-page resume is typically the norm.

What not to use in your resume

Crafting a resume requires discernment. Experienced professionals with a long work history don’t need to list every job they’ve ever had. Skip over early roles such as a high school retail position or captaining a community sports team, and instead, focus on highlighting experiences that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

  • Prioritizing relevance over extensive history: Holding an advanced degree means your high school exams are less likely to be of interest. Include only the education and training that’s directly relevant to the position you’re seeking.
  • Attachments and references: It’s generally not necessary to attach diplomas, certificates, or references to your resume. Save these documents to present upon request during an interview.
  • Personal interests and hobbies: Listing hobbies and interests on your resume isn’t usually required. Focus on the skills and experiences that match the job specifications. If you have limited relevant experience or if the employer asks, you can mention hobbies, especially those that demonstrate job-related skills like leadership or communication. Avoid mentioning hobbies that could be controversial, such as political activities.
  • Creative resumes: Stick to a traditional resume format unless you’re in a creative profession. A creative resume may seem distinctive, but it’s the relevance of your skills and experience that will truly set you apart as a candidate, not the design of your resume.

Don't know where to start? Try our free resume template

A Guide to Composing an Effective Resume

When preparing your resume, remember to use a straightforward and neat format. Follow this standard structure to create a compelling resume:

1. Contact details

Begin with fundamental information like your full name, most frequently used phone number, and a professional-sounding email address. Don’t forget to include your LinkedIn profile. It’s important to be accessible and respond quickly to any interview requests from employers.

2. Professional overview

In a brief paragraph of 50 to 150 words, highlight your relevant experience and skills. This section is your opportunity to demonstrate your worth and stand out. Focus on what you bring to the table, not what you’re looking for in a job. Customize this part for each job you apply for, incorporating keywords from the job description to ensure compatibility with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

3. Summary of skills

Considering that a recruiter might spend only a minute per resume, especially when there are numerous candidates, it’s essential to have a section dedicated to your skills. Create a clear list of your relevant skills, systems knowledge, and proficiencies that meet the job’s criteria, using keywords from the job posting. If the job calls for specific skills like ‘effective administrative abilities and excellent interpersonal skills,’ make sure these are evident. Offer brief instances of where you’ve honed these skills. Tailor this section for each job you apply to, aligning your skills with the job’s unique requirements.

4. Achievements

Highlighting your career achievements is crucial as it allows potential employers to see how you’ve gone above and beyond in your roles. Include significant accomplishments and support them with quantifiable data, such as percentages or figures, and timeframes. For example, if you’ve exceeded sales targets, detail by what percentage and in what period. This section should quickly engage the reader by demonstrating your capacity to make a positive impact. Concrete evidence of your achievements is key to showcasing your value to prospective employers.

5. Work experience

Your work history forms the foundation of your resume, offering a detailed look at your professional progression. Organize your past roles in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. Include employer names, job titles, and main duties.

  • Clarifying your role:  If your job title is unique, you may opt for a more commonly recognized title that accurately conveys your responsibilities.
  • Quantifying achievements: Quantifying your professional successes is essential. Use specific examples and metrics to illustrate the value you’ve added in each role. Employ action verbs such as “managed” or “oversaw” to bring focus to your achievements and their impact.

6. Education & qualifications

Summarize your educational background succinctly, listing degrees, completion dates, institutions, and a brief description.

7. References

It’s not customary to include detailed references on a resume. Instead, indicate that references are available upon request. The most effective references are usually those who have supervised your work and can speak to your skill application and contributions. If you need help choosing referees, seek guidance to select individuals who can strongly endorse your candidacy.

Now that you know how to create your resume and the best layout to use, download our resume template to start!

About this author

Travis O'Rourke
President of Hays Canada & CCO, Hays Americas

Travis is a Marketing graduate from Fanshawe College and was the 2023 recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award. He joined Hays after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays' outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

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