Why your resume matters

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

Your resume isn’t just a mundane document—it’s your golden ticket to career opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a fresh graduate, your resume plays a pivotal role in making that crucial first impression on potential employers. Here’s why it matters:

  1. First impressions count: Employers often sift through a mountain of resumes for each job opening. Yours needs to stand out from the crowd. Think of it as your professional introduction—a chance to showcase your skills, experience, and unique value.
  2. Customization is key: One size doesn’t fit all. Tailor your resume for each job application. Study the job description, understand the company’s needs, and align your qualifications accordingly. Highlight relevant achievements and skills that make you the perfect fit.
  3. The ATS challenge: Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are the gatekeepers. They scan resumes for keywords and relevant content. Craft your resume strategically to pass this initial screening. Use industry-specific terms and emphasize your accomplishments.

Download your template now

How often should you update your resume?

Don’t wait until you’re actively job hunting to dust off your resume. Regular updates are essential. Here’s how often you should revisit it:

  • Twice a Year: Even if you’re content in your current role, set a biannual reminder to update your resume. Capture recent achievements, new skills, and any additional responsibilities.
  • Job Seeking: If you’re actively searching, update your resume promptly whenever there’s a relevant change. Don’t risk forgetting crucial details when the right opportunity arises.

Remember, your resume is your personal pitch. Keep it polished, relevant, and ready to open doors to your next career move!

Download our resume template to start

The function of a resume

A resume is your professional introduction, highlighting the relevance of your skills, experience, qualifications, and notable accomplishments to potential employers. Given that recruiters often review resumes briefly—typically no more than a few minutes—it’s crucial to present your most pertinent successes concisely. Success for your resume means sparking enough interest to secure an interview invitation.

Demonstrating your professional worth

It’s essential to showcase your abilities, experiences, and potential value to the employer.

Optimal resume length

While a single-page resume can be sufficient if it effectively encapsulates your competencies, the conventional resume spans about two pages.

How long should my resume be?

Aim for a two-page resume. If yours significantly exceeds this length, consider removing or condensing details unrelated to the targeted role or sector.

Tailoring your content

Reflect on the job’s essential skills and attributes, then evaluate your resume. Are you dedicating space to skills and experiences that don’t align with the role? If so, it’s advisable to either eliminate such content or express it more succinctly. Clarity is key—avoid verbosity.

When to use a one-page resume

In some cases, a one-page resume may be adequate. The overarching goal when crafting your resume is to effectively communicate your skills, experience, and potential for future contributions.

If you can compellingly convey this information on a single page, that’s excellent. Nevertheless, remember that a two-page resume is generally standard.

What NOT to include in a resume

When crafting your resume, apply practical judgment. For seasoned professionals with extensive work history, it’s unnecessary to list every position ever held. For example, omit early roles like a high school retail job or leading a social sports team. Instead, strategically utilize the space to underscore experiences pertinent to the job you’re targeting.

  1. Relevance over history: If you possess an advanced degree, there’s little interest in the exams from your teenage years. Focus on including only the training and education directly relevant to the job at hand.
  2. Attachments and references: Typically, there’s no need to attach certificates, qualifications, or references to your resume. These items should be presented during an interview if requested.
  3. Personal interests and hobbies: Generally, hobbies and interests are not necessary on a resume. Concentrate on detailing the skills and experiences that align with the job requirements. However, if your relevant experience is sparse or the employer inquires, you may briefly mention hobbies—particularly those demonstrating skills applicable to the job, like leadership or communication abilities. Steer clear of potentially divisive topics like political affiliations.
  4. Creative resumes: Unless you’re in a creative field, a standard resume format is advisable. While a creative resume might seem like a way to stand out, it’s the relevance of your skills and experience that will make you a top candidate, not the resume’s design.

If you don't know where to start, use our free resume template

Step by step guide to writing a great resume

Follow the below standard resume structure when looking to write your resume. Don’t forget to ensure you use clean and clear formatting.

1. Contact information

Start with the basics such as your name, phone number, email address (make sure the email address you use sounds professional) and LinkedIn profile. Use the phone number and email address that you use most often. You don’t want to disappoint an employer by failing to respond to their invitation to an interview in a timely fashion.

2. Professional summary

In 50 to 150 words, describe your applicable experience and skills. This summary should prove your value and help to differentiate you. Avoid describing what you’d like from your next job and instead focus on what you can offer. This is the place for your USP, or unique selling proposition. Tailor this section to each position that you’re applying to.

Use keywords from the job description so that an ATS can find a match.

3. Skills summary

Given that a resume reviewer may only allocate a minute to glance through each submission, especially when faced with many applications, it’s vital to include a skills section. This section should quickly draw attention to your capabilities. Construct a concise list of relevant systems, abilities, and proficiencies that align with the job’s requirements, incorporating keywords from the job listing.

For example, if the job advertisement calls for ‘effective administrative abilities and excellent interpersonal skills,’ these qualifications should be prominently featured. Provide succinct examples of how and where you developed these skills. It’s crucial to customize this section for each job application, ensuring your skills match the specific demands of the role.

4. Achievements

Prospective employers are keen to discover instances where you’ve exceeded the expectations of your role and delivered exceptional results. Therefore, it’s important to list your significant career accomplishments, substantiating them with concrete data, percentages, or references. For instance, if you surpassed your sales objectives, specify the exact percentage and the timeframe of this achievement.

Remember, this section is a snapshot designed to captivate interest by showcasing your ability to contribute positively to an organization. Providing evidence of your success is crucial to affirm your potential value in the job you’re seeking.

5. Work experience

The work history is a cornerstone of your resume, presenting a comprehensive view of your career trajectory. List your roles in reverse chronological order, starting with the most current. Be sure to include the names of your employers, your job titles, and your key responsibilities.

  • Clarifying your role: Should your job title be non-standard, feel free to use a more universally recognized title that accurately reflects the nature of your work.
  • Quantifying achievements: It’s crucial to quantify your professional achievements. Readers are looking for solid evidence of your contributions, not vague descriptions. Highlight the added value you brought to each position, focusing on your unique strengths and successes. For every role, pinpoint your most notable accomplishments and back them up with tangible, measurable proof.
  • Using action verbs: Employ action verbs like “managed” or “oversaw” to direct attention to your achievements and the outcomes of your work. These verbs compel you to detail the impact of your contributions, thereby validating the significance of your experiences.

6. Education & qualifications

Keep it concise by listing the academic qualification obtained, year of completion, the institution’s name and a one-sentence summary.

7. References

Typically, resumes do not list out reference details. It’s standard practice to note, “References are available upon request,” in the relevant section. This signals to your recruiter that you can provide referee details when they’re needed during the hiring process.

Keep in mind, the most impactful referees are those who have directly supervised your work. They can attest to your practical application of skills and how you’ve contributed to their organization. If you’re uncertain about selecting referees, consider consulting a guide for advice on choosing individuals who can best support your application.

Now you know how to create your resume and the best layout to use. Don't forget to download our resume template to get started!

About this author

Travis O'Rourke
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.

Connect with Travis on LinkedIn

articleId- 69058861, groupId- 20151