Columbia College’s Career Advisors are available to help current and graduate students attain their employment goals. If you require assistance, please contact our Career Services Department at 1careerservices@columbiacollege.ab.ca or 403-235-9300.

Resume Writing Tips

The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview. A targeted resume communicates relevant skills, education, and experience to a potential employer. Having a “perfect” resume is unlikely, however the following is a set of tips to keep in mind as you begin to create your targeted document.

Please remember the importance of customizing your resume for all jobs that you apply for. It is no longer common practice or effective to use one resume for all jobs. By targeting your resume, you are significantly boosting your chances of getting noticed and securing an interview.

Appearance

An organized, uncluttered, and easy-to-read resume will help create a positive first impression. Here are some tips:

  • No more than 2 pages.
  • Use quality paper, without handwritten corrections or white out.
  • Carry your resume in a folder to avoid paper crinkles and creases.
  • Keep the section formatting consistent: font style and size, upper or lower case headings, bullets, section spacing etc.
  • Font should be an average size of 11-12.
  • Choose a font that is easy to read (Times New Roman, Arial, Heltivca or Calibri, Cambria).

 

Content

  • A targeted resume gets noticed. Use the job advertisement and information found on a company’s website to market your transferable skills.
  • Replace ‘Objective’ with ‘Summary of Qualifications’ (SoQ). Objectives are outdated, they’re all about what you want. A SoQ targets what the employer wants.
  • Accomplishment statements make a resume stand out. Today’s employers expect to see skills and results. Wherever possible, include numbers, percentages and transferable skills.
  • Start each bullet point with an action verb (supervised, directed, developed etc.). Jobs done in the past are described in paste tense, present jobs using present tense. For ideas, please review our list of Action Verbs.
  • Be honest and accurate about your accomplishments.
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes speak to a candidate’s attention to detail. They highlight weakness, rather than focusing on strengths.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

There are an increasing number of large and medium sized companies using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). An ATS is a tracking software that sorts and screens resumes. It saves recruiters valuable time by quickly screening out unqualified applicant resumes and highlighting top candidates.

Approximately 75% of applications are screened out by an ATS. To help increase your chances of getting through an ATS system, follow these tips:

  • Avoid using resume templates and fancy formatting. Although your resume will look nice, most ATS software cannot read resume templates, graphics, shading, columns, tables, or headers.
  • Carefully review job advertisements for key words and include them in your resume.
  • If you anticipate or know that a company is using an ATS, consider uploading your resume in a Word or Plain text format.

Consider using jobscan.co. Jobscan is a web tool that analyzes how well a resume is tailored to a specific job posting. The goal is an 80%+ match. Simply paste or upload the resume and job description. Jobscan scans the information and tells the applicant how well their resume matches the job description. Suggestions on ways to increase match rate to the job posting are recommended.

Sample Resumes
Resume Template

Sample Resume – No experience in the industry you’re applying to

Sample Resume – with experience in the industry you’re applying to

Cover Letter Tips

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and your resume to the hiring manager/panel. A strong cover letter shows your interest in the organization and position that you have applied for, draws attention to your resume, and motivates the reader to schedule an interview.

Basic Cover Letter Structure

Opening Paragraph: Answers the question, “why are you writing?” “Why do you want to work for this organization?” Reference the company’s values, mission statement, and/or community involvement to help demonstrate your interest.
Paragraph 2: Tells the reader, “the skills you have to offer.” These are the skills you have that match the job posting.
Closing Paragraph: Discuss next steps.

Things to Consider

  • Keep your cover letter short, simple, and precise (no more than one page).
  • Address a specific person; avoid using, “To whom it may concern”.
  • The correct spelling of the hiring manager’s name and job title are important.
  • Write formally, however avoid using language that doesn’t sound like you.
  • Limit the number of “I” statements. Hiring managers are looking for the best person for the role, they are not interested in why this job would benefit you.
  • Be compelling; avoid repeating information that can be found in your resume. Originality and showing interest in the job you’re applying for are key.
  • Match the skills described in your cover letter to the skills found in the job posting.

Interview Tips

According to Sheila Musgrove from TAG Recruitment Group (2016), 99% of the hiring managers you meet WANT to find every reason to hire you. You just have to help them to be right. The worst thing any job candidate can do is walk into an interview unprepared.

Preparation

  • Have a strong understanding of the position.
  • Know your career history and the skills you have that the employer is looking for.
  • Plan what you’re going to say. Practice answering interview questions.
  • Anticipate employer concerns. What can you say to remove these potential barriers?
  • Research the organization. Be familiar with the company’s mission, vision, and values. Are there similarities that relate to you?

Before The Interview

  • Research where the interview is being held. Give yourself time to get there.
  • Know the name and contact information of the person who is interviewing you in case something happens (i.e. your car breaks down and you are going to be late).
  • Plan what you are going to wear. Research the company and find out how their employees dress. Avoid wearing scented products.
  • Arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Take a few minutes to breathe deeply, relax and focus.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume and a separate piece of paper with your references.

Behaviour Based Interview Questions

What Are They?

The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance. Employers use the behavioral interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors so that they can determine the potential for success.

When answering behavioural questions, the STAR principle is recommended. This technique will help keep answers focused and on track while providing concrete examples of the experience and skills you possess. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Behavioural questions typically start with, “Tell me about a time…, Give an example of a time when …, Describe a time ….”

The STAR principle is a storytelling technique where the interviewee recounts what they have done and the results achieved by describing their accomplishments.

Situation – Describe the situation and the problem faced OR
Task – Explain the task you were asked to do and the challenges involved
Action – Describe the actions taken
Result – Explain what happened as a result of your efforts

Please note: The Calgary Board of Education recommends that interviewees answer behavioural interview questions using the SHARE approach.

Situation – Describe the situation you were faced with
Hindrances – Explain the hindrance to getting the problem solved
Action – Describe the action took to deal with the problem
Result – Summarize the result that came with your actions
Evaluate – Evaluate what you did and what you could have done better

How Can I Prepare for A Behavioral Interview?

  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
  • Think of examples where you demonstrated each skill found in the job posting
  • Anticipate interview questions based on these skills
  • Practice answering these questions using the STAR or SHARE technique. Keep your answers focused to one specific example.
  • Be positive. Find ways to turn negative results into positives. What did you learn from the experience?

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Tell us about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker. What happened and how was it resolved?
  • Give an example of a time when you disagreed with a decision made by your manger?
  • Describe a time when you reached a goal and how you achieved it.
  • Tell us about a time when you were stressed at work. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time when you worked effectively under pressure