Job Fair Review: 3 Tips to Improve Your Resume

Last week I provided free resume assessments at Halton Region's annual Job Fair. I believe that this was my seventh year at this event. For the last few years, I've been joined by Elizabeth Grin of Sunshine Design and Pamela Paterson, author of "Get the Job."

It's a well-attended event, and as per past years, we had a long line of folks waiting for an assessment. Also, as is typical, we didn't finish our last assessments until 30 minutes after the event had closed!

This year I provided assessments to 17 people, in roles that included an HR Manager, Financial Analysts, Risk Analyst, Purchasers, Administrative Assistants, Engineer, IT roles, and a stay at home mom whose 7th child had begun full time school, leaving her with time on her hands!

That's me at the fair, above. It's held in the Burlington Convention Centre.

Many attendees were new Canadians and many had resumes that were pretty decent. There's almost always room for improvement though. Here are the issues that I noticed most this year:

1. Check and double-check your grammar. A common error is this one: replace the word "of" with a possessive, as follows: "13 years' experience" OR "13 years of experience." I saw this error on many, many resumes. I also saw American spelling (labor vs. labour) and just plain typos. Many job postings require attention to detail or quality control; typos disprove both!

2. Pay attention to formatting. Too many resumes were hodge-podge in terms of formatting. Spacing between categories was not consistent, use of font size varied, bullets were not aligned, and the use of punctuation was not standardized. Again, this speaks to detail, but also it makes a big impact in terms of presentation. A pristine, tightly formatted resume comes across with professionalism, whereas a mish-mash comes across as not quite ready for distribution.

3. A job description is not a resume. This continues to be the biggest problem that I see. Job hunters create bullets that are job descriptions and call it a resume. Sometimes they even leave it in the 3rd person, as in "performs other duties as assigned." A job description defines the job's tasks as they would be performed by anyone doing the job; a resume should be personalized to your experience. A resume, to be effective, must convey value beyond a list of your skills and duties. Because, so what?! Every other applicant - at least those who are your competitors - will have very similar skills and duties. How will that help you stand out?

It's a competitive world, and it seems to only get more competitive. Today's job search requires a top-notch resume and cover letter, and increasingly, a LinkedIn profile that also conveys value. How do you capture value? Now that's a lesson in resume strategy, but in a nutshell it's this: demonstrate how your performance has impacted productivity and profits and you're on your way!