Chapter 2: Revitalize Your Job Search Documents
Use tailored, industry-specific language.
For your resume to be effective in impressing prospective employers, it must be tailored to the requirements of each job. You must clearly demonstrate that you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the essential duties of the role. As part of your resume preparation, take the time to research and understand the typical job requirements in your occupation. In addition to researching the job requirements, these resources will also help you build detail and professional, industry-specific, language into your resume. It is important to be both detailed and concise in your resume in order to capture the reader’s interest while giving them a clear explanation of your abilities. Consider the following resources to assist you:
- Use Labour Market Information resources such as the Job Bank – Explore Careers website to review various career and occupational profiles and understand the required duties and responsibilities. You could also use National Occupation Classification Codes, a government website that provides Canadian occupational information and organizes occupational titles according to skill levels and skill types. This can be used as a guide to inform you of all the various tasks and duties that are associated with different jobs.
- Refer to your program Learning Outcomes – For each program at Algonquin College, learning outcomes are identified in order for you as a student to understand what abilities you will reliably be able to demonstrate upon graduation. The learning outcomes were developed by employers and industry professionals prior to the creation of your course and offer industry-specific language that you can apply to your resume.
- Look up job postings you are interested in applying for and examine the qualifications/duties listed. Next, make a match between your skills, knowledge, and experience and the job requirements. Looking at job postings that reflect your job goal will provide you with a sense of the common requirements that an employer might be looking for and assist you
in tailoring your resume to those jobs in the future.
Use action verbs.
We know that employers and hiring managers are bombarded with applications; therefore, you are not doing yourself any favours by using all the same, old, tired words that everyone else is using. Common terms have lost their meaning; by expanding your own action verb vocabulary you will help to showcase your duties and accomplishments in a more interesting and favourable light. As you write or update your resume, your challenge is to capture the attention of the employer through more compelling language. Starting each sentence with a strong action verb will strengthen your writing and provide a clearer, more interesting picture of what you have done.
Review your resume, go back and look at each word and ask yourself, is it powerful, appropriate, and exciting? Choose words both thoughtfully and economically. Avoid repetition. Use the following list to help you bring your resume to the next level.
Write strong summaries of each position.
When developing your resume, you can really set yourself apart from others by writing strong summaries of your positions. You may feel that your experience is limited or unrelated and that it’s not worth describing your tasks in detail; however, oftentimes we are actually gaining and using skills without even realizing it. Many people make the mistake of having position descriptions that are too short and that lack value; let’s look at what you can do to value-pack your work experiences. Focus on including the following components in your descriptions:
- Task: Identify the day-to-day activities you were expected to complete.
- Skill: Decide which transferable skills you used to perform the tasks.
- Outcome: State the outcome of the task.
Even in your part-time and interim jobs, you’ve gained many applicable transferable skills, take a look:
- Interacted with customers (Task) by listening carefully (Skill) to answer questions about store products (Outcome).
- Sold store merchandise (Task) by upselling product benefits (Skill) to meet daily sales goals (Outcome).
- Handled cash (Task) accurately in a busy environment (Skill) to ensure store till was balanced before closing (Outcome).
Write accomplishment statements.
Let’s take this one step farther by highlighting your accomplishments. In Chapter 1, you learned the value of identifying your personal, academic, and
professional accomplishments. When it comes to writing your resume, it’s extremely important for you to be able to describe these accomplishments in order to set you apart from your competition. If you haven’t had a chance to brainstorm situations from your previous or current experience where you’ve performed exceptionally well, consider the following questions to get you thinking:
- Have you received praise from managers, supervisors, instructors, or clients?
- Have you ever been assigned a task that you could do better than others
- Have you ever been asked to train anyone?
How did you distinguish yourself or set yourself apart in your last job? What did you do to show your initiative?
- When did you go above and beyond your job duties to complete a task and/or satisfy a customer?
- Have you ever been promoted, recognized, awarded, or thanked by your coworkers?
- How did your work affect the strategic business operations?
Your next step is to develop your accomplishment statements by preparing your examples using the STAR technique to outline the task, action, and result for each of your examples.
(S) Situation + (T) Task + (A) Action + (R) Result
Start by describing the Situation or Task followed by the Action you have taken and the Result you have achieved. Use strong action verbs to make the most impact. Don’t forget to quantify the results or actions as much as possible. Be specific, but concise. You can additionally vary the focus of your statement by choosing what actions you highlight.
Take a look at the following example:
Situation/Task: Orient new employees to the job.
Action: Prepared department’s first operations manual; researched and analyzed best practices, and surveyed staff on what they thought should be included.
Result: Orientation went faster, department used fewer staff resources, new staff member remembered more, and both new employees and manager had a record of what was covered for future reference; obtained good feedback from new employees, coworkers, and manager.
Accomplishment Statement (starting with an action):
Created department’s first operations manual that increased the effectiveness of the new employee training and significantly reduced the expenditure of time and resources.
Accomplishment Statement (starting with a Result):
Increased effectiveness of the new employee training while reducing the expenditure of time and resources by creating department’s first operations manual.
Accomplishment Statements demonstrate value, provide the “so what” factor, and add credibility and strength to your resume. Including Accomplishment Statements in your resume and cover letter is an effective job search strategy that will make you stand out from other candidates and impress potential employers. Here are a few more examples:
- Prepared over 10 accurate, well researched, concisely written, and properly cited reports, 10 + pages long on average, in a two-month period.
- Led a team of five to deliver a final research project one week ahead of the deadline through careful coordination of tasks and effective resource and time allocation.
- Consistently achieved daily sales targets by demonstrating interest in customer needs and actively interacting with them in a friendly, non-invasive manner throughout their visit.