Hotwiring your resume to get interviews


In the not-too-distant past, a resume was a paper document that you handed to the receptionist who then submitted it on your behalf to the Human Resources Department. If you were lucky, the receptionist would also be your source of insider intel that gave you the competitive advantage that got you an interview. If you got a referral note, that was magic because it opened the doors all the way to the Hiring Manager and, many times, the job.

Do you remember wearing down several of your good comfortable shoes while pounding the pavement on cold calling visits to target employers with a manila envelope (I’m dating myself here) stuffed full of your resumes? And the days of rain and hot summer days that made it difficult to keep the paper resumes dry? You literally carried them everywhere you went just in case you ran into someone who could take it form you. Finding jobs back then was hard. New immigrants found it an especially gruelling and harder way to find jobs.

Fast forward today, the hard copy resume is no longer accepted. Applications are now made online. In many ways online applications removed the barriers that prevented access to jobs and relieved the stress of pavement pounding. However, with easier access to job postings came increased competition as hundred or more candidates could easily apply for one role within the first few hours of posting. This also meant that some unqualifies candidates submitted applications for jobs which they were not qualified for just to try their luck.

Human Resources departments quickly became overwhelmed with the sheer volume of applications and had to find ways to weed out applications that didn’t match the job qualifications. A technology solution, Applicant Tracking System (ATS), is widely used by many large companies to filter out resumes from candidates that did not meet the job requirements and improve the chances of getting qualified candidates. Some of the most well-known ATS systems are Taleo, Workday, SuccessFactors, and Brassring.

ATS systems are based on algorithms that work in variety of ways depending on the needs of the human resources staff and hiring managers. Some rank candidates based on how well their qualifications matched key criteria of the posting so that the hiring manager only needs to look at the Top 5 or 10 of candidates while others are used to filter resumes by searching for key skills and titles. Resumes must have skills and titles that are exact matches to be selected for further review. This means the resumes of those that have not done the exact job in the past are eliminated.

You need to practice optimizing your resume by analyzing job descriptions to figure out the relevant keywords and skills to include in your resume. This will give you the best chance of being included in Hiring Manager search results.

When you get past the ATS filtering system, the contents and structure of the resume is the next marketing tool that will improve your chances of being shortlisted for an interview.

There are four key sections of a resume that require careful thought in constructing your resume:

  1. The Header – This is where you state your name, designations, contact details, and LinkedIn link.
  2. Summary of Qualifications – This is where you show the Hiring Manager how you meet their needs i.e. why they should hire you. It should be optimized to reflect the core skills and competencies of the job.
  3. Professional Experience – This is where you showcase your key accomplishments in your current and previous roles. Hiring Managers are usually more interested in what you have achieved in the most recent period. A general guide is to include roles within the last 5 years and up to 10 years. It is advisable to include only a summary statement for roles beyond 10 years.
  4. Education and Professional Development – Include your qualifications and years attained. For new immigrants with international qualifications, you should include the country name to provide context for the Hiring Manager.

You must take care to ensure that these key sections align with the job requirements while reflecting your accomplishments in your current and past roles.

Other sections are optional and can be included if they add value to your resume. These include volunteer work, language spoken, professional association memberships, awards, publications, and personal interests, etc.

You can use font sizes between 10.5 – 12pts for any of the common fonts that are used as standards such as Arial, Calibri, Tahoma,etc.

In general, proof-read your resume to make sure that errors and grammatical is vital for all resumes because an error or typo could be used to filter your resume out of the pile especially when attention to details is a core requirement for the role.

If you’re a new immigrant, you must first align the descriptive words and position titles used in your home country to the way they are written in Canada before optimizing your resume.

When you do the above and back it up with the necessary qualifications and training, it is harder for the prospective hiring manager to dump your resume.

There are many other tips that are too numerous to capture in this article. Feel free to connect with me for more pro tips.

Best of luck in your job search.

We value your comments and feedback! Use the comment box to let us know your thoughts. Thanks.


Ernest Onuorah, MBA, is a financial services risk consultant, author, speaker, and career coach. He had worked at consulting and financial service firms including PWC, TD, RBC, BMO, and Home Trust Company, a $2.5 billion niche mortgage lender, where he was AVP, Enterprise Risk Management. He holds the CRISC, FRM and CRM designations. His areas of expertise are Enterprise & Operational Risk Management. He can be reached at [email protected].

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