How to Write a Resume: Tips from a Recruiter |

How to Write the Perfect Resume: Tips from a Recruiter

How to write the perfect resume: tips from a recruiter
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Everybody needs one, but not everybody has a good one. Yes, we’re talking about resumes. The average time spent reading a resume is 5-7 seconds, so making a good first impression is mission critical. To get a professional opinion, Emma Bullen spoke to executive recruiter Joanne Acri from Ari Agency Digital Recruitment in Toronto.

One of the things I get asked most often by my friends is if I can take a look at their resume. I love my friends, and I’m always flattered to be asked for my opinion. I’ll tell them when I think they’re selling themselves short and help them find pesky spelling mistakes, or get rid of information they simply don’t need.

The thing is, there are a lot of questions I have about resumes myself. So I thought, why not talk to a recruiter? They have to look at resumes all the time — from the lacklustre to the outstanding – so they know what makes a CV stand out. Curious about what separates a good resume from a bad resume? I asked Ari Agency’s Executive Recruiter, Joanne Acri to spill the beans. 

Emma Bullen: What common mistakes do you most frequently see in resumes?

Joanne Acri: Other than spelling mistakes and inconsistencies, it has to be formatting. Different computers view documents differently, and sending a Word document from a Mac to a PC can make your font and layout change completely. I’d always recommend sending in your resume as a pdf. It locks down the design, so it looks the same on every device.

The other thing is the length. If your resume is longer than two pages, you’d better be Barack Obama. Most recruiters don’t have time to read a three page resume. There’s no excuse not to keep yours succinct and cut it down to two pages.

EB: How can I make my resume stand out from the crowd?

JA: Tailor your resume to the role you’re applying for. Write about your relevant experience and talk to the job. Ideally, you should have a different resume for each job, or genre of jobs. Applying for a job is almost too easy these days, you can apply for any role in ten minutes online. It’s almost too quick. Stand out from the crowd by creating a unique resume for each role and save it with the name of the job you’re applying for.

EB: Should I talk about my day-to-day role or my accomplishments?

JA: Always talk about your accomplishments in your resume. If there’s anything concrete you can share, do it. “I increased X over Y” or “I bought in X leads.” You have to show real value. Share your accomplishments with actual metrics and make sure you can back them up in an interview.

EB: Should I use an objective or a career summary (or can I skip this altogether)?

JA: A career summary helps recruiters find you in their internal tracking systems, so make sure you use one and make it good because I will read it. Objectives are usually the same from person to person. Everyone wants to get the job; you don’t need to say it in an objective.

You can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t put your best self forward, you won’t get the job.

EB: Do recruiters care about what hobbies I have?

JA: It depends very much on how much room you have. If you don’t have much space, hobbies are the first thing to go. As are references — I know I can call your references — and I will. But hobbies can be great conversation starters. You can use them to show you have a sense of humour and that can make you stand out from other candidates.

EB: I’ve seen some resumes where candidates talk about themselves in the third person. Should I do that?

JA: I find it really weird when people talk about themselves in the third person. Unless it’s an actual reference, you shouldn’t do it.

EB: There are a lot of resume writing services out there. Should I be tempted to use one?

JA: Absolutely! If your resume sucks, people won’t call you. You can have all the experience in the world, but if you don’t put your best self forward, you won’t get the job. Most of the time people don’t want to boast, so having someone pull out your experience does the world of good. I’d go as far as saying it will change your life. Resume writers are usually up-to-date on formating and search terms, which is particularly useful when you have a lot of experience or haven’t updated your resume in a long time. Once you have it done by a professional, it’s not as hard to refresh it — and you should refresh it as soon as you get a new job.

EB: Should my resume be the same as my LinkedIn profile, or should it be different?

JA: Chronologically they should be the same, but the mediums are different, so they should look very different. LinkedIn lets you add links, projects, referrals, articles. Your resume can’t do that — it’s a summary. Most people don’t do LinkedIn very well, but you can get a lot of tips by taking a good look at a LinkedIn employee’s profile. They’ve been taught how to optimize, and they usually nail it.

EB: What about my headshot? Do I need to worry about that?

JA: I could write a whole article about headshots! People have got to fix their LinkedIn profile pictures. There should be a rule against selfies, wedding pictures, and in the mirror shots. Get someone to take a photo of you. If all else fails, make the image black and white.

EB: Do I need to send a cover letter in with my resume?

JA: Unless the application calls for it, don’t bother. I hate cover letters and I never read them. The amount of time you spend writing it doesn’t pay off; I’ll skim through it in 30 seconds. If you absolutely have to send a cover letter, use bullet points.

EB: Thanks for your great tips, Joanne. Here’s hoping you see less lackluster resumes landing in your inbox!

What questions or pet peeves do you have about resumes? We’d love to hear from you! Leave it in the comments below.


  • 74Rickenbacker4001

    Interesting comment about cover letters. In my experience as a hiring manager, the cover letter is by far more important than the resume. The resume is like the nutrition information on a food package, and the cover letter is what the food actually tastes like. Put another way, the resume is your stats and the cover letter is who you really are. Also, I care a lot less about what you have done than I care about what you will do — and most importantly, what you WANT to do.

    • Jim Dowling

      I’m not sure how often cover letters are read but I agree that in many ways a cover letter can capture a person’s personality, interest and communication skills better than a resume can. I suggest job seekers write as it might be a way to stand out by going the extra yard – with quality material!

  • As someone who hires writers, editors, and PR people, the cover letter is much more important to me than a resume because it shows me the applicant’s skills. I also get a sense of how productive this person is likely to be by seeing how much effort they put into personalizing their cover letter for me and my company. I have reviewed thousands of resumes and hired virtually every applicant who submitted an exceptional cover letter tailored specifically for our company and job.