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5 Resume Mistakes

Putting together your resume for the first time (or first time in a while) is plain awful. Like trying to remember math formulas from middle school, it can be unclear what employers today expect and if your resume will pass the test or get marked up as a failure. Whether you're putting your resume together yourself or with the help of a friend or professional, there are several areas that every job seeker needs to be aware of that can inadvertently cause your resume to get rejected.


It's hard to claim you have excellent attention to detail if your resume includes typos or omitted words, or other mistakes. Job seekers often send application materials that include typos if they fail to have someone look over their resume or cover letter before hitting "Send." Having someone proofread your materials will help prevent unnecessary mistakes, and will also ensure that your materials make sense. If you're rewriting your resume and customizing it for each position you apply for — which you should be doing — make sure your rewrites and formatting don't add mistakes or omissions.

Unnecessary information

"References available upon request" or objective statements that essentially say "I want this job" aren't adding anything new to your resume, and instead only serve to take up valuable resume real estate. Employers will come away more informed if you include summaries of your qualifications, accomplishments and skills.

Bad formatting

Most resumes can only be accepted in certain computer program formats, like a word document or text document, or sometimes a PDF. Not only is it important to ensure that you're using the right type of document when creating and sending your resume, but you also need to make sure that your resume gets delivered in the correct formatting, too. Nothing is more distracting and off-putting to a hiring manager than trying to read disjointed, cut-off job descriptions and dates in a poorly formatted resume. Keep your resume format simple and to take the best opportunity to send a properly formatted resume, use a PDF as your go-to and also have simpler text versions, too.

Meaningless words

A recent CareerBuilder survey found that there are some words hiring managers and human resources professionals just don't want to see on your resume, including best of breed, go-getter, think outside of the box, synergy, go-to person, thought leadership, value add, results-driven, team player, bottom-line, hard worker, strategic thinker, dynamic, self-motivated, detail-oriented, proactively and track record. Skip these buzzwords and instead include specific accomplishments and results to prove value added to hiring managers.

Including all information and the kitchen sink

A complete job history usually doesn't equal a history of relevant career experience, but job seekers will often list every position they've ever held to prove to employers that they're employable. The reason this hurts your chances of getting the job is that often, job seekers don't draw connections between the job listed and the position they're applying for, effectively rendering the resume a generic, unfocused application that doesn't frame you as the best fit for the job. An employer will probably assume that you're using this generic application to apply for a large volume of jobs and give you just as short a time of consideration as you did for their application.

These mistakes can cause even the most impressive resume to get cut from the short list of candidates hiring managers are interested in. To avoid ruining your own chances of getting the job, be sure to check carefully to exclude these errors from your application materials. You're on your way to impressive employers with a great resume.

© 2014 CareerBuilder, LLC. Original publish date: 10.31.14

Three Simple Secrets to Career Success

By Peter Harris 

The hardest job to get is always your first one. Your first job of all, your first job in your field, your first job in a new city, first job transitioning into a new sector.

When it comes to your first job after graduating, you want it to be meaningful, in-line with your values and goals, a career move.

It's holding out for those jobs that holds people back.

1.  Jobs don't matter

Because jobs don't matter anymore. Every job is temporary.

Looking at the work histories in the millions of Canadian resumes in the Workopolis database, we can see that the majority (51%) of people change jobs every two years, over 80% stay less than four years in any one job. Job hopping is the new normal.

It's not just their individual jobs, but most people — the vast majority (76%) also work in multiple career paths, different fields entirely over their careers.

73% of people say their education is not directly related to their current jobs.

Jobs don't matter anymore. Careers do. And your career is made up of the many, many jobs that you'll hold over the course of your working life. You'll learn along the way what you like to do, what you're good at, and where you want to go.

Some jobs are good, some suck.  But even the bad ones contribute to your career. And a bad job isn't a life sentence, it's a stepping stone.

Knowing that everything is temporary takes the pressure off decision making. So, take whatever opportunities are offered, because you learn more (and earn more) by working than waiting.

2.  Don't work for money

There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about volunteering and unpaid internships since the governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz suggested that young people who couldn't find jobs should work for free.

And while it doesn't seem like a winning policy for the country's top banker to suggest that an entire generation work for no wages, on an individual level, there is some sound advice there.

When you're trying to break into the job market, into a new industry, or a competitive field, you have to hustle. You have to do whatever it takes to demonstrate your passion, your drive and your resourcefulness. Sometimes that means volunteering.

Of course we all need money. We need to be paid. But cash isn't the real currency of your career.

The career currency that matters

Your career currency is the assets that you build up over the course of your career that make you more valuable to future employers and allow you to keep landing better jobs and moving up within jobs.

They are your professional reputation, your network of contacts, the skills and experiences you gain on the job, and the accomplishments that you rack up that prove what you can do — that set you apart.

And you start gaining those right from your very first job. Showing up on time, working hard, helping out others, providing great service: people remember these things and they'll want to work with you again and recommend you to others. They're transferable across industries. Which is good because — as we know — most people change industries.

3.  Don't ask 'what am I going to do?'

The really important question is always what am I going to do next? What skills can I acquire next, what can I take on next to add accomplishments to my resume, what will my next career move be.

Don't waste time worrying about a career that doesn't exist yet. Start building it from scratch.

Rather than holding out for the 'right' career move, focus on whatever jobs are available. Get yourself hired. Show up early and stay late. Volunteer for the projects that other people don't want to do. Be flexible and become indispensable.

The real secret to success?

Build your career currency. Having a growing list of accomplishments on your resume and a network of people happy to work with you again or recommend you to others will give you more and more career options. Working many jobs allows you to learn what you like to do and what you're good at. Being successful at jobs that you like doing is the real secret to a winning career.

How Long Does it Take Canadians to Get a New Job?

By Peter Harris 

Things are looking up. November's Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada indicated that the national unemployment rate is now down to 6.5%, and that's the lowest it has been in six years. So we're headed in the right direction.

(Of course a national average masks the fact that there are pockets of labour shortage and areas and demographics with higher unemployment. So there is still work to do, but this is very encouraging.)

Workopolis has been seeing increased online job postings throughout the year, so we have been expecting to see this translate into more people working. October marks the second month in a row to show solid gains in employment. So, while two months isn't enough to call a trend yet, we are expecting to see hiring continue through November and into next year.

Which means if you're looking for work, or have been thinking of making a change in jobs, the conditions for making a leap are looking better than they have in quite some time.

How long does it take to find work?

Getting a new job takes time. Job searches can last anywhere from two days to over a year, but for most people it is roughly four months. The largest group, 50% of people surveyed by Workopolis, told us that it took approximately 16 weeks to secure their most recent job.

(This is slightly shorter than the Canadian average duration of unemployment-period reported by Statistics Canada as being 20.6 weeks earlier this year.)

During those four months, the majority of Canadians (65%) say that they applied to more than 10 opportunities before being hired for their most recent job. Most people (80 per cent) say that they apply for at least five jobs just in order to secure one job interview.

This roughly corresponds to what employers tell us about 80% of the resumes receive not making it past their initial screening to be shortlisted for follow up.

On average, only 2% of applicants for a job are chosen for an interview. This is because a large portion of resumes are never actually read by a human being, as the screening software that more and more companies use will filter out applications that don't contain the most relevant keywords the employer is looking for.

Here's how you can greatly increase your application to interview ratio.

Just over half (56%) of candidates said that they only had to conduct one or two job interviews in order to be hired. A further 30% of people said that they needed to perform five or more job interviews before being hired for their most recent job.

It took most Canadians polled 16 weeks to secure their most recent job


During which time most people submit at least 10 applications


56% are hired after 1 or 2 job interviews

Interestingly (and this was surprising to us here), nearly half of people (46%) said that they did not follow-up at all after a job interview. This includes not sending in a thank you note to their interviewers.

Missing this crucial step can hurt your chances of landing the job. It's common courtesy to thank the employer for taking the time to meet with you and discuss your candidacy. All of the top, most savvy candidates will be following up on interviews with a polite note of appreciation. By skipping this, you're taking yourself out of that group.

You can also use this follow-up to restate your enthusiasm for the job and to highlight how you are the right fit for it. Refer to the interview specifically, demonstrating that you pay attention to detail and recall key information.

Going the extra mile in your job search makes you stand out from the crowd of applicants who didn't — and it indicates to employers that you're motivated to go the extra mile on the job as well. And that's who gets hired first and fastest.

Four Stupid Career Gambles You'll Regret Taking

By Elizabeth Bromstein

Sometimes it can be a great idea to gamble with your career. The world is full of stories of people who quit day jobs to become millionaire entrepreneurs or famous authors, or to devote their lives to philanthropy. But there are also risks you should never take, actions that might seem like good ideas at the time, but that are far more likely to make things worse rather than better. Read on for four of these.

Four career gambles you should never take.

Making up another job offer

Maybe you're gunning for a raise. Maybe you're trying to speed up the hiring process. The process has gone well so far. You aced the interviews, and now you're just waiting to hear back. It's taken months and you're wondering what the harm would be in telling them you've had another offer and would like to know if they're still interested, so you can make a decision.

Well, there's a good chance they're not stalling for the sake of stalling and that they can't speed up the process, so if you tell them they have to hurry, they're likely to say "OK then, we'll have to go with someone else." Also, people in the same industry tend to know each other. It would be terrible if someone from the company met someone you both know — say at an industry event — and if somehow your name came up, and the mutual acquaintance was like, "What job offer? He's still looking and living in his mom's basement." Now you're out of a job and a known liar.

Giving your boss the "Give me a raise or I quit" ultimatum

You need more money. You've got mortgage payments. So, you steel your nerves, walk into your boss's office and say "Jane, I need a raise, and if I don't get it I'm going to have to start looking for another job." Or some variation thereupon (see also: making up a job offer).

What does Jane say? She says, "I'm sorry to hear that you're leaving us. I'll start looking for your replacement right away."

You might think that, if you're a valued employee, the company will do what it can to keep you. But the ultimatum raises a red flag about your commitment to the company, and companies — even disloyal ones — don't want disloyal employees. Look for another job and, if when you find one, hand in your notice — even if you like the company. Honestly, I hate this advice. I'd like to say that you should be able to openly communicate your needs to your employer, but every manager I spoke to advised against it. Subterfuge is the way to go here. It's a cold world.

Lying about your work history

Not long ago, our tech team had an interview with a candidate who claimed to have worked at Blackberry. Since one of the interviewers had also worked at Blackberry, he asked what building the candidate worked in, and to whom he reported. It turned out the candidate never actually worked there, and fairly readily admitted so.

Don't lie. You never know who you might meet. Think about it. If you're lying about a job in the field in which you're applying for a job, the odds of getting caught are very high. Also, if you are going to lie (which we don't condone but we can't stop you) at least do a minimum of research into your lie. The candidate could have at least gotten a manager's name and looked at a map of the RIM grounds. Seriously, he cracked under the tiniest bit of pressure. His attempt was shoddy on all levels.

Burning bridges

Recently we ran a story about Alaska TV reporter Charlo Greene, who made headlines when she quit her job to focus full time on the medical marijuana dispensary she runs, and the fight to legalize medical marijuana in Alaska. How did Greene quit? Live, on camera, by saying "F*** it, I quit," then walking off the set and leaving her coworkers to cover for her.

The story went viral and many applauded her the move. Unfortunately, as career guides, we felt compelled to point out that this is the worst possible way to quit your job. While she did bring attention to her cause, Greene embarrassed her bosses, and left her colleagues to clean up the mess. If she ever needs a job, she's probably not going to get one in broadcasting, and probably not in the town of Anchorage, which has a population of fewer than 400,000.

Maybe Greene won't need a job and maybe it was the right move for her. But for most people, this is the wrong move. As tempting as it might be to go out with a bang, don't burn bridges. Try to keep all your relationships intact, and leave the place better than you found it.

How to Increase Your Application to Interview Ratio

By Peter Harris 

You've likely spent hours crafting the perfect resume for that next job you're after, written and re-written it, tweaked the intro, edited it and had a friend proofread it for you. The sad truth about resumes is that even if it is ever read by an employer, they'll probably glance at it for mere seconds before moving on.

It took the majority of Canadians surveyed an average of 10 applications and two interviews in order to land their most recent jobs. Here is how you can increase your application to interview ratio.

For a resume to have a chance at landing you an interview, it first has to be read by an employer. Because many companies filter incoming job applications through Applicant Tracking Systems, the odds are that if your resume doesn't include the right combination of relevant keywords it will never be read at all. Read the job posting carefully and make sure that your resume includes the same terms that the employer is looking for.

Even once you've passed the software screening, we know from Workopolis research that the vast majority of employers spend less than 11 seconds on their first review of a resume. And 80% of those resumes are rejected after this initial scan.

In order to make the initial cut, you have to have the basic information that employers look for first.

These include your location, your most recent job and previous employers, your skillset and education. If it looks like your career path is a fit for the job, and you have the basic qualifications, you stand a decent chance of making it to the next round. Employers tell us that a staggering 75% of applications they receive are from unqualified or irrelevant candidates.

Only apply for jobs for which you meet at least the majority of qualifications. There is such a thing as 'credential creep' where employers ask for a wish-list of qualifications that no one applicant is likely to have, so don't worry of you fall short in a few areas. Just make sure that you can clearly demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to contribute and succeed at the job — and you'll see your application to interview ratio noticeably rise.

But that's just the first glance — of the 20% that survive the first round of scrutiny, still only 2% of applicants are called for interviews. So what happened to the other 18%?

Once your resume has been shortlisted, employers will take a longer look to further scrutinize the details. And that's where the wheels come off for most of the remaining applicants.

The details that get resumes tossed

Unsurprisingly, any typos or spelling mistakes that were missed in the initial reading of your resume will sink your chances upon closer reading. When employers are looking through numerous resumes trying to pick the best few to interview, why would they select someone who hasn't taken care enough to submit an error-free application? It speaks to a candidate's motivation, attention to detail, or capabilities. You look like you either can't produce work without mistakes — or you're simply not motivated enough to bother producing it.

A lack of a focus. If your resume doesn't highlight how your skills and experience can relate specifically to the job you're applying for, it won't make the cut. A targeted, focused resume from a candidate who has done their homework and is genuinely trying to make a connection with a specific employer and job will always be more attractive than a generic application — even if their credentials are equivalent.

You're in the wrong industry. If you have the skills and experience to match with the requirements of the job, but you've never worked in the field before, you're starting off with a disadvantage to those candidates from that sector. Do the math for the hiring manager. Prove you're the right person for the job. Give them a clear list of the ways in which you meet the job posting criteria.

TMI (Too much information). We received a resume here that included this line in the objective statement: "Must be for a company that highly values diversity and sustainability." I actually do value both of those things. However a candidate making such demands in the first line of their resume stops me from bothering to read the rest of it. Show me why I would want to hire you in the first place before you start making demands about my values.

Recruiters similarly complain of too much personal information, weird hobbies, family details, long-winded explanations of career goals, reasons for leaving previous employers.

In a recent example we called 'The Worst Resume Ever' a candidate revealed several reasons he had spent time in jail. (While you may want to bring this up before a background check, there's no reason to list crimes in your resume.)

Unexplained red flags. Job hopping may be the new normal, as most people change jobs every two-three years, but if you've had six jobs in a three year period, it can make employers nervous. Similarly if there are long periods between jobs on your resume, it's better to fill in those gaps with a summary of what you were doing at the time.

Hiring managers form their first impressions of what you are like and what you can do based on reading your resume. Paying attention to detail and focusing on the specific job at hand can greatly increase your chances getting your resume past the ATS software scan, surviving the employer's initial 11-second reading, and standing up to further scrutiny in order to be shortlisted for a job interview.

Six Signs the Problem is You

By Elizabeth Bromstein

Are your work relationships difficult? Is your job hard to do because everyone around you is incompetent? Is everyone a jerk? Is hell other people? Is the man keeping you down?

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Full disclosure: when I was younger, I thought I was smarter than everyone else. Eventually I realized that they weren't stupid. I was. It was a hard lesson. But I'm glad I learned it. I have to say I know some people who have yet to do so.

Here are six indicators that the problem isn't everyone else, it's you. If you see yourself here, don't feel bad. I understand. I've been there.

Everyone else is an idiot.

Seriously. How can people be so stupid all the time? How did these people even get hired? They don't even know how to do their own jobs. And the clients? They're all boneheads who don't know what they want or what's good for them. You feel like the one intelligent person who was dropped into a land of imbeciles.

If everyone around you is so dumb you can barely handle it, the problem is likely you.

People are really smart. Not all people but lots of them. They invented math and science and toilets and the internet. Did you invent any of these things? No? Then maybe you're not the smartest person in the world. You need to learn to listen and realize that maybe you're not right about everything.

You have to do everything yourself.

Because if you didn't do it, someone else would mess it up, right? And nobody else is doing their job properly. You have to take care of everything. How does anyone manage to do anything when you're not around?

You might have control issues.

People all over the world, and probably even in your workplace, are accomplishing things without your help and those things are turning out just fine. Great even. Step back, take a breath and give people their due. Let go. Nobody wants to work with a control freak.

You've had an endless run of difficult bosses.

Your boss is a total jerk, your previous boss was a bonehead, and the one before that was a twit. They're always putting you on projects that are a waste of time and you know for sure you could do their jobs better than they all can. With your eyes closed. And one hand tied behind your back.

Guess what: your next boss is going to be an incompetent nincompoop. They'll be horrible bosses until you realize it's you who needs to learn to deal with authority and criticism.

Someone is always standing in your way.

You couldn't finish the spreadsheet because Bob didn't get you the numbers and that report wasn't done on time because Mary didn't give you the information you needed. You couldn't make copies because Mark was hogging the machine. You shouldn't have to work around everyone else's incompetence. It's not your job.

It's also probably the public transit's fault that you're always late, and your friend's faults that you have difficult relationships.

If everything is always someone else's fault, it's possible that you have a slight issue with taking personal responsibility. People who blame everything on others are very unpleasant to be around and, of course, to work with.

Nobody else knows how to communicate.

People are so difficult to talk to. Everyone has an attitude, they don't listen and they never seem to understand what you're trying to get across. You're always at an impasse and conversations often seem to escalate into arguments.

Look around you. Is everyone arguing with everyone else or only with you? If that's the case, it's time for you to take some sort of course on how to communicate, or risk a very serious negative effect on your career.

Everyone is behaving badly.

Jim is cheating on his wife, with Caroline from accounting of all people. Melanie doesn't know how to raise her kids, Bethany has a gambling problem, Ian has been yoyo dieting for years but everyone knows he stuffs his face with chocolate cake at his desk when he thinks nobody is looking, and Paula's love life is a mess. She really needs to get it together and stop sleeping around.

Why do you know all this? It's none of your business. The office gossip is at best out of line and at worst a scourge.

Even if everyone else is talking behind everyone's back, it's the wrong way to behave. In this case, you're all the problem. Learn to mind your Ps and Qs, as they say.

Every once in a while it's true that the problem is other people. But, honestly, that's rare.

Look around you very carefully. If everyone else is an idiot, the truth is that the problem is probably you.