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Mark Hammer

There are a myriad of books containing sample resumés that you can find at the public library, that will nicely illustrate how to tailor a resumé to the particular employer, and career path.

The best advice I can offer with respect to resumés is that you are helping someone to make a decision. Too many candidates forget that. Part of that is certainly to trumpet your virtues, but the biggest part is to make it easy for them to get to the information that, for them, is critical in making that decision. If it ain’t relevant to the job, leave it out, no matter how proud you are of it. I can imagine that, for example, there will be contexts in which one’s volunteeer activities and participation in organizations, can be relevant to a given job, but a great many where it isn’t. Should a person have won trophy after trophy in show-jumping, that’s nice, but the relevance to any given job will be quite limited. That’s obviously an extreme example, but you get what I mean.

As part of our mandate, our organization has been gathering survey data from hiring managers and candidates across the whole of the Canadian government for the past decade. About 3-4 years ago, I inserted some questions inquiring how important each of a number of candidate factors were in the manager’s selection decision. And we asked thousands of candidates who had applied for jobs how important they felt each of those very same factors were in the decision made (some of these folks were successful in landing the job, some unsuccessful). One of the more interesting results was that, looking across thousands of managers, competitons, and job types, abilities were the #1 consideration for both managers and applicants. However, where applicants thought that their work experience and training were important, hiring managers generally treated these as noticeably less important than being a good match to the work unit. For hiring managers, it generally came down to two things: can they do the job, and can I work with them? And of course, successful candidates tended to have perceptions a little more in line with managers’ priorities than did unsuccessful ones; i.e., they better anticipated what was important in the manager’s selection decision-making

So that’s what your resumé needs to accomplish. It needs to identify what you can do that is potentially useful to the organization, and it needs to provide easily discernible evidence that you are someone who can fit into the circumstances that are typical of their work unit. It’s not so much the breadth or extent of your work experience in general, but rather the manner in which your work experience identifies that you can fit in nicely here.

Part of accomplishing that involves knowng as much about the organization and job as you can, such that you can highlight the relevant information. And part of highlighting the relevant information involves not burying it in 10 pages of irrelevant stuff. Keep it short and sweet, and provide a reason for them to want to interview you and follow up on what seems so intriguing in the resumé.

Best of luck getting work you love. Everyone deserves that.