By Sharon Graham

A resume expert shares choice strategies to create resumes that will get your client the interview

If you are looking for advanced strategies to take your client’s resume to the next level, you are not alone. According to a 2011 CERIC survey of over 1,000 career service professionals, many practitioners seek additional professional development in the area of strategic resume writing. Clearly, they want to learn and use techniques that go beyond core concepts that are readily available on the Internet. Here are some strategies to help you create stronger resumes and improve client outcomes.

Do not follow resume rules indiscriminately

It’s likely that you fully understand the guiding principles of resume writing. However, when it comes to applying your knowledge, there are no firm rules. No single formula will work for every client in every situation. For example, resumes generally include a client’s street address. Since Internet security and privacy have become a major concern, you might advise your client to omit this information when posting to job sites. If you find yourself saying “I always do it this way,” then you might want to consider changing your approach. Amass a range of methods and techniques so that you can select the most appropriate one when required.

Steer your client towards a targeted resume

A foundational principle of resume writing is that the document must speak to the target market’s requirements. If your client cannot identify a specific career objective, focus on a typical employer’s needs. For example, if your client is a new graduate seeking an entry-level position, convert a statement that reads “Objective: applying for a position where my skills will benefit the organization” to something like “University of Toronto graduate offers accurate and efficient administrative support.”

Present a complete value proposition

Don’t mistake a value proposition for a profile, headline, tagline or sales pitch at the top of the first page. A strong headline is good, but it is meaningless if the rest of the content does not substantiate it: you must provide evidence within the body of the resume. For instance, if your client has some experience as a server at a restaurant and is now targeting an entry-level office position, you might support a core competency of “data entry” with “Input inventory and orders through the Point of Sales (POS) system” or “processed cash sales and credit card transactions.”

Create an authentic representation of your client

As an empathetic practitioner, you know intrinsically that each client brings distinct value. Create personal, thoughtful and meaningful content every time you write a resume. Rather than describing a new immigrant as “a results-oriented professional with 10 years of experience,” try something like this: “Multicultural client support specialist brings hands-on inside sales experience, sensitivity to diverse client needs and deep commitment to customer service.” When revising content, speak in your client’s voice and ensure that all terms are familiar to your client.

Exploit applicant tracking systems

An employer or recruiter’s applicant tracking system (ATS) will likely process your client’s resume along with many others. Many candidates will include key phrases from the job posting in their resume. Help your client’s resume to rank higher by adding other terms that might interest a recruiter. If your client is looking for warehouse work, include the job title of “shipper/receiver” and some key phrases from the posting. Then, add more related terms such as “warehouse worker,” “material handler” or “parts picker.”

Mitigate all obstacles and barriers to employment

There are various ways to address issues such as career gaps, a short employment term, incomplete education or a significant change in career direction. Diverse obstacles and barriers require different tactics to address them. Don’t rely solely on a functional resume as it rarely conceals career gaps. Recruiters are aware of this manoeuvre and prefer a reverse chronological structure. It is therefore preferable to create a hybrid resume that conforms to the recruiter’s preferences while mitigating specific issues.

Set clients apart with meaningful achievements

If a statement does not precisely describe a specific situation along with the candidate’s performance and an outcome, it is not an achievement – it is an activity. In the eyes of a recruiter, any candidate can perform an activity, but the best ones have achieved something of benefit to the employer. It is often difficult for clients to identify accomplishments. Start by delving into a responsibility and validating it with a measurable result: “I understand that you do filing. Do you file more than 10 documents daily?”

Systematically proofread every resume

When it comes to proofreading and editing your client’s resume, go beyond the basics. Check to ensure consistency within and across sections and parallelism in writing style and content. Resolve inappropriate or unidentified idioms, flawed usage of acronyms and abbreviations, run-on sentences, issues with subject-verb agreement and misplaced or dangling modifiers. Ensure that number structure is consistent, capitalization is correct and punctuation is applied appropriately. If you do not have a strong command of Canadian English, recommend that your client pass the resume by an English teacher or professional proofreader before finalizing it.

Create a distinctive document

With the proliferation of resumes in the current market, templates don’t make much of an impression. It would be a shame if your client’s resume was bypassed simply because it is ordinary. Veer towards enabling your clients to create a distinct look. Not all resumes need to be imaginative, but every resume needs to be as close to flawless as possible. To design resumes properly, you need to be able to use features such as character spacing and kerning, point-size line spacing, tab stop positions, tables and graphs, themes and styles, paragraph and page borders, and text box wrapping. If you are not familiar with these features, you may be unable to format your clients’ resumes properly.

The best resume writers and employment strategists go far past basic concepts. They use advanced strategies to transform every client’s perception of personal worth, distinguish unique value and improve each person’s career prospects. Take the challenge and try something new for your next client.


Sharon Graham is Canada’s Career Strategist and author of the top-selling Best Canadian Resumes Series. Founder and Executive Director of Career Professionals of Canada, Sharon provides career development practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians. You can read Sharon’s blog posts at