Resume Writing

10 Essentials Resume Tips When Submitting Online Applications

In some companies, online application systems screen resumes before a person does. That means that if your resume doesn’t meet specific requirements, it could be screened out, never even getting a chance.

You may think this only applies to larger companies, but small to medium-sized companies use basic electronic screening tools as well. For example, if you submit your resume via Indeed, recruiters and hiring managers can set search criteria that help them create a short list of all applications submitted.

Here are my top 10 tips for ensuring your resume successfully gets through online systems.

1.      Carefully answer knockout screening questions. These are the questions that you need to respond to before uploading your resume. By answering a question wrong, you may take yourself completely out of the running.

Also, don’t take too long as some companies track the time it takes you to complete your online application.

2.      Stick with standard headings for each section on your resume. The online systems look for headings in your resume to know how to categorize information. By sticking with general headings like “Work Experience” or “Education,” there’s a greater chance your resume content will show up in the right places. 

3.      Job titles matter. Specific job titles are very common search criteria. Your application may be more successful if your most recent job title matches the job posting title.   

If it makes sense, adjust your job title to align with the posting. For example, I used to be called a Career Strategist, but the industry terms for the type of work I did was Case Manager. If applying online to a Case Manager position, I’d change my job title to Case Manager instead of Career Strategist.

4.      Incorporate keywords from the job posting. Carefully review the posting to ensure that you are using the right keywords in your resume.  To test your keyword alignment, use Job Scan. You can use industry acronyms, but make sure you also spell them in full form as well.

5.      Know what will scan. You may have a beautifully designed resume, but keep in mind that graphics and images won’t scan. And systems can also struggle to read text in columns and text boxes.

That doesn’t mean that design doesn’t matter or that you shouldn’t use more graphic elements. It just means that those elements won’t be parsed in an online system. Eventually, human eyes will scan your resume and this can help you stand out.  

6.      Spell properly.  Of course, you want to ensure that you check your spelling and grammar before submitting a resume. But it’s even more important with online applications. If you misspell a critical keyword, the system isn’t smart enough to know that.

7.      Don’t cheat. The advice used to be to put the job posting in white font at the bottom of your resume in hopes of tricking the system. But systems have gotten smarter over time and using out-dated tricks like this could result in your application being black-listed.

8.      Put your contact information in the right spot.  For online applications, you should keep your contact information at the top of your resume. If you put it somewhere else, it can easily get lost. Also, do not put your contact information in the header as not all systems can read information in headers or footers.

9.      Resume length doesn’t matter. You have probably heard that a resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages. Well, with online systems, it doesn’t matter. Focus on using the space you need to explain your background in alignment with the job.

10.   Keep your font simple: Stick with some of the more popular fonts like Calibri, Arial, Cambria, Garamond, or Times New Roman.

Hope this helps you with your next online application.



Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

The Anatomy of a Resume that Gets Noticed

To find work in today’s labour market, it’s expected that you submit a well-written, polished resume which outlines your best skills, experience, training, and accomplishments. And as resume formats have evolved over time, it’s raised the bar on what’s expected by future employers.

Resumes are about YOU, but they are FOR HR and hiring decision makers. As you build your resume, you will get all kinds of advice. But what really matters is what the decision makers are saying.  

In 2017, we surveyed over 60 hiring experts including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. Here’s what we learned. 

1. Target your resume: Hiring managers want to see you made an effort. They want to hire someone who wants to work for them, not just someone who wants a job. For each position you apply to, be sure to adjust your resume to highlight your best skills, experience, and training.

2. Check your spelling and grammar: Spelling and grammar mistakes are the #1 turn-off for hiring managers. Be sure to check, double-check, and check again before sending out.

3. Be organized: Hiring managers scan your resume in 5-10 seconds. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you can do. 

4. Use a common font: Hiring managers don’t care which font – it just needs to be an easy-to-read font. Creative fonts don’t earn you extra points.

5. Limit the length of your resume: The average resume should be two pages. If you are at a senior level, it’s acceptable to have a longer resume. If you are junior, you may only need a one-page resume. Everyone else? Stick with two pages.

6. Utilize the correct date format: Use the month and year format for start and end dates in your employment history.

7. Limit your bullets per section: No one has time to read a dense list of bullets. Identify what is most important. Generally, 5 – 7 bullets per section is the golden rule.

8. Incorporate keywords: Use the job description to identify industry keywords and integrate those keywords throughout the resume.  

9. Use action words: When describing your work and accomplishments, always start your statements with a powerful action verb.

10. Explain your value: Instead of listing tasks, explain what you achieved. How did the company benefit from your performance? How do you do this job better than someone else might? Or what would get missed if you were away for an extended amount of time? 

11. Write accomplishment statements: Under your work history, write accomplishment statements using the PAR (problem – action – result) method.

12. Quantify results: Find tangible examples of what you have done and use numbers and percentages to describe how you made a difference.

13. Explain gaps or short-term employment: Gaps or short-term employment causes concern for hiring managers. If you have a recent employment gap on your resume, address it briefly.

14. Design matters: Hiring managers appreciate a nice-looking resume. In particular, they like the use of bold font to draw attention to important information.

15. Show personality: Reviewing resumes can be tedious, especially when job seekers use generic phrasing or unnecessary jargon. Be unique and memorable in your wording.

16. Send it in PDF: Most hiring managers want your resume submitted in PDF, but always follow the instructions, first and foremost. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. If you want to read more about our survey, you can download our exclusive guide here. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. 


Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Resume Formatting Hacks You Should Try

Resume Formatting Hacks.png

As a resume writer, I love formatting and design! But sometimes formatting is the element that causes the most amount of grief for a job seeker! 

Here are a few of my secrets to successful resume formatting. Please note that I am using examples from Word 2016. 

Left Alignment for Dates

I love the look when employment dates are properly aligned to the left. It helps the reviewer quickly get a sense of your work history and keeps things nice and tidy.

The challenge is when you have a line of text that requires both right and left alignment. Here is how you can easily do this.

To left align in Word, look for a small box to the left of your ruler. Click on it until you get to the backward L. 

Then click into your document where you want to the break between left and right alignment to happen. Click on the ruler to place the left alignment.

Once you have set the alignment, make sure your cursor is in the space where you set the break between right and left alignment. Hit the tab button and see your text fly over to the left!

Creating Differentiated Headings

You need to make your resume as easy as possible to read. One of the ways that you can do that is through using headings.  Here are a few easy ways to quickly make your headings stand out.

Option 1: Add a Line.

Adding a line to a heading is easy. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the same line. Make sure you are on the Home tab. Then click the arrow beside on the picture of the quadrant box (Borders) in the Paragraph section.  Select Bottom Border.

Option 2: Add a Shade

Another option for making your heading stand out is to use Shading. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the line. For this option, again make sure you are on the Home tab. This time, click on the arrow beside the paint can under the Paragraph section and select the shade colour that you desire.

Option 3: Use Capitalization

One additional way to make your headings stand out is through using capitalization. Did you know there is an easy way to switch between lowercase and uppercase in Word? Under Fonts, select the Change Case button (Aa), you will then have the option to choose a variety of options including UPPERCASE.

Though content is important on resumes, it is also critical to make sure that your resume is eye-catching and easy to read.

Hopefully, these formatting tips will help you create a resume that stands out!  For more inspiration, check out these resume samples. 



Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.  

Is It Cheating for Someone Else to Write My Resume?

Question: Should I write my own resume or hire someone else to do it for me?  

Back in the day, I held the belief that it was important for clients to write their own resumes. After all, if they learned to do it once, then they would hopefully be self sufficient in the future. And who better to understand the nuances of the work except the person who did the work, right? 

But I have changed my mind.  After some vigorous debates with a previous colleague of my mine, I came to see that there can be value in having someone else help with the resume writing process for several reasons. 

It's Hard to Talk About Yourself:  If you're like many other people, you might find it awkward to talk about yourself.  You are good at your job, but trying to put it down on paper seems daunting. What is important to include?  What is too much information versus not enough information? 

I've met many people who are excellent writers, but they get completely lost when writing their own resume. One of my favorite parts of being a resume writer is the first conversation that I have with a client when I get to ask questions about their past work experience and accomplishments. So many times, clients remark that this conversation helped them to see their strengths and skills in a different light. And often this knowledge bought the clients a sense of empowerment that carried through in the rest of their job search!

Resume Best Practices Change with Time:  From when I started in the career development field about 10 years ago to now, the conventional wisdom on how to professionally write a resume has changed. As a job seeker, there is no shortage of information out there on resume writing, some of it accurate and some of it, terrible!  When you want to find work as soon as possible, the faster way might be to work with a professional whose job it is to make sure they are up-to-date on current resume trends.  And be careful with the advice that you get from family and friends. What worked several years ago for someone else in a certain industry may not be applicable to your situation anymore. 

It's Tough to Downsize: When it is your resume, everything on your resume seems important.  It is not unusual for me to see resumes that are creeping past 2 or 3 pages. However, often less is more. When applying for work, your resume needs to be focused and targeted for the job you are applying for.  Having someone else help you make those strategic decisions on what to keep in and what to leave out can help save you a ton of time and deliberation! 

Outsourcing in the Way of the Future: When I first started my business, I spent hours designing my logo. Now as I have gotten busier, I realize that was not the best use of my time. When another project came up that required some graphic design skills, I made the decision to outsource the work instead of trying to muddle my way through.  Though I ultimately approved the final project, it was so nice to focus my energy on other work that I needed to get done. Nobody expects a business owner to be able to do everything. Why would we expect the same of a job seeker? 

In the end, you are responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in your resume.  But if writing a resume is something that makes you want to pull out your hair, you may be better served by putting your energy into other aspects of your job search while letting someone else figure out the best way to make you shine through your resume.  

If you are the person struggling to write your resume, consider working with Career Story.  We write content-rich and visually-appealing resumes that get noticed!  Connect with us at 604-614-3155 or for more information.

Should I Use a Resume Template?

Question: What are the best resume or cover letter templates out there?

When working on your resume, it can be tempting to use a template. And there is no shortage of templates from free options through Google documents or Microsoft Word to more professionally designed, paid templates available on Etsy and Creative Market.   

Be very careful when using a resume template. Hiring managers and recruiters may review hundreds of resumes when looking for a candidate. They are well acquainted with the standard resume templates and in fact, using a template could work against you, signaling a lack of effort or creativity on your part.   

Google Document template

Google Document template

Looks are not everything; content matters more! Though resume templates can be visually appealing, they can box you into fitting into their specific layout.  The temptation becomes building content to fit the template rather than focusing first on generating strong content and formatting later. Hiring managers want to know that you have the experience, competence, skills, education, and training to do the job. A pretty layout may look good, but more importantly, you need to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for the job advertised.

Template formatting can be tricky. One of the tricks to a great looking resume template is the use of hidden tables to keep data in place. In the Microsoft Word resume template example, the entire resume is done in a hidden table. But tables are exceptionally difficult to work with when trying to make formatting changes or add additional content. And more importantly, if you apply online, an automated applicant tracking system may struggle to correctly extract the right information from a table. If you do decide to use a Google document resume template, be aware that you will need to submit your resume in Microsoft Word and your Google document may have conversion issues.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Building your resume without a template is worth doing. The purpose of your resume is to highlight what you have to offer. Instead of obsessing over finding the best resume template, spend your time building strong content that will help an employer understand how you can meet their needs. When writing resumes, try answering these questions:

  • What are the skills, experience and education that I have which demonstrate my ability to do this job?
  • How can I show some personality and make the resume interesting to read?
  • Have I shown that I am committed and dependable and accounted for any major gaps in my work history?

Once you have your core content created, you can then find ways to make your resume look exceptional. Beyond simply doing a web search, you can head over to Pinterest, Creative Market or Etsy to get a few ideas on formatting. And feel free to check out our resume samples here.

If you are feeling stuck in building your resume, consider working with Career Story.  Each resume that we build is unique to our clients. We focus on building strong content and then presenting it in a visually-appealing way to ensure that it gets noticed by hiring managers. Contact us at 604-614-3155 or email us at

Job Search Tips From a Hiring Manager

Ever want to know what is going on inside the mind of a hiring manager? Well, you are in for a treat. I recently had a fascinating conversation with Darrell Lim of Oak Management Consulting. Darrell is a strategic business leader, corporate trainer, and coach. He has many years of hiring experience in a variety of industries including retail, software, non-profit, and manufacturing and he has hired for a range of positions from front-line employees (customer service and production) up to highly specialized technical and creative experts and organizational leaders.

I asked Darrell to share about the recruitment process that he generally follows and I am glad that he did. There are some fantastic nuggets of wisdom here for job seekers! 

1. Create a Recruitment Culture: Instead of hiring when there is an urgent need or vacancy, Darrell advocates for businesses to take a more strategic approach. He encourages organizations to always be open to having conversations with potential candidates and he sees great value in conducting informational interviews with interested candidates even when not actively hiring. This ensures that companies already have a qualified pool of candidates ready to go when they DO need to hire, and mitigates the risk of hiring weak candidates because they need to fill a position.

Tip: One of the greatest falsehoods in job search is that employers do not want to talk to potential job seekers. This is not true. Make informational interviews and networking an active part of your job search strategy. 

2. Discuss Needs with the Hiring Manager: Once a vacancy comes up, Darrell will work with the hiring manager to understand their needs and vision for the new position. Just because there is a position does not mean that it needs to be filled exactly as is. Darrell asks the hard questions: Does this position actually need to be filled? If it does need to be filled, does the position need to be changed in any way?  

Tip: When a position becomes vacant, it may not be filled in exactly the same way as it was in the past. This is an opportunity for you as a job seeker. By reaching out through networking, you may be able to position yourself as a potential answer to the company’s needs even if you do not have the same qualifications, education, or experience that the previous employee had. 

3. Create the Job Posting and Circulate: After determining the best position to fill the needs of the organization, Darrell focuses on creating a detailed job description. He posts it to various job search sites depending on the position type. Indeed and craigslist are favorites for entry-level positions while LinkedIn is a good option for more technical or leadership positions. Darrell generally waits 2-3 weeks before reviewing applications as he wants to maximize his time by having a critical mass of applications. 

Tip: Applied for a job and have not heard back yet?  Be patient. The hiring manager or recruiter may not have reviewed your application yet. 

4 .Review Job Postings: When it comes to reviewing applications, Darrell wants to see a resume and cover letter that are targeted to the job that was posted.  For each time that the resume contains vague or fluffy information unrelated to the job posting, Darrell mentally gives the job seeker a demerit point. After an applicant has accumulated 5-6 demerits, depending on the role, he moves onto another applicant. He does look carefully for technical competence and educational levels. And lastly, he always reads the “Volunteer Work” section as a way of trying to gauge company culture fit.

Tip: One of the critical mistakes that job seekers make is not targeting their resume to the job posting. Creating a targeted resume for each job you apply for is critical! 

Tip: Consider having a “Volunteer Work” section on your resume. 

5. Conduct a Phone Screening Call: After reviewing applications, Darrell then conducts 10 -1 5 minute phone screenings. He wants to weed out people who do not fit in company culture. Often, he quickly gets a feel for people even within the first few minutes, particularly if the conversation is awkward or if the applicant only gives one-word answers. Unfortunately about 50% of people have not carefully read through the job description and are often unable to answer any questions related to the position or company. 

Tip: Keep track of the companies that you apply for.  Each time you apply for a job, create a folder (electronic or paper) with a copy of your cover letter, resume and the job posting along with any company research you may have conducted. You may be looking for any job, but companies want to know that you want to work for THEM! 

Tip: Practice your phone manner. If you find the phone awkward, find someone to practice with even if they are just in another room in your home.  

6. Perform Second and Third Rounds of Interviews: Throughout the interview process, Darrell talks about looking for three things: competence, character, and chemistry. He wants to know that the person to be hired is able to do the job! One of the ways that he screens for this is through using behavior-based questions. He includes questions regarding ethics to assess character.  And then finally, he is looking for someone that he finds a connection with.

Darrell shared that he has recently been using web technology in his interviews, specifically Google hangouts.  He has been conducting group interviews with 4-6 people through Google hangouts. For technical or creative positions, he may give the individual a small task to complete as part of the interview. 

For the final interview, Darrell will often meet candidates at a coffee shop or at the company site.  Here, he will ask more detailed questions about the applicant’s background and career.

Tip: Be prepared for anything in terms of interview format! 

Tip: Practice your behavior-based questions which ask you to share what you have done in the past. Often these interviews questions will start with “Tell me about a time…” 

As you can see, the employer and recruiter put a huge amount of effort into the hiring process. The next time you submit an application, try putting yourself into the employer’s shoes and implement some of the tips shared here! 

If this information has been helpful, but you feel that you could use more help with your job search, consider connecting with Career Story for support. We offer resume writing and interview preparationservices at affordable prices. Please contact us at 604-614-3155 or at

New to Canada? Compelling Resume Advice from a Successful Immigrant Job Seeker

There is loads of advice out there on what makes a resume effective, but the best advice is from someone who has been successful in using their resume to find work!  

A few months ago, I did a resume consult with a highly educated and accomplished business professional who had recently immigrated to Canada. After arriving, she was quick to convert her CV into a resume format, condensing it from multiple pages to two pages. But when she started handing out two-page resumes, she also stopped getting phone calls for interviews. This prompted a move back to using a more comprehensive resume format with detailed information on previous work experience. Consequently, the interview calls started again and she was hired shortly after. She found that employers asked her specific questions about the past experience she had referenced in her resume. The other key to her success was providing evidence of her communication skills in her resume as this can be a concern for employers when hiring new immigrants.  

Here are four key takeaways for individuals who may be looking for their first job in Canada.

  1. Focus on providing proof of solid, quality work experience in your home country. If that takes three pages, that is fine as long as all information in the resume relates to the job posting. 
  2. Put less emphasis on your education. Unless you are a new graduate, work experience is listed first and carries more weight with Canadian employers than education. 
  3. Give evidence of your communication skills and abilities in your resume. 
  4. Keep adjusting your resume until you start to get results!

If your resume is not giving you the result that you want, it is time for a change! Consider investing in resume writing help to better spotlight and improve the way that you market yourself through your resume!  Contact Kristin today for your free 15-minute consultation at 604-614-3155 or at 


4 Important Resume Tips to Get Results

When looking for work, resume writing is one of the first things on the “to do” list. But for many job seekers, it’s often one of the hardest parts!  A strong resume is critical to standing out in today’s competitive labour market so it’s important that your resume is working for you!

How can you tell if your resume is working?

Very simply, it’s the response rate that the resume brings.  If you are diligently sending out your resume and have not received any invitations for interviews in several months, it’s time to re-evaluate if your resume is doing the job that it’s supposed to.

A good resume will clearly share work and education history.  It will be well laid-out and easy-to-read.  But beyond that there are 4 important tasks that a resume should also be doing for you:

Answer the Question the Job Posting is Asking

Think of a job posting as being a question that the employer is posing to anyone who is interested in working for their company.  They are saying, “This is what we want…do you fit?” Your job is to thoughtfully answer the employer’s question, using your resume as a written way to evidence the qualifications that the employer is asking for.

Sometimes job seekers will resist changing their resume, believing that it’s the employer’s job to sift through their resume to figure out if they are a viable candidate or not. The challenge is that employers simply do not have time for this.  They may be reviewing hundreds of resumes so the responsibility is on you to make this process as easy as possible.

Yes, targeting your resume is more work and will take more time. But remember that there is a human being on the other side who is actually reading your resume at some point along the way.  And that person wants to find someone who wants to work for their company, not just someone who wants any job.

Highlight What You Bring

What is that unique combination of skills, experience, education and personality that you would bring to the job? One way to identify what makes you marketable is to ask yourself, “If I could have a face-to-face meeting with this employer and I had one minute to convince her to hire me, what would I say?” Once you have identified what makes you unique, prominently highlight it at the top on the first page of your resume.  This will create a sense of branding that will follow the reader as they review the rest of your resume.

The key here is to again make sure that the marketable skills that you have match the job that you are applying for.  Take a look at the job posting again and try thinking about your resume as a business proposal to work for the company.  Of the skills, abilities and attributes that you identified, what skills do you think would be most attractive to the company?

Reassure the Reviewer

Beyond skills, experience and education, employers also use your resume to get clues about your consistency and commitment to work.  Therefore, having dates on your resume is important.  If you do have a gap in your work history (like I do), you need to be thinking about how you will address that in your resume.  For me, that looks like a bullet point in my work history that explains that I have taken time off for maternity leave and to live abroad.

Though you may have a gap, think about what else you were doing during that time.  Did you volunteer, take care of a family member, work for a family business, blog, complete any training, travel or education or engage in any self-development?   If so, note it down on your resume. 

One of my clients suffered an illness that took him out of the workforce for several years.  But during that time, he provided some administrative support to his partner in her home-based business.  Even though he was not paid for this work, it was still work and we used it to fill in the gap period in his resume.  Another client took several years away from the workforce to support her child with a disability.  Based on her experience, the client decided to find paid work supporting individuals with disabilities and we built her resume to outline the skills that she gained through caring for her own child.

Tell the Right Story

Everyone comes with history, but you do not need to put everything that you have ever done on your resume.   Use your resume to share the part of your story that will help employers understand why you are applying to work at their company and how you fit their needs.

If you have something on your resume that is non-essential, evaluate if it’s necessary to keep based on the job you are applying for.   It is best if you can demonstrate a consistent timeline so don’t take anything off your resume that will leave big gaps.  But at the same time, there should be a reason for everything that you do choose to keep on your resume.  Did you do a one-day course in 1997 or take a 3-month contract in 2008?  It might be time to kick those off your resume so you can use the space for other more important things!

One example where telling the right story becomes important, is when you may have tried several different careers, resulting in a seemingly disjointed work history. How do you tell the right story then? The first key is to identify common threads between the jobs that you were doing.  And secondly, think about what all those experiences taught you. How are you going to be better at your job because of your past experience?  Then find a way to represent that in your resume!

To determine if your resume is telling the right story, try reading it from the perspective of an HR professional.  Remember, they want to see:

- Do you have the skills, experience and education to do the job?

- Is your personality a good fit for the company?

- Are you committed and dependable?

When you have been pouring over your resume for hours and hours, it can be hard to see if you have a consistent story.  This might be the right time for you to have someone else to read through it and provide some unbiased feedback.

Though writing a resume can be difficult at times, it can be a useful process to clarify what you have to offer while getting well-acquainted with what the employer is looking for.  By making sure that your resume is working for you, you will actually find work more quickly!

Kristin Vandegriend is a Career Coach and Resume Writer at Career Story. With over 10+ years of experience in HR and career development, she has successfully worked with hundreds of clients to find meaningful and sustainable work. Her passion is helping clients identify career paths and creative job search strategies that leverage and market their personal strengths and resilience.  Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook.