Campus Blog: The art of selling yourself

By Aidan McKay

Tax Analyst, Tax

Many students going through the recruiting process worry about networking, interview skills and writing a memorable cover letter. But the piece of the recruiting puzzle that is critical to getting any job is the résumé.

I went through the new hire recruiting process in 2013, so I’d like to share the three most important dos and don’ts of résumé writing.

Don’t pad your résumé solely for the sake of résumé building.

This might seem counterintuitive, but that volunteer position you signed up for to portray yourself as a well-rounded, altruistic individual will not do you any favours. If you partake in activities simply to build an all-star résumé, you might get an interview, but that’s exactly the problem. You will be asked in an interview to speak about an experience that you don’t genuinely care about, and it will become obvious that you only signed up to pad your résumé. So here’s my advice: do things to be an altruistic, well-rounded individual, and do things because you like them! These experiences will help you build transferable skills and figure out your strengths and weaknesses, but you’ll be able to talk about them with conviction. Do things because you truly care, and your résumé will build itself.

Don’t just list what you did and format it nicely.

A résumé should be more than a timeline of your life. It should allow the reader to get a sense of who you are, where you’re headed and what your strengths are. When listing experiences, you should write about three things: what the role was (e.g. “Co-President of ABC Club, 123 Secondary School, 09/2011 - 06/2013), what transferable skills you developed and what your achievements were (e.g. “Utilized project management skills to fundraise over $1,000 for cause XYZ”). Every candidate likely has some degree of work or extracurricular experience – maybe more than your own. Rather than focusing on quantity, highlight the specific skills you gained from your experiences that are transferable to the position you’re applying for. When you approach it this way, your résumé is sure to stand out.

Do carefully select what you write about

Maybe you’re a varsity athlete with six practices a week.  Between that and maintaining a good GPA, you barely have time to eat, much less volunteer with 13 different clubs. Or perhaps you were president, vice-president, treasurer or secretary of every club in your high school yearbook. Whatever the case, it’s important to carefully select what to write about on your résumé. My advice is this: think about the skills that your employers are looking for (and if you’re not sure what those are, re-read the job description or ask someone who works there), and then try to focus on the experiences that helped you hone those skills.

So there it is:  my three-step plan for writing a great résumé. Obviously, you should never underestimate the importance of small details – I suggest at least a triple-check of your spelling and grammar. But résumé writing is kind of like writing the introduction to a newspaper article: you have to deliver an unbiased summary of your skills and achievements, while also capturing the reader’s attention to guarantee that they will want the full story.

Aidan is a 2nd year student at the University of Waterloo majoring in Mathematics and Chartered Professional Accountancy (Math/CPA).


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