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How to write a high impact resume

By Surranna Sandy, President, CPRW, CEIP

In today’s job market, the résumé - a document that provides an overview of your experience, education and skill set - is the number one request of potential employers.

Research has shown that job seekers without a top-quality résumé face long and difficult job searches, while those with polished, professionally written résumés multiply their chances of obtaining their desired positions. In the highly competitive job market, human resources managers and recruiting professionals are inundated with hundreds of résumés for a single position. Résumé Solutions research has determined that on average, an employer spends 10-30 seconds reviewing a résumé before determining whether it warrants further consideration. In such a competitive landscape it is critical that job seekers make a good first impression as a viable candidate by submitting a high impact résumé that cuts through the noise and shows your value to each employer.

As a job seeker, your résumé and cover letter must convince a recruiter that you are the perfect candidate for the vacancy without overloading the document with irrelevant data. In order to attract attention in the job marketplace and distinguish yourself from the competition, your résumé needs to creatively highlight your work history, achievements, education and capabilities. Many new job applicants capture their career history in the Curriculum Vitae (CV) format.. Unfortunately, the CV is only accepted for academic or research related positions and is too cumbersome for private sector jobs. Further, various components of the CV such as marital status, a photograph and other personal data is not relevant in the labour market and in fact may eliminate you as a potential candidate.

You résumé should answer the following questions:

  • What expertise do you offer a potential employer?
  • What added value you brought to your prior employers through measurable achievements?
  • What education qualifications and certifications do you bring?
  • What are you like to work with?

How do you write a high impact résumé?

Be relevant. Be concise. Be results specific. Be honest.

A résumé that generates results should be relevant to an employer’s needs, and emphasize the qualifications that are job, field or industry specific. To illustrate, if you are seeking a role as an Accountant but also possess experience in sales, it is advisable to focus primarily on your accounting knowledge rather than highlighting your sales talents. Another important consideration is to conduct comprehensive industry research prior to applying to jobs so that you are aware of the key job-specific requirements that employers are seeking.

To be effective, a résumé should be concise and to the point. It is critical that you do not prepare a résumé that consists of a laundry list of responsibilities for each job you have ever held or one which includes company jargon. In a document that is no longer than three pages (two is preferable), you need to convey to a prospective employer the contributions you made in each of your past roles. Do not use long-winded sentences or dated terminology. An example of what not to do: “Dear sirs, with your permission, herein is included my résumé and cover letter, in accordance with your request for someone of my esteemed talents which are in line with your organization’s long-term goals” Employers do not want to read long, cumbersome or jargon-laden sentences. Be specific and to the point.

To generate interest from a potential employer, you need demonstrate strategically your defining career moments and business and leadership successes, while outlining measurable results. Depending on your previous positions, this can be shown through examples of ways in which you have reduced costs, improved efficiency, solved problems or any other illustrations of how the organization benefited from your past performance. It is recommended that you include goals you overachieved such as delivering a project ahead of schedule and below budget, improving your staff performance or helping to retain key client accounts.

A high impact, effective résumé will:

  • Demonstrate how you will meet an employer’s needs
  • Convey the qualifications and abilities you offer for the job you want
  • Show results and your qualifications in action
  • Identify your career path
  • Be attractive to the reader through a professional format
  • Is concise and easy to read
  • Let the reader see your skills, knowledge and abilities
  • Be grammatically correct and spelling error free

As a Certified Professional Résumé Writer working with clients from diverse backgrounds and ability levels, my primary objective is to increase my client’s marketability by presenting their unique core competencies, personal talents, strengths and accomplishments in a way that engages the reader and compels them to invite my clients for an interview. However, it is critical that we are honest in the way we present our clients’ skills and as such, we never exaggerate their capabilitities and successes. You should ensure you do the same when writing your new résumé. At all times be honest and relevant with no exaggerations of any details. This may include job titles, education levels, accomplishments and abilities.

What is included in a professional résumé?

To be effective, it is critical that your résumé effectively links your qualifications to a specific job target. It should outline your career progression, education & training, technical and personal skills, languages spoken, professional affiliations, awards & recognition, and any community involvement.

A basic résumé layout should open with a profile or qualification summary. For examples of high impact professional summaries, you can review sample résumés at This profile while summarize who you are and what you have to offer to a potential employer. It should be tailored to the specific industry and job category you are seeking.

Many large and medium-size companies employ technology to gather, store and filter résumés, using keyword searches to identify qualified applicants. You can include industry keywords within the text of the summary, as a stand alone section, or incorporated throughout your résumé.

Typically, your next section should list your employment history in reverse chronological order – listing the most recent job first, followed by second most recent and so on. For each job, you should summarize your varying responsibilities and provide details on measurable results.

Your education follows the details of your employment history. When listing your education, ensure that the institution is clearly stated, the degree qualification is detailed and the year of graduation is included. Only degrees and diplomas from accredited institutes should be included. Your education section can also include any additional courses, certificates and professional development you have obtained.

Additional sections for your resume could include technical skills, affiliations and other job relevant data. Please note, you should not include religious or political affiliations and personal details such as date of birth, marital status, SIN numbers or a personal photograph.

Your success in securing high quality interviews and job offers is critically dependent on your effectiveness in conveying your qualifications and core expertise to potential employers. Before you begin to craft your résumé, I suggest that you take the time to develop an in-depth inventory of your hard and soft skills. Many job seekers find this process challenging, and for those of you having difficulty communicating your skills on paper, turning to a professional résumé writer may be the answer. Companies such as Résumé Solutions, whose Certified Professional Résumé Writers are members of Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches and the Career Management Alliance, are pledged to uphold the highest standards of professionalism, writing quality and ethical behaviour when providing guidance to job seekers. As such, they can be an important partner in your job search strategy.

Surranna Sandy, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Coach and former Human Resources Management Professional, is the Founder and President of Résumé Solutions. The company offers advanced résumé writing, career and interview coaching services for entry level, mid-career through to executive clientele in the global marketplace, and her team of client focused résumé writers and career coaches have helped thousands of job seekers meet their career goals.

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