A Toronto Resume Writer Shares Insights: Tip #3

A resume is a MARKETING TOOL that presents you in the best possible light for the purpose of getting invited to a job interview. The resume is written for the reader be it an H.R. professional or a hiring manager. If you know who is receiving your resume, write it accordingly.

When an HR professional reads your resume, they are generally reading it to screen you out. An advertised position may attract 200-400 applicants so HR is looking to eliminate all but 5-10 potential candidates. HR does not know the intimacies of the position like a hiring manager does, they rely on what they are told as to which resumes attract them and which ones do not.

A hiring manager knows more specifically what type of person they are looking for to fill the job and are hoping with every resume they read that YOURS is one to be short listed.

A Toronto Resume Writer Shares Insights: Tip #2

Tip #2

There are certain words on a resume that are totally useless, that do not evoke any visuals in the reader’s mind. Replace them with an actual action verb the reader can see or imagine you doing.

Stay away from words like:

  • Handled
  • Worked
  • Assisted
  • Responsible for
  • Ability to

Replace them with:

  • Handled: Counted, liaised, problem solved
  • Worked: collaborated, created, team led
  • Assisted: start with the verb you assisted someone in doing
  • Responsible for: same thing, start with the verb
  • Ability to: this means you could do the job if asked but do not necessarily have the experience. If you can do the required task, use the skill to start the sentence.

A Toronto Resume Writer Shares Insights: Tip #1

Put your present or past tense action verb, at the beginning of each of your accomplishments. Adjectives and adverbs that proceed an action verb take the oomph out of the verb and can be redundant, usually unnecessary.

Example NO: Assisted the project manager to create, develop and implement…
Example YES: Created, developed and implemented…in collaboration with the P.M. of the project.

Example NO: Successfully negotiated…
Example YES: Negotiated… if it wasn’t successful you probably wouldn’t be putting it in your resume.

Example NO: Annually processed 10, 000 accounting documents…
Example YES: Processed 10,000 accounting documents yearly, including… OR on an annual basis OR annually.

Your resume is a marketing tool, your resume is a legal document

Your resume is a well crafted, precise and articulate document intended to interest a hiring manager who will invite you to an interview.

A client once told me he had spent 12 hours crafting his initial resume. That is a huge chunk of time away from one’s job search. A professional resume writer can write a resume in one third the time and guarantee a saleable piece of work.

Whether you are employed or in transition, your preference should be for a professional resume.
When looking to have a resume written, you want someone who can:

  • delve deeply within the foundation of your skill set and accomplishments
  • pull out your “professional wonderment”
  • find your magic and
  • convincingly so hiring managers can see instantly what you can do for them.

Only a Career Specialist and a Writer can achieve the level of excellence you require.

A well scripted resume gives you confidence and a sense of pride. It highlights your true self and makes you proud to market yourself. A well scripted resume gets you the interview.

When you or someone you hear of wants to update or create a new resume, I would appreciate your recommendation:

Colleen Clarke, at resumes@yourresumepro.com 416-686-3079

colleen clarke, your resume pro
Colleen Clarke has been writing resumes for middle to senior managers for over 20 years and has assisted over 7500 people through their time of career transition as a Career Specialist. She has written hundreds of resumes and proofed and edited hundreds more, from every walk of life, at every level within organizations, associations, Not for Profit, and for government, media and the trades.

Colleen is an author, a columnist and an ESL instructor. She writes for Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, as a workplace advisor for the column ‘Nine to Five.’ She has prolifically written articles and columns for numerous job search sites, commuter newspapers and magazines. She is a best selling author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and has an e-book, How To Get a Job and Keep It.

Colleen Clarke is “your resume pro.”

Helpful Action Phrases

In the hundreds of resumes I have critiqued and rewrote over the past 20+ years, a major short coming I encounter is an ineffective past or present tense action verb starting the accomplishment: such as help, assist or worked with. Each of your accomplishment based statements/ bullet points, must have a definitive, descriptive, strong action verb describing your skill. Where possible, use skills that are out of the norm, that stand out, that are very visual.

  • Use design, develop and deliver or execute, all in one statement. It is perfectly acceptable to use two or three skills to describe the action taken.
  • Conducted needs analysis….., or an orchestra, lol
  • Pioneered the first….. When you initiated it
  • Spearheaded a team of…. Sure beats ‘Led’
  • Trail blazed our company into social media… when breaking new ground, similar to pioneering
  • Facilitated strategic meetings… instead of ‘held’
  • Utilized a full range of services… instead of used
  • Developed and implemented…if you did more than manage something tell what you got your hands dirty doing
  • Revamped outdated training materials…
  • Orchestrated the United Way campaign…think of yourself as a maestro, coordinating various departments then use orchestrate
  • Negotiated 15 labor contracts… use numbers where you can
  • Divested five subsidiary companies from…use your thesaurus

Though most resumes are written from an Action + Result perspective, it is also acceptable to start a bullet point with the verb that defines the RESULT.

  • Reduced/Increased
  • Reversed
  • Divested
  • Strengthened
  • Recovered, etc

Stay away from these weak, say nothing verbs:

  • Handled – too vague, use a more definitive verb. You don’t handle people which is where one usually sees this and if you handled money what did you do with the money?
  • Worked – is too generic and doesn’t evoke any vision of the action you actually did to accomplish the task. Eg) Worked with the team…doing what?
  • Assisted – isn’t the accomplishment or action verb, it belongs at the end of the sentence Eg) Did ABC and D, as part of a team or assisting the VP of HR.
  • Helped – what did you actually help do? what more specific action verb would be more definitive? Managed? Directed? Collated? Fine tuned?

After determining what powerful action verb to use you need to add in a strong result. After the action ask the questions HOW? or SO WHAT? to get the result.

Eg) ‘Managed a team of eight sales reps…..’

HOW? doesn’t work here so use SO WHAT.

“Coached and managed a team of eight sales reps SO WHAT? who trail blazed 10 new territories in eight months, acquiring 150 new clients and increasing revenues 80%.”

Noone knows better than you what you really did from day to day, so help the reader out and blow your own horn.

Colleen Clarke

Downplaying Your Experience on a Resumé

When the job market is really tight and there is plenty of competition for advertised positions, job seekers may start thinking of down grading their education, experience and knowledge. Sometimes that is a prudent decision. Leaving data off your resume is not lying, whereas adding untruths is.

Applying for positions of a lower level than you have achieved in your career is not something anyone takes pleasure in having to do. You worked hard to acquire your education and experience and now to get the job to feed the family and to survive, you have decided to down play your accomplishments.

How you present yourself is as important as what you decide to hold back.


  • The most common omission is to leave out post graduate education, especially a Masters or PhD.
  • If you were an honor student in high school or university and you are in your early 20’s, keep your Honor
  • Keep in courses you have taken within the last two years. Courses show you are up to date with training though not over educated and therefore an affordable and bright candidate.


  • If the role is not one of leadership and you have been a leader or manager, downplay words like Manage, Supervise, Oversee, Direct, Lead. (and these words in the past tense)
  • Normally I would not condone starting a sentence with “Assisting someone…” and then stating the action verb, but to down play your involvement and ability start with those words and then state what you did, rather than the other way around.
  • When 5 years is required and you have over 10, use Honed or Developed to describe your experience, rather than the number of years.
  • With more than 15-20 years of experience, say: Extensive experience with……to mask your superiority.
  • If you speak more languages than are required, omit the ones you know you won’t need to use.
  • If global experience isn’t a benefit and you have worked internationally, take all the cities off your resume that would normally go next to the company name, even the local city you live in now.
  • Quantitative information is essential in a resume and you don’t want to lie. Use about or approximately, under or over in front of an amount to lower the number of dollars or people from your responsibility.


  • There is a difference between knowledge of, ability to and Doing It. If you are too advanced for a skill or aptitude, say you have knowledge of… or the ability to…. rather than Do it everyday and am a wiz bang at it.
  • Don’t down play what you do know or what you need to know to get the job done. How well you can do something with the knowledge is a tad different.

When you hold back information on a resume you may have to alter the interview as well. Stay focused on what the job requires in the first interview at least, not what you could do over and above. Certainly you can use intuition and speculation of what you would do if… to describe desired outcomes.

You get the interview. Now you have to convince the interviewer that you are not going to run out on them when a more lucrative job comes along, which is one of the biggest concerns a hiring manager has, ergo, altering your resume.

Colleen Clarke

Listen to Colleen Clarke on CBC Radio talk about how millennials can find the jobs they seek

Stats Canada released its employment projections for the next quarter. Employment opportunities are down for millennials, those high school grads, university students looking for summer employment. I shared some insights with 11 CBC radio stations and their listeners across Canada on how summer and first time job seekers can up their notability on their resume, find jobs that make them want to get up in the morning and win the interview when they get one. I invite you to take a listen!

Helping Your Student Get Job Ready

Soon students will be exiting their hallowed halls of higher education, security and built in sociability to look for a summer job or, their first permanent position.

Before they go off into the big scary world of commerce, you as parents can guide them as to the dos and don’ts of a proper work search. They may not want to listen to you, but hopefully a columnist has some clout, so feel free to clip out this article and leave it under their cereal bowl in the morning.

The number one complaint heard the world over is, “I don’t have the experience so how can I get a job?” Experience doesn’t have to come from paid employment. Encourage your student-child to do volunteer work if they are still too young to be paid or paid work is not forth coming. Nursing homes, parks and recreation facilities, art galleries, museums, Guides and Brownies, Scouts and Cubs and BINGO halls, all hire student volunteers. Most high schools have community initiative programs where students get compensated for volunteer work towards their schooling. Check with the local Lions and Rotary clubs in your neighborhood for man power they can utilize. All these assignments can go on their resume.

For students with some work experience, they need a good solid resume that highlights their previous work experience and contributions, student council positions, athletic teams or yearbook staff, newspaper or activity club involvement. Babysitters should take a Babysitting Certificate course; swimmers need their CLS to lifeguard or teach. Many school activities teach skills that are transferable to parks and recreation programs: skating, gymnastics, arts and crafts. Tutoring lower grades or students in ESL counts too.

When applying for a position, encourage your job seeker to dress the part of a reliable, mature, serious applicant. Encourage them to meet the decision maker of the company when handing in the resume, whether they drop it by or have arranged an appointment. Never dress like you need a job, don’t lug along your friends, pet, mother or baby sister and be well groomed, no gum or visible signs of bodily mutilation – there could be an exception on Queen Street West in a pub or retail store.

List awards won and multiple languages spoken. Work done in a family business counts too. Global living experience makes one more worldly and cultured – include it.

Attitude accounts for a huge percentage of ones success in getting an interview and ultimately a job. Belief in yourself, confidence in your abilities and a positive personal attitude beats out desperation, entitlement and laziness every time.

Just before they step out the door to apply for a job, have them step in front of a mirror and ask them, “Would you hire this person to work for you, and how much would you pay them?”

Colleen Clarke, Your Resumé Pro

Interviewing Success After Being Fired

I have been fired more than once in my life. Little did I know at the time that those experiences would help make me a more understanding, empathetic and wise career consultant in my 5th incarnation.

While on a job interview after my last firing the interviewer knew I had been ‘let go.’ He was a wonderful person, CEO and interviewer. He asked me, “is there anything we should do or should know about so as to prevent a repeat of the occurrence that happened at xyz company?” I was totally blown away. What a gracious and polite way to make an uncomfortable situation manageable!

From a Job Seekers Perspective

Unfortunately, most interviewers are not that tactful and gracious. So what to do? Dr. Jack Muskat is a Toronto based organizational psychologist who suggests that candidates who have been fired for such things as misconduct, mental health flair ups or poor management /communication skills, must be non defensive and open in this interview.

Know your short comings. Know what you excel at and be prepared to blow your horn, but also know your limitations. If you can only manage certain people, let it be known. If you are not a detail person, more of a visionary, be solution focused and suggest, “Pair me with a detailed person in a team and we will exceed expectations.”

When asked why you were fired explain the situation, but don’t over explain. Put a positive spin on it by explaining what you learned from the situation and how you would handle a similar situation going forward. Have an answer for everything Dr. Muskat advises.

If employment gaps or time lines are the issue you may need to explain why you were only at a company for a short period of time. Write out and practice your reply. Outline the problems you encountered and the obstacles to getting them solved. Don’t make excuses for yourself, just talk about the situation and how in a perfect world you would fix things.

You need a company that will support your fears and is a healthy work environment that allows you to excel and flourish. Know what those factors are so you can define them and speak to them. Be careful not to get caught up in needing a job and ignore red flags of toxic or inappropriate work environments where you will repeat what you just left. Tell the interviewer the type of boss you work best under and what motivates and inspires you to succeed. You are looking for colleagues who are complimentary to your style, personality and skills.

Be prepared to speak to everything on your resume with strong stories to validate your skills and knowledge.

From the Employer’s Perspective

Whether a candidate is asked the question or not, an interviewer wants to know why someone was fired? Was it poor fit, low numbers, mistreated staff, sloppy work, unprofessional, what is the real reason?

Employers need to know weaknesses so they can ascertain if they can live with and manage these shortcomings so you don’t fail again. They know everyone is flawed and that no one is perfect so expecting perfection would be a mistake on their part, yet commonly assumed.

Dr. Muskat tells us that good interviewers will probe carefully to understand what risks the interviewee might present and what gotta have’s both parties need for the relationship to work.

A hiring manager might want to know what you look like when you are angry and how your show you are pleased. When someone enters your office when you are really busy, how might they expect you to react? If you are asked about failures be sure to have one, professional or personal. Don’t dwell on the explanation but be sure to highlight the learnings you gleaned from the mistake or failure.

Questions could include the whereabouts of the staff who reported to you or who you worked with over the years. Are they promoted? What would they say about you?

At the end of the day, the employer needs to see that you are truly remorseful for any wrong doings, that you have learned from your mistakes and are you willing to change.

Will an employer hire someone who has been fired? Dr. Muskat says it depends on what brought them down and what an employer is prepared to do to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Colleen Clarke, Your Resumé Pro

Between Job Survival Tips

As the days get shorter and the sunlight starts to diminish, it is harder to stay motivated and do a job search five days a week. Do you have to?

Though attitude accounts for an enormous part of your ability to get through this transition time, using these survival tips might help too.

  • Job search is 5 focused, productive hours a day in the first few months of being unemployed. Get organized, set daily and weekly goals and make the best use of each quarter of the day. Surfing the net, updating Facebook and answering questionnaires does not count for any of the 5 hours; updating and working on Linkedin does count.
  • Balance your day with pleasurable activities or recreation in the afternoons so as to work for a couple hours in the evenings on tasks that don’t require making business calls.
  • Treat yourself to designer coffees rather than designer sportswear. Allow yourself little luxuries. Discount movie theatres are a great escape from the real world of looking for work day in and day out. Free lunch hour concerts downtown get you out of the house, possibly chatting up working folks and they also give you a culture break away from your desk.
  • Let friends treat you to coffees or lunches when they offer, then remember to pay them back when you are re-employed.
  • Attend a yoga, meditation or exercise class minimally 3 times a week. Take care of your body, mind and spirit. Eat more sensibly than ever before. Limit sugars and carbs, truly you are what you eat!
  • Make a list of your assets, liabilities and begin eliminating expenses you can temporarily live without. Create a stripped down budget. Parking costs for instance can accumulate quickly, watch your transportation practices.
  • Keep child care services as long as you can. You need the freedom to go on advice calls and interviews and to meet with fellow job seekers for support and commraderie.
  • Allow yourself the luxury of sleeping in an hour or so later than when you HAD TO get up. You may have to sacrifice some afternoon play time or evenings but you deserve it, guilt free sleep-ins only allowed!
  • Volunteer work is a great remedy for self-pity. Give back to the community, you owe it to yourself and it reminds you of how talented you really are and how much you have to offer.
  • Learn a new sport, learn to cook, play with your kids and your pets more. Explore parts of your city or town you’ve never been to before.
  • If you are going to take your lap top to the local coffee shop be sure to chat someone up as well. You need adult human contact and you need to meet new people.
  • Join a Toastmasters program.
  • Start writing. Keep a journal or twitter of your discoveries, trials and tribulations. Write about a favorite subject that pertains to your work. See if you can get it published in an industry newsletter, magazine or community paper.
  • Laugh more. Whether it is joining Laughter Yoga, watching animals and children play, watching Just for Laughs on TV or hanging out with humorous friends, get those endorphins going.
  • Socialize every chance you get. Join or attend networking groups, Meet Up groups, association meetings, Board of Trade functions, seminars, audit courses for free and go to parties with your head held high and your 30 second info-mmercial honed to a tee – remember to take business cards.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who are your cheerleaders for success, not naysayers of doom. Close your ears to those who have given up on you and believe you are too old, too inexperienced, too educated, too tall or too far fetched to get the job of your dreams.
  • Look at this free time as a gift, it won’t last forever. You know you will work again, maybe sooner than you think, be good to yourself.

Whatever you do, don’t give up!

Colleen Clarke, Your Resumé Pro

Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It