By guest contributor, Najia Alavi, Marketing Manager, Career Edge Organization
Drawing from professional and personal experience, Najia shares some insights about some mistakes people do when it comes to resumes, especially skilled immigrants.
1. Generalist Resume
Having lived and worked in three countries, when I moved to Canada a couple of years ago, it took me a while to realize that the “generalist” resume I flaunted for its breadth of experience was perceived as ‘lacking focus and depth’ by Canadian employers. In other countries, not only was I expected to gain experience in a variety of job functions but also to make sure I highlighted that experience so that I am seen as a valuable, flexible and well-rounded professional.
But once in Canada, I quickly caught on to the “jack of all trades, master of none” mentality.
Although Canadian employers may prefer to look at a ‘Canadian-ized’ specialist version of a foreign-trained worker’s resume that emphasizes the depth of skill and experience in one particular field, hiring managers may actually be losing out on seeing the transferable skills and cross-functional expertise that the candidate could bring to the role.
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2. Emphasizing job responsibilities instead of professional achievements
Talking about individual achievements is considered quite tasteless and immodest in some parts of the world, particularly in the eastern cultures where I worked. Although many internationally qualified professionals try to adapt to the North American individualistic culture, I still observe that many of my own friends are uncomfortable talking about their own achievements.
Here’s a tip for Canadian employers: the job responsibilities list on an internationally qualified professional’s resume could be interpreted as a subtle way of stating not only what he or she was responsible for but also what he/she did well; most candidates – internationally qualified or not – seldom list job responsibilities on their resumes if they had not successfully accomplished it. That’s because they know they may be asked to elaborate on it in an interview!
3. Having 3 or 4-page long resumes
No, but in some countries, like the ones I worked in, it is customary to list all the jobs an individual’s ever held regardless of whether the experience relates to the position they are applying for or not. Before moving to Canada, I had about 8 years of work experience and until someone pointed out the “generalist/specialist” resume divide and advised me to “tailor” my resume to Canada, I wouldn’t have thought of leaving off my resume some of the work experience that did not relate to the role I was applying to.
4. Including personal information like marital status, date of birth – and sometimes, their photographs on resumes
While the counties I worked in had also moved beyond these, I know of friends who come from places where it is still customary to include personal information and more on their resumes. All I can do when I come across a resume like that is ignore the personal details and focus on the wealth of qualifications and experience the candidate can bring to the organization!