Monthly Archives: February 2015

Common Resume Mistakes

resume mistakes

We have already covered how to secure a pay rise here, but what if you don’t even have a job yet? For many Canadians, particularly those just about to leave education, getting a job is the single biggest factor in improving their financial outlook. After all, the bigger the income column, the easier it is to build a successful budget (unless it’s windfall income, which poses some unique challenges). In this article we’ll cover five things that you shouldn’t put on your resume, and provide some suggestions of what to write instead.

Personal information. In Canada, there are some questions that a potential employer cannot legally ask in a job interview. To prevent discrimination, they cannot ask for your age, your citizenship or immigration status, your religion, your disabilities (in terms broader than “can you perform all tasks essential to this job?”) your marital or family status, or your political affiliations. Don’t include a photo with your resume, and remember that you don’t have to give your year of graduation alongside your education. When it comes to the contact information that you have to provide, don’t use your funny novelty email address. If you haven’t already, set up a professional-looking address under your real name.

Irrelevant experience. Are you applying to work as a software developer? Then you don’t need to include your high school newspaper round. This gives you more space to focus on your relevant experience and detail your achievements. That said, you might not have a great deal of relevant experience, particularly at the entry level. If you have career gaps or a very short working history, try to spin them into something relevant to the job. You should be customising your resume for each application anyway. Speaking of irrelevant activities, your hobbies do not belong on your resume unless they are directly relevant to the job. For that software developer job, there is no point in mentioning your interest in life drawing. However, if you have built some programs at home as a hobby, throw that into the resume.

Unquantified self-praise. “I am a very good worker”. That’s great, really. Everyone wants to employ a very good worker, but the problem is that anyone can claim to be one on their resume. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of filling your resume with vague statements about your responsibilities, when employers really want to see results. Where possible, put a figure on how well you did. Did you increase customer retention by one third? Were your sales in the top 10 percent nationwide for your company? Did you deliver a project $100,000 under budget? Recruiters love numbers. Don’t stuff them into your resume wherever they will fit, but a few well-chosen figures can really help you land that job.

Resumes

Cliches. Are you a “go-getter” or a “team player”? Are you “dynamic”, “self-motivated”, and “results-driven”? Do you “proactively” “think outside the box”? Resume, meet shredder. In 2014, the American jobs website CareerBuilder polled hiring managers on the terms they least liked to see on a resume. Those seven terms were among the worst 15. When you are drafting your resumes, try to keep these overused terms out. What do recruiters like to see instead? Well, mostly verbs. “Achieved”, “improved”, “trained”, “managed”, “created”. Conveniently enough, this fits very well with the quantification mentioned above. If you can say that you “managed a team of up to twelve people”, for example, you can impress a hiring manager twice in one sentence.

Stylistic errors. First, in an age of automated spell-checking, there is no excuse for a resume dat luks liek dis. Make sure that you proof-read, because mistakes are unprofessional and will direct your job application straight into the garbage. Keep your formatting simple. A bit of effort put into presentation can make your resume stick out, but don’t go overboard. All text should be typed in a plain, classic font like Arial, and in no colour except black.Underlined, bold or italic text is best avoided, except for headings. No pictures whatsoever should be included. Even if you are applying for a graphic design job, that’s what a portfolio is for.

Managing Your Financial Documents

financial documents

A filing cabinet is one of the most important tools that any financially-literate person can have. While electronic records are getting more and more common, we are still a long way indeed from a paperless society. Your tax receipts and utility bills need to be kept safe and accessible, and a filing cabinet is the perfect place to organise them. But it’s also possible to go too far. Not every piece of paper needs to be kept forever. This guide will teach you what to keep and how long to keep it for. However, it is aimed only at individuals: businesses will have stricter rules for keeping paperwork.

For tax purposes

The Canada Revenue Agency requires that you keep tax records and supporting documents for six years, even supporting documents that you did not have to provide copies of with your return. This six years are calculated from the end of the applicable tax year, not from the date printed on the document: if you made a tax-deductible purchase on the 26th of January 2015, you would have to keep the documentation until after December 31st 2021. The most common supporting documents are statements of income, such as the T4 which records income earned from employment and the T5 which records income earned from investments. If you are self-employed, your records are likely to be more complex. However, these are not the only things that you need to keep. If you claimed any tax credits, keep their supporting documents. You need to be able to provide evidence for anything you claim on your tax return in case the CRA decides to review it. After six years (as defined above) you can safely dispose of these documents. If, for whatever reason, you want to dispose of any applicable records early, apply for permission from the CRA first using Form T137.

Financial statements

First, if it generated an income, the six year rule applies. But what about your bank statements and credit card bills? Even if the Canadian Revenue Agency doesn’t want to see them, you might. Old bank statements are very useful for tracking your spending and building a solid budget. Keep them for a year or two, filed chronologically, and dispose of them after that. More immediate things like receipts should be kept until the next bank or credit statement so that you can make sure that your outgoings match the amount of money you know you spent. This is a good habit to get into to protect yourself from fraud. After that, they can be disposed of. Of course, any receipt that you want to use as part of your tax return should be kept.

Utilities

Like your bank statements, utility bills don’t need to be kept for six years. However, they do still have some uses. First, utility bills are great for when you need proof of address. Second, like bank statements, you can use them to track your spending. Keep for at least six months and possibly longer. You may want to compare some bills over an entire year: for example, heating costs in Canada are much higher in January than in July. In order to do this, keep a year’s worth.

Housing and miscellaneous

Keep annual mortgage statements for six years, like your tax returns. Monthly mortgage statements can be disposed of once they have been checked against your annual statement. If you make any major improvements to your home, keep the receipts indefinitely as they may help you to limit your tax liability when you sell it. Insurance policies should be kept for the life of the policy.

How should I dispose of unneeded documents?

Don’t throw them out with the trash as-is. Criminals can pick out intact bills and receipts and use them to commit fraud. For your own safety, shred these documents before disposing of them.