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Mustafa, 39, immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan in 1998. After studying commerce at Ryerson University, he found work as a mortgage specialist for a bank and eventually obtained a management role at a bank’s call centre. He left his last full-time role as a senior manager of operations in 2019 after a negative work environment and micromanaging boss left him unmotivated. He has been looking for work since then.

Last year, he tried starting his own software-as-a-service company, but he couldn’t get the operation off the ground. So he reverted back to searching for full-time work. “There have been fewer and fewer opportunities and interviews since the pandemic hit,” Mustafa writes. Because he didn’t qualify for employment insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Mustafa eventually took up work as a driver for Uber Eats to pay his bills. “I’m running out of savings, which I’ve relied on for the past year-and-a-half,” Mustafa writes. “I’m unable to support my family here and back home in Afghanistan.” He’s now on the hunt for a job that’s better aligned with his education and experience.

Mustafa is looking for a customer-service role in loans, credit cards or mortgages. “I would like to work for a thriving company that allows employees to grow and empowers them to share their ideas,” he says. He’d like a management position where he feels challenged and that reflects his prior work experience and education. (Through distance learning he completed his MBA at the University of Warwick in 2016.) In five years, he hopes to achieve a role as the director of lending or as a product manager or owner. So we reached out to career coach Peter Caven of Launched Careers and Hogay Johangiry, senior manager of recruitment at Royal Bank of Canada, to review Mustafa’s résumé and offer their advice for his next steps.

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The résumé

What the career coach says

Mr. Caven says that Mustafa has a “solid” résumé overall. But he does recommend a few tweaks to improve it, starting with his opening summary. “The opening statement in a résumé should articulate proven or demonstrated abilities, skills and talents,” he writes. Mr. Caven suggests that job seekers should review an organization’s mission, vision and values statements to “ensure that the opening statement is congruent with what the organization is looking for.”

In his education section, Mustafa should indicate the subject of study for his master’s degree. Mustafa can also remove the references from his résumé since they can be provided upon request. Lastly, Mr. Caven suggests that Mustafa adopt a more classic résumé format without sidebars. “I believe that the typical reader is more familiar with traditional résumé formats,” says Mr. Caven. “They won’t bother to figure out where the information is – they will stop reading.” The exception to this would be job seekers applying for creative roles, such as in advertising, where unique résumés would be an advantage.

Since Mr. Caven thinks Mustafa’s résumé is already in good shape, it may be time for him to reflect on what else about his job search isn’t working. “If Mustafa is getting interviews and has not had offers, perhaps the issue is his interviewing skills,” Mr. Caven suggests. If Mustafa isn’t getting interviews, it could be that he’s applying for roles that aren’t a good fit for him. “He should analyze the descriptions of the jobs to which he has applied and determine whether he meets the requisite requirements.”

To broaden his job prospects beyond banking, Mr. Caven encourages Mustafa to leverage his experience in customer-relationship management, process improvement and call-centre operations experience. “Many non-financial services organizations operate call centres,” Mr. Caven says. “Most organizations have process improvement teams that could be interested in his capabilities. There are consulting firms that specialize in call-centre operations and management that could be a good fit for him.”

Lastly, Mr. Caven believes that Mustafa should add his Uber experience in his résumé, which would be better revealed at this stage as opposed to coming up during an interview. “It shows drive and initiative,” he says. “More importantly, it demonstrates transparency, honesty and integrity.”

What the industry expert says

Ms. Johangiry says that Mustafa has done a good job at presenting his skills and outlining his experiences. Like Mr. Caven, she suggests Mustafa revamp his summary into a paragraph that states why he is a competitive candidate. It should be customized based on the job descriptions of each role he applies for. Mustafa should also hone his skills section and identify five to eight transferable skills applicable to the role of interest. Acronyms, such as SEO, should be avoided and instead spelled out for clarity.

If Mustafa is seeking a leadership role, Ms. Johangiry says he should better demonstrate how he was able to coach and inspire his team. “He should show evidence of organizational awareness, collaboration skills and the ability to drive impact across business lines and stakeholders,” Ms. Johangiry says.

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According to Ms. Johangiry, leadership positions can be competitive since applicants are up against both internal and external candidates. So instead, she encourages Mustafa to be less focused on titles. “At this stage in your career, align yourself with an organization or role that builds on the skills you have and provides you with opportunities to learn and grow,” she says. “It’s critical to demonstrate that you have the key foundational leadership skills, the right behavioural capabilities and the willingness to adapt and grow within an organization.”

Like Mr. Caven, Ms. Johangiry also suggests that Mustafa add his Uber experience to his résumé. “While it may not align with his career aspirations, employers appreciate that to be successful as an Uber driver you need to be reliable, deliver excellent customer service and work well in a team – all key transferable, foundational skills that apply to any role,” she says. As for Mustafa’s failed business venture, Ms. Johangiry believes he can frame it as a learning experience at the interview stage. “Focus on what he learned in this venture that can help him in his next role,” she suggests. “One of my interview questions is ‘Tell me about a time that you failed and what have you learned.' What I look for is an appreciation that failure is a reality in the workplace and often a great learning opportunity.”

The new résumé

Taking into consideration the advice of Mr. Caven and Ms. Johangiry to adopt a more traditional résumé format without columns, Mustafa has adopted a new layout with this in mind. Mustafa has also refined his skills section and removed the references from his résumé. Acronyms have been spelled out for clarity and Mustafa has also indicated what degrees he earned in his education section.

Interested in having your résumé reviewed?

E-mail us with your résumé at and we’ll ask a career coach and an expert in your field to provide their feedback. Names and some details are changed to protect the privacy of the persons profiled. We’re especially interested in hearing from those who have had their employment affected by COVID-19. On the flipside, if you’re a hiring manager interested in reaching out to the person profiled, we encourage you to contact us as well.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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