Writing a résumé

Your résumé is one of the most important tools you have when looking for a job. This page will help you choose the right type of résumé for your situation. It will also provide you with tips to help you tailor your résumé to the job you’re applying for, and to make sure it stands out in a crowd for all the right reasons.

What is a résumé?

A résumé is a short, point-form document that you give to employers to tell them about your work experience, education, and skills. Before you write your résumé, you may want to complete a skills inventory to know what skills you have to offer an employer.

Types of résumés

Depending on your work experience, the job you’re applying for, or your personal preference, you may want to use a particular type of résumé. Here are three types of résumés to choose from:

A functional résumé focuses on your skills

If you haven’t had a lot of work experience, a functional résumé that focuses on your skills is a good way to market yourself to potential employers.

Instead of focusing on your previous work experience, a skills-focused résumé highlights the transferable skills you gained from previous jobs, activities, experiences, or volunteer work.

It’s most commonly used when you’ve had a large gap in your employment history, or if you have never worked before.

A chronological résumé focuses on your experience

Focusing on your work history is one of the more popular ways to structure a résumé. It shows employers all your work experience, focusing on positions you’ve held and your past responsibilities and accomplishments.

The chronological résumé is organized with your most recent information first. The goal is to give a comprehensive work history, organized by each job you’ve held. You give your position title, place of employment, how long you worked there, and a breakdown of your responsibilities or accomplishments.

This is a great multi-purpose résumé that works for most job applications, including retail.

A hybrid résumé is a combination of the two

A hybrid résumé is also known as a combination résumé. It combines the elements of a functional and chronological résumé to create a résumé that focuses heavily on skills, but also includes dates, titles of previous jobs, along with essential information about the position.

This is a good résumé to use when you want to prioritize your skills but also demonstrate how your career has evolved.

Important information to include in your résumé

There are a variety of different headings you can use in your résumé, depending on what type of résumé you choose to write.

However, regardless of the type of résumé you choose, here are three of the most important things it should include:

Your personal information

The first thing your employer should see when looking at your résumé is your name. Make sure it is clear, stands out, and is easy to read.

Your résumé should include your full address, contact phone numbers, and an e-mail address that incorporates your first and last name.

Things you should not include on your résumé:

  • your height, age, weight
  • a photo of yourself
  • your Social Insurance Number

Education

List your education, starting with the most recent, and work backwards from there. Include the name of the school, the city or town where each school you attended is located (secondary and beyond), and the years you completed.

Be sure to list any certificates or diplomas you received, including those for mini-courses like computer or software courses, first aid, or any other training that might be useful in the job you are applying for.

Skills and experience

Use your résumé to show where you worked, what you learned, and how your skills and experience apply to the job you’re applying for. Highlight abilities, skills, and experience that relate to the job you're applying for. These can come from paid or unpaid work, volunteer experience, and even hobbies.

If all of your experience is in an unrelated field to the job you’re applying for, focus on the transferable skills you learned that can be applied to the new job you’re applying for.

When listing your work experience, include the location (city, province) and the dates you worked (month, year) for each job or volunteer position. Use action words to describe what you did in the positions you held. Focus on the top-five duties for each job.

Other relevant information

You may also want to include your job goals, the languages you speak, or any relevant achievements or awards. You can also include interests or activities that say something positive about you. Don’t forget, however, that the point of your résumé is to show why you are the right person for the job.

There are no official rules for what headings you should include on your résumé. Just remember to keep it concise, with the most important information at the top.

For example:

  • Let’s say you are applying for a job in software development and, although you have never worked in that field, you have a diploma in software engineering. In this case, be sure to put your education section at the top.
  • If you are applying to work in the food services industry and you have a lot of experience working in restaurants, be sure to list that information before your education details.

Top-10 résumé tips

  1. Think ahead. If you wait until the last minute to hand in your résumé, you could miss the deadline and risk not being considered for the job.
  2. Tailor your résumé. Include information on your résumé associated with the job you are applying for.
  3. Chunk it out. If there is a lot of information, break it into separate sections with specific headings.
  4. Use action words. Focus on things you have accomplished, and avoid starting every sentence with “I”.
  5. Proofread. Never rely on spell check.
  6. Repeat Tip 5. Seriously, even one misspelled word could put you in the “do not consider” pile.
  7. Make it presentable. Make sure your résumé looks clean and organized. Use white, letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11-inch) and a font that’s easy to read, like Times New Roman or Arial.
  8. Keep it concise. Try to keep your résumé as short as possible—ideally one page, two pages maximum.
  9. Be honest. Lying on your résumé is never a good idea. Many people who lie on their applications end up losing their jobs when their employers find out the truth.
  10. Be professional. Remember, this is a business document, so don’t include unnecessary embellishments like flashy paper or a picture of yourself.

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