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How to Create Your Master Resumé

Potential employers are quick to ignore one-size-fits-all resumés. They want to see a resumé that’s targeted or tailored to what they want. To make writing these custom resumés a snap, start by creating your master resumé.

What is a master resumé?

Your master resumé is the document that lists ALL of your work experience, training, and achievements. While a targeted resumé should only be 1 to 2 pages, your master resumé can be much longer. Your master resumé should include:

  • Every full- and part-time job or volunteer position you’ve ever had
  • All of the skills you’ve developed or responsibilities you’ve taken on
  • Assignments and special projects you've completed, and accomplishments you’ve achieved
  • All of the education/training courses you’ve taken and all the degrees, diplomas, or certificates you’ve earned

While putting this together may seem like a lot of work now and, depending upon your work experience, could take a long time, it is time well spent. A master resumé will:

  • Simplify writing a targeted resumé because you can pick out the specific jobs that demonstrate where you have done the type of work before, and skills and qualifications needed
  • Make it easy to remember jobs, titles, dates, and other details
  • Help you recognize work that you are drawn to. Because you’re listing everything you’ve done, you can see if there’s a type of job you do most often, and then decide if that’s a positive pattern or something you’d like to change.
  • Show you where you may have gaps so you can develop the skills you need for your dream job
  • Let you see new possibilities, and maybe other dream jobs, because a complete list of your skills and experience could show how you may be qualified for and interested in jobs you’ve never considered

How do I write a master resumé?

The goal of creating your master resumé is to have a document that contains all the details to help you apply for a job. You’ll want your master resumé to include:

  • Your name and contact information
  • The type of job(s) you want
  • A short description or overview of your qualifications
  • Your education and training
  • Your work experience
  • Your volunteer experience
  • Your memberships and clubs
  • Any other qualities that can set you apart from other candidates, such as speaking other languages

Follow these steps to collect the information you’ll need for each of your headings:

  1. Start by gathering old resumés and cover letters along with awards and other proof of recognition or achievement. If you have a portfolio, go through its contents to find letters of recommendation or reminders of successful projects.
  2. Use these old resumés and other documents to review every job, internship, volunteer position, committee or board experience, student group, apprenticeship or any other work-like activity you’ve taken part in. Write these down chronologically, placing your most recent experiences at the top of the list. Don’t worry about the length of this document. For each entry, include:
    • The organization’s name
    • The organization’s address
    • Your title and job description
    • The month and year you started and finished

For each of these work-related entries, you will also need to create sub-lists with their own headings. For example:

    • Under Duties and Responsibilities, list what you did daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Use numbers when possible to show your results – for example: Responsible for repairing and maintaining 20 forklifts spread among 3 different warehouses.
    • Under Skills, list the work and employability skills you used or developed. Remember to start these bullets with active verbs.
    • Under Tools, list every machine, mechanical device, and computer program you have used.
    • Under Awards, list the recognition you received in this role.
    • Under Achievements, list your successful projects or assignments. Again try to use numbers to show your results where possible.
    • Under References, list the names and contact information of your supervisors. Be sure to ask these individuals if they would be willing to provide a positive reference for you before adding them to the list.

Add any other notes that can describe your role in each position.

  1. Collect training and education that you have completed and are currently enrolled in. These can include anything from online courses to programs you’ve attended. Start with your most recent training or education and end with your earliest. For each entry, include:
    • The name of the course/program
    • The name of the organization/institution that delivered the training
    • The organization’s location:
      • For larger institutions such as colleges and universities, include the city and province. For example: Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB.
      • For smaller community or private organizations, include the full address.
      • For online courses, include the website address, preferably as a hyperlink.
    • The month and year you started and finished, or will finish if currently enrolled
    • The certificate, diploma, degree, or other credential you received
    • Exceptional marks or awards you received
    • The work and employability skills you developed during this training, including projects, group assignments, and lab or field work
  1. Study the dates of your entries in the previous 2 steps. Can you find any gaps? Maybe, for example, you took a leave from work to care for a family member who was ill? Consider the skills in organization and the communication you developed or used during your leave. Or maybe you spent a year travelling overseas, supporting yourself by working in restaurants along the way? You may have picked up some critical skills in these jobs. Add these experiences to your master resumé.
  2. Think about how you give back to your community. Employers know that volunteer experience offers the chance to develop valuable skills. You can also add work you did to raise funds for a charity.

Under the heading Volunteering, add:

    • The name of the organization or event you volunteered for
    • The location of your participation
    • The skills you used or developed
    • Any numbers related to the work you did, such as the amount of money raised or the number of people that were helped
    • Any certificates received
  1. Brainstorm with friends, family, and even current co-workers about your skills and experience. You may be surprised at the suggestions or impressions they have and the examples they’ll give to support them.

Remember to include keywords used in the industry throughout your master resumé. Employers are looking for individuals who are knowledgeable about the job requirements, and the correct use of keywords can demonstrate know-how and proficiency. Many employers use resumé tracking software or online searches to identify candidates who have used specific keywords in their resumés or social media profiles.

As well, make sure you double-check for typos and mistakes. This will allow you to copy and paste to your targeted resumé with confidence.

How do I use a master resumé?

Now that you’ve collected and organized all of your career data in one place, you can create a custom-made resumé for each job you apply for. For example, let’s look at a few of the qualifications needed in this job posting for a veterinary assistant: 

  • Excellent customer service for our human and non-human clients
  • Ability to multi-task
  • A team player with strong communication skills

Let’s say that your master resumé includes a summer of volunteering at a local animal shelter, working at your family’s restaurant, being a member of the grad committee, and coaching your cousin's softball team. Let’s look at all of the achievements you have from these experiences:

  1. Completed the documents needed for the daily intake of new animals to the shelter.
  2. Cleaned up to 20 animal pens and common areas as needed.
  3. Served 8 tables, seating up to 6 customers at each, 3 evening shifts a week while still in high school.
  4. Designed and proofread a new menu each month.
  5. Resolved customer complaints efficiently, contributing to our A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  6. Graduated high school with 30-level courses in math, science, and English.
  7. Produced the invitations and banners ahead of schedule for our grad committee.
  8. Coached softball team to city-wide championships twice in the last 4 years.

Because you want to limit your targeted resumé to 1 or 2 pages, you should select your achievements carefully. Achievements #1 and #2 clearly have a direct connection to the job you’re applying for, so you want to lead with those. But because this was a short volunteer experience, you may need to find more ways to show the employer why they should hire you.

Number 3 and #5 definitely show customer service, so those should be listed next.

The fact that you completed 30-level courses in 3 core subjects while working during high school shows you can multi-task, so list #6 next.

Achievements #4 and #7 show good communication skills. But #7 also shows skills as a team player on a committee. Save #8 for the interview: If you’re asked about your leadership skills, this might be a good achievement to talk about.

But what about customer service for non-human clients? If you have pets, you may also want to list the skills you’ve acquired by taking care of them. If you don’t have first-hand experience with pets, you could mention your appreciation for animals and that you are comfortable being around them.

You may have to tweak your information to match the keywords in the job posting, but your targeted resumé will be ready in no time.

Use your master resumé online

You can post your master resumé to large job boards or upload it to your LinkedIn account. Employers often go online to search for new hires, using search terms related to the position they’re hiring for. Because your master resumé listed so much career information, you have a good chance of being noticed by employers, even if you’re not looking for work in their field.


Your master resumé is an external memory bank of your career. Start now to build your master resumé and make sure to add to it each time you do or learn something new. It’s a great way to be the master of your future.

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