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Working Wise: Writing a Strong Resumé

Dear Working Wise,

I am applying for a job that I really want, but I think I’m up against some stiff competition. I need a resumé that will help me stand out and get noticed. Do you have any suggestions?
Signed, Eager Job Hunter

June 9, 2017

Dear Eager,

Your resumé must be both brief and compelling. Recruiters spend as little as 30 seconds reading each resumé they receive to decide who they want to meet.

Your resumé should focus on your strongest qualifications, so use a format that puts your most impressive strengths at the beginning.

If you want to emphasize your career progression, list your work, education or volunteer experiences in reverse chronological order. Chronological resumés are the most common type of resumé.

To emphasize your skills, use a combination format that groups your skills into categories. Be sure to include a brief chronological account of your background and describe how your skills benefited your current and former employers, such as increases sales, saved money, or improved efficiency.

If you don't have much work experience but your education is directly related to the work you are applying for, list your education first and stress the skills and abilities that your formal training has provided.

For more information, and sample resumés, check out the Resumés and References section on alis.

When drafting your resumé, remember:

  • Your resumé should be 2 pages maximum. Busy employers wont take the time to read through a lot of information.
  • Print it on good-quality white or off-white letter-size paper.
  • Make it look professional and inviting to read.
  • Be clear and concise. Every statement should emphasize a skill or ability. Drop unnecessary words or sentences to tighten up your statements.
  • Ensure all the information is positive and relevant to the job requirements.
  • Use action verbs like “developed, created, coached, guided, produced.” Avoid passive phrases like I was responsible for or my duties involved.
  • Don't exaggerate or misrepresent yourself—employers will check.
  • Include your daytime contact information.
  • Don’t include a photograph or unnecessary personal information.
  • Check spelling and grammar—don’t let a simple preventable error take you out of the running.
  • List your references on a separate page. Always ask your references if they are willing to provide a positive reference for you and ensure they can verify the skills you want to emphasize.
  • Always include a cover letter and use it to highlight your qualifications for the position.

You can also visit your nearest Alberta Supports or Alberta Works Centre and take advantage of their library of resumé-writing books or register for a free resumé-writing workshop. There are more than 50 centres located across the province. 

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/hidesy

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