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Writing an effective resume

Writing an effective resume is always a "work in progress." You'll change jobs, take on new responsibilities and apply for a variety of positions during your career. Each time this happens means another alteration to your resume. Despite these changes, however, there are a few key points to consider whenever writing or updating your resume, such as:

What is a resume?
What should a resume include?
Additional resume tips

What is a resume?

Just as you are searching for a particular position, hiring managers are looking for candidates to do a specific job. Your resume is the first step in their decision of why, or why not, they should choose you.

Essentially, a resume is a document that highlights and explains your education, experience and accomplishments related to your field of employment. In today's job market, a resume is an essential tool that you will use to advertise and market yourself to prospective employers.

People sometimes confuse a resume with a wish list. The purpose of a resume is not to summarize what you want, but instead what you can do for a potential employer. What better way to do that, than to show them what you've already done? Your resume should therefore be a summary of your most relevant achievements and responsibilities related to the position you're applying for. Those experiences that are irrelevant to the job should be left out.

The bottom line is that your resume is one of many under consideration. In order to get the interviewer's attention, and hence get an interview, keep your resume focused on the specific position that you are applying for, and highlight those points that will entice the hiring manager into wanting to meet with you. To do that, focus on the points that illustrate why you are a suitable and qualified candidate for the position.

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What should your resume include?

Personal information

Contact information, including your name, address, phone number and e-mail address, should be clearly stated. Omit your work number if you do not wish to be contacted there.
Do not list your marital status, weight, age, race or gender. This information does not belong on a resume.
Never list your salary expectations. You can be guaranteed the salary you list will either be too high or too low, and you will ultimately place yourself out of opportunities.
Do not include the reason why you left or want to leave a position. These things are always better explained in person.

Summary of qualifications

Begin with a short list of qualifications that are relevant to the position you're applying for.
All technical knowledge should be summarized at the beginning of your resume. Include a list of all operating systems, hardware/software and programming languages that you have experience with.
Forget the objective at the top of your resume. Such information is more suited to a cover letter, and stating a specific objective could result in your being overlooked for alternative positions. If you must list one, make sure it is relevant.

Employment experience

The body of your resume should be structured in such a way that your work experience is listed in reverse chronological order (most recent position first). Include your title or position held, company name, location and dates of employment, including the month and year. When you omit dates from your resume, it could look like you're trying to hide something.
Include a description of your responsibilities and major achievements at each position. This is your opportunity to brag about yourself, and in turn, to show future employers what you can do for them.
Keep it detailed. Always list specific responsibilities, achievements and technical skills. Never assume that the reader knows what you do and how you do it.
Concentrate the most detail on your most recently held position, and put less emphasis on formerly held positions.
Remember to show where you used specific technology throughout your resume.
Don't "sell yourself short." Too many people leave out important experience by trying to keep their resume to a certain page limit.
Eliminate gaps in your work history wherever possible. If this is not feasible, then make sure that you have a good explanation ready for the interview.


List all your post-secondary education, including degrees, diplomas, certifications and courses.
Include all education, whether it is completed, current or ongoing.
Include where and when your education was completed (with dates).

Related achievements

List only those achievements and experiences that are relevant to the position you're applying for. Examples are related volunteer work, awards and certificates.
Eliminate irrelevant information. A resume is not about what you like or enjoy, it is a tool to show an employer what you can do for them.
Do not include a list of your "hobbies/interests." Your resume is not the place to make mention of your love of gardening, dog walking or weightlifting. While these activities are important to you, they are more fitting for a personal ad than a resume, and all such points should be omitted.
Keep this section brief - too much information can be detrimental.

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Additional resume tips

Never submit your resume for a position that you are not qualified for. Doing this makes you look unprofessional, and it shows a potential employer that you have not taken the time to read the requirements they took the time to write. Besides, you are not going to fit a square peg in a round hole!
Don't limit your resume to one or two pages. Your resume is your opportunity to advertise your skills, and your chance to show a potential employer how you can be an asset to their team. Don't limit yourself to merely listing a few "duties" from your last position. A resume can easily be 3-4 pages in length - as long as the information is relevant and pertains to the position you're applying for.
Avoid being a "jack of all trades." While it is valuable to have adaptable skills, most hiring managers are looking for specialists, and listing a variety of irrelevant skills shows a lack of focus. Bottom line: if it's not suitable, then don't include it.
Don't use the first or third person. Avoid words like "I" or "my" as such terms are unprofessional. Instead, begin sentences with assertive words such as "Developed..." or Managed a team…" Furthermore, do not refer to yourself in the third person, for example, "Johnny was the team lead…" or "Sarah successfully…"
Remember to use bullet points, as they are easier and faster to read than paragraph format.
Use "action" words such as lead, organized, achieved, administered, developed, implemented, planned, maintained, devised, established, formed, etc.
Avoid spelling, grammatical and typographical errors. These errors are both inexcusable, and a guaranteed way to take yourself out of contention. Always have someone else proofread your resume just to be safe.
Do not indicate that your "references are available upon request." This is a given.

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