Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Write a Resume

August 25, 2020

Submitting a well-written and visually appealing resume can improve your chances of getting noticed during the hiring process. Since many different resume formats exist, it's important to know which one to use and what to include. In this article, we explain the types of resumes you can use, show you what to include and give an example of a basic resume.

Types of resumes

Depending on your circumstances and experience, you can choose from a chronological, functional, combination or targeted resume:

  • Chronological resume
  • Functional resume
  • Combination resume
  • Targeted resume

Chronological resume

A chronological resume lists your education and experience in reverse chronological order starting with your current job and ending with previous jobs. The benefit of a chronological resume is that it's easy for hiring managers to read quickly. Applicant tracking systems are better able to gather information from chronological resumes, as well. Use this resume type if you have experience in your field.

Functional resume

A functional resume focuses on skills and accomplishments. In this resume type, you usually list your skills and career or educational achievements first, then add your education and employment history toward the end. The education and professional history sections should be short and simple. If you're a recent graduate or want to make a career change, use a functional resume.

Combination resume

A combination resume blends a functional resume and a chronological resume. Combination resumes are good if you have extensive job experience or you plan to change careers.

Targeted resume

Use a targeted resume to apply for a specific job. In a targeted resume, you would use many of the keywords found in the job advertisement. In addition, you tailor your objective or summary, experience and skills to the specific job. Targeted resumes take longer to create, but they're highly effective.

Resume essentials

Here are the essential items you need in any resume:

  • Header
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Licenses and certifications
  • Skills
  • Professional memberships or associations
  • Hobbies and interests

Header

At the top of your resume, include your name, city and province, phone number, email address and any links to professional networking profiles or websites. If you have space, add your professional summary or objective. A summary gives a brief explanation of your career accomplishments, while an objective describes your career goals and how you can achieve them with the company.

Experience

Starting with your most recent experience, list your job title, company name and the dates you worked there. For chronological resumes, add three or four bullet points that show your responsibilities or achievements. You can also list any recent relevant volunteer experience if you have space.

Education

For education, list the university, the degree and the year you obtained it. Start with your most recent or most relevant degree first. If you have a college diploma or university degree, you likely don't need to add your high school diploma. Depending on the job and your experience, you might want to add your education before your experience.

Licenses and certifications

You can create a separate section for any relevant licenses or certifications, or you can add the information to your header if it's a requirement for the job. You can also add the license number and expiration date if applicable.

Skills

Add a list of your skills that are most relevant to the job. Check the job description for requested and required skills, then add the ones you have at the top of your skills list. This makes it easier for hiring managers to notice them quickly. Alternatively, you can list the skills you're most proficient in first. Some hiring managers also appreciate when you rate your proficiency in skills to see where you excel.

Professional memberships or associations

If you have space, create a section for your professional memberships or associations. Adding these shows hiring managers that you're dedicated to the field and have expert knowledge. List the organization, number of years active and any position you hold, such as being a secretary or treasurer.

Hobbies and interests

Only list hobbies or interests if they relate to the job. For example, a marketing professional could list having a blog about SEO optimization. You should only add this section if you have the space on your resume.

Resume writing tips

Writing a resume can help you with your job hunt. Here are some tips for writing a resume:

  • Use examples
  • Keep it short
  • Quantify your accomplishments
  • Use keywords
  • Use proper formatting
  • Link to your online portfolio
  • Proofread for grammar and spelling

Use examples

Use resume examples or templates to get started. It is useful to see examples of how people have written about their skills, education and experiences for resumes. Look for examples that are similar to your experience level and field.

Keep it short

Write a short resume. Employers need to understand your work and education experience without spending much time reading your resume. Try to keep your resume to one page, but if you have a lot of related experience, you can use up to two pages. Only use experience from the past 10 years.

Quantify your accomplishments

Use numbers and data to highlight work experience. Quantify your experience and achievements to show hiring managers the impact you could have in the role. For example, a sales professional could list how much they made in sales in one quarter or the percent increase in sales since they started.

Use keywords

Use the same keywords from the job posting to stand out to hiring managers and automatic resume scanning software. For example, if the advertisement requires C++, technical writing skills and database experience, add these to your resume if they apply.

Use proper formatting

Keep the resume format to a simple black and white format. A black and white format makes it easier for automatic resume software to parse your qualifications. You can use colours and designs on an online portfolio or hard copies of your resume. For hard copies, you can use colours like dark gray, navy or dark green, but should do so sparingly. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman in 11- or 12-point, double spaced to make the resume easier to scan.

Link to your online portfolio

Link to an online portfolio if you have skills you would like to highlight. Artists and writers, for example, can provide links to their work that doesn't fit on a two-page resume. As a developer, you can link to websites or apps you have created.

Proofread for grammar and spelling

Proofread for grammar, spelling and style before you send your resume to a hiring manager. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to review the resume too.

Resume example

Review this example of a chronological resume for inspiration:

Mary Smith

msmith@email.com

604-234-1223

Education

University of British Columbia, Master of Business Administration
September 2006 – September 2014

University of British Columbia, B.A. in English Literature
September 2006 – September 2010

Certificate in Technical Writing, University of British Columbia
September 2005 – September 2006

Professional Experience

TIMBER HOUSE PUBLISHING, Vancouver, BC
Senior Technical Writer, September 2018 – Present

  • Works as a senior technical writer supervising a team of three writers.
  • Trains writers about company style. Supervises final text and edits of manual writing.

GEAR PUBLISHING, Vancouver, BC
Technical writer, September 2016 – September 2018

  • Worked as a technical writer for an engineering manual using an in-house company style.
  • Wrote final text and edits of a 400-page manual.

ACME HOLDINGS, Vancouver, BC
Technical writer, June 2015 – September 2016

  • Worked as a technical writer with a team of four writers writing a software training manual using an in-house company style.
  • Edited other software training manuals as needed.

HOME REALITY, Vancouver, BC
Technical Writer, September 2014 – June 2015

  • Wrote technical specifications for a real estate software company.
  • Wrote, edited and posted social media information and wrote sales copy.

UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA STUDENT NEWSPAPER, Vancouver, BC
Staff Writer, September 2012 – September 2014

  • Wrote features for the student journal, focusing on students in technology and business.
  • Edited features for other writers
  • Acted as the community liaison for the newspaper, specifically with advertisers

Skills

  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Expert in proofreading and editing
  • Ability to display information in graphs
  • Ability to convey complex information in simple terms
  • Excellent time management and organization
  • Working knowledge of technical ideas and concepts

Professional Associations

  • Member of the Society for Technical Communication
  • Member of the Professional Communications Society
  • Member of the National Association of Science Writers

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