Working Wise: Writing a strong resume

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

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, e.g., increased sales, saved money, improved efficiency, etc.

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 tips sheets on the ALIS careers website at

When drafting your resumé, remember:

Your resumé should be two pages maximum. Busy employers won’t 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 “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 yourself 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 covering letter and use it to highlight your qualifications for the position.

For more tips, or for a second opinion on your resumé, visit and take advantage of the free, secure online e-Resumé Review Service.

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 workshop. There are more than 50 centres located across the province. To find the centre nearest you, click

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.

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