To develop a strong résumé, you must know your background, areas of expertise, exclusive value, and style. If you compile an exhaustive list of these qualifications, you will be empowered to identify, select, and articulate the best of what you have to offer. You will soon find out just how valuable you are to the job market.

Your very first step in designing an exemplary résumé is to take a formal, in-depth look at yourself and your career history. Through this process, you will identify your hidden strengths, skills, accomplishments, and abilities. The information that you uncover will be the basis for building a powerful attention-getting résumé that represents you in a professional manner and ultimately enables you to achieve your job search goals.

Before you start, gather all your documentation. If you have a current résumé, keep it handy. Some other important documents that you will want to refer to are your performance evaluations, salary reviews, awards, transcripts, personal biography, published articles and reviews, and letters of reference. Also, make sure to collect a few job postings or job descriptions that interest you.

As you work through to uncover your qualifications, always keep in mind that you will be using the information to create a personalized résumé. Focus on selecting information that will be important and valuable to your next employer.

Your Contact Information

Determine all the contact information that you would like to provide to your employer. You will want to include your full name, phone numbers including area codes, e-mail address, and any other pertinent contact details.

These days, many job seekers leave off their home address from the résumé to protect their privacy. You might opt to include only your city and province of residence if this might help an employer determine that you are a good fit for a particular position.

List only the very best ways to find you. For example, you may want to include only your home number if you rarely have your cell phone on. Also, be careful about listing business phone numbers. you do not want to appear as if you are doing personal business on work time. You may also want to list a facsimile (fax) number or pager if you have either readily accessible.

You might want to add a link to your Blog, Website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter profile on your résumé. Only include these links if the information you present is professional and business-related. A professional synopsis or portfolio of your background and qualifications can add value, but personal or inappropriate information will quickly turn off an employer.

Contact Information Checklist

  • Full Name (add nickname or initial, if appropriate)
  • Home Address (include street, city, province, and postal code, if appropriate)
  • Phone Number(s) (include cell and/or home; add business one if appropriate)
  • E-Mail Address
  • Blog, Website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter URL
  • Other Contact Information

Your Education

List your educational background including all applicable details. Make sure to include your education that is most related to your job objective.

In your résumé, indicate your school name, location, and program. Name the degree or outline the level you attained. If you have achieved honours or an exceptionally high-grade point average, you may want to include this information. Most people also include their graduation date, unless they graduated quite a while ago and want to conceal their age.

If you are a recent graduate and do not have much work experience, consider including a list of courses you completed, your extracurricular school activities, and scholarships.

Consider including additional training and professional development programs that you have taken during your life and career. List any applicable courses, seminars, certifications, or licensing programs in a separate section on your résume. If you lack formal education or are an older worker, it may be especially important to include this information.

Education Checklist

  • Universities
  • Community Colleges
  • CEGEPs
  • Courses
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Trade Shows
  • Certifications
  • Licenses
  • Courses
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Scholarships
  • Awards
  • Special Honours
  • Outstanding Grades
  • Other Education Information

Your Employment History

You are now ready to provide a detailed work history. When documenting your employment history, start at your most recent position, describing one role at a time.

In your résumé, you will likely want to list the company name and location, your start and end dates, and the title of the position you held. If you have been promoted, you will want to highlight that by including the titles of each of your previous positions.

In many cases, it is helpful to provide some context to your employment history by including a brief description of the organization for which you worked. In Canada, many companies have head offices that are located in the US or elsewhere. You can create further context by briefly explaining the structure of the Canadian organization. List the company's industry, ranking, specialty, products, services, size, number of employees, and/or sales volume. Consider including a link to the organization's corporate website. In addition, the titles of people reporting to you may be important to mention, especially if your job title does not accurately reflect your level of accountability.

Outline your responsibilities briefly. Include the departments for which you were accountable, the number of people you supervised, and your major job functions. Quantify your responsibilities with numbers whenever possible. If you had any financial accountability, including the type of budget and the dollar amount you managed then write them down. If you had a specific revenue, profit, or expense target, document it. Focus on your must pertinent employers, providing more information on the most relevant positions.

In Canada, certain information such as your salary or reasons for leaving a position is off-limits. Do not disclose this type of information in this section or anywhere else in your résumé.

Responsibilities, sometimes referred to as "job duties", are useful in providing an overview of your job, but they are not nearly as important as what you have achieved. Rather than creating a long list of responsibilities, opt for making your résumé rich in accomplishments.

Employment History Checklist

  • Company Name
  • Company City and Country
  • Company Description
  • Company Website Link
  • Your Start Date and End Date
  • Your Job Title
  • Other Job Titles You have held
  • Title of the Person you report to
  • Number of Employees you supervised
  • Departments that you oversee
  • Budgetary Responsibilities
  • Sales Targets
  • Major Job Functions
  • Other Employment Information

Your Accomplishments

In your résumé, focus on accomplishments, rather than job duties. Highlight only the best of the best. Make it accomplishment-rich to show off your distinguishing features.

You will want to brainstorm to identify some of your achievements. Reflect on your life, education, and career experiences, and create a list of your accomplishments. Consider all areas including work, home, school, volunteer, and community life. Aim for a minimum of ten accomplishments. You may not use all of them in your résumé, but the more you identify, the better your selection. This way, you can choose the very best ones to sell yourself effectively. To uncover and quantify some of your accomplishments, answer the following questions:

Brainstorming Accomplishments

  • In each role you have held, what was your biggest achievement? Greatest contribution?
  • What did you do while in each position that was not in your job description?
  • Have you secured any major contracts or deals? How much were they worth?
  • Are you a key worker in a specific department? How did you contribute?
  • Have you brought in any important customers? What are their company names?
  • Have you been able to increase revenue? How? By how much?
  • Have you been able to increase profit? how? By how much?
  • Have you been able to increase market share? How? By how much?
  • Have you been able to reduce annual costs? How? In what areas? By how much?
  • Did you receive any awards, commendations, or recognition?
  • What positive comments were given to you? (verbal or written)
  • After you leave, what would your colleagues and supervisor remember about you?

Once you have identified your very best achievements, use an Action-Result formula to write concise achievement stories, which you can transfer into the résumé. Break down each accomplishment into two parts: Action and Result.

In a brief phrase, outline the actions you took in order to achieve the particular accomplishment you are discussing. Your actions may be a one-time event, a series of activities, or routine work. Whether you performed the action on your own or as a part of a team, keep focused on the role that you took. For example, you may have "Reconciled inventory by identifying and eliminating stagnant product lines." Notice that the action phrase starts with an active past tense verb.

Follow this phrase up with another short statement outlining the result of your actions. Talk about how your actions benefited your employer. Be specific and quantify your results using facts and figures. If there were side benefits, include these in your statement. In the previous example where you reconciled inventory, your result may be "slashed in-stock levels by 15% while maintaining annual sales of over $1 million."

The combined accomplishment sentence in the previous example would sound like this: "Reconciled inventory by identifying and eliminating stagnant product lines, slashing in-stock levels by 15% while maintaining annual sales of over $1 million."

Once you have created a number of clear and concise accomplishment messages, incorporate them into a bulleted list within your résumé. You can further capitalize on your accomplishments by using them in employment interviews and throughout your career.

Accomplishment Checklist

  • You have come up with at least ten strong achievements.
  • The first part of each accomplishment statement clearly shows your actions.
  • The second part of each accomplishment statement shows quantifiable results.

Your Technical Skills

In this age of technology, engineering, and computerization, it is likely that you have acquired many technical skills. Through your education, employment, and personal life, you may have developed proficiency in computer, office, mechanical, and other industry-related equipment. Identify your very best skills and make sure to focus on the ones that will matter to your next employer.

List your technical skills in a separate section of your résumé. Name any specific applications, software, hardware, platforms, protocols, and languages that may apply. Depending on how you want your information displayed, you may include your skill level and years of experience.

Technical Skills Checklist

  • Software Skills
  • Hardware Skills
  • Mechanical Skills
  • Electrical / Electronic Skills
  • Office Equipment Skills
  • Other Technical Skills

Your Exclusive Value

You may have many value-added features to offer your potential employer. Your exclusive value may include your ability to speak, read, and/or write in more than one language. In Canada, many positions require bilingualism in English and French. So, if you are able to offer this valuable skill, make sure to include it in your résumé.

If you belong to any professional associations, you will want to include your affiliations. Only list your community work or volunteer work if you believe that this information is of specific interest to the employer. Do not include extracurricular activities or hobbies unless they are related to the job you are seeking.

When determining your exclusive value, be creative. For example, your value-added features may include your board directorship or the special commendation you received from an industry association.

If you and your outstanding work have been featured in a publication such as a newspaper, magazine, or book, you may want to include this information in your résumé. Don't forget to identify and list both the articles that you have written and the ones that others have written about you.

If you are a professional speaker, you may want to include a list of your speaking engagements. Include the location, topic, and date if possible.

During your life and career, you may have received awards, ribbons, and/or medals. If not, you can still consider including special commendations from your employers and associates. If there is a quote that is particularly flattering, use it in your résumé.

Exclusive Value Checklist

  • Languages
  • Professional Memberships
  • Community Service
  • Awards & Recognitions
  • Publications Written by You
  • Publications Written about You
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Other Value-Added Features

Your Unique Style

To create a résumé that reflects your accurately and effectively, you must know your style. You must be able to show your employer your differentiating features. Identify the distinctive aspects of your personality that will allow you to flourish and succeed in your new role.

Focus on showing the individuality that you bring to a job, which enables you to make your role much than just a job description. For example, if you are a very quick learner, you may want to outline this in your résumé. Maybe you are a relationship-builder and are able to close very large deals by developing strong bonds with your clients. Alternatively, you may want to focus on your flexibility and adaptability by indicating your willingness to travel or relocate.

Style Checklist

  • Distinctive Personality Aspects
  • The individuality that You bring to the job
  • Other personal Style

Once you have uncovered all your qualifications, you must determine which ones are appropriated to include in your résumé. Select items that you believe show your value to your prospective employer and leave off the rest.

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