Find resources to help you write your resumé.

Writing a Resumé

A resumé is a brief summary of your experience, education, and skills. It is a marketing piece designed to make an employer want to interview you. Good resumés match the jobseeker’s abilities to the job’s requirements. The best resumés highlight an applicant’s strengths and accomplishments.

There are three main steps to creating a resumé:

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Writing a Resumé Continued…

Step 1: Compiling information about yourself and the employer

1.1 Gathering Information about Yourself

Start working on your resumé by collecting and reviewing information about yourself: previous positions, job duties, volunteer work, skills, accomplishments, education, and activities. These are the raw materials of your resumé. This is also a good time to review your career goals and to think about which past jobs you have liked, and why. 

Special skills. To help you identify your skills consider your personal characteristics, previous positions as well as specific talents. Think of your skills as they relate to communication, research, computer, or other technical skills and perhaps highlight them in a category of their own.

Awards and education. Include formal recognition you have received along with any professional or academic awards. Also, list all relevant training, certifications, and education on your resumé. Start with the most recent and work backward. For each school you have attended, list the school’s name and location; diploma, certificate, or degree earned, along with year of completion; field of study; and honors received.

Experience. Your resumé should include your job history: the name and location of the organizations you have worked for, years you worked there, title of your job, a few of the duties you performed, and results you achieved.

Activities and associations. Activities can be an excellent source of additional experience. Employers look for any extracurricular activities or school involvement because they are a sign of initiative. Such activities can work in your favour if you lack sufficient work experience.

1.2 Gathering Information about the Employer

Research the occupations that interest you. Determine what duties they entail, what credentials they require, and what skills they use. Research current industry trends, your potential employer(s), find out what current challenges they are encountering, etc.

Customize your resumé to reflect what is relevant to one occupation. Do not send a generic resumé to everyone. Think about who the audience of your resumé is and what they are interested in seeing in a resumé. Often times the person reading the resumé also does the hiring. Consider what an employer would want to know about a potential employee.

1.3 Relate Your Skills and Experience With the Needs of the Employer

After listing your skills, highlight those that match your potential employer’s needs. Point out to the employer that you have the necessary skills and abilities required for the position by giving concrete examples.

Review the vacancy announcement and fine-tune your resumé to meet employers’ specific criteria. Sprinkle your resumé with language found in the position description, paying special attention to your objective and qualifications summary if you have them.

Finally, you have to organize all the information you have assembled. Most resumé writers use the following components: contact information, objective statement, education, skills, experience, activities and awards, and a statement about references.

Step 2: Format and style

2.1 Styles

There are three most commonly used resumé formats – chronological, functional, and combination. Each is defined by the way it organizes your experience. Choose the one that shows your experience to its best advantage.

Chronological. It organizes your experience around the jobs you have held. This format is an excellent choice for people with steady work histories or previous jobs that relate closely to their career objective.

To create a chronological resumé, list each position you have held, starting with the most recent and working backward. For each position, give the title of your job, name of the organization you worked for, and years you worked there. Next, relate the duties and accomplishments of that job.

When describing your jobs, do not use the personal pronoun “I.” Instead of writing “I managed a fundraising campaign,” write, “Managed a fundraising campaign.” Also, use strong verbs to begin each statement. Be specific, but not overly detailed, when describing what you did.

Your most important positions should occupy the most space on your resumé. Describe the relevant jobs thoroughly, and briefly mention other experience. 

Functional. The functional resumé organizes your experience around skills rather than job titles. The functional resumé format is recommended to those with limited work experience, contract jobs, as well as those changing careers. This resumé format focuses on an individual’s skills and accomplishments, rather than work history.

To create a functional resumé, identify three or four skills required for your target job. For each skill, identify three to five concrete examples to demonstrate that ability. Use action phrases when writing your list.

Arrange your skill headings in order of importance. If you have a specific vacancy announcement, match the arrangement of your headings to that of its listed requirements. The closer the match between your skill headings and the reviewer’s expectations, the more qualified you seem.

The last component of a functional resumé is a brief work history. Write only job titles, company names, and employment years. 

Combination. This format combines the best of the chronological format with the best of the functional format. Combination resumés are as varied as the histories they summarize. One variation begins with a chronological format but then subdivides each job description into skill categories. Another variation uses a functional format but, for each example of a skill, identifies the organization where the example occurred. 

2.2 Adding Style

Your resumé should be easy to navigate and read. An inviting style draws attention to your qualifications. To make your resumé visually attractive, use boldface, large type, capital letters, centering, or horizontal lines to make headings stand out on the page. Bullets or italics can draw attention to key accomplishments. Use blank lines between sections to make the information easier to see.

Design. To give your resumé a consistent flow, maintain the same style from beginning to end. Every section should have the same design elements. Similarly, to ensure constancy, chose one typeface, such as Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman throughout the entire resumé. When you have finished, examine it to make sure that it is easy to read and that the material lays out evenly on the page. 

Length. Although rules about the length of a resumé are more flexible than they once were, general guidelines still exist. Most students and recent graduates use a one page resumé, other workers use one or two pages, and the very experienced use two or three pages. As such, ensure that you eliminate anything that does not help prove you are qualified for the job.

Step 3: Proofreading the final document

3.1 Proofreading

Take the time to prepare the best resumé you can. You might not be the most qualified candidate for every job, but your resumé might be better than the competition. The most common mistakes are simple typographical and spelling errors.

Computer spell-checks do not catch correctly spelled words used incorrectly. You want your resumé to stand out, but not for the wrong reasons. Avoid mistakes by having several people proofread your resumé for you.

3.2 Quick Check List

  • Always tie in your skills with your accomplishments and refer back to your resumé
  • Good resumé objectives focus on the employer’s needs
  • Tailor your resumé for each occupation or job of interest
  • Use action phrases – not complete sentences
  • Include quantifiable results where possible
  • Identify coursework relating to the employer’s needs
  • Chronological resumés organize your experience around the jobs you have held
  • Functional resumés emphasize skills rather than employment history
  • Sprinkle your resumés with language found in the position description
  • Avoid mistakes by having several people proofread for you


A cover letter is a way of introducing yourself and your interest in a specific job. The cover letter, along with your resumé, should provide all of the information necessary for a potential employer to decide if you make it to the next stage in the job hunting process: the interview.

Your cover letter will give the reader insight into your personality, attention to detail and specific interest in the position for which you are applying. Use your cover letter to set you apart from the rest of the applicant pool. The best cover letters spark the employer’s interest and create an impression of competence.

Take the time to personalize your cover letter to each recipient as it shows that you are not just looking for any job, but rather you are interested in that job specifically. Your cover letter should reflect that you have done some research in to the place of business and you feel that the skills and knowledge that you have would be ideal for the job in question.

A cover letter should always be addressed to a specific person rather than just a department. This information can usually be found out by searching the employer’s web site or calling to see who is in charge of the hiring process. Personalized letters mean that your letter will be read by the person it is intended for, and not get lost in the shuffle.


Cover letters should be written in standard business format with your and the employee’s address at the top and your signature above your typed name at the bottom. All letters should be single spaced, flush left, with each paragraph followed by a blank line. Remember to use the same font on both your resumé and cover letter to increase the flow of information. Use a standard font (Arial or Times New Roman, 11 or 12 font size.) Use professional, polite words.

Cover letters are divided into three parts: Opening, Body, and Closing. The first paragraph indicates which job you are applying for and how you heard about the position.

The body of your letter should consist of one to three paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. This is where you relate your skills, accomplishments, results and strengths to the employer’s needs.

The concluding paragraph of your letter should indicate your plan to follow up in some way to the letter. This is where you thank the employer for his or her time and consideration and perhaps request an interview. State where and when you can be reached and express your willingness to supply further information. 


  • Always tie skills in with accomplishments and refer to resumé.
  • Always indicate follow up plan and the method/time in which you can be contacted.
  • Always include a thank you.
  • Remember to state at the bottom that your resumé is enclosed.
  • Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Take the time to proof read your cover letter.
  • Keep a copy of every letter sent for future reference and follow up.

Whether you are a recent graduate or an experienced health care professional looking for a new challenge, OPA has tips to help you from your first draft of your resumé to the final interview.