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Résumé Writing

The tools and tips provided in “Writing a Résumé” have been developed to help you prepare your résumé to apply for positions with Halifax Regional Municipality. While this guide will not guarantee you an interview, it will allow you to market yourself more effectively for a competition within the municipality. The resources within this guide will help you in developing the foundation to write your résumé.

Your résumé is one of your most important tools when you are looking for a job. An effective résumé will draw a hiring manager’s attention to your most relevant skills and accomplishments to enable you to stand out from other applicants.

What is a résumé?

A résumé is a short, point-form document that tells a hiring manager about your work experience, education, and skills when applying for a position.  An effective résumé is clear and concise – generally no more than two to three pages in length. Tailor each résumé to the specific job for which you are applying.

Types of résumés

When applying for a job at Halifax Regional Municipality, chronological or hybrid are the best résumé formats as they allow you to quantify your experience in order to be assessed on the basis of merit.

Choose the résumé type that presents your qualifications most effectively for the job for which you are applying.

Chronological

Focusing on your work history is one of the more popular ways to structure a résumé. It demonstrates all of your work experiences, focusing on positions you’ve held, the duration of your employment, and your responsibilities and accomplishments within these positions.

A chronological résumé is organized with your most recent information first. The goal is to give a comprehensive work history which is organized by each job you’ve held. For this type of résumé you should include your position title, place of employment, how long you worked there (include month and year), and a breakdown of your responsibilities or accomplishments.

This is a great multi-purpose résumé that works for most job applications.

  • See the sample of a chronological résumé

Combination

A combination or hybrid résumé is a résumé that focuses heavily on skills, but also includes dates and titles of previous jobs, along with essential information about the position. This format highlights your skills by organizing information in skill categories and then briefly outlines your work history near the end of the résumé.

This is a good résumé to use when you want to prioritize your skills while also demonstrating how your career has evolved.

Before You Write

The key to a confident and focused resume is in knowing:

  • Who you are
    • What do you enjoy doing?
    • What do you do well?
  • What skills, knowledge and experience you have to offer?
    • What are you good at?
    • What are your transferrable skills?
  • What makes you an ideal candidate for the position and the municipality?
    • What value will you add to the municipality?

By asking yourself these questions, you can begin to develop an inventory of skills, experiences, accomplishments and job-related attributes that will be useful in marketing yourself in your résumé.

It is important to think about yourself in the position and to reflect on how your experiences and skills have prepared you for work in that setting. As you prepare your application, you should consider relevant past experiences that you would like to highlight and what you have learned from that experience.
  • How you gained the skills that you have today and information about any transferrable skills.
  • Your previous performance. Talk to your manager and co-workers about your work results to help you in this exercise.

As you think about your past experiences, write them down. Use the résumé writing activity sheet to jot down your skills and work accomplishments. This can be modified for multiple job advertisements and will help you to update your accomplishments. This will help to ensure the information remains relevant.

Information to Include

Depending on which type of résumé you choose to write, there are a variety of different headings you can use. Regardless of the type, there are three important sections that must be included.

1. Personal Information (Contact Information)

  • This is the first section on every résumé. Ensure your name is formatted clearly at the top of your résumé and also include it in a smaller font at the top of each subsequent page.
  • This is useful for the hiring manager when reviewing multiple résumés.
  • Include contact phone number(s) and an email address. 
  • Here are a few examples of personal information that should not be included on your résumé:
    • Your height, age, weight
    • A photo of yourself
    • Your Social Insurance Number
    • Your marital status

2. Education

List your education starting with the most recent and working backwards from there; include the name of each educational institution you attended and the degree or diploma awarded.

List any other certifications that you’ve received, including those for mini-courses like computer or software courses, first aid, or any other training that might be relevant to the job you are applying for.

3. Skills and Experience

  • Your résumé is used to illustrate where you’ve worked, what you’ve learned, and how your skills and experience align with the job.
  • Tailor your resume to highlight the most relevant experience, skills and abilities.
  • If you are new to the workforce with limited experience, or if all of your experience is in an unrelated field, focus on the transferrable skills that you have learned which will help you perform effectively.
  • For each job, include the company name, location (city, province), and the dates you were employed (month, year). This applies to volunteer positions as well. In your description of each job, use bullet points to describe your responsibilities and achievements.
  • It is ideal to write your résumé statements as work accomplishments rather than simply listing the duties. For example, “Coordinated all training requests for the department and met organizational service standards by processing 2400 training requests within a 24 hour turnaround” is more effective than “Coordinated training requests”.

4. Other Relevant Information

Depending on the format of your résumé there may be other relevant information that you wish to include. You can include your job goals, additional languages you speak, or any relevant achievements/awards. You can also include interests or activities that say something positive about you. It is important, however, to keep everything on your résumé job relevant.

There are no official rules about which headings you should include on your résumé or the order of the information you choose to provide. The important thing to remember is to keep it concise, with the most relevant information at the top. 

For example, if you are applying for an accounting job and you have an accounting diploma but no accounting experience, you should list your education first.  On the other hand, if you are applying for a job which you have a great deal of related experience it might be beneficial to list your experience first.

Now that you know how to write your résumé, here are some additional tips to consider:

Presentation

  • Keep it professional. Make sure that your résumé looks neat and organized. It is important to choose a font that is easy to read. The layout of your résumé is also very important; make effective use of the “white space” on your page by guiding the reader down the page while providing an occasional break for the eyes.
  • Break it down. If there is a lot of information in your résumé, break it into separate sections with specific headings such as Work Experience; Education; Special Accomplishments (relevant to position); Volunteer Experience.
  • Proofread. Never rely on spell check to proofread your résumé, spell check will only flag words that are spelled incorrectly. It will not always flag words that are not used properly; always double-check for errors and typos. Have someone else review your résumé before you submit.

Tailor Your Résumé

  • Target the employer and the position. Create a job-specific, customized cover letter and résumé for each position for which you are applying. Use titles or headings to illustrate the work you have done or the skills you have attained.
  • Analyze Job Postings and Descriptions to Identify Key Words. In a job description or posting, the hiring manager will indicate what they are looking for. Use these words and descriptions to demonstrate effectively that you meet the requirements of the job. Key areas identified in the postings and descriptions can be used as section titles or prioritized at the beginning of your résumé.
  • Address what the employer is looking for right away. If the hiring manager cannot easily find the job-relevant information, they may not be able to match your skills to the position and you could be screened out.

Content

  • Be Truthful. Always be honest about your skills and experience.  If you are missing some of the items in the job posting, there is no need to embellish.
  • Do not include references. They can be provided if you receive an interview.
  • Do not include irrelevant information. Things such as your SIN number, marital status, or birth date should never be included on your résumé.
  • Style. You should not use “I”, “me”, or “my” to describe your skills and abilities. It is also important to ensure that you are consistent in the tense you use throughout your résumé; résumés should be written either in past or active tense, for example, “Developed and implemented staffing policies” or “Developing and implementing staffing policies”.
  • Be specific about your accomplishments. Start with strong verbs (such as wrote, presented and advised), so that the employer is easily able to determine your role. Avoid the use of the word “we”, unless you were a part of a team project. You should explain how your experience uses the competencies the employer is looking for. Be clear, concise and honest about your accomplishments.
  • Use action verbs. To create a positive image of yourself, use a variety of action verbs that describe your accomplishments. The only description that should be written in present tense is your current work experience. All previous work experiences should be written in past tense.

Here are a few examples of key action verbs:

Management Skills:
Analyzed, assigned, attained, chaired, coached, controlled, consolidated, contracted, coordinated, delegated, developed, directed, evaluated, executed, facilitated, improved, increased, led, managed, organized, oversaw, planned, produced, recommended, reviewed, scheduled, strengthened, supervised, validated.

Communication Skills:
Addressed, arbitrated, arranged, authored, collaborated, convinced, corresponded, developed, directed, drafted, edited, enlisted, formulated, influenced, interpreted, lectured, mediated, moderated, negotiated, persuaded, promoted, published, reconciled, recruited, spoke, translated, wrote.

Clerical or Details Skills:
Administered, approved, arranged, catalogued, classified, collected, compiled, dispatched, executed, generated, implemented, inspected, monitored, operated, organized, prepared, prioritized, processed, purchased, recorded, retrieved, screened, specified, streamlined, tabulated, validated.

Creative Skills:
Acted, conceptualized, created, customized, designed, devised, developed, directed, established, fashioned, founded, illustrated, improved, initiated, instituted, integrated, introduced, invented, originated, performed, procured, produced, proposed, planned, revitalized, refined, redesigned, reorganized, shaped

Research Skills:
Clarified, collected, critiqued, diagnosed, evaluated, examined, extracted, identified, inspected, interpreted, interviewed, investigated, organized, reviewed, summarized, surveyed.

Technical Skills:
Assembled, computed, designed, engineered, operated, overhauled, programmed, remodeled, repaired, solved, upgraded.

Financial Skills:
Administered, allocated, analyzed, appraised, audited, balanced, budgeted, calculated, completed, developed, forecasted, managed, marketed, planned, projected, reconciled, researched.

Accomplishment Verbs:
Achieved, expanded, launched, improved, pioneered, reduced, resolved, restored, spearheaded, transformed.

  • Quantify your accomplishments. Quantifiers are words used to describe your accomplishments in measurable amounts. Concrete facts are better than abstract statements. When the hiring manager reads these “quantifier” terms, they receive a stronger visual picture of your success than if you used general terms.
    Example: “Significantly increased revenue” is not as powerful as “Increased revenues from $150,000 in 2012 to $500,000 in 2015 by establishing a new sales territory”.
  • Focus on your most recent and relevant work experience.  You do not have to include every job you’ve ever had. The idea is to tie your experience to the position and to illustrate that you have the required skills and abilities.

Last, but Not Least

  • Think ahead. By waiting until the last minute to submit your résumé, you risk missing the deadline and your chance to be considered for the position. The more time you give yourself to prepare and submit your résumé, the better. Rushing takes away time that could be spent proofreading and editing – potentially leading to errors.