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Resume Writing

People write resumes for various reasons. The most common one is to apply for new jobs. However, resumes are often used to apply for promotions within an organization, or to provide the employer with important information when a position is reclassified. Whatever your reason for writing a resume, its basic purpose is the same: to communicate your experience, skills, and education related to a specific position to an employer. In short, resumes are a marketing tool. Think of your resume as a promotional flyer designed to get you an interview.

Your resume is not an autobiography, or a place to report every experience you have had. It is a place to report the qualifications you have which relate to a specific position. Writing a targeted, effective resume is time consuming, however, it's not as difficult as many people think. The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right way to do it. Your resume will be as individual as you are.

After reading this booklet and attending the resume workshop at Student Employment Services, if you feel you need additional help with your resume, put together a working copy and make an appointment to have one of our employment coordinators critique it.


The first step in resume writing is to identify all of your skills, attributes, and experiences. This is not always easy to do as people tend to be modest and to overlook their own skills. In this case, however, it is important to "blow your own horn" and not to underestimate yourself.

One approach to getting started is to write down everything you have done. You might make headings such as volunteer work, paid work, education, awards, memberships, extra-curricular activities, and special skills, and then list all your experiences under the appropriate heading. This is a good way to ensure that you don't forget anything.

Another reason to start by listing your experience is that it will help you to identify your skills. Once your experience list is complete, look at each item on your list, and ask yourself "What could I have learned by doing this?" "What skills did I develop?" Then, simply list the skills as they occur to you. Some of these skills will have been developed through work experience or extra-curricular activities, and others through your education.


Identify each distinct activity you have participated in, such as your academic program, employment or volunteer positions and extra-curricular activities, and list the skills required to successfully fulfill their requirements.

Position: President of a University student group
Duties - Step #1 Skills - Step #2
-chaired meetings of the Executive
and group members
communication (generic)
leadership (generic)
-planned fundraising event for charity
with committee members
program planning (generic)
team player (generic)
-scheduled meetings and ensured distribution
of minutes prior to next meeting
organizational (generic)
word processing (technical)

Skills fall into two categories - technical and generic. Technical skills are the skills required to do a specific task. For a laboratory assistant, technical skills might include knowledge of sterilization procedures, slide preparation, and scientific report writing. For an outreach worker, technical skills might include counselling skills, case management skills, or program design and evaluation skills. Generic skills are those which are valuable in many work settings. Below is a list of the ten most marketable skills. You will notice that they are all generic.

  • Analytical/Problem Solving
  • Flexibility/Versatility
  • Interpersonal
  • Oral/Written Communication
  • Organization/Planning
  • Time Management
  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Self-Starter/Initiative
  • Team Player

Often when people think of skills, they tend to think of those they have developed in the workplace. However, skills are developed in a variety of settings. If you have ever researched and written a paper for a course, you probably have written communication skills. Team sports or group projects are a good way to develop the skills required of a team player and leader. Don't overlook any abilities you may have.

Skills assessment and identification is often the most time-consuming part of preparing your resume, and, it is the most important. It is imperative that you take the time to do a thorough job. Identifying your skills is essential not only for writing an effective resume, but also for making a strong positive impression on employers throughout your job search.


Once you have identified your skills and listed your experiences, resume writing is really just form writing. You simply slot the information into the appropriate format. There are many different types of resumes available for you to choose from. To create the appropriate format for you, it is necessary to decide which format presents your information in the most favourable manner. The chronological resume and the combination resume are the types most commonly used by students.


* Resumes should be between 1 - 2 pages in length. If your resume is longer than this, you should consider another format. This is important as employers require concise information that is easy to access, and often they will not read beyond the second page.

* Your resume should be printed using high quality paper and printers. It is acceptable to use white or shaded paper. Originals are best, but if photocopies are used, they should be of good quality - you may want to use a professional copier.

* It is very important that your resume be error free. Read it several times and have friends proofread it as well. An error on your resume is a sure way to get yourself screened out.

* Your resume should be well-organized and laid out in a logical manner. It should include white space and adequate margins as this makes your resume easy to read and visually attractive.

* Dates can be placed on the right, left or middle of your page. Whatever the choice, it is important that they are placed consistently throughout your resume.



There is no easy answer to this question. You should go back as far as necessary to include all relevant jobs and experience.


The most effective resumes are tailored to fit each specific position. You will probably want to highlight different information for every position that you apply to. The only way to do this is to prepare a resume targeted to the particular position. If this isn't possible, you may want to prepare more than one resume and target each resume at a different occupation. For example, if you have experience in both sales and computer programming, you might want to make one resume which highlights your sales experience, and another which emphasizes your computer experience.


This can be presented in a favourable manner. Your past employer obviously was pleased with your performance. If you advanced or your responsibilities increased, make sure this is clear on your resume.


This is work experience and should be included. Family businesses often provide the opportunity for individuals to acquire skills that they would not be able to in larger organizations.


As the technology has developed, employers (especially, but not exclusively in the technical fields) are taking advantage of new methods to screen candidates. One of these new methods is viewing electronic resumes on various Internet sites. To increase your resume exposure, you may want to locate the resume site(s) most likely to act as a magnet for employers seeking people with your qualifications. Most of these provide a template, within which you enter your personal information and qualifications. You are advised to give your e-mail address as opposed to your home address or telephone number.

A second method employers are using in increasing numbers is scanning all received resumes into their human resource database and then running a search based on "keywords" that are related to the position they are recruiting for. Resumes are ranked automatically according to their content as 'read' by the computer prior to offers for interviews. Scanners and optical character recognition (OCR) software exist in a variety of qualities, and you must ensure that the information you submit will be recognized easily by the computer. You may wish to contact the Human Resources office and ask if they are scanning resumes before you submit yours.

To increase your chances for success in both of the above situations, following are suggestions for formatting your resume:

For example:


Computer Programming, C++, Unix, AutoCAD, IBM, Macintosh, Lotus 1-2-3, software design, MS Word, dBaseIII+, WordPerfect 6.0, Sales, Marketing, Teacher

Another option is to not include a "Keywords" section, but to ensure that such key items are mentioned in the text of the resume. Both methods will work on a keyword scan.

For more detailed guidelines, Electronic Resume Revolution and Finding a Job on the Internet are excellent sources, and are both available at Student Employment Services.

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