New year, new résumé

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Happy New Year! If you have decided that 2017 will be your year to find a new job, your résumé or curriculum vitae will be top of mind.

If you are looking to tweak or update your résumé, feel free to check out my Résumé Hacks articles One thing that can take your résumé to the next level and Upgrade your résumé in 30 minutes or less.

If you want to completely revamp your résumé and start fresh, let’s do it.

Get started

The most important thing is to get started by putting words on the page. With an abundance of fresh and exciting résumé templates available online or in programs such as Word, it’s possible to get caught up in selecting a template and waste valuable time and energy.

Selecting a template may seem like a logical place to start, however I would actually recommend that this be one of your final steps. At this point, you don’t know the length of the document, and different layouts will have an impact on the page number.

Start with content. Getting words on the page will help you to build momentum and get things done more quickly.

Contact information

Write in your contact information including the following:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Daytime phone number
  • Email address
  • Website (if applicable)

Many employers will contact you during regular business hours, so include a phone number where an employer can reach you during the day, like your cell phone. If you have your own phone line with its own voicemail at work, it’s acceptable to leave your work number if you are comfortable being contacted there.

I would also recommend having a professional-sounding email address. Many of us have a “fun” email address that we created when we were younger and it just stuck around. If this is your case, I would recommend creating a new email with something more simple and formal, like your name for instance.

If you are in a creative field or a field where your work is available online, I would strongly recommend including a website for your portfolio or work samples. Most hiring managers appreciate this because it demonstrates professionalism by giving them a sense for what you are capable of from the get-go.


The current résumé form is to write a summary that puts your experience in context. This section used to be dedicated to an objective, however this has changed because an objective is too abstract and there is no way to know what an employer is looking for.

The summary should be approximately two to four lines describing your professional experience which include keywords such as your profession, number of years experience, languages spoken etc. I would recommend running a quick Google search to get inspired and craft a summary that has impact and feels right to you.


If you have recently graduated from college or university, you can start your résumé with your academic experience, as this will likely be your most significant achievement.

If you have graduated more than five years ago, I would recommend that you start with your professional experience. The exception would be if you have not been working in your field and your academic experience most closely relates to the type of job for which you are applying.

I would strongly recommend that you include your professional achievements, which I cover in detail in a previous article. If you won any awards or received any scholarships or bursaries while in school, include these also.

Should you encounter difficulty coming up with the right words to describe your experience, you will find that looking up job postings with a title similar to yours will be a great help. They often include professional and succinct turns of phrase that can serve as inspiration. With this said, I would caution against simply copy/pasting an entire job description, even if it describes what you do. It will be obvious and you won’t be taken seriously by HR or hiring managers.


It’s important to include your systems knowledge and be accurate about it. When I say knowledge, I am implying a working knowledge, which means that you can sit down at your desk and execute the task that has been requested. There is nothing more irritating to hiring managers than when a prospective candidate says they have the knowledge but can’t answer questions in an interview. With this said, you needn’t be an expert either. Remember that in a normal, daily context, you will have internet access and can research certain functions quickly and easily if needed.

If you work in a job that has more industry-specific systems, definitely include these, even if they seem obscure. This will ensure that you will get flagged in a keyword search.

Finishing Touches

While it is not required, you can definitely include any volunteering experience you have or other extracurricular activities such as sports or music for instance. The purpose behind including these is to illustrate your transferable skills and not to fill space. For example, if you coach your child’s hockey team, it demonstrates leadership ability and the desire to do good for the community, which are qualities employers are looking for.

Now is the time to select your layout and determine the number of pages. This is often a hotly debated topic and here are my two cents: the number of pages should be proportionate to your experience. If you have less than 5 years’ work experience, one page is enough. For 5-10 years’ experience, you can go up to two pages and if you are more experienced, you can go up to three pages. There is no reason to have a résumé longer than three pages. If, for example, you are a project manager or a researcher and you want to list your projects and/or published works, you are better off annexing a second document than making your résumé too long.

Spelling and grammar matter. Print a copy of your résumé and check for any errors or typos. Once this is done, ask someone close to you to review your résumé and give you feedback. This can help you to catch any small mistakes you may have missed and they can also comment on the overall clarity of your document. Being a Montrealer, I am aware that many of us prefer to have an English and a French version of our résumés. If you choose to do this, I would recommend that your reviewer be a native speaker, meaning that the person who reviews your English version and the person who reviews your French version are different people (unless your reviewer is a professional translator). A native speaker will pick up on any little oddities, and help you to present a flawless document.

You’re all done!

Now that your résumé is all done, go out and seize the day! You can check out my previous article How to conduct a thorough job search with less effort to kick you off on your job search.

Happy hunting!