Format & Editing

1. Design Format

Once you have the content of your resume, it is time to format the information into a legible and comprehensive document- one that promotes your fit for the position based on matching your strengths to the needs of the employer. Here are a few tips: 

  • Review the employer website to see if they have specific requirements or suggestions for your resume format. Some employers use Applicant Tracking Systems that have very specific requirements in formatting. 

  • Review sample resumes to get some ideas of different ways to present your information. Look at them as samples but not templates – your resume needs to make it easy for the employer to see your demonstrated qualifications. You don’t need to have the same style of resume as your classmates (unless you are applying to a position or academic program that gives you specific guidelines) 

  • Keep your formatting consistent and simple. Colours, graphics, and other visuals can be distracting to the reader. Remember that your goal is to help the reader focus on the content, not the format. 

  • Acceptable lengths for resumes are one or two pages in Canada, depending on industry.  

  • If you are applying to positions outside of Canada, we recommend that you review information on employer expectations. Review the country specific information on GoinGlobal (available in the resource section on CLN). 

There are many methods of laying out and organizing your content, however the three most common formats used in Canada are Modified Chronological, Chronological and Functional (or Skills): 

Modified Chronological (Recommended)

  • Divides chronological list into Relevant Experience vs. Other Experience so that you can highlight your related skills, knowledge, and experience by placing them near the beginning and within a separate section
  • Very effective for tailoring your experience and accomplishments to the requirements of the position
  • Works best for students who have some related experience or required skills from either previous work, extracurricular/volunteering or academic projects

Reverse Chronological

  • Traditional and most commonly used; focuses on career history
  • Lists your experience in chronological order starting with the most recent position down to the earliest one. List can include university projects and volunteer/extracurricular work
  • Shows a career progression very well; appropriate to use if you have a solid work history and your experience is aligned with the position you are applying for
  • Not effective for students with varied work, academic and/ or extracurricular/volunteer experience who had many unrelated positions or large gaps in ther work history
  • Prefererd by most employers because the see it often and know where to find the information they are looking for; it provides a quick overview of your work history, with most recent experience up front

Functional (Skills)

  • Focuses on the skills you have acquired and not the context in which you acquired them
  • Arranges your skills into categories or headings, including a list of your accomplishments related to that heading. This resume format focuses on your skills, providing the list of previous positions and dates to the back of the resume.
  • Effective for students who have little work experience or a diverse background with no clear career path
  • Employers/recruiters do not generally like this format since they can’t readily see where and when you acquired your skills

When formatting and editing your resume, you should focus on highlighting your value in the most effective way possible considering your individual background and qualifications. Keep in mind that whatever format you choose, you should tailor your resume to the position you are applying for in order to have a greater success at being selected for an interview.

2. Select Font

Use basic common language font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Also do not use graphics. This eliminates technical problems with scanning your resume or with employers receiving them on potentially incompatible programs or printers

Font size of 11 or 12 points

Italics, underlining, shading and sometimes bolding can be a problem as these do not always look the same on other operating systems and/or printers.

3. Edit for Action Words, Spelling, Grammar, & Professionalism

Use as many key words as possible to ensure a match of your qualifications with the employer’s needs. Electronic scanners, if used, will select resumes by keyword match.

Make sure key words from the ad or posting are used in your resume and cover letter. See our list of Action Words for examples.

Use the spell check (grammar too) and then — just to be sure — ask a friend or relative to read it over. Typos, spelling and grammatical errors look unprofessional and can send an otherwise effective resume into the 'No, thank you!' file.

If delivering by hand use a typed or laser quality original on 8 1/2 by 11” white paper or light coloured paper. Coloured paper and font may get you attention but it may not be positive if it doesn’t appeal to the recipient or makes the document difficult to read.

Get your resume critiqued by one of our professionals at the Career Centre by booking an appointment at CLNx.

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