Résumé Writing Guide

Critical Skills for the Canadian Workforce

According to a Financial Post report on careers and the job market, math, science, engineering and communication skills are becoming increasingly important to all sizes of companies. But shortages of highly skilled, trained technical personnel in Canada also appear to be growing.

The Conference Board of Canada surveyed employers to find out those skills most in demand by Canadian companies. Upon review of the following list, it was found that they are the same skills that are instilled in all members of the Canadian Forces. Employer Support Representatives (ES Reps) should let Reservists know about the following information and encourage them to use it to express military skills and abilities in terms that civilian employers will understand when requesting time off or writing résumés.

Academic Skills

Canadian employers need people who can:

  • Communicate:
    • Listen, understand and learn;
    • Read, comprehend and use written material; and
    • Write effectively in the language in which business is conducted.
  • Think:
    • Think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, solve problems and make decisions;
    • Understand and solve problems involving mathematics and use the results;
    • Use technology, instruments, tools and information systems; and
    • Access and apply specialized knowledge.
  • Learn and continue to learn

Personal Management Skills

Canadian employers need people who demonstrate:

  • Positive attitudes and behaviours:
    • Self-esteem and confidence;
    • Honesty, integrity and personal ethics;
    • A positive attitude toward learning, growth and personal health; and
    • Initiative, energy and persistence to get the job done.
  • Responsibility:
    • The ability to set goals and priorities in work and personal life;
    • The ability to plan and manage time, money and other resources to achieve goals; and
    • Accountability for actions taken.
  • Adaptability:
    • A positive attitude towards change;
    • Recognition of and respect for people's diversity and individual differences; and
    • The ability to identify and suggest new ideas to get the job done.

Teamwork Skills

Canadian employers need people who can:

  • Work with others:
    • Understand and contribute to the organization's goals;
    • Understand and work within the culture of the group;
    • Plan and make decisions with others and support the outcomes;
    • Respect the thoughts and opinions of others in the group; and
    • Exercise "Give and Take" to achieve group results.

Military Skills Translator

Translating Military Skills into Civilian Terms

The previous section outlines equivalencies between civilian and military careers. But how do you quantify these skills? And how do you explain the benefits to your civilian work if your MOC part of the combat arms?

You have more abilities than just those of your occupation skills. The following material lists by rank the types of skills you possess and how to express these in civilian terms. Keep in mind that not all of these skills will apply to you, but the majority of them in your rank should.

Corporal/Leading Seaman

  • conduct effective training sessions in either a theoretical subject or in an individual skill
  • receive instructions from a superior and plan work priorities and resources to achieve a goal
  • give clear, logical and precise instructions to subordinates to achieve a team objective
  • lead and supervise a team of 10 people
  • use productive competition as a management tool
  • manage time and resources productively and efficiently
  • achieve a high level of quality control in all activities apply safe practices in the workplace
  • make quick and logical decisions
  • care and account for stores and equipment

Sergeant/Petty Officer 2nd Class

  • manage time and resources productively and efficiently
  • achieve a high level of quality control in all activities
  • conduct effective training in either theoretical skills or in group practical skills
  • assess performance and counsel subordinate staff
  • assist in the selection and guidance of leading hands
  • receive instructions from a superior and plan work priorities and resources to achieve a goal
  • give clear and concise instructions to subordinates to achieve a team objective
  • be responsible for the administrative requirements for a group of up to 30 people
  • apply safe practices in the workplace
  • apply and administer codes of conduct and behaviour in the work place
  • act as a member of a junior management team
  • care and account for stores and equipment

Warrant Officer (all levels)/Chief Petty Officers (all levels) and Petty Officer 1st Class

  • use productive competition as a management tool
  • apply and administer high standards of conduct and behaviour in the workplace
  • apply administrative instructions and procedures
  • display a high level of leadership to a large group – make logical and quick decisions
  • maintain and enforce high standards of quality control in all activities
  • conduct effective training in group skills and theory
  • plan and conduct activities requiring coordination of resources
  • act independently and display resourcefulness and initiative
  • apply safe practices in the workplace
  • supervise staff and intermediate supervisors and provide effective counselling
  • plan short-term training programs
  • advise superiors in a logical and effective manner
  • act as a member of a middle management team
  • care and account for stores and equipment and attend to security of premises and information

Lieutenant/Sub-Lieutenant

  • manage time and resources productively and efficiently to achieve a high level of quality control in all activities
  • lead a group of 30 subordinates involved in physically demanding, dangerous and team-related tasks for an extended period of time using several intermediate supervisors
  • accept full responsibility for the actions and performance of the team
  • plan and conduct a detailed training program in a variety of skills
  • apply advanced skills in the coordination of activities, training and groups discipline
  • maintain occupational health and safety in the workplace
  • maintain the security of buildings, vehicles, stores and information
  • conduct research, assess the actions of competitors and apply experience to develop a plan of action
  • account for store, equipment and finances
  • conduct investigations and prepare reports
  • receive instructions from a superior and issue instructions to subordinates in a clear, complete and logical manner
  • display initiative and self reliance
  • display effective personal leadership, including assessing performance and counselling subordinate staff and identifying and training staff for career development

Captain/Lieutenant(N)

  • plan and implement the total administrative requirements for a group of up to 500 people
  • prepare detailed written papers, reports and investigations
  • accept responsibility for the administration of large groups of people
  • organize and control administrative staff directly through subordinates
  • manage time and resources productively and efficiently
  • plan, implement and be responsible for occupational health and safety, and for the maintenance and security of stores and a wide range of equipment that may exceed several hundred thousand dollars in value
  • review and plan effective administrative systems and procedures
  • plan and issue detailed instructions for a group of up to 120 people working through several intermediate line supervisors and with several support staff
  • operate formal staff reporting and review systems including use of effective staff communication and counselling
  • work as a member of a management team and accept responsibility for authorized levels of decision making
  • use current management and organizational theory, including computer supported decision making
  • establish and maintain a training program for task groups
  • speak effectively in public using a range of presentation materials

Major/Lieutenant-Commander

  • plan and issue instructions for coordinated activities for groups of up to 800 people working through several intermediate line managers and with several supporting staff managers
  • plan the total administrative requirements for a diverse group of operational entities employing up to 2000 people
  • solve problems, make logical decisions, negotiate and communicate with a high level of competence
  • plan a progressive and continuing program for large groups of people
  • lead individuals and groups at a senior management level
  • plan and conduct junior management training programs
  • delegate effectively to junior managers and supervise and manage their activities
  • make decisions within authorised levels which may involve equipment of over a million dollars in value
  • work as a member of a senior management team
  • prepare substantive written papers on management topics

Lieutenant-Colonel/Commander

  • plan and issue instructions for coordinated activities for group of up to 1500 people working through several intermediate line managers and with several supporting staff managers
  • prepare and issue written instructions to middle management for training and personal development
  • plan logically and convey broad directives and parameters to middle management for action
  • accept full responsibility for the activities and administration of several diverse operational entities involving large groups of people and equipment that may be several million dollars in value
  • lead individuals and groups at a senior management level
  • plan the total administrative requirements for a diverse group of operational entities employing up to 5000 people
  • work as a member of a senior multidisciplinary management team
  • review and critically analyze complex problems and procedures

Writing A Résumé That Works

We all know that a résumé can be a difficult and intimidating document to write. For most of us it is difficult to put into words the accomplishments that we have made and to write it so that we sell ourselves to a prospective employer. Because that is what a résumé is a "sales document." For those of us in the military, writing a résumé can be doubly difficult because not only do we have to blow our own horn, we also have to translate our military skills, jobs, titles and accomplishments into a language that can be understood by everyone.

This section will help you to use the material in the preceding sections to write an effective résumé that will "sell" you in the civilian job market. Use this information as a guide, especially if you are entering the civilian job market for the first time.

What Is a Good Résumé?

To do its job – get you the interview – a résumé must clearly and forcefully make the best possible case for your ability to meet the needs of the targeted prospective employers. A good résumé:

  • is a self-marketing tool;
  • is designed with one goal in mind: to get you a job interview; and
  • almost always starts with a clearly stated job objective; then it presents your skills, experience, and accomplishments in terms of that current job objective.

Appearance

A good résumé should always have the following characteristics in appearance:

  • Excellent typing or word processing with superior reproduction;
  • Good paper quality;
  • No vibrant, bizarre, or otherwise offbeat paper colour;
  • No typographical errors;
  • No attention-getting visual effects (wild or mixed type styles, brochure format, photographs, etc.);
  • 8 ½" by 11" paper; and
  • No longer than two pages (with some exceptions).

Clarity

A good résumé will be clear, with the following characteristics:

  • Job descriptions stated in four lines or less to facilitate reading;
  • Position objective and experience summary clearly stated;
  • Personal data (name, address, phone numbers) immediately identifiable;
  • Job history stated in reverse chronological order; and
  • Grammatically correct and consistent.

Content

The content of a good résumé will include the following:

  • No excessive space devoted to items not directly related to career (hobbies, interests, detailed personal data, etc.);
  • Employment gaps played down or explained;
  • Sequence of major headings appropriate to level (for example, education should be listed las for person whose education is not career related);
  • Career-related volunteer experience should be effectively developed; and
  • Accomplishments quantitatively stated, where appropriate.

A good résumé is effective because it selects and interprets your past work experience as it relates to your current job objective. It omits everything that isn't clearly relevant to that current objective. It includes everything that is clearly relevant – regardless of old job titles (if any) or salary (if any) – giving you full credit for all that you've learned and accomplished.

A good résumé has five essential parts. They are:

  • A clearly stated job objective;
  • The highlights of qualifications;
  • A presentation of directly relevant skills and experiences;
  • A chronological work history; and
  • A listing of relevant education and training.

Start Writing Your Résumé

The Job Objective

Compose a clearly stated job objective, using a minimum number of words. The job objective should answer the questions:

  • What do I want to do?
  • For whom or with whom do I want to do it?
  • Where do I want to do it?
  • At what level of responsibility?

Your job objective is best expressed in the fewest words possible, while still being clear and explicit enough to create a mental image of you at work. (An actual job title is extremely effective.) Your job objective should express the role that you are willing and able to fill, from the employer's perspective – what's in it for them, not what's in it for you. Avoid phrases like, "... with opportunity for advancement." The interview, not the résumé, is the place to talk about what's in it for you. Some examples of effective job objectives are:

  • Position in investigative drug research and project systems design;
  • Part time teller position in a bank;
  • Position as public affairs coordinator in the health industry;
  • Management trainee in a grocery store chain; or
  • Sales representative in a team environment in the carpet and upholstery industry.

Relevant Skills and Experience

This is the most challenging part of the résumé. What you want to create is a word picture of you in your proposed new job, created out of the best of your past experience. Sequence is also important for an effective résumé. Think of your résumé as a script, for both you and the interviewer. Each entry is a cue to be picked up by the interviewer as he or she wishes, and singled out for elaboration if it piques interest and as it relates to the position available.

Your accomplishments should be broken up in bite-size entities for the interviewer to spot and absorb quickly. You should view each entry as the basis for a leading question for which you have rehearsed responses of anywhere from one to fifteen minutes, determined by the interviewer's interest. It is important, therefore, to include points of maximum appeal and to sequence them by importance. Where appropriate, quantify an accomplishment to provoke the reader's interest. Follow a main point with appropriate sub-points.

To start organizing your skill ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the main job skills required for the job objective?
  • When did I use those skills in the past?
  • Is there assistance in the preceding sections of this chapter on translating military skills?

Then for each skill write action-oriented "one liners" to describe what you have done.

Tips For Writing One Liners

Use the following tips to help writing your one-liners:

  • Be explicit and use action verbs. Banish the overworked phrase "responsible for";
  • Be punchy and use direct, simple language;
  • Quantify your accomplishments, where appropriate, telling how much, how many, arid how often;
  • Take credit for your role in the activity. If it was a team effort, you can say "Co-authored ... or Collaborated with ... or Co-led";
  • Don't take your accomplishments for granted;
  • Don't be modest about saying that you're good at what you do;
  • Don't be constrained by the "official job" descriptions or responsibilities;
  • Don't describe activities that are not relevant to your job objectives; and
  • Don't describe any work experience you didn't like.

Finalizing the Résumé

Now put this all together and you will have a résumé that works for you – one that will get you the interview. The sample résumé below is for an infantry sergeant who is looking for a management training position. Note that most of his experience comes from being in the Reserve Force.

Sample Résumé

John B. Smith
111 Streetname Road
City, Province
AAA 111
xxx-555-1212 (Home)
xxx-555-2121 (Business)

Career Objective

To obtain a position within the management training program for Big Bob's Discount Store to realize the long range career goal of becoming a district manager.

Career Summary

Demonstrated accomplishments in all aspects of management including leadership, accountability, and time management.

Education

BA (Hon) Political Science, April 1995, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Professional History

1986–Present – CANADIAN ARMED FORCES – RESERVE FORCE
Section Commander (Junior Manager)

  • Give clear and concise instructions to subordinates to achieve a team objective.
  • Assess performance of individuals both, orally and written, and counsel subordinate staff.
  • Manage time and resources productively and efficiently.
  • Ensure that all tasks and assignments are prioritized appropriately and completed within the specified time line.
  • Act as a member of a junior management team.
  • Supervise a staff of xx personnel.
  • Care and account for stores and equipment.
  • Write and present reports.
  • Chair weekly meetings.
  • Receive instructions from superiors and plan work priorities and resources to achieve a goal.

1985–1986 – ABC CONVENIENCE STORE
Clerk/Cashier

  • Operated an X2000 Texas Instrument cash register.
  • Balanced daily cash to sales receipts and made bank deposits.
  • Conducted inventory cheeks and restocked merchandise on a regular basis.
  • Interacted with customers and suppliers.

Computer Literacy

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Microsoft PowerPoint

Relevant Courses and Training

  • Junior Leaders Course (Junior Management Training), Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, 1992
  • Stress Management Training, Mohawk College, 1992

References

References are available upon request.

 

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