Resume & Cover Letter Preparation Guide
If you haven’t updated your resume or cover letter for some time, or if you have never prepared one, this guide will assist you.
While some of the following information can be applied to any job search, these tips relate specifically to the City of Toronto’s hiring process.
- Keep your resume between two to three pages in length
- List your work experience in reverse chronological order – begin with your most recent job
- Market your strengths by explaining your accomplishments and achievements, rather than listing your duties
- Customize your resume for the job to you’re applying to and explain how your skills and abilities meet the key qualifications in the job description
- We recommend that you create a new resume for each different job you apply for
- Summarize your work experience of more than 10 years ago, unless it is directly relevant to the job that you’re applying for
- Don’t copy and paste the exact wording from the job posting
- Use one simple font that’s easily readable (e.g., Arial size 12)
- Use bolding sparingly and don’t use shading
- Avoid using all capitalized letters, italics or underlining because they can be difficult to read
- Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations, clichés or jargon
- Avoid fancy graphics because as they can distract the reader
- Leave plenty of white space with generous margins and indentations
Consider using some of these action verbs to highlight your skills:
- name – include your name on every page
- phone number, including area code
Don’t include confidential information, such as your date of birth, marital status, or your social insurance number.
Summary of Qualifications
Immediately following your personal information, market your most important and relevant qualifications. Often, this includes a statement about your strengths as they relate to your work experience that makes you a suitable candidate for the job.
Tip: imagine how a friend or coworker might describe your strengths.
Summary may include:
- the number of years of relevant experience
- any specialized training or formal credentials
- a significant accomplishment or successful endeavour
- a statement about your level of commitment, work attitude or values
Don’t include a sentence stating your career objective. This serves no useful purpose if it merely repeats the title of the position for which you are applying.
- List your work experience in reverse chronological order listing the years worked in each job. Don’t include months unless you have been in a position for under a year.
- Clearly write your job title and division/employer in bold
- Explain your experience as it relates to the key qualifications for the position you are applying to by using four to five one-liners to describe your significant accomplishments. Whenever possible, try to quantify your achievements
- A one-liner describes an accomplishment, skill or responsibility in point form, preventing you from using unnecessarily wordy sentences.
- Prioritize your one-liners putting the most significant ones first
How to write a one-liner
- Start each one-liner with an action verb
- For your current job use present tense verbs (for example, ‘prepares’ or ‘develops’)
- For previous jobs use past tense verbs (for example, ‘assisted’ or ‘monitored’)
- State what you did and what you accomplished – quantify and qualify your points to demonstrate your experience fully, as well as the depth and breadth of knowledge, skills and abilities you possess.
- Show the results of your actions and the benefits they had to the company. For example:
- how and how much money you saved
- how and how much you increased productivity
- how you solved a problem
- how you built a relationship
Examples of One-Liners
- Handled all in-bound telephone calls, re-directed them to appropriate staff or took messages as needed
- Followed-up on requests and ensured client service standards were maintained in a high volume client focussed environment
- Rearranged the office filing system based on a personally devised plan, which led to more efficient file retrieval by the staff
- Developed an extensive equipment maintenance program resulting in reduced downtime, lower repair costs and improved service
- List your education at the end of your resume unless you have very little work experience
- Only list your degree,diploma or highest grade achieved and the educational institution
- Don’t list courses unless they’re directly related to the position
- Put your highest education level or most recently attained degree/diploma first. Don’t include high school information if you have post-secondary education
- Academic awards and/or scholarships can be mentioned
Other Resume Sections
Include additional resume sections only if they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. Additional sections may include:
- languages (list verbal and written skills)
- publications (list published work)
- professional affiliations memberships
- volunteer experience/community involvement (may also include if you have minimal paid work experience)
Don’t include a list of references or a statement that references are available on request.
Note: Always tell the truth! Do not misrepresent or falsify any information on your resume.
- Have you included your name, address, telephone number and email?
- Is your name on each page?
- Are your jobs listed in reverse chronological order?
- Did you address your experience as it relates to the key qualifications for the job you’re applying to?
- Does it explain your accomplishments rather than your duties?
- Are your action verbs consistent and in the right tense?
- Have you quantified accomplishments whenever possible?
- Are your most important one-liners at the top of each section?
- Is it clear and concise?
- Is it well spaced and easy to read?
- Are your pages numbered?
- Did you spell check or ask a co-worker/friend/family member to proofread your resume?
Use your cover letter as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the reader, demonstrate why you’re a suitable candidate, express your interest in the position and create a positive first impression. It also provides an opportunity to share anything special that you think will set you apart from other applicants.
Tip: If you claim a skill or accomplishment in your cover letter, make sure that it’s also in your resume.
What you can highlight in a cover letter:
- Written communication skills
- Organizational skills
- Social skills
- Personal style
- Management approach
- Focus and priorities
A well written cover letter will:
- be one to two pages in length
- express interest in the position
- catch the interest of the reader
- highlight how your skills meet the employer’s needs
- direct the reader’s attention to your strong points
- set you apart from the competition
- illustrate why you’re a good fit for the position
- indicate how your strengths meet the key qualifications of the job posting
- show that you have done your research and familiarized yourself with the important issues in the unit and the division
- show how your skills and experience can make a contribution to the organization
- thank the reader for considering your application
- have been spell-checked and edited for grammar
- be well organized and concise