Writing a Standout Resume: Tips to Manage Gaps and Career Changes on your Resume

Published On: November 25th, 2020|Categories: Knowledge, Work|

According to Statistics Canada, an average of 12.4% of Canadian paid workers aged 15 to 64 have been laid-off on a monthly basis since February 2020 due to the pandemic (1) . While the subsequent health and safety restrictions continue on in some parts of the country longer than many had anticipated, it is becoming increasingly clear that the next few years will lead us towards a new ‘normal’.

Along with the significant environmental, social, and political shifts happening in the world, many have found themselves interested in exploring new avenues not only creatively and in their personal lives, but professionally as well. As Canadians we are lucky to have access to Government assistance programs through financially difficult times, but still some may be looking to pivot into new and now- high- in- demand career paths.

Millennials switch jobs more than ever, in fact a LinkedIn study claims we will change jobs an average of four times in the first ten years post- degree, which is double that of the previous generation (2). With millennials making up a majority of the workforce (3), corporations are undergoing structural and cultural shifts including investing in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policies and putting an end to skills discounting and other non-inclusive hiring practices.

This means that now is the time to apply for the job you’ve always thought about. While starting out in a new or different field can feel intimidating – especially if you may not seem to have enough relevant experience and/or education to put on your resume – knowing how to modify your resume to best represent your adeptness is key.

There are generally three types of resumes, the first being chronological, aka the standardized template you learn in your high school Civics and Careers class. A Chronological resume typically starts with your career objective, lists some core qualifications and then jumps right into listing all of your relevant experience (4). This is a great template for showing perspective employers your steady career progression when applying within a similar field, and less great for those looking to make a career pivot.

The second style is called a functional resume, which would start with a robust summary of both your hard and soft skills, followed by any relevant experience wherein those skills were attained. Many recommend avoiding this style unless you have no relevant work experience and need to batch send out resumes. The third style is a combination resume, which highlights your most relevant skills and qualifications while still listing your work experience, in reverse chronological order. This template can be the best way to present your transferable skills and qualifications for a new role (5). When designing your template and sending out applications, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:

1. Keep a master list of all the jobs you have ever worked

Some work experience will not be relevant to the position you are applying for, but it doesn’t mean it won’t ever be useful to include. Keeping a master list of all of your work experience in chronological order will help you be more efficient when making a new resume template. Remember that regardless of the resume template you choose, always put your work history in reverse chronological order, listing your most recent position first.

2. Keep a master resume/CV, and make a new copy for every new job application

A few of my friends who work in digital marketing have recommended having more than one resume, and customizing each for the specific job you are applying for. Especially when using a combination resume and listing your relevant skills as well as job history, knowing the difference between hard and soft kills and when to include them is key when trying to sell yourself to an employer. Utilizing different templates and layouts may be good for some avenues of work, such as entertainment or digital, but less admired in fields like tech or HR.

3. Soft VS. Hard Skills

Soft skills are the skills that enable you to fit in at a workplace as an employee; your personality traits like your attitude, flexibility, motivation, and manners. Soft skills are important to provide the hiring manager an idea of what kind of worker you are and are different to your technical or hard skills; which should be listed only as relevant to the job you are applying to (6). Hard skills are more often quantifiable, but listing your soft skills can also lend an advantage by showing personality in your resume or application; standing out is good!

4. Keep it short & sweet

Follow a hierarchy when formatting your resume; relevant skills or professional expertise first, work experience, education, special projects/ awards, then interests. If you need to cut down on content anywhere, start from the bottom and work your way up. You can also trim your margins or get creative with the layout to save space, for example, you can combine your job title and company name in the same line, or put your contact information along the top of your resume instead of listed along the side.

Many hiring managers suggest keeping your resume to one page when possible, maximum two. Cut to the chase, you’re selling yourself! Unless your past work history is all pertinent to the position you are applying for, condense your list to only the most relevant and recent work experience and skills; you don’t need to put everything on there. Write sentences that clearly describe your past job duties in no more than two lines.

5. Keep the design clean & simple

While you can still show personality by adding an accent colour to your headings or a headshot, you always want to ensure use of negative space to not overwhelm the eye of the hiring manager. Don’t use funky font or various sizes in font; your resume is likely one of many and you want it to be easy to scan, spot your name and key details. Try using symbols for your email, phone and socials, or using a template that introduces you to the employer.


Creative Market provides unique resume templates for all career fields, and recommends telling your story rather than outlining the obvious objective of your application. Image from Template Design Courtesy of In Design.

6. Specific VS. General

It can be beneficial to have your relevant skills first, as some hiring managers may not be familiar with specific job titles or company names, but will know you are qualified when they read your summary of qualifications. Also, double check your word choice; if you are applying for a job in a different field from the one you are currently in, the hiring manager may not be familiar with specific CRM platforms, so use functional names over program specifics unless relevant.

Bonus Tip – Cover Letter

In current times with remote workplaces on the rise, you can grab the attention of the hiring manager in your cover letter by highlighting how you would be an easy candidate to onboard remotely. This can include listing soft skills like quick learner, self starter, flexible, problem solver, conflict resolution, creative thinker. You could also share any tools you have learned or can implement to enable your success in the role, such as using self- assessment trackers and time management tools which can help with the onboarding process for both employee and employer.

For a list of Free Resume & Cover Letter Examples and Templates, click here & here.

    Citations: 1. Statistics Canada, "COVID-19 and job displacement: Thinking about the longer term," The Government of Canada, June 10 2020, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00030-eng.htm

    2. Guy Berger, "Will This Year’s College Grads Job-Hop More Than Previous Grads?, " LinedIn, April 12 2016, https://blog.linkedin.com/2016/04/12/will-this-year_s-college-grads-job-hop-more-than-previous-grads

    3. Statistics Canada, "Archived - Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, annual, inactive (x 1,000)," The Government of Canada, October 11 2020, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410001801

    4. Alison Doyle, "Best Resume Formats With Examples and Formatting Tips" The Balance Careers, September 17 2020, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/resume-formats-with-examples-and-formatting-tips-2063591

    5. Alison Doyle, "How to Create a Chronological Resume" The Balance Careers, February 3 2020, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-a-chronological-resume-2061944

    6. "RESUMES & COVER LETTERS: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills" Indeed, November 1 2020, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/hard-skills-vs-softskills#:~:text=Hard%20skills%20are%20related%20to,and%20advance%20in%20most%20jobs

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    About the Author: Meagan Barnes

    Meagan is a content contributor and partnerships coordinator for artsUNITE/UNITÉ des arts. Prefers flora over fauna.

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