Resume Formatting Hacks You Should Try

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As a resume writer, I love formatting and design! But sometimes formatting is the element that causes the most amount of grief for a job seeker! 

Here are a few of my secrets to successful resume formatting. Please note that I am using examples from Word 2016. 

Left Alignment for Dates

I love the look when employment dates are properly aligned to the left. It helps the reviewer quickly get a sense of your work history and keeps things nice and tidy.

The challenge is when you have a line of text that requires both right and left alignment. Here is how you can easily do this.

To left align in Word, look for a small box to the left of your ruler. Click on it until you get to the backward L. 

Then click into your document where you want to the break between left and right alignment to happen. Click on the ruler to place the left alignment.

Once you have set the alignment, make sure your cursor is in the space where you set the break between right and left alignment. Hit the tab button and see your text fly over to the left!

Creating Differentiated Headings

You need to make your resume as easy as possible to read. One of the ways that you can do that is through using headings.  Here are a few easy ways to quickly make your headings stand out.

Option 1: Add a Line.

Adding a line to a heading is easy. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the same line. Make sure you are on the Home tab. Then click the arrow beside on the picture of the quadrant box (Borders) in the Paragraph section.  Select Bottom Border.

Option 2: Add a Shade

Another option for making your heading stand out is to use Shading. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the line. For this option, again make sure you are on the Home tab. This time, click on the arrow beside the paint can under the Paragraph section and select the shade colour that you desire.

Option 3: Use Capitalization

One additional way to make your headings stand out is through using capitalization. Did you know there is an easy way to switch between lowercase and uppercase in Word? Under Fonts, select the Change Case button (Aa), you will then have the option to choose a variety of options including UPPERCASE.

Though content is important on resumes, it is also critical to make sure that your resume is eye-catching and easy to read.

Hopefully, these formatting tips will help you create a resume that stands out!  For more inspiration, check out these resume samples. 



Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.  

How to Rock Your Next Career Conversation with Your Manager

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Several years ago, I had an epiphany.  I realized that the only person responsible for my career was me!  It sounds so simple, right?  But for a long time, I had expected the company to be responsible for my progression.

After three years of no performance reviews, I realized I had a choice. I could wait for my manager to talk about my career development in my future performance review.  Or I could take the initiative to start the conversion.

So I wrote an email to one of the leaders in the organization, asking her to have lunch with me to talk about my career.  I was scared to hit the “send” button, but I am glad that I did as she agreed to meet. And over sushi, we talked about the direction of the company and my goals for career development.

We identified some key areas of skill development as well as ways that I could incorporate my new skills into my work. Moving forward, the company gave me some flexibility with my schedule to attend classes. They also paid for few of my professional development activities.  And my manager was always open to any new projects or ideas that I brought forward. 

Begin with Reflection and Research

Even if you do have regular performance reviews, you can still initiate a career conversation outside of review time. Before starting the conversation with your manager, you need to take some time to think about what you want to get out of this conversation. What is your end goal? 

A great place to start is through some personal reflection and company research. Here’s what you might want to be thinking about.  

  • What are the strengths that I can bring to the company?  What are some of my accomplishments thus far?  What areas do I want further development in?
  • What do I see as being the next logical step in my career progression at this company?  Is this what I want or do I need to explore other options within the company?
  • What skills and experience are in demand in my industry? How could I obtain them within the company or through my own efforts?
  • What training or professional development are necessary for me to progress in my career? 
  • Can I build my skills through taking on additional work or a special project at work?
  • Where do I need improvement and how to do I get there? Is there one area that I consistently seem to struggle? 
  • What do I foresee as being key priorities for the company in the future? How could I add value?

Before your meeting, you may also want to put together some supporting documents of your work such as client reviews or work samples.  When you are ready, book a meeting with your manager. Be sure to let them know why you want to meet. In my email, I included a few of the questions that I was looking to have answered.  This allows your manager time to think and check into company policy before your meeting.    

Hopefully, your manager will appreciate your initiative and be supportive of your career progression. But at the end of the day, know that you are ultimately in charge of navigating your career!

You got this. Best of luck. 


Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story. She loves working with clients to help them successfully transition to good work. She believes that no one should dread going to work in the morning. Her focus is supporting her clients to increase their confidence and learn how to communicate to get what they want. Connect with her at to start a conversation. 

What's Your Work Personality Style?

“I’m struggling in interviews to find the words to describe the ways I can add value to a new organization.”

This is a challenge that many job seekers can relate to. You know that you are good at your work. You know that you can bring value to the organization. But what to say and how to say it? 

Let’s use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to better understand how you function in a work setting based on your MBTI type. If you are not familiar with the MBTI, this assessment sorts personalities into 16 types. 

If you know your MBTI type, take a look at your two middle letters (S, N, T or F) which will represent two dichotomies. Sensing versus Intuition and Thinking versus Feeling. Haven't done the assessment? Take a look at the information below for more information.  These letters represent your core personality preferences. 

Check out if these descriptions of your core personality resonate with how you like to function in the workplace. 


Stabilizers (STs)
Motto: “Let’s be accurate and responsible.”

1.       Simplifying things
2.       Getting things done
3.       Moving one step at a time
4.       Catching and correcting mistakes
5.       Being dependable
6.       Establishing accountability
7.       Documenting procedures and information
8.       Enforcing rules and policies
9.       Providing task-orientated training


Catalysts (NFs)
Motto: “Let’s be insightful and inspiring”

1.       Reaching dreams
2.       Seeing the good in everyone
3.       Facilitating communication
4.       Rescuing groups of people
5.       Developing people’s potential
6.       Developing belief and value systems
7.       Promoting change through         relationships
8.       Being creative
9.       Providing inspirational motivation
10.      Helping people understand


Harmonizers (SFs)
Motto: “Let’s be practical and service-orientated.”

1.       Being there for others
2.       Being positive
3.       Being inclusive
4.       Getting to know others personally
5.       Being respectful, behaving properly
6.       Smoothing conflict
7.       Showing loyalty to the organization
8.       Rescuing individuals
9.       Providing comfort
10.      Creating order


Visionaries (NTs)
Motto: “Let’s be theoretical and entrepreneurial.”

1.       Utilizing competencies
2.       Challenging self and others
3.       Being an architect of the future
4.       Taking charge of change efforts
5.       Applying knowledge
6.       Motivating others by setting high standards
7.       Solving problems with long-term fixes
8.       Giving expert advice
9.       Looking at the big picture
10.      Mediating disputes.


Based on your preferred working style, what do you see as being your strengths?  What might be some weaknesses to be aware of?  

By knowing your preferred working style, you will hopefully be better able to describe some of the ways you can contribute and add value to a new organization. 

If you still find yourself struggling with interviews, consider working with Career Story!  We specialize in interview coaching and preparation!  Contact us at 


6 Easy Ways to Automate Your Job Search Research

Who doesn’t like easy?  

A good job search involves conducting research and managing copious amounts of information. You browse through job postings on various job boards. You research trends in your industry. You search through company websites. You comb through LinkedIn, looking for connections. 

Recently, I’ve been on a mission to simplify the process of getting good information.  Instead of continual browsing and hopping from page to page, I want information to come to me!

Here are a few of my recommendations.

1.  Follow companies on social media. I am on Facebook on a regular basis and so I started following companies on this platform. Now when I log in, I am getting regular updates from the companies. 

You can also follow companies on other social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.

2.       Set job alerts on LinkedIn and Yes, you can set up alerts on LinkedIn and! On Indeed, you can save your searches and have them forwarded to your email address.  If you are conducting a passive job search, this is a great strategy! 

Indeed alert: Create an account and go to the Alerts section. 

Indeed alert: Create an account and go to the Alerts section. 

LinkedIn alert.  Go to the Jobs section. Enter your search terms and click the "Create job alert" in the upper right corner.

LinkedIn alert.  Go to the Jobs section. Enter your search terms and click the "Create job alert" in the upper right corner.

3.       Use Google alerts. You can also set up Google alerts which will notify you if the search terms you specify come up on the web. What an easy way to stay on top of trends in your industry!  You can literally set up hundreds of alerts - there is no limit! 

4.       Follow company blogs and job search sites through RSS.  If you have an RSS aggregator, you can put all your blog subscriptions in one place. I recommend Feedly.  Here I compile blogs from my industry. Every week, I scan through the articles to stay on top of new trends, resources, and ideas.

View of my Career Development section of my Feedly account. 

View of my Career Development section of my Feedly account. 

5.       Sign up for newsletters from companies and professional associations.  Almost every organization now offers the option to receive a newsletter.  Sign up! Get information delivered directly to your inbox!

6.       Set up IFTTT recipes. IFTTT (if this then that) is a software program that provides ways to connect various applications. You set the parameters. You can use it to track information and updates that might be relevant to your job search. 

There's endless uses for IFTTT.  Set up news alerts and follow industry news! 

There's endless uses for IFTTT.  Set up news alerts and follow industry news! 

So take the easy way in your job search today!  

Career Story works to make your job search easier! Check out our resume writing services at 

4 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Brainstorm New Career Moves

You know it is time to make a career move.

The challenge is that you are stuck for new job ideas.  

Spend a little time conducting career research on LinkedIn.  Here are a few ways that you can use LinkedIn to generate new career direction. 

1. Explore the Education Section

First of all, take your profile out of the editing mode by clicking the "View As" button under your picture. Scroll down to the education section and click on your school’s name. This brings you to the school's home page.  You can now see aggregated information on graduation outcomes and career paths.  Then use the Search box to further define what program you want more information on. 

I completed the Community Counselling certificate through Vancouver Community College.  I want to know more about where graduates from this program might end up working so I type in "counselling." I can now see a list of fields and companies where graduates work.   

What a great way to identify potential employers who may be looking for candidates with your educational background!

2. Do a Skill Analysis

Now let's explore what type of work people with similar skills to yours are doing. Scroll down to your Skills section. (Again, make sure you are not in editing mode.)  Click on one of the skill endorsements for to see further information.  You will see aggregate information on where people with the same skill work and where they got their training.

But even more helpful is that you can see profiles for people who have the same skill. Browse through a few profiles. What brought this person to this position? What type of training or education did they take?  What are their current or past roles? What organizations have they worked for?

3.  Use LinkedIn as an Occupational Search Engine

I often use LinkedIn as a search engine to research specific jobs.  It is one of the most helpful places to get information on job duties and possible career paths.  If you want more information, consider reaching out and asking for a short meeting to find out more! 

4.  Follow people and organizations

Did you know that you can follow people or organizations on LinkedIn?  If you do, their updates will appear in your newsfeed. You do not need to connect with someone to follow them. It is an easy way to stay up-to-date on industry trends and company news. 







Does Working With a Recruiter Make Sense?

Question: Does working with a recruiter benefit your job search? I tried working with one, but I never heard back. 

I admit, I have been skeptical in the past.  A few of my past clients have secured work through working with a recruiter. But several clients expressed doubt that working with a recruiter was beneficial. 

But I have had a change of heart towards recruiters. My brother recently transitioned to a job through a recruiter.  He was not looking for work when they approached him but has been happy with his new placement. Then I listened to a presentation by McNeill Nakamoto, a boutique recruiting firm in Vancouver.  In the presentation, owner, Cheryl Nakamoto, shared some key insights on how job seekers can better use recruiters in their job search.

Here are some of her suggestions for connecting with and working with a recruiter. 

Know your job target.  This is a golden rule in job search in general. If you apply to ten different positions through the agency, the recruiter can see that. In Cheryl’s words, “Don’t be a wandering generality.  You need to specialize!”

Let your personality show in your application.  It’s not just about skills anymore. Companies also place value on making sure that the potential candidate would fit into their company culture.

Access the hidden job market to connect with recruiters.  Get out and talk to people.  Check what recruitment agencies are most utilized in your community and professional networks/ associations. Get active on your social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.   The more you connected you are, the easier it will be for a recruiter to find you.

Pay attention to your social media.  Recruiters use social media (especially LinkedIn) to source candidates. They also use social media to do informal background checks. It’s worthwhile to spend some time getting your LinkedIn profile to an all-star status. And in the meantime, make sure that your social media profiles are squeaky clean.

Use a chronological resume. Within the resume, make sure that you list your most recent work experience first. If you do have gaps in your work history, find a way to account for that time so that it does not generate any red flags.

Share your wage expectations.  A recruiter can help you negotiate with the employer but they will not be able to help you if you don’t tell.  The recruiter gets paid by an employer when they make a good match. By knowing salary expectation, the recruiter can then negotiate on your behalf. 

Honor the recruiter’s relationship with the employer. The recruiter has worked hard to build a relationship with the employer. You should let them handle the communication with the potential employer. If you want to send a follow-up email or thank you card, check in with the recruiter to determine the best way to do that. 

To find a list of recruiter agencies in the Metro Vancouver, click here.

22 Questions to Ask During an Informational Interview

Talking to people is one of the best ways to explore career options. If you are reaching out to someone new, you might want to conduct an informational interview. Informational interviews are short, targeted career discussions where you ask for information and advice. Generally, they last between 15-25 minutes.   

The focus of an informational interview is to learn, not ask for a job.  In job search, it is easy to make decisions based on inaccurate information.  Informational interviews provide relevant, timely information on job duties, company culture, industry norms, and career paths. Additionally, informational interviews are an effective way to network and build relationships!

When I started using informational interviews in my job search, I felt intimidated! 

Who would be willing to talk to me? 

Would it be awkward? 

Over the years, I have conducted many informational interviews. I still get nervous to ask for help, but I have been amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people I have talked to! Yes, sometimes it can be a bit awkward. But often my natural curiosity often overrides my feelings of anxiety or discomfort. And most times, I end up really enjoying the conversation! 

You should prepare at least 5 - 7 questions before your meeting.  The questions you ask depend on what is important to you.  Stay away from asking questions about salary, sick leave or benefits.

Here are 22 of my favorite informational interview questions.

 About the Work

1.         What is a typical day for you?
2.         What interested you in working for this company initially?
3.         What are some of your primary job duties?
4.         What are the educational qualifications for this job?
5.         What kinds of problems do you deal with regularly?

About the Company

6.         What do you like best about working for this company?
7.         How would you describe the company culture?
8.         How long do people typically stay working for this company?
9.         What personality traits or aptitudes does your company value?
10.      What is a typical career path for someone in your position?
11.      What priorities do you see the company focusing on in the next 3 – 5 years?
12.      What sort of training does the company provide to its employees?
13.      Is there a professional association that most people in your organization belong to?
14.      What would be a typical entry-level position in this company?

About the Industry

15.      What advice do you have for someone who is looking to enter the industry?
16.      What type of training or education would you recommend if I were to enter the industry?
17.      Do you see this field/ industry expanding? What are some growth areas?

Career Advice

18.      I am currently trying to find my career fit. I have a background/ experience/ education in (pick a few key points).  Are there any jobs in your company or in the industry where I could potentially use those skills?
19.      Would you be willing to take a quick look at my resume and give me a few pointers on how I can improve it?
20.      What are some practical ways that I could build up my experience in this field without going back to school?
21.      Are there any events, conferences, or workshops that you would recommend that I attend?
22.      Is there anyone else that you would recommend that I talk to?

A key piece of advice is to mind the time!  It is your responsibility to ensure that you stay within the timeframe you committed to. After the meeting, send a "thank you" email or card which outlines specific information you found helpful. 

If you haven’t incorporated information interviews in your job search yet, start today!  It is well-worth it! 

Do you want to elevate your job search?  If so, consider working with Career Story to improve your resume, interview skills or networking strategy!  We help job seekers find work quickly!  Connect with us at

Help, I'm Not Using My Education.

Question: I’m not using my training – I feel like I have failed somehow.

After you put time, energy, and money into education, I can definitely see why you might feel that way.

First of all, you are not alone. Many clients that I talk to have an education that is unrelated to their current occupation. I hear stories about how career paths (or life for that matter) took unexpected twists and turns.  Sometimes for the better, but sometimes not.

There’s a quote that I love, “Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.”  Taking your training program was your way of getting prepared for the world of work.  But we make decisions to the best of our abilities based on the information that we have at the time. We cannot know what will happen in the future. How the world will change, how technology will evolve, or what life circumstances we will find ourselves in down the road.

I am guessing that your decision to take training was well-thought out.  I am assuming that you worked hard at your education.  And I would believe that you felt proud when you graduated.

There are two ways to look at this. 

Either you can see it as a failure – a time when you made a poor decision.

Or you can view your training as an opportunity to learn from your experience.  

Did you prove to yourself that you could do it?  Did you learn how to work in groups or with a challenging classmate? Or maybe you learned how to use deductive reasoning or how to solve tough problems. It’s possible that your education also showed you what you did not enjoy.  

The challenge might be coping with the loss.  The loss of a career that never was.  The loss of how you imagined your life to be.   

In life, we have continual chances to evolve and recreate ourselves. Instead of looking back in regret, spend your time looking forward and building the career you already have. 

If you are ready to make a career move, but need help with your job search or career decision-making, consider working with Career Story.  Contact us today for a free consultation at 604-614-3155 or

Managing Your Career When You Are Unhappy With Your Job

I loved my job.  I worked as a career counsellor and facilitator for a government-funded career guidance agency. But two years in, everything changed due to budget cuts and staffing changes.  I was offered a blended supervisory role that required me to spend at least 50% of my time at the front desk. Within a few days, I realized that being at the front desk was not a good fit for me. I struggled with the constant interruptions and the data entry requirements. Within a few weeks, my job satisfaction and motivation had plummeted. I was dragging myself to work, trying my best to smile through the internal struggle I was having. 

Though it was difficult, I am thankful. Being unhappy in my job caused me to take a step back to reflect on my career path and gave me the motivation to make a change.  During this time, I made the decision to start my own business. Six months later, I quit my job to focus on my own business. 

Being unhappy in your job is hard.  It drains your energy and saps your creativity. After a challenging day, looking for a new job might be the last thing on your mind. But don’t waste this opportunity! Times of discontent are the catalysts that open up new career possibilities.
If you are currently unhappy in your job, here are some tips on how to get through until you find your next position. 

Find Your Support People: When you are struggling, you might want to isolate yourself.  Don’t do that. Talk to trusted people in your life about your struggle. Connect with someone in your network who might be in a similar situation who gets what you are doing through. What made the difference for me was the conversations that I had with my mentor, my partner, and my Dad. As I talked about my challenges with the people in my life, I could see the decisions that I needed to make. 

Look for the Positive: Every situation teaches us something.  For me, I learned that I work best in an environment with minimal interruptions.  What is your situation teaching you?  What skills or information do you now have that you did not have before?  

Get Help: You may have health benefits or services that can support you. If you are working less than 20 hours per week, you can get free career support through your local WorkBC Centre.  If you have health benefits, take a look at what is available. If your company participates in an Employee Assistance Program, you may be eligible for no-cost career services or job search support. 

Engage in Self-Reflection: When in a challenging situation, you may find your self-confidence slipping.  Resist the temptation to define yourself based on your circumstances.  Ask yourself what you can contribute.  What are your unique skills, values, strengths and experience?  Often when you are unhappy in your work, you are not working within your strengths or your values. Take some time to reflect on the past and envision the future.  You may find it helpful to journal or complete some self-assessments. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to seek help from a career coach.  

Look for Opportunities: Exercise your curiosity muscle during this time. Most likely, your future looks murky and the next step seems ambiguous. But start looking and listening to what is going on around you. What types of work interests you?  What gets you excited?  What organizations are doing good work?  What ideas do the people in your life have for you? Start to imagine the possibilities and then begin to ask questions.

Power Up Your Resume: Best practices in job search change continually. You need to make sure that you are conducting an effective job search based on labour market conditions now.  What worked for you last year or 5 years ago may not work now. Make sure that your resume strongly communicates your strengths, skills, and capabilities. 

Work on Your Skills:  This is a good time to start improving your skills so you will be ready for your next challenge. There are plenty of ways to learn new skills. Take on a new challenge at work. Look for industry training programs, workshops, or courses that will make you more competitive. Keep in mind that professional development does not need to be expensive. Check out community night school classes or free online programs like Consider volunteering or joining a community club like Toastmasters.  

Though you may be in a difficult spot, ask yourself, "What is one brave thing I can do today?" and then take action!  

If you are struggling in a job that you don’t enjoy, consider working with a career counsellor to find direction and improve your job search.  Contact Kristin at


How to Help Someone in Career Crisis

Watching someone you go love through a career crisis is heart-breaking.  You see your child is struggling to find a focus after high school.  Your partner is working at job that they dread going to each day.  You listen to the challenges your friend faces when looking for a new job.  

And you would do just about anything to ease the pain of this person that you care for.

It is tempting to think that you know what is the best course of action for this person. You just want to help. But before you begin dispensing advice, first take some time consider your approach: 

How Invested Are You in the Outcome?  We might have ulterior motives when it comes to dispensing the career advice. Does your household depend on your partner's income? Do you feel that your child’s occupational choice will reflect on you?

Your investment in the outcome is not bad - your loved one is lucky to have someone who cares.  But ask yourself if you are acting in the best interest of your loved one or yourself. 

Check Your Bias: When you want to help someone else, you first need to look at your own beliefs about work and career. What do you believe about career and how people find their career path? 

Based on our experience and family history, we may have a bias towards certain career routes. My family emphasized the importance of shorter term training through college and trades apprenticeships. My husband’s family all have university degrees. Some families may focus their children towards culturally esteemed occupations like medicine or engineering.  

Before you start making suggestions, take a look at your own assumptions and history.   

  • Do you think that the only way to get a good job is to get a degree?   Or do you think university education is over-rated? 
  • Do you think education is necessary to find work or should someone just get a job and then work their way up?  
  • Do you think some occupations are more esteemed than others or do you think of all work as being equal?  

You know what has worked for you. Be careful in assuming that what worked for you will work for your loved one. Despite good intentions, you could be pressuring on your loved one to follow a certain route that they are not well-suited for.

Be Objective: When we are close to someone, we tend to see them a certain way. When you want to help someone make a career decision, it’s best to take a step back and try to view them objectively.

  • What are their key strength? 
  • What are areas of skill? 
  • Do you see certain patterns or themes coming up for them throughout their career path? 

It might helpful for your loved one to hear your observations.  Yet, you need to make sure that they are in a space where they are willing to hear your feedback.

You might say something like:

I know that you are struggling with trying to figure out your career direction. For some people, it might be helpful to hear some feedback on what others might recognize as their strengths and skills.  Would that be helpful to you? I’d be happy to share my observations if you are interested.

Listen, Listen, Listen:  The struggle is real. If your loved one wants to talk, be there to hear. When I was trying to make a decision on whether I should quit my job, I talked to trusted people in my life. I don't remember what they said, but having an outlet to talk and process made a big difference. Through those conversations, I began to get clarity on what I needed. I was able to acknowledge the fear that was holding me back and the excitement I had for a new beginning. Even in the confusion of my career decision, I felt the support of my loved ones who would be there for me no matter what. 

Ask Good Questions: Being in career turmoil is like being in a fog. Everything seems unclear.  You can help your loved one make sense of things by asking some good questions such as: 

  • What would be important to you in a work environment?
  • What is the story that you want your life to tell?
  • Where do you find joy in your life?  What is life-giving and sustaining? 
  • What jobs did you enjoy in the past?  What made them enjoyable?
  • What are you learning from your current situation and how does that impact your future?
  • How would you define a successful career?
  • What’s the next step that you need to take?
  • How can I help you right now?

Avoid any type of questions that start with the word, “Why.”

Make Sure Your Advice Is Up-To-Date:  Advice and suggestions can be helpful. But make sure that your advice is up-to-date and relevant to your loved one's situation.  What worked for you 5, 10, or 20 years ago may not work anymore due to changes in the labour market. And applying for work varies widely depending on the industry and company. 

In particular, be careful with resume advice. A poor resume will result in getting screened out early on in the application process. If you are helping your loved one with their resume, make sure it meets industry standards.  Talk to someone in their industry or a job search professional. 

Brainstorm:  As you have ideas, be sure to share them with your loved one. When someone is in crisis, it can be difficult to come up with creative or new possibilities.  Share your ideas, but without expectation that your loved one will follow it!

Going through a career crisis is hard.  But your support can make all the difference to your loved one! 


If you or someone in your life is going through a career transition, Career Story can help! We provide affordable, professional career counselling services.  Contact us today at 604-614-3155 or 

Is It Cheating for Someone Else to Write My Resume?

Question: Should I write my own resume or hire someone else to do it for me?  

Back in the day, I held the belief that it was important for clients to write their own resumes. After all, if they learned to do it once, then they would hopefully be self sufficient in the future. And who better to understand the nuances of the work except the person who did the work, right? 

But I have changed my mind.  After some vigorous debates with a previous colleague of my mine, I came to see that there can be value in having someone else help with the resume writing process for several reasons. 

It's Hard to Talk About Yourself:  If you're like many other people, you might find it awkward to talk about yourself.  You are good at your job, but trying to put it down on paper seems daunting. What is important to include?  What is too much information versus not enough information? 

I've met many people who are excellent writers, but they get completely lost when writing their own resume. One of my favorite parts of being a resume writer is the first conversation that I have with a client when I get to ask questions about their past work experience and accomplishments. So many times, clients remark that this conversation helped them to see their strengths and skills in a different light. And often this knowledge bought the clients a sense of empowerment that carried through in the rest of their job search!

Resume Best Practices Change with Time:  From when I started in the career development field about 10 years ago to now, the conventional wisdom on how to professionally write a resume has changed. As a job seeker, there is no shortage of information out there on resume writing, some of it accurate and some of it, terrible!  When you want to find work as soon as possible, the faster way might be to work with a professional whose job it is to make sure they are up-to-date on current resume trends.  And be careful with the advice that you get from family and friends. What worked several years ago for someone else in a certain industry may not be applicable to your situation anymore. 

It's Tough to Downsize: When it is your resume, everything on your resume seems important.  It is not unusual for me to see resumes that are creeping past 2 or 3 pages. However, often less is more. When applying for work, your resume needs to be focused and targeted for the job you are applying for.  Having someone else help you make those strategic decisions on what to keep in and what to leave out can help save you a ton of time and deliberation! 

Outsourcing in the Way of the Future: When I first started my business, I spent hours designing my logo. Now as I have gotten busier, I realize that was not the best use of my time. When another project came up that required some graphic design skills, I made the decision to outsource the work instead of trying to muddle my way through.  Though I ultimately approved the final project, it was so nice to focus my energy on other work that I needed to get done. Nobody expects a business owner to be able to do everything. Why would we expect the same of a job seeker? 

In the end, you are responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in your resume.  But if writing a resume is something that makes you want to pull out your hair, you may be better served by putting your energy into other aspects of your job search while letting someone else figure out the best way to make you shine through your resume.  

If you are the person struggling to write your resume, consider working with Career Story.  We write content-rich and visually-appealing resumes that get noticed!  Connect with us at 604-614-3155 or for more information.

Can I Put Parenting Under Work Experience In My Resume?

Question: I have taken several years out of the workforce to care for my children. How should I address that in my resume? Can I put parenting under my work experience? 

Yes, you absolutely can. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there and though you may not be paid, you are certainly doing amazing, important work.

When building your resume, look at the job posting and then think about what skills being a parent has taught you that relate to the job. Is is patience? An ability to coordinate multiple schedules or meet deadlines? Maybe it is the ability to stay calm under pressure. Make sure that you communicate that on your resume! 

Another aspect to consider representing on your resume is any learning that you undertook during the time that you were at home. Did you take any courses or do any self-directed learning? Were you involved in the community or do any volunteer work such as being part of the PAC? 

Here are some ways to talk about being a parent on your resume. 

parenting skills on resume

This parent has professional experience in business from another country. After coming to Canada, her daughter was diagnosed with autism and she decided to stay home to support her child. She is now ready to look for work and decided her best option was finding work helping other children with autism as a behavior interventionist.  We created this resume to show that she has strong skills and experience in this field.

parenting skills on resume

This parent has been off work for 10 years while raising her children. During this time, she was heavily involved in her children's school through the PAC committee. We decided to include some of her accomplishments from that experience. 

If you have been on maternity leave, you do not need to mention your leave on your resume. You are still considered employed during that time. 

However, it is important to note that some people may not feel comfortable with mentioning being a parent on their resume. Each resume requires a different strategy depending on the person, industry, and job that they are applying for. 

If you need help strategizing on how to represent your experience on your resume, consider working with Career Story.  Each resume that we build is unique to our clients. We focus on building strong content and then presenting it in a visually-appealing way to ensure that it gets noticed by hiring managers. Contact us at 604-614-3155 or email us at


Do I Need a Plain Text Resume?

When you submit your resume, it may be reviewed by a person or it might be initially screened through an Applicant Tracking System.

If you are submitting your resume and you know that it will be reviewed by a person, submit your beautifully formatted and designed resume.   

Resume Sample_Page 1 and 2.JPG

Looks good, right?  But what happens when you apply online and you are asked to copy and paste your resume directly into the Applicant Tracking System?  Generally, your resume will be stripped of formatting and converted to plain text.  Here's what happens when the above resume gets converted to plain text. 

Oh, no.  A couple things are immediately evident.  One is that anything that was in a text box such as the contact information and key competencies does not show up!  Secondly, any bullet points show up as question marks.  It's a bit of a mess with random spaces and gaps everywhere. 

As part of your job search, you need to have a good plain text resume ready to be copied and pasted into any Applicant Tracking System. Recently, an IT hiring manager shared that he found it quite frustrating when applicants did not take the time to correctly format their plain text resume applications. He found it hard to read the unformatted resumes as there were huge gaps and missing information. 

Here's how to create and format a plain text resume. 

  1. Open up Notepad on your computer.  
  2. Copy and paste your document into Notepad.  If you have text boxes in your resume, you need to copy and paste the information contained in those separately. 
  3. Go to Format and select Word Wrap. 
  4. Put all your headings into capital letters to help them stand out. 
  5. Replace all the question mark bullets with dashes (-) 
  6. Get rid of any awkward spacing. 

Tada da!  Here's your new plain text resume!

At Career Story, we create visually-appealing, content-rich resumes that get noticed. We also provide you with a plain text resume version as part of our resume writing package so you will be prepared to apply anywhere!  If you want help with creating your new resume, contact us at 604-614-3155 or

How Targeting a Resume Makes a Difference

One of the key messages that I share with clients is the importance of creating a resume that is targeted towards the work that you are applying for. Several months ago, I worked with Ben from Talentosa Productions to update his LinkedIn profile and resume.

Ben’s main interest was working as a photography producer and post-producer through his company, Talentosa Productions. He wanted a resume that would showcase his experience, skills, and abilities in this field. He worried that his current resume might not do a good job of marketing what he could offer.

Looking at Ben’s initial resume, the first thing that jumped out was his education in sciences. It raised questions in my mind about his career path. He has shared some detail about his work at Talentosa Productions, but the information is minimal and vague. Immediately, I started to think about how I could do a better job of showcasing some of his key accomplishments and experience.  And I knew that I wanted to find a way to include some of his pictures on his resume!  For the visual look, I wanted his resume to have a similar look and feel to his website which was done in a minimalist black and white format. 

Through meeting with Ben and talking about his experience, I found out about some of the interesting work and projects that he had been involved in. I wanted to make sure that experience related to photography and production was front and centre on the first page of his resume. You can also see that the first page of Ben’s resume now focuses on his photography experience and we have put education on the bottom of the second page.  The majority of the resume is focused on his photography experience along with some examples of some of his photos. 




Hopefully now, Ben will be excited to share his new resume with potential clients, knowing that it highlights his key skills, experience, education, and work samples. 

If you are struggling to update your resume, consider working with Career Story. Each resume we produce is unique and we focus on creating quality content personalized to you and the job you are applying for. Call us today for a free 15 minute consultation at 604-614-3155 or connect with us via email at

Interviewing for an Internal Position

I have the opportunity to interview for an internal position at my company. How should I prepare?

Wow, that’s great!  And good for you with being proactive in looking for ways to be prepared. One of the mistakes that many internal job seekers make is being too laid-back when interviewing for an internal position. Depending on the organization, the interview format may involve a formal process or it could feel closer to a casual conversation. Either way, it’s a good idea to be prepared. 

Here are a few key pointers:

Check Your Assumptions:  With an internal position, it might be tempting to think that you will automatically get the job! Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  And do not assume that the hiring manager will automatically know what you do in your current role. Be ready to clearly articulate your accomplishments, experience, and skills.  

Stay Positive:  If you are struggling in your current job due to a negative environment or supervisor, be sure to share about your challenges in a positive way. Communicate how you have learned and developed your skills even in a difficult situation.  As much as it might be tempting, never bad-mouth your current supervisor or manager.  

Do Your Research:  Even with internal positions, it is important to do your research. Try to talk to the hiring manager to get more information or someone who has done this job in the past. Gather information on the company and any upcoming initiatives that could be related to this new position.

Your Approach Matters:  You may already have a relationship with the individuals involved in the hiring process, making it tempting to be casual in your interview.  Try to keep a friendly, professional approach.  By being too casual, you risk not being intentional enough in highlighting how your accomplishments, experience, and skills would be a good fit for the job.  

Find Out What Your Reputation Is:  You are not starting with a blank slate. Hopefully, this is a positive for you. However, it is possible that you have made a few mistakes along the way. Before your interview, take some time to to figure out how you are perceived within the organization and then use your interview to challenge any negative assumptions.

Find a Tactful Follow-Up Strategy:  Like any other job interview, you should send a thank you card or email immediately after your interview. Then be patient.  If a significant amount of time has passed since your interview, it would be appropriate to send a polite follow-up email.

Be Ready to Accept the Job:  If you apply for an internal position, you need to be ready to accept it if it offered to you. You will not endear yourself to the organization if you go through the hiring process only to pull out at the last minute. 

When preparing for your interview, you should be practicing some of the basics such as “Tell me about yourself,” “What are your weaknesses?” or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" 

Here are some additional questions that you may also want to prepare:

·         Does your current manager know that you are applying for this position?

·         What interests you about this position?

·         What do you know about our department?

·         How would you describe your relationship with your manager?

·         What made you decide to apply for this position?

·         Why should we hire you for this position?

By taking the initiative to prepare for your interview, you will be more likely to be successful!  Good luck!

If you would like help with preparing for an upcoming interview, Career Story can help. We provide interview preparation coaching and support.  You can contact us at or at 604-614-3155. 

Picking a Training Program

Question: I’m considering going back to school. What are some good post-secondary programs?

Good for you! 

Here in BC, the projections are suggesting that by 2024, three-quarters of jobs will require a post-secondary education so you are definitely increasing your odds of finding work by taking further education! 

However, investing in an education even for 2 years can be quite expensive. The Government of Canada suggests that tuition alone will cost between $2,500 to $6,500 per year.  This does not include books and supplies or any other costs associated with living.  On average, from 2014 to 2015, Canadians spent about $16,600 per year on education. That means that a 2-year diploma could set you back $33,200.

Before committing to a program, consider these steps:

Talk to Employers: If you are interested in a certain occupation, get in touch with a few employers and ask them what type of education they require. In particular, ask about what schools they hire from and if they give preference to students with co-op or work experience. 

Look at Labour Market Projections: The Province of BC has published a Labour Market Outlook which shows what occupations are expected to be in demand by 2024. As much as you may be drawn to a certain occupation, it is critical that the demand is there!   It is important to do your research to ensure that your field pays the wages you want and will have jobs available when you graduate. Take a look at the number of jobs posted for this particular type of job on industry-specific job boards or sites like or to get a sense of the demand.  

Some of the occupations expected to be in demand include engineering, architecture, HR, and social work, just to name a few.

Be Rigorous with Your School Choices:  All schools are not equal even though they may advertise that their graduates are highly employable. In fact, some private schools such as the University of Phoenix may be a detriment to having on your resume. For private schools, ask if the school tracks graduation employment rates and ask if you can get in touch with a previous graduate to get some additional feedback.  

Having worked in government-funded career services, I helped many clients get funding to go back to school. Clients who took education at public institutions did much better in finding work than clients from private schools.

Get to Know Yourself: Before investing in your education, it may be worth taking some time to explore your career options. You can do this informally by talking to friends and family.  You can take online assessments and quizzes to help you identify what key skills you possess, what your career values are, and where your interests are strongest. You might also want to invest in working with a career counsellor to get additional insights on what occupational options would be best suited for you.

Hope your schooling choice opens up a new world of opportunity for you! 

If you are struggling to find a career direction or pick a training program, consider working with Career Story. We provide affordable, professional career counselling services.  Contact us today at 604-614-3155 or You can also ask questions on our Facebook page at

Should I Use a Resume Template?

Question: What are the best resume or cover letter templates out there?

When working on your resume, it can be tempting to use a template. And there is no shortage of templates from free options through Google documents or Microsoft Word to more professionally designed, paid templates available on Etsy and Creative Market.   

Be very careful when using a resume template. Hiring managers and recruiters may review hundreds of resumes when looking for a candidate. They are well acquainted with the standard resume templates and in fact, using a template could work against you, signaling a lack of effort or creativity on your part.   

Google Document template

Google Document template

Looks are not everything; content matters more! Though resume templates can be visually appealing, they can box you into fitting into their specific layout.  The temptation becomes building content to fit the template rather than focusing first on generating strong content and formatting later. Hiring managers want to know that you have the experience, competence, skills, education, and training to do the job. A pretty layout may look good, but more importantly, you need to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for the job advertised.

Template formatting can be tricky. One of the tricks to a great looking resume template is the use of hidden tables to keep data in place. In the Microsoft Word resume template example, the entire resume is done in a hidden table. But tables are exceptionally difficult to work with when trying to make formatting changes or add additional content. And more importantly, if you apply online, an automated applicant tracking system may struggle to correctly extract the right information from a table. If you do decide to use a Google document resume template, be aware that you will need to submit your resume in Microsoft Word and your Google document may have conversion issues.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Word Document template. This sample uses hidden tables.

Building your resume without a template is worth doing. The purpose of your resume is to highlight what you have to offer. Instead of obsessing over finding the best resume template, spend your time building strong content that will help an employer understand how you can meet their needs. When writing resumes, try answering these questions:

  • What are the skills, experience and education that I have which demonstrate my ability to do this job?
  • How can I show some personality and make the resume interesting to read?
  • Have I shown that I am committed and dependable and accounted for any major gaps in my work history?

Once you have your core content created, you can then find ways to make your resume look exceptional. Beyond simply doing a web search, you can head over to Pinterest, Creative Market or Etsy to get a few ideas on formatting. And feel free to check out our resume samples here.

If you are feeling stuck in building your resume, consider working with Career Story.  Each resume that we build is unique to our clients. We focus on building strong content and then presenting it in a visually-appealing way to ensure that it gets noticed by hiring managers. Contact us at 604-614-3155 or email us at

Job Search Tips From a Hiring Manager

Ever want to know what is going on inside the mind of a hiring manager? Well, you are in for a treat. I recently had a fascinating conversation with Darrell Lim of Oak Management Consulting. Darrell is a strategic business leader, corporate trainer, and coach. He has many years of hiring experience in a variety of industries including retail, software, non-profit, and manufacturing and he has hired for a range of positions from front-line employees (customer service and production) up to highly specialized technical and creative experts and organizational leaders.

I asked Darrell to share about the recruitment process that he generally follows and I am glad that he did. There are some fantastic nuggets of wisdom here for job seekers! 

1. Create a Recruitment Culture: Instead of hiring when there is an urgent need or vacancy, Darrell advocates for businesses to take a more strategic approach. He encourages organizations to always be open to having conversations with potential candidates and he sees great value in conducting informational interviews with interested candidates even when not actively hiring. This ensures that companies already have a qualified pool of candidates ready to go when they DO need to hire, and mitigates the risk of hiring weak candidates because they need to fill a position.

Tip: One of the greatest falsehoods in job search is that employers do not want to talk to potential job seekers. This is not true. Make informational interviews and networking an active part of your job search strategy. 

2. Discuss Needs with the Hiring Manager: Once a vacancy comes up, Darrell will work with the hiring manager to understand their needs and vision for the new position. Just because there is a position does not mean that it needs to be filled exactly as is. Darrell asks the hard questions: Does this position actually need to be filled? If it does need to be filled, does the position need to be changed in any way?  

Tip: When a position becomes vacant, it may not be filled in exactly the same way as it was in the past. This is an opportunity for you as a job seeker. By reaching out through networking, you may be able to position yourself as a potential answer to the company’s needs even if you do not have the same qualifications, education, or experience that the previous employee had. 

3. Create the Job Posting and Circulate: After determining the best position to fill the needs of the organization, Darrell focuses on creating a detailed job description. He posts it to various job search sites depending on the position type. Indeed and craigslist are favorites for entry-level positions while LinkedIn is a good option for more technical or leadership positions. Darrell generally waits 2-3 weeks before reviewing applications as he wants to maximize his time by having a critical mass of applications. 

Tip: Applied for a job and have not heard back yet?  Be patient. The hiring manager or recruiter may not have reviewed your application yet. 

4 .Review Job Postings: When it comes to reviewing applications, Darrell wants to see a resume and cover letter that are targeted to the job that was posted.  For each time that the resume contains vague or fluffy information unrelated to the job posting, Darrell mentally gives the job seeker a demerit point. After an applicant has accumulated 5-6 demerits, depending on the role, he moves onto another applicant. He does look carefully for technical competence and educational levels. And lastly, he always reads the “Volunteer Work” section as a way of trying to gauge company culture fit.

Tip: One of the critical mistakes that job seekers make is not targeting their resume to the job posting. Creating a targeted resume for each job you apply for is critical! 

Tip: Consider having a “Volunteer Work” section on your resume. 

5. Conduct a Phone Screening Call: After reviewing applications, Darrell then conducts 10 -1 5 minute phone screenings. He wants to weed out people who do not fit in company culture. Often, he quickly gets a feel for people even within the first few minutes, particularly if the conversation is awkward or if the applicant only gives one-word answers. Unfortunately about 50% of people have not carefully read through the job description and are often unable to answer any questions related to the position or company. 

Tip: Keep track of the companies that you apply for.  Each time you apply for a job, create a folder (electronic or paper) with a copy of your cover letter, resume and the job posting along with any company research you may have conducted. You may be looking for any job, but companies want to know that you want to work for THEM! 

Tip: Practice your phone manner. If you find the phone awkward, find someone to practice with even if they are just in another room in your home.  

6. Perform Second and Third Rounds of Interviews: Throughout the interview process, Darrell talks about looking for three things: competence, character, and chemistry. He wants to know that the person to be hired is able to do the job! One of the ways that he screens for this is through using behavior-based questions. He includes questions regarding ethics to assess character.  And then finally, he is looking for someone that he finds a connection with.

Darrell shared that he has recently been using web technology in his interviews, specifically Google hangouts.  He has been conducting group interviews with 4-6 people through Google hangouts. For technical or creative positions, he may give the individual a small task to complete as part of the interview. 

For the final interview, Darrell will often meet candidates at a coffee shop or at the company site.  Here, he will ask more detailed questions about the applicant’s background and career.

Tip: Be prepared for anything in terms of interview format! 

Tip: Practice your behavior-based questions which ask you to share what you have done in the past. Often these interviews questions will start with “Tell me about a time…” 

As you can see, the employer and recruiter put a huge amount of effort into the hiring process. The next time you submit an application, try putting yourself into the employer’s shoes and implement some of the tips shared here! 

If this information has been helpful, but you feel that you could use more help with your job search, consider connecting with Career Story for support. We offer resume writing and interview preparationservices at affordable prices. Please contact us at 604-614-3155 or at

Resumes and CVs: What’s the Difference and Why Does It Matter?

Ever wondered when to use a Curriculum Vitae (CV) and when to use a Resume?

A CV and resume serve different purposes. A CV is a work-history document that outlines all merits and accomplishments of the applicant as thoroughly as possible; they are generally reserved for academics and researchers. A resume is a marketing document that clearly highlights only the pertinent career history and education background related to the position being applied for.

Posting on the Life Strategies Career Engagement blog. Read the rest of the article here to learn some key tips for crafting your next resume or CV.   

3 Questions To Answer In Your Next Cover Letter

Best practice in job search suggests that you need to write a targeted cover letter for each job you apply for. That can be a daunting task to say the least!

So why do cover letters matter? 

Cover letters matter because it shows a potential employer that you have taken the time to understand the needs that they have stated in their job posting and you are clearly showing how you can help solve the employer’s challenges.  I often use the analogy of the job postings being the question – the employer is asking if anyone out there fits what they are looking for.  Your cover letter along with your resume should answer that question, clearly stating that you are the answer to the employer’s question!

Brian, a hiring manager for a large technology company, shares that he appreciates a well-written cover letter.  He says that cover letters are a great way to share information that is not highly visible in your resume. A good example might be if your experience does not perfectly match the job description. You can use your cover letter to fill in any gaps and help the reviewer get a sense of where you can still add value in the position. Also, Brian says that he uses the cover letter to gauge the candidate’s level of interest in the position. He is trying to determine if the job seeker is actually interested in his particular position within the company or simply just applying for any type of work.  Brian just completed a round of resume reviews and only 1 out of 15 job seekers included a cover letter.  By taking the extra effort to submit a tailored cover letter, you can greatly increase the strength and visibility of your application.

Recently, I was talking to Debbie, a board member of a local non-profit, who had recently submitted a job posting to a local job search website.  She had received a number of applications without cover letters. She said that this was a definite turn-off for her. She said that she and her team had taken a long time to craft the job description, really trying to get it right. She found it frustrating that job seekers were not taking the same care and attention to create a cover letter that showed that they had what it took to do the job. 

If writing cover letters is driving you crazy, consider these three guiding questions that can help you focus on what is important. 

  1. Looking at the job posting, what are the two key areas that you think the employer needs the most help in?  Now think of specific skills, experience, or education that you may have that would demonstrate that you can help the employer with those needs.
  2. Why do you want to work at this company?  What interests or excites you about this company? I cannot stress enough that you must do your research. Look at their website. Check out blogs and do some Google searches to figure out what this company does. Then find a way to share this in your cover letter!
  3. What would you be most excited about doing if you were hired? Let’s say that you get the job. Based on what you know about the job, what tasks would you find the most enjoyable?  This question indicates where your passions and interests lay.  Find a way to incorporate this energy and enthusiasm into your cover letter!

When you feeling impatient in your job search, you may be tempted to cut some corners and not submit a cover letter or submit a generic cover letter. Please do not do this. Take the time to write a carefully targeted cover letter that will help employers catch the vision for how you can help them and why you want to work for their company.

Trust me, it’s worth it! 

If writing a cover letter still proves to be daunting, consider getting some help! Contact Kristin today for your free 15-minute consultation at 604-614-3155 or at