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Major sections of a résumé

Major sections of a résumé

It is up to you to determine which sections to include in your résumé. Contact Information, Objective (optional) and Summary of Qualifications are typically the first three. The remaining sections should be ordered according to their relevance to the job. If you have only one or two points to communicate under any section heading, consider including the information under an existing heading rather than creating a new one (e.g., include one or two awards as a sub-section under Education). If your document is two pages in length, the content of the first page is especially important. An employer may initially spend just a minute or less looking over your résumé, so you should position the most important sections on the first page.

Use key words that are common in the industry to which you are applying and/or that are listed in the job advertisement. Doing so will increase the chance of your résumé being selected, whether a person or a computer (Applicant Tracking System) is reading it. Remember to include dates throughout your résumé.

The following are possible sections and sub-sections of a résumé. Choose and arrange them in the way that will best help you present the advantages that you offer to each employer.


Contact Information refers to information such as name, address (optional), telephone number, email address, and web/LinkedIn/social media page/blog. In North America, no other personal information is required (please see ‘Information not to include on a résumé’), nor are labels for each piece of information (e.g., Email, Résumé, or Contact Information at the top of the page). Co-op students should add their academic level, plan name, and student identification number when applying postings through WaterlooWorks.

Information not to include on a résumé: Place/Date of Birth or Age, Marital/Family Status, Photograph, Gender, Nationality, and Social Insurance Number.

Note: If you are applying to a position outside of Canada, research the specific document requirements needed for that country and also review the Find work outside Canada section.

  1. Include your name on both pages (in the largest heading on page one, using a font size larger than that used in the body and for other headings) and the page number on page two.

    Make sure you are consistent with the name you include on your documents and with your professional social media accounts and email addresses. A résumé is not a legal document, therefore if you would like to use a preferred or shortened name on your documents, you could choose to use your preferred name with your legal name in brackets e.g., Ryan (Aishwarya) Rajaram or simply a shortened version of your name e.g., Aish Rajaram.
  2. If you will be changing address while your résumé is in circulation, note the expected date of your move (e.g., address valid until April 18, 20xx). Note: street addresses are best omitted; include city/province only if that location would be an advantage (e.g., you are applying to a job in British Columbia and your permanent address is in that province)
  3. Decide what headings you will use if you need to state two addresses (e.g., Local/Present and Home/Permanent)
  4. When creating a personal email address, ensure that it is professional; be selective when choosing an email provider because the addresses of some of the more popular ones are rejected by SPAM-filtering software
  5. If you cannot answer your phone during business hours, make sure you have a reliable message retrieval system with a professional-sounding recording, or list an alternate number in your résumé
  6. Consider including a link to your e-portfolio and/or webpage. Make sure it is professional and up-to-date. Demonstrate your skills by including examples of your work (e.g., design, writing, reports, projects, thesis, code, art work, etc.)
  7. If you have a Twitter or LinkedIn account, blog, or other social networking tool that is relevant to your industry and employment, you may include your handle/username
  8. If you are seeking a specific work arrangement, you may want to include a note about this in your résumé. An example if seeking short-term employment might be: "Available for one-year contract".

Listing an objective is optional. However, it may be helpful to use it as a focus to tailor your résumé to fit this objective. You can also remove it after achieving this goal.

If you choose to include an objective, you can

  1. include the job title in the statement (e.g., “Junior Computer Programmer,” “Social Worker,” or “Technical Writer”). For example:
    1. Seeking a position as a Financial Data Analyst specializing in funds and investment analysis
  2. state an area or field of interest (e.g., “Public Relations” or “Health Education”). For example:
    1. Seeking a challenging position in the field of Training and Development where I can contribute my program development, leadership, and organizational skills

Choose a title for this section that reflects who you are and how you want to represent yourself. A variety of options are possible, including Highlights of Qualifications, Executive Summary, Professional Profile, and Profile.

This key section provides a concise overview of your qualifications, showing the employer, in a few short seconds, how you stand out from other candidates. You may draw qualifications from any area of your life (e.g., work, volunteer experience, education, or other activities). Typically, include four to six (maximum seven) points outlining your relevant strengths and achievements, beginning with the most relevant to the job. Points may begin with nouns or adjectives. Describe your competitive advantage — the value you offer.

Tailor your Summary of Qualifications section (and résumé) to each job to which you apply. All points in your summary must be targeted to your potential employer, elaborated on throughout your résumé, and accurate. Employers perceive job applicants who misrepresent their skills and abilities negatively. Precision and accurate wording will help you obtain a job to which you are well-suited and in which you can excel.

Your summary section must be industry specific. However, rather than copy sentences from a job advertisement, include key words commonly used in the industry to which you are applying. Whether your document is initially scanned electronically or by a human, both are looking for these key words and phrases. If you are having trouble identifying what to highlight, do more research! Try typing “job description” + “computer engineer” (or the title of the job you seek) into a search engine in order to discover industry-specific words and phrases.

Highlight any key or unique achievements that will help you stand out among other applicants. Use strong adjectives and facts to describe your strengths. A phrase such as “Two years’ experience completing projects in…” has more impact than “good knowledge of …” Include:

  1. As a first bullet (if applicable), your experience (from paid/unpaid work, academics, or extracurricular activities) relevant to the position sought (e.g., one year experience in graphic design; three years process engineering experience with key responsibilities in product design and implementation; solid academic career focusing on business development initiatives in the field of specialty catalysts)
  2. Your relevant knowledge/skills/expertise (e.g., “computer proficiency, report writing, program planning, public speaking, problem-solving”)
  3. Any education that complements your practical experience (e.g., “machine design, resource assessment, marketing”)
  4. A general reference to where you developed the skill (e.g., “proven leadership skills developed through three summers as camp counsellor”). Include this level of detail only once or twice so that points do not become too lengthy
  5. Personal characteristics and attributes; however, include only those that are relevant to the position you are seeking (e.g., consistently able to deliver results under tight deadlines vs punctual, honest, etc.)
  6. Specialized training/education (e.g., “CPR certification”)
  7. Fluency in a language other than English, specifically noting your level of verbal and/or written competency
  8. If a job posting states “Must be eligible to work in Canada”, but your experience could be interpreted to suggest that you are not, consider noting your eligibility to work in Canada on your résumé. For example you could say in your Summary of Qualifications: “Eligible to work in Canada”. You must ensure that you have acquired the necessary documentation / permits to legally undertake work in Canada. If you have questions about your eligibility to work in Canada, you can reach out to an Immigration Consultant in the Student Success Office for assistance.

If you don’t know how to describe your strengths effectively, try some self-assessment activities to help you uncover these strengths. Activities contained in the Self-Assessment section, which include online career guidance systems subscribed to by the University of Waterloo and available to students, employees, and alumni, as well as other assessments (MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory) available through the Centre for Career Development, can help you to better understand and articulate skills and strengths of interest to employers. You may also wish to attend a workshop or book a Career Development appointment. Both can be accessed through the Centre for Career Development.

This section will follow the Summary of Qualifications if you consider it to be stronger or more relevant to your application than your work or volunteer experience. How you describe your education depends on your level of study and your graduation or professional status. Consider the following options:

  1. For students in postsecondary education: Candidate for, Degree, Plan (major), minor/option/specialization (if desired), University, Location and Year beginning program (e.g., “Candidate for Bachelor of Mathematics, Honours Computer Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, September 20xx present”)
  2. Secondary school listing: omit reference to your secondary school once you have moved beyond your first year of postsecondary study unless the reference is to a prestigious institution or will add valuable information when the reader considers you for an interview; list Diploma, High School, Location and Year diploma was received (e.g., “Ontario Secondary School Diploma, ABC High school, Any-town, Any-province, 20xx”); include specialization if applicable
  3. For alumni: Degree, Plan (major), University, Location and Year degree obtained (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, History, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, June 20xx); Omit reference to the month the year after you graduate
  4. If you changed your program of study, include an entry like the following:
    1. Candidate for Bachelor of Science, Honours Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, 20xx – Present
    2. Environmental Studies, Geography, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, 20xx – 20xx
  5. Check the name of the degree granted (e.g., Bachelor of Applied Science for most engineering students; Bachelor of Mathematics for computer science students), and list the degree unabbreviated
  6. Multiple entries: when referring to more than one program (e.g., Bachelor’s, Master’s), arrange entries in reverse chronological order (i.e., most recent first)
  7. Incorporate professional development activities (e.g., certification, workshops, or continuing or distance education courses) by changing the heading to “Education and Professional Development,” arranging entries in reverse chronological order

Include one to three substantive projects and/or assignments you have completed in high school or university that are relevant to the type of job you are hoping to attain. This is particularly helpful for those with relatively little paid work or volunteer experience. Consider creating this section as a sub-heading or as a bullet point of the Education section:

  1. Provide the project or assignment title, the class or lab the project or assignment was completed in, and dates (e.g., “Method of Practice Report, Introduction to Social Work, Sept. – Dec. 20xx”; “Payroll Database Assignment, Introduction to Computing, Sept. – Dec. 20xx”; “Circuit Analysis Project, Circuit Analysis Lab, Feb. – June 20xx”)
  2. List your points in reverse chronological order
  3. Include several bullet points to describe what you accomplished; begin each bullet point with an action verb (e.g., Presented 50-page report to panel of five faculty resulting in grade of 95%)
  4. Do not use vague expressions such as “responsible for” or “duties included”; avoid generic verbs such as “helped” or “assisted”
  5. Use past tense since a project/assignment is added to your résumé when completed

Consider creating this section as a sub-heading or as a bullet point of the Education section.

  1. Choose three to six courses related to the job applied for
  2. If the name of the course does not convey its relevance, elaborate (e.g., “Basic Human Resources Management trained in labour relations and various recruiting and salary negotiation techniques”)
  3. Prioritize the list or arrange it by themes to make it easier to scan
  4. Place information in columns for easy reading, or separate courses with commas (if space is an issue)
  5. Do not include the course number

You may choose to create this section as a sub-heading or as a bullet point under the Education section.

  1. If the title does not indicate a project's scope and relevance, use a few words or bulleted points to describe it

How you format your work experience section depends upon the type of résumé you have chosen. Refer to Résumé styles and templates for details on the three types. Generally:

  1. This section could also be referred to as “Employment Experience” or “Relevant Experience”
  2. Include three to five points outlining your most relevant strengths
  3. List your points in decreasing order of importance for the type of work you are seeking (i.e., most relevant first)
  4. In point form, describe what you accomplished on the job
  5. Begin each point with either a skill or achievement action verb (see Appendix A); avoid generic verbs such as “helped” or “assisted”
  6. Use the present tense for ongoing jobs and the past tense for past jobs
  7. Do not use vague expressions such as “responsible for” or “duties included”; they don’t tell the employer the scope of your accomplishments
  8. Describe the most relevant points in greater detail (e.g., in an entry about report writing, you would include information about literature searches only if that part of the experience was relevant to the job)
  9. If your work experience is not directly related, emphasize transferable skills (e.g., if you worked as a server and now want to work in an administrative role, emphasize your ability to work under pressure/stress, communicative/interpersonal skills, attention to detail, etc.)
  10. There is no rule concerning how recent an experience must be to include it on your résumé; if it is relevant, include it
  11. If you learned something on the job (e.g., how to use a new piece of software) but did not have a chance to use it, you may include a “learned” statement (e.g., learned how to use Excel); use this approach sparingly
  12. Indicate your level of responsibility (e.g., “depositing cash” or “managing a department during the absence of supervisor”) and provide evidence of promotion if applicable
  13. Personal pronouns such as “my” and “their,” or definite and indefinite articles: “a,” “an,” or “the” are not typically included in bullet points on a résumé

Although references are very important, the notation "References Available Upon Request" is no longer considered necessary. Generally, you should not list referees' names and contact information: your goal should be to meet with the prospective employer to sell yourself before the employer contacts your referees. In addition, you do not want your referees to have to answer phone calls until you have reached the interview stage.

Always ask permission to use someone as a reference. Choose only people you are sure will speak highly of you. Be sure that they see your strengths and weaknesses as you see them, and discuss what your referee's response might be to potential questions. If much time has lapsed between requesting permission to use a reference and a potential call from an employer, notify your referee that a call may be forthcoming. Choose someone who has seen you work in situations similar to those in which you would be working in the job to which you are applying; you do not need to use your immediate supervisor, although it is advisable to have at least one supervisor on your reference list.

Give your referees a copy of the résumé(s) you have submitted to employers. Have the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of two to four references on sheets that you can provide to an employer when asked for your references.

Many employers, especially in North America, value volunteer work as it demonstrates that you are motivated and interested in giving back to your community, so including this experience on your résumé could make you stand out to potential employers. Volunteer experience can include a range of activities where you give your time or services with no financial gain. Examples could include taking on responsibilities with a student club or providing event support for a charity.

Include volunteer experience in one of these three ways depending on its relevance to the job for which you are applying.

  1. If your volunteer activities are as relevant as your paid work experience, add information on volunteering to your Work Experience section, with a notation (e.g., Assistant to Director—volunteer)
  2. If you wish to highlight your volunteer activities separately from your work experience, create a separate heading (e.g., Volunteer Activities, Volunteer Experience, or Community Service); include your Volunteer Experience before Work Experience in your résumé if it is more relevant
  3. If your volunteer activities are not directly related to the work you are seeking, add them to the Activities and Interests section

Regardless of the heading you list your volunteer experience under, list the organizations for which you volunteered and, if relevant, add detail about your contributions, beginning each point with an action verb. Remember, there are key skills that you have been using or developing through volunteer work that employers may see as relevant to the work they want you to do.

If you are looking to strengthen your résumé, consider volunteering. Volunteer experience can help you gain necessary skills for employment such as technical, communication, teamwork, problem-solving and leadership. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable insight into your field and demonstrate a dedication to your career pursuits. Use the Centre for Career Development resources to find volunteering activities on and around campus.

  1. Begin by listing organized activities; state role (e.g., Member, President), name of organization, location, and dates; organize entries in reverse chronological order; and state if you were elected or appointed to any positions
  2. General interests or hobbies do not require dates but your most relevant activities may be best expressed through bulleted statements (beginning each with an action verb)
  3. If you have many interests, consider including only those that are most relevant to the job to which you are applying (e.g., fitness-related interests for a job in a health-oriented field)
  4. You may also wish to include hobbies that show you are well-rounded or that indicate transferable skills such as teamwork or leadership; avoid general references such as music, reading: be specific
  5. Include hobbies and activities that show your knowledge and passion in your field (e.g., social media groups you actively participate in, personal projects)

Computer Proficiency, Laboratory Skills, Technical Skills, Scientific Instrumentation, Certifications

  1. Present an overview of qualifications relating to your job objective
  2. List similar proficiencies together (e.g., for computer proficiency: hardware, software, languages,) in columns or as bullet points
  3. Be sure to accurately describe level of proficiency (e.g., “familiar with” does not equal “proficient in” or “working knowledge”)
  4. If including dates (e.g., for Certifications), list them in reverse chronological order
  5. Include these points under Summary of Qualifications if there is not enough information to include in a separate section

Awards and Scholarships

  1. State the name of the award, the name of the institution from which the award was received, and the date it was received
  2. Include important awards from both university and high school in reverse chronological order
  3. Explain the significance of the award if it is not implicit in the award’s title
  4. Be selective; include no more than six entries

Professional Memberships

  1. List current and relevant memberships, and include dates to demonstrate length of membership


If you are proficient in several languages and this skill is relevant, create a “Languages Spoken” section.

  1. List languages in which you are fluent (other than English)
  2. Specify your verbal and/or written competency level; take special care to be accurate in this section because some jobs require fluency


  1. List in bibliographic format only those publications that would interest the reader. If your list is lengthy, include only relevant publications, using the heading “Selected Publications. If there is insufficient space to list all relevant publications, add “Additional publications available upon request” as part of a point or as a footer at the end of your résumé, and consider adding those publications to your LinkedIn profile
  2. Include work that has been published, has been submitted for publication, or is in progress, being sure to label each accurately
  3. List papers or reports you presented as a guest speaker
University of Waterloo

Centre for Career Development