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.
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
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:
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:
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:
Consider creating this section as a sub-heading or as a bullet point of the Education section.
You may choose to create this section as a sub-heading or as a bullet point under the Education section.
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:
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.
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.
If you are proficient in several languages and this skill is relevant, create a “Languages Spoken” section.