First-Time Resume Writing

This information is great for students who have never written a resume before. Once you've written your first resume, make sure to check out the Resume & Cover Letter Toolkit.

Quick navigation

What is a Resume?

A resume is a document that provides the reader with information about your relevant skills, qualifications and experience.

Quick Facts

  • The average recruiter spends 6.25 seconds the first time they look at your resume.
  • Employers value the skills that you developed regardless of where. This includes skills developed in school, volunteering, extra-curricular activities and in paid employment.
  • People who apply with resumes that are tailored to the job posting have a higher chance of being contacted for an interview.

General Guidelines - Resume Format

  • Resumes can be one or two pages.
  • Use basic common language font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Also, do not use graphics—this eliminates technical problems with scanning your resume or with employers receiving them on potentially incompatible programs or printers.
  • Keep margins ¾” to 1”; use font size 11 or 12 for the body of the resume.
  • Italics, underlining, shading and sometimes bolding can be a problem as these do not always look the same on other operating systems and/or printers.
  • Create a "reader-friendly" document that uses white space effectively.
  • Research employer requirements and highlight your qualifications that match requirements. You can samples of documented qualifications match under Toolkit Samples.
  • Proofread your resume for grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Be consistent with formatting. For example, if you bold the name of the organization in one section, you need to do it everywhere.
  • You can choose in which order to put the resume sections based on what is most important to your reader.

Contact Information

  • Include mailing address, telephone number with voicemail, professional e-mail address (avoid slang in your e-mail address) -  we recommend that you use your email.
  • You might want to make your name a few font sizes larger than other information so that it stands out.
  • Ensure you have control of and access to all e-mail and phone numbers used. You only need to include one of each (e.g. you can use your cell phone number if you have voicemail).
  • Use between two and four lines for contact information.

Objective (Optional)

  • Not mandatory and can often be stated within your cover letter.
  • If you do include an objective, make it as specific as possible. For example, “University student with excellent customer service skills seeking part-time retail position at a fashion retailer”.

Profile/Skills Summary/Highlights of Qualifications (Optional)

  • The purpose of this section is to highlight your top three to five qualifications to the employer.
  • If you include this section, use a bullet format and highlight only the skills and/or qualifications that are relevant to the position you are applying for and substantiate with brief explanation of the experience(s) that helped you build that skill or quality.
  • Please review the accomplishment-based statements worksheet for tips on how to write this section.


  • Include dates attended, program, area(s) of study, institution.
  • Include relevant courses if related to job posting.
  • Include GPA if it sets you apart from other applicants or if the employer has specifically stated that you need to. You should also include the scale (e.g. 3.2/4.0).
  • Include high school if you are in first or second year - note if you graduated with honours or awards; include high school if it is unique, such as the International Baccalaureate.
  • If you don’t include high school but wish to include awards/honours from high school, put them in a separate “awards” section.

Experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer)

  • Include paid and unpaid or volunteer experience.
  • You can separate the sections into “Work Experience” and “Volunteer Experience”, or you can call the sections “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience”, or simply “Experience” which could include both paid and unpaid.
  • Order your experiences in reverse chronological order within each section
  • Begin each point with an action verb.
  • Within the experience descriptions, place the most relevant and important tasks or accomplishments first.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Include university and high school activities such as class representative, club membership, leadership roles.
  • Include a brief description of accomplishments and results if possible.


  • Include any awards during high school, university, or as part of a paid job or volunteer experience.

Professional Memberships

  •  Include any professional memberships, role, duties and any accomplishments.


  • Include sports or leisure activities that demonstrate other areas of your life.


  • Do not include your references on your resume.
  • Optional – “References Available on Request” – when a potential employer is interested in making an offer, they will ask for your references.
  • For more information, see the References tip sheet.