Prepare Resume Content

1. Define Experiences Through Examples

The main body of your resume is dedicated to your experiences from work, academic projects, extra-curricular/leadership roles or volunteering. These are documented in the section titled Experience or Relevant Experience. To learn more see Step 3.

Most resumes are ineffective in attracting the employer’s attention. Often this is because they show the job seeker’s experience as a list of job responsibilities. For example:

Sep 2003 - Jun 2004 Sales Clerk, The Gap

  • Handled cash
  • Served customers
  • Set up displays

Employers generally know what sales clerks do and what they see in this example a list of duties that every other job applicant might have performed. Boring! What they want to see is what you did in that position that made a difference - in other words - what is it about your skills that added value for your previous employer.

Try to think about the results or accomplishments you achieved in your previous position (or in university projects or volunteer work). Think about feedback you may have received on something you accomplished at work or in your extra-curricular activities.

A more effective ‘results focused’ description of your accomplishment would look like this:

Sep 2003 - Jun 2004 Sales Clerk, The Gap

  • Managed customer relations by understanding their requirements, making recommendations and providing solutions to problems. Results included highest sales within the branch and customer satisfaction commendations

With this example the employer can see your communication, sales and problem solving abilities. They also notice that you achieved results with your skills in the past, so there is a good chance that you would do the same for them!

Deciding what experiences to include on your resume may or may not be a straightforward decision. Some students wonder about including organizations that are not known to employers or that are potentially controversial. This can be a personal decision as well as a strategic decision; you want to ensure that your relevant skills or experiences are highlighted so that the employer understands what you may bring to the position and you must feel comfortable discussing the experiences in an interview.

Check out the Resume Samples section for more tips and inspiration. 

You can also find more resources in the About Us tab of our website. Click on Services & Resources and select the Resources subsection to find resources for international students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and more.

2. Write Accomplishment Based Points

Accomplishment based points are what tells the employer what you can do for them based on previous experience. Find an example of something you achieved and are proud of. Think about what skills, knowledge or traits are illustrated by it. Compare it with the employer’s requirements on your match analysis table.

Remember you want examples to demonstrate the qualifications the employer is seeking. To prepare your example for the resume:

  1. Think about the actions or steps you took. Be sure to break down larger more general verbs into specific actions. Example: “Communicated” can be described as “listened, questioned and provided recommendation”. It takes more words but gives a clearer picture of your skill set or of how you approached the situation than a single generic verb. Here's a link to Action Words by Skill Category.
  2. Find your results. Everything we do ultimately has a result but we don’t always think of it that way.
    For example, retail sales clerks should be able to describe results such as increasing sales, improving customer satisfaction, or receiving praise from the supervisor. What if you ran a campaign as a club member on campus? Perhaps your work increased attendance at a function? Or raised more sponsors (money) than previous years?
  3. Write your accomplishment in one to two sentences. Don’t worry about increasing the length of your resume; if you keep your bulleted points down to 3-5 accomplishment statements for each job or project, your resume will meet length expectations.

Accomplishment-based statements:

Poor Example
Met with clients and resolved concerns

Better (accomplishment–based) example
Managed client questions and concerns by understanding their needs, researching alternatives and providing solutions. Resulted in service commendation from manager.

Poor Example
Member of 4th year project team to develop investment policy guidelines and profitability model

Better (accomplishment–based) example
Created, as part of a 4 th year project team of three, detailed investment policy guidelines, a profitability model and communications strategy for fictitious mutual fund. The project was awarded an A+.

Which of the above would you prefer if you were an employer? More help required? Feel free to book an appointment with an Employment Advisor to receive individualized advice and job search guidance.

3. Prepare Content For Other Sections

We have reviewed the Work Experience section of your resume but before you can proceed to the actual creation of your resume you will want to organize some facts and details about yourself that will make up your resume content.

Although requirements may vary, there are some commonly used pieces of information in addition to work experience, including:

  • Your contact information
  • Education
  • Volunteer experience
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Training or awards

In addition, many companies look for a well written summary of qualifications or profile. Here you can showcase your skills and results at the beginning of the document. The objective is not mandatory, and can often be stated within your cover letter.

The references section is no longer necessary as all employers will expect you to have a list of at least three ready when they request it. 

Technical skills usually refers to very specific knowledge or skills such as IT applications and programs. Only show this in a separate section if there are three or more and if they are specialized (e.g. Java or C++). While knowledge of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft Office software is considered a standard requirement for all employees, you should definitely include it.

For more information, review samples of poor vs improved resumes or learn more about format & editing.

Next step: Prepare Cover Letter Content

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