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 and leadership roles or volunteering. These are documented in the section titled Experience or Relevant Experience. To learn more see Step 3. 
Most resumes are ineffectivein attracting the employer’s attention. Often this is because they show the job seeker’s experience as a list of job responsibilities. For example: 

Sept. 2019 - June 2020  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: 

Sept. 2010 - June 2020 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 Statements 

Accomplishment based statements 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. 

  1. 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? 

  1. 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 three to five 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 fourth-year project team to develop investment policy guidelines and profitability model 

Better (accomplishment–based) example 
Created, as part of a fourth-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 

  • Projects 

  • Publications 

  • 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. 

4. Consider formatting for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) 

Many organizations are using Applicant Tracking Systems to help in their resume screening. These systems help the employer save time by screening out unqualified applicants. 

How Do They Work? 

  • Recruiters will specify key skills and qualifications that they are seeking. The ATS will then conduct a search of all the applications for matches. The greater the number of matches, the higher the score. 

  • Once this screening is done, the top-scoring applications will be reviewed by a person. 

How do you know If the Employer is Using an Applicant Tracking System? 

The truth is that you may not know for certain, however, there are a few indications that they might be using this technology. These include: 

  • Asking you to cut and paste your document or ask that you submit your resume as text document 

  • Having a detailed series of questions asking for similar information to your resume and cover letter 

  • The company refers to the software on their careers page 

  • You are applying on LinkedIn (the employer may not have their own ATS but could be searching keywords on your LinkedIn profile 

Technical Considerations 

Applicant Tracking Systems can have significant technological challenges. Here are a few tips to help you avoid missing out. 

  • Avoid saving the document as a pdf as not all ATS have the ability to search keywords in these documents 

  • Don’t put key information in headers (including your address) as the ATS can’t distinguish this information. 

  • Use a sans-serif font like Arial (avoid serif fonts like Times New Roman) 

  • Avoid graphics and columns 

Writing Your Resume 

Simply put, the ATS has a scoring system based on the quantity and quality of keyword matches. This means you need to tailor your resume by: 

  • Reviewing the job description for keywords and use those words 

  • Have a summary of qualifications/core qualifications that incorporates the keywords 

  • Reviewing profiles of employees from the organization on LinkedIn to see how they describe their positions 

  • Spell out all acronyms 

  • Updating your LinkedIn profile to make sure that you have those keywords included (some ATS can automatically search social media profiles to see if the information is consistent) 

  • Have dates for all your experiences and education 

Don’t Forget the Human Factor 

  • Once your resume gets through the ATS screening, it will be looked at by a recruiter. It’s important to have a well-formatted and organized document. 

  • Avoid the temptation to 'trick' the ATS by randomly putting in keywords (either visible or invisible) on your document. Employers will find this and, in some cases, flag you as someone to avoid in future hiring. 

  • Have a strong cover letter that highlights your interest and related skills. Many ATS aren’t able to review cover letters effectively and a strong cover letter will catch the recruiter’s attention. 


  • Applicant tracking systems: Tactics for beating the bots - an article from Human Resources Today on how different ATS work and how you can increase your chances to be selected for an interview

  • The only personal information you need to provide is your name and method of contact (email address, phone number) - things like your date of birth, nationality, religion should not be part of any hiring decision in compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code

  • Jobscan – free resume scanner for ATS Compatibility (for privacy reasons, we recommend that you remove your personal information [name, address and phone number])

  • How to Get Your Resume through an ATS (webinar on LinkedIn Learning) 

  • Resume Critiques - the Career Centre offers resume critiques. Please call us at 905-828-5451 or 905-828-5264 to set-up an appointment. 

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