Resume tips

Your resume is the foundation document that you need for your career search. It is a summary of your accomplishments academically, experientially and through employment that shows a potential employer the skills you have developed. 

August 2, 2022

What makes an effective resume? 

Your resume may be your first contact with a future employer. If you make a positive impression and show how you can be a valuable addition to the team, you may be called for an interview. 

Top tips 

  • Tailor your resume with keywords, backing up with evidence of accomplishments for every application to demonstrate your area of focus 
  • Keep it to two pages and prioritize quality over quantity 
  • Include your LinkedIn URL so readers can access more information about you if they wish 
  • Know your industry and use relevant terminology 
  • Write strong accomplishment statements using action verbs to describe your capabilities instead of your tasks or duties 
  • Every experience counts. A one day job shadow, a weekend volunteering opportunity or a part-time summer job all have transferable skills 

Common mistakes 

  • Not tailoring your resume to your audience, or using keywords without proof 
  • Making your resume overly short so hiring managers read it. This has the opposite effect, as it can be perceived as not putting effort into your resume 
  • Including spelling and grammar errors 
  • Not using your education section to present skills and knowledge 
  • Only taking advice from one person or people who are in different fields or industries, as they may not have information relevant to your application 

Access more support on your resume 

Example

Your Name
Current Address (include at least City, Province, Postal Code)
Phone Number
Email
LinkedIn URL 

 Highlights of Qualifications (optional/job specific) 

  • Experience related to the position (include number of years if applicable) 
  • Credentials/training/education relevant to the position
  • Skills/strengths or knowledge relevant to the position with qualifying statements to back it up 
  • One or two skills/strengths that could be considered assets to the position 
  • Work ethic or values or technical skills relevant to position [Text Wrapping Break] 

Education 

Bachelor of Year – Present
Major area of study; Minor; Specialization 
McMaster University, Hamilton, ON 

  • Add any relevant subjects taken with a brief description 
  • Add research/projects undertaken with brief description or results if relevant 
  • Add academic awards if significant[Text Wrapping Break] 

Employment Experience 

Position Title (in bold) Timeline (Month, Year)
Name of company or organization, city, province 

  • Use 1-2 lines to describe your relevant activities in that position 
  • Use action verbs to give your bullet points more impact 
  • At least one of the bullet points should describe an initiative you took or an achievement you had with results 
  • Emphasize your transferable skills (leadership, organization, team work, etc.) 
  • Consider using SAR formula (situation, action, result). Refer to the Creating effective accomplishment statements section on Page 5 

 Extra Curricular Activities and/or Volunteer Experience 

  • List the positions in student and volunteer organizations; treat them like regular jobs. Examples of extra-curriculars can include: Job Shadow, MSU Clubs, Faculty Associations, etc. 

Position Title (in bold) Timeline (Month, Year)
Name of club, charity, event, city, province 

  • Describe what you did in this position 
  • Emphasize your transferable skills and any achievements 
  • Consider using SAR formula (situation, action, result) 

 Technical Skills (optional) 

You can adjust headings to be more specific or general (for example, Computer Skills, Language Skills, Business Skills, Additional Skills, Related Skills, etc.). This is where you add any relevant “hard skills” or knowledge areas. Depending on the importance to the position, this heading may be better suited on the first page.  

  • Programming Languages: C/C++, Visual C++, Visual Basic 
  • Graphic Programs: Corel Draw, AutoCAD 
  • Office Applications: MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint 

 Professional Development (optional)
This is where you can add additional relevant training (e.g. LinkedIn Learning courses) to showcase your interest to the industry/field. 

Name of Training/Course/Workshop/Conference (in bold) Timeline (Month, Year)
Name of company or organization, city, province (if applicable) 

  • State any license/certificate/designation received and expiration date (if applicable) 
  • A brief overview could be provided if the title of the training isn’t self-explanatory  

 Interests (optional) 

  • Tennis: Competed extensively through Canada in various junior and senior tournaments 
  • Drama: Took major roles in high school and university drama 
  • Public Speaking: Joined the local toastmasters group to improve speaking skill

*Review the alternative resume section titles below to market your experiences most effectively.

Examples of alternative resume section titles

Objective
Career Objective
Professional Objective
Career Focus
Career Goal 

Profile
Key Competencies/Skills
Highlights of Qualifications
Career Profile
Professional Qualifications
Professional Profile

Education
Academic Background
Training
Professional Education
Additional Training
Professional Development 

Experience
Relevant Experience
Employment History
Work Experience
Additional Experience
Professional Background
Professional Experience

Other Skills
Projects
Career-Related Skills
Computer Skills
Technical Skills
Certifications
Specialized Skills 

Achievements
Accomplishments
Awards
Recognitions
Scholarships  

Professional Affiliations
Associations
Professional Memberships
Professional Associations
Memberships
Affiliations   

Activities/Interests
Community Involvement
Volunteer Activities
Related Activities
University Activities
Professional Interests 

Academic Presentations Publications
Conferences Attended Conferences/Conventions 
Papers Presented 
Professional Presentations 

Creating effective accomplishment statements 

Create an effective resume by tailoring it to the position to which you are applying, and create accomplishment statements that give a clear impression of your capabilities and success. 

Consider your past experiences from work, internships, volunteering, community involvement, etc., and identify your achievement(s). Think of times when you… 

  • Solved a problem 
  • Received praise/awards 
  • Created efficiencies 
  • Exceeded expectations 
  • Achieved a goal 
  • Initiated something 
  • Prevented an issue 
  • Improved something 
  • Demonstrated leadership 
  • Were selected for added responsibility or promotion 

Phase I: Begin with an action verb 

Refer to the list of action verbs in this booklet. Take inventory of skills you used, then use asterisks* to mark the skills that are most relevant to your target audience’s needs. For example: organized, initiatied*, developed*, coordinated  

Phase II: Relevant information 

Briefly describe the relevant information such as: actions taken, time, people involved. Be particular in including information that provides the relevant context. For example: effective filing strategy, including over 5 years of records, used by staff. 

Phase III: What was the result, purpose or benefit? 

Where possible, quantify your results. For example: saved time for staff when solving client issues 

Final accomplishment statement 

Initiated and developed a more effective filing strategy for over 5 years of records, which saved time for staff when solving client issues. 

The following are pairs of statements identifying the same role. Consider how the second statement of each pair is written as an effective accomplishment statement.  

  • Provided customer service 
  • Provided customer service in a busy retail environment resulting in the creation of a loyal customer base and improved sales by 10%
  • Initiated reorganization of file system 
  • Initiated reorganization of file system which made client information more accessible to staff of non-profit organization
  • Initiated and completed system of data entry from manual to computerized 
  • Initiated and completed system of data entry from manual to computerized system, resulting in improved account analysis and report generation for tax and other purposes
  • Maintained and updated files
  • Maintained and updated patient files for rehabilitation clinic with approximately 340 regular patients
  • Trained administrators and other staff
  • Trained administrators and other staff at physiotherapy clinic on MS Excel, saving outside training expenses of more than $1000
  • Created manual for volunteers
  • Created procedural and responsibilities manual for volunteers at a community agency, which reduced overlapping duties and increased efficiency.
  • Worked on product layouts 
  • Revised merchandise layout and recommended changes that resulted in increased product visibility and increased sales by 33%
  • Work well in a team environment
  • Collaborated with team members to complete a group marketing project for final year commerce class ensuring tasks were identified and completed by the team members on time

Action verbs synonyms to use in your resume 

Addressed Debated Interviewed Publicized 
Advertised Defined Involved Reconciled 
Arbitrated Developed Joined Recruited 
Arranged Directed Judged Referred 
Articulated Discussed Lectured Reinforced 
Authored Drafted Listened Reported 
Clarified Edited Marketed Resolved 
Collaborated Elicited Mediated Responded 
Communicated Enlisted Moderated Solicited 
Composed Explained Negotiated Specified 
Condensed Expressed Observed Spoke 
Conferred Formulated Outlined Suggested 
Consulted Furnished Participated Summarized 
Contacted Incorporated Persuaded Synthesized 
Conveyed Influenced Presented Translated 
Convinced Interacted Promoted Wrote 

Acted Designed Founded Originated 
Adapted Developed Illustrated Performed 
Began Directed Initiated Photographed 
Combined Displayed Instituted Planned 
Composed Drew Integrated Revised 
Conceptualized Entertained Introduced Revitalized 
Condensed Established Invented Shaped 
Created Fashioned Modeled Solved 
Customized Formulated Modified 

Administered Budgeted Forecasted Projected 
Adjusted Calculated Managed Qualified 
Allocated Computed Marketed Reconciled 
Analyzed Conserved Measured Reduced 
Appraised Corrected Netted Research 
Assessed Determined Planned Retrieved 
Audited Developed Prepared 
Balanced Estimated Programmed 

Adapted Contributed Familiarized Rehabilitated 
Advocated Cooperated Furthered Represented 
Aided Counselled Guided Resolved 
Answered Demonstrated Helped Simplified 
Arranged Diagnosed Insured Supplied 
Assessed Educated Intervened Supported 
Assisted Encouraged Motivated Volunteered 
Clarified Ensured Prevented 
Coached Expedited Provided 
Collaborated Facilitated Referred 

Administered Delegated Incorporated Presided 
Analyzed Developed Increased Prioritized 
Appointed Directed Initiated Produced 
Approved Eliminated Inspected Recommended 
Assigned Emphasized Instituted Reorganized 
Attained Enforced Led Replaced 
Authorized Enhanced Managed Restored 
Chaired Established Merged Reviewed 
Considered Executed Motivated Scheduled 
Consolidated Generated Navigated Secured 
Contracted Handled Organized Selected 
Controlled Headed Originated Streamlined 
Converted Hired Overhauled Strengthened 
Coordinated Hosted Oversaw Supervised 
Decided Improved Planned Terminated 

Approved Distributed Ordered Routed 
Arranged Executed Organized Scheduled 
Catalogued Filed Prepared Screened 
Categorized Generated Processed Submitted 
Charted Incorporated Provided Supplied 
Classified Inspected Purchased Standardized 
Coded Logged Recorded Systematized 
Collected Maintained Registered Updated 
Compiled Monitored Reserved Validated 

Analyzed Diagnosed Inspected Reviewed 
Clarified Evaluated Interviewed Searched 
Collected Examined Invented Solved 
Compared Experimental Investigated Summarized 
Conducted Explored Located Surveyed 
Critiqued Extracted Measured Systematized 
Detected Formulated Organized Tested 
Determined Gathered Researched 

Adapted Developed Individualized Taught 
Advised Enabled Informed Tested 
Clarified Encouraged Instilled Trained 
Coached Evaluated Instructed Transmitted 
Communicated Explained Motivated Tutored 
Conducted Facilitated Persuaded 
Coordinated Focused Simulated 
Critiqued Guided Stimulated 

Adapted Debugged Operated Restored 
Applied Designed Overhauled Solved 
Assembled Determined Printed Specialized 
Built Developed Programmed Standardized 
Calculated Engineered Rectified Studied 
Computed Fabricated Regulated Upgraded 
Conserved Fortified Remodeled Utilized 
Constructed Installed Repaired 
Converted Maintained Replaced