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Build your résumé

A résumé is a document that summarizes your:

  • education
  • work and volunteer experience
  • competencies

It’s designed to introduce you to an employer and highlight your qualifications for a specific job or type of work. Use a résumé when you:

  • apply for work
  • network with potential employers
  • apply for some graduate schools, co-op programs, internships and scholarships
  • take part in career fairs or recruitment events


There are 3 commonly used résumé formats, which present your skills and experience in different ways.

Chronological résumé

This is the most common type of résumé. Your competencies and accomplishments get described directly under each position, and your employment and other experiences get listed starting with your latest experience.

The chronological résumé is useful when your most recent experience is closely related to your career goal or when your experiences show growth and increased responsibility over time.


  • gives a clear profile of each separate experience
  • preferred by most employers
  • relatively easy to write


  • you'll share information in a certain order rather than relating it to your career goal
  • if you've held several similar positions, the statements under each one may be repetitive

Functional résumé

In this type of résumé, your skills and experience get separated from your chronological education and work history and organized into groups according to thematic areas (e.g., communication, marketing, research).

The functional résumé is useful when you're making a career shift or when your most recent experiences aren't related to your career goal. 


  • emphasizes your skills and experience that are most relevant to your career goal
  • if you don’t have extensive or recent work experience but you have relevant competencies from your education or volunteer work, this format allows you to group your competencies together on the first page


  • more work to write than a chronological résumé
  • can be hard for the employer to tell which competencies you used in which work experience
    • address this by being specific about where or how you demonstrated these skills

Combination résumé

This résumé format combines the 2 formats described above. It includes both a competency and accomplishment section organized by theme and some descriptive information under each position you've held.

You may choose a combination format when your career history is somewhat related to the position you are applying for, and you wish to highlight the transferability of your competencies from a variety of positions.


  • your competencies get grouped in an order that relates to your career goal
  • employers have some information about your responsibilities and accomplishments in each of your positions


  • this is the most complex format to put together as it can easily become too repetitive and dense
  • it can be difficult to keep a combination résumé to 2 pages

Required information

This forms the header of your résumé and includes your name, phone numbers and email. Make sure you have a professional email address and voicemail message.

A list of your educational credentials starting with the most recent. Include the name of the degree/diploma/certificate, the institution and the year of completion for each of your credentials.

You can also include descriptive course titles, scholarships and your GPA, if this is relevant.

Once you've started your university degree, it's common practice to remove your high school diploma from your résumé (unless you've had an unusual or unique high school experience that links to your work goal).

A list of your work or volunteer experiences, starting with the most recent.

For each work or volunteer experience, include the position title, name and location of the organization and start and end dates (month and year).

It’s common to only go back 10 years unless you have a good reason to include earlier positions (e.g., if you're targeting a career area that matches your earlier work, or you've been with one employer for 10+ years).

In some cases, you may want to divide your experience into two separate lists (Related Work Experience and Additional Work History) to highlight your most relevant experience.

Embed these throughout different sections of your résumé, presented in the context of your work and educational experiences. 

Use bulleted statements beginning with action verbs  (“developed”, “created”, “supervised”, etc.) that describe your accomplishments in clear, concrete terms.

Your references are 3 or 4 people who know you, generally from a work or educational setting, and who are willing to be contacted by a potential employer to comment on your contributions, personal qualities and work ethic.

This section is optional, unless it's specifically requested in the job posting. It usually appears at the end of your résumé.

Optional information

A brief section near the beginning of your résumé that includes 4 to 6 statements that strongly connect you to the work you are seeking, often describing your specifically related skills and accomplishments. Think of this as a summary of the key points from your cover letter.

Include your volunteer experience just like your paid work.

Often used by people in scientific or technical professions and includes relevant techniques, processes and equipment. Technical expertise often appears near the top of the résumé and includes keywords that relate to the position.

Professional associations or informal professional groups you're a member of.

Relevant courses or training programs you've taken in addition to your formal education.

Qualifications earned through a training program or testing process (e.g., Class 5 Driver’s License, CPR training, etc).

A brief statement at the end of your résumé that lists interests, hobbies or activities that provide a more rounded picture of you.

What to not include

In Canada and the United States, you should not include the following on your résumé:

  • photos
  • birth date
  • social insurance number
  • marital status
  • number of children

Building your résumé

  1. Make notes about how your experience matches up with the posting by deconstructing the job posting.
  2. Prepare your reference list.
  3. Decide on the general layout and appearance, including the sections, order, fonts, etc.
  4. Write your first draft—our action verbs list can help you write strong statements.
  5. Review and proofread.
  6. Ask 2 or 3 people to take a look and provide feedback (they should know you well and/or be knowledgeable about the field you're targeting).
  7. Make any changes and finalize your document.

Résumé builders

Here's a few popular sites to get you started. UVic Co-op and Career does not endorse these résumé builders or the content on these websites. 

Make it past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Before your résumé makes it into the hands of a recruiter or human resources professional, it may need to make it past an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS).

An ATS is an algorithm tool that companies use to collect, sort and rank résumés based on key skills and or job titles. Medium to large-sized companies often use ATS to reduce the number of applications that need to be reviewed by staff/managers.

These tips will help you create a résumé that passes ATS:

  1. Use key words from the job description: Use tools like or to identify the common words and themes from the posting and match them as closely as possible without “overstuffing” your content.
  2. Keep it simple: Don’t embed hidden content or add all of the words you can to try and beat the system. This won’t work with recruiters if you do pass the ATS.
  3. Use basic sans serif fonts: Use fonts like Calibri and Arial as they are accessible for all readers.
  4. Keep your font consistent: Use size 11 for content and size 12 to 14 for headers.
  5. Use standard bullets: Avoid using fancy bullets like arrows or check marks.
  6. Capitalize section headings: You could also bold headings but underlining is not recommended.
  7. Put a space before and after a slash: This will help ATS see the words as separate rather than one unreadable word (e.g., sales / marketing rather than salesmarketing).
  8. Use full URLs instead of embedding text with hyperlinks: ATS will disable embedded links so use the full web URL. This will also help recruiters who are using hard copies of your résumé to access the information.
  9. Avoid using prefabricated templates: Templates are often restricted and full of embedded code that the ATS can’t read. If you choose to use a template, try saving your document as a plain text file (.txt). This removes the formatting and will help you to catch unreadable elements.
  10. Follow the instructions for the final format of your résumé: Save your résumé as a PDF document before submitting it, unless the job posting asks for a Word document. This will make sure that your formatting is maintained.
  11. Complete your online profile before you upload your résumé: Many ATS systems will ask you to complete a user profile. Almost half of applicants don't do this and this usually means they are automatically screened out.
  12. Align your content to the left but put your dates on the right: Employers prefer to see dates on the right side of a résumé. Use the right tab feature to keep everything lined up nicely—nothing says “detail-oriented” like a well formatted, error-free résumé. 
  13. Spell out acronyms: When including acronyms, write the full name out first and then using the acronym in parentheses after the name (e.g., Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)). This will help the ATS identify all versions of the name. If you will not use the acronym again in the document, don’t use it at all.
  14. Avoid using headers or footers and page numbers: Some ATS systems can’t read the content in a header or footer and it would be a shame to have a nameless résumé for the recruiter to read after the ATS scan.
  15. Use tabs, rather than tables, columns or boxes: Like content in headers and footers, some ATS systems can’t understand how to read columns or boxes so information will be lost. Using tabs to set up the appearance of columns ensures that your information will be read and understood by the human after the ATS scan. Simple tables are great for lists of words where the order of the information does not matter, like in a tech table.

Learn more about ATS