RBCWritten by Alyssa Citrigno, Campus Recruiter, RBC

With so many recommendations and tips it’s hard to know what recruiters really look for on a resume and what experiences, skill sets, and achievements to highlight. The truth is that every recruiter is unique in how they critique resumes.  They are not programmed to review resumes in the same way but there are some aspects of a resume review which are consistent across recruiter, industry, and role.

I hope to alleviate some of this stress by giving you some tips on what recruiters typically focus on when looking at resumes!

Formatting, Spelling, and Grammar

Make sure this aspect of your resume is impeccable! Always have a peer review your resume to ensure there are no spelling mistakes you missed and to check if your bullet points flow properly. This can make or break whether a recruiter keeps reading!

Work Experience

This is typically the first area recruiters look to for both your technical and soft skills.  Emphasize your skills and accomplishments to show how you will add value to the position, based on your experiences. Highlight the results of your work performance that relate directly (or indirectly) to the role you want. Past behaviour can be an indicator of future behaviour, thus delving into your previous responsibilities and achievements can help recruiters understand how you may perform at their company. Here are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. If you do not have relevant work experience, that is okay! For co-op/student roles especially, recruiters know you won’t be applying with years of industry experience, so they look at part time jobs, internships or volunteer experiences to assess the transferable skills you possess.
  2. For non-relevant work experience or part time jobs, wording is important. There is a huge difference between describing your role as a cashier in the following manner: “Cashed customers out and took money at the till” and “Provided outstanding customer service by ensuring all orders were correct and by assisting the customer in any way possible, such as loading grocery bags into their cart, resulting in a positive customer experience and an increase in returning business.” Making sure your soft skills are highlighted effectively in these areas is the best way to make the most out of your non-relevant experience.


You should always upload your transcript when applying to jobs (particularly for co-op and student positions), especially if it is requested on the application form. Recruiters and hiring managers look at your transcript and GPA to ensure you have a grasp of the theoretical concepts that may relate to the position you are applying to (for example, Intro to Software Development for a software development job).

If your cumulative GPA is something you are proud of, including it on your resume under the “Education” section makes your resume a one-stop shop for recruiters. If your GPA is a work in progress, leaving it off your resume is fine, but still be sure to include your transcript with your application.

Volunteer and/or Extra-Curricular Activities

This is a great section that can supplement your work experience if you are lacking in that area. As I said earlier, recruiters know you won’t have years of industry experience under your belt as a student, but showing your involvement in community and extra-curricular activities is a great way to showcase your soft skills (and possibly technical skills!) further. It can also be a sign of your passion for what you do – for example, if you are involved in the Finance Club, the Investments Club and are the Treasurer for your local food bank, this definitely shows your passion for finance!

A few tips:

  1. Don’t just list what you are involved in! If you have room on your resume, treat this section just as your work experience. Write your title, the organization, the dates you were involved, and a few bullet points explaining your contribution and the results of your involvement.
  2. Make sure you highlight your soft skills here as well. Volunteer and extra-curricular activities help you develop skills like communication, team work, and customer service. For technical students, this is a great place to show these types of skills as your resume will likely be very technically focused. For non-technical students, this section reiterates your soft skills and shows some additional skills you may not have gained in your work experience.

Overall, the most important thing is that you are honest about your skill sets, experiences, and achievements. When drafting your resume think about how each point and section relates or helped you prepare for the job(even if it doesn’t seem relevant at first glance!). Remember, you only have 30 seconds to make an impression with a recruiter, so putting emphasis on the most relevant things is most important!