First Year Advice

Since you don’t have the technical skills of an upper year, it is important to emphasize your soft skills. Use your past experiences to demonstrate your interests to the employer and tell your story. Extracurricular activities are also a great way to emphasize these skills. Employers want to see if you will be diligent, trustworthy, hard-working, etc.

Adding your personal interests is also a great way to connect with an employer. Maybe you both played tuba in high school band, or were a star basketball player. Making these types of connections is definitely a way to get you an interview.

If you are in 8-stream, many employers will look at your marks to judge how good of a worker you are, so make sure you study hard in your first term!

Besides that, you need to make sure your resume stands out visually. Is it nicely formatted and well organized? Do you want to add a touch of colour to your resume? Maybe add a border? For more tips on this, check out our resume templates section!

Many employers love first years because they are super enthusiastic about their first co-op term. Show them that you are willing to take on anything and are up for a challenge. While upper years really focus their experience in a singular aspect, as a first year it is a good idea to demonstrate a multitude of different skills and abilities. This is where you can show that you are able to adapt and learn quickly in new situations. These are traits that might not be as obvious in older engineers.

Demonstrate your interest in the field and the work that the company does. Maybe you have a certificate like your Cisco FIT Certificate, or you took an online course via EdX or Coursera. Perhaps you have done some personal projects. However, make sure every line counts. Ask yourself: “does this point add or subtract from my resume?”

Finally, highlight to employers your untapped potential. Employers may actually prefer someone with a fresh mind who is willing to take on anything rather than constraining themselves to a certain subset of engineering.

If you come across a job posting you really like, but feel you don’t meet all qualifications, apply anyway! Hiring managers generally have the mindset that they can train new employees with the skills they need to get the job done, but they can’t instill a passionate response out of someone who doesn’t seem enthusiastic about the job. Doubting yourself is what will really sabotage your chances at getting a job. Some employers actually like hiring underqualified students because they want to see them grow and become proficient at a skill.

It is very important that you DO NOT LIE ON YOUR RESUME! If the job is asking for somehow with a lot of .net experience, don’t say you fit that description if you have had one introductory class in it. If you have seen it before, it is safer to saw you are a novice or have exposure to that skill, rather than are proficient. Some interviews are technical, and will require you to demonstrate your abilities right there on the spot. It will become very clear to the employer if you lied on your resume at that point, which will not increase your employability.

Remember, companies don’t hire people, people hire people. Go to an in-person resume critique or visit the Centre for Career Action (CECA) and attend one of their many workshops.

Resume Guidelines

While you have a lot of freedom on what you can do with your resume, here are some basic headings to get you started:

  • Summary of Skills/Summary of Qualifications/Skills Summary
  • Work Experience/Professional Experience/Relevant Experience
  • Volunteer Experience
  • Projects
  • Education
  • Hobbies/Interests

For more examples, see our example resumes.

First you want to look at the job posting. Almost all jobs will include a description of skills their ideal candidate has, so use it! Doing a company search and including relevant words can also help. Nevertheless, here are some common buzzwords (use variations of these words):

  • Problem-solving
  • Independent/Self-motivating
  • Achieving
  • Conceptualizing

Thousands more can be found online. If you are ever unsure, try adding it and bring your resume in for a resume critique!

Remember, none of these words mean anything out of context! Describe work you’ve actually done to display these skills/attributes. Also, don’t use these words blindly.

Keep your resume as current as possible. If you have the choice to highlight something you did last week as oppose to 4 years ago, opt for the most recent achievement. You only have a limited number of pages to brand yourself, so don’t give employers a biography. That being said, if one of your past endeavours is very closely related to a job and it’s a bit further in your history, include it! Keep in mind that experienced professionals are not expected to go beyond the ten year mark. As co-op students we should half that, if not quarter that. Just remember there is such thing as too much on a resume.

Generally speaking, include your name, phone number, and email. List only one phone number and one email, as employers might get confused having the multiple options. You don’t need to include your home address, however if the co-op is international and you have a home there, it may be something to highlight to the employer as it assures them you won’t have relocation issues.

Other useful contact information include a link to your LinkedIn, GitHub, as well as a website link. These are good tools to highlight you specialities to employers.

That being said, on Jobmine you will be contacted through the webpage. Any phone/Skype interviews will be held at the Tatham Centre (TC) using contact information the university supplies to the employer.

Don’t just list duties you had to do in a past role. This simply says how anybody would have done the job. Tell employers what you left in your wake! What did you bring to the table?

Also, be sure to explain any acronyms you put on your resume. If the employer doesn’t know what it means, it is wasted space.

Grammar and spelling errors! Don’t send your resume out until you have checked it multiple times. Show your resume to others and ask them to look for any errors, be it in spelling, grammar, or even consistency! This can be a major error to even something as small as your bullet points. If you end each bullet point with periods and suddenly stop, this makes you inconsistent.

Go to POETS one day and ask a passing upper year to review your resume. They may catch a mistake that you wouldn’t have seen until after you sent it off to an employer.

Recruiters read for speed, and will generally dedicate ~30 seconds (that’s even a stretch!) to reading your resume. The hiring manager only needs to know what is relevant to your career. Most people will therefore agree that shorter is better.

That being said, a one-page resume that’s crammed with information is less desirable than a well-organized two-page resume that is easy to read and digest. If it looks like you can’t organize your thoughts clearly on your resume, this doesn’t send a good message to employers about your performance in the role you are applying for. It isn’t advisable to go over the two page limit though.

Generally it is a good idea to stick with sans-serif fonts (these include Arial, Verdana, etc.). They are very readable and cause less error in scanning software. These do not include little markings, curves, or hooks in their design and are sleek and clean.

It’s implied that you have professional references who can speak on your behalf. There is no need to put references or even the phrase “References available upon request” on your resume as it just takes up space. However, have those references ready to be sent over if they are asked for.


  • The Waterloo Engineering Society (US!)
  • Waterloo Students (upper years, classmates, profs, etc)
  • The Centre for Career Action (CECA)
  • Your Network (Don’t forget about your family and friends! They are there to review your resume.)

General Rule: The more eyes that look at your resume, the better it will get. Don’t take advice and immediately incorporate it without thinking if that is right for you.


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