How to write a Canadian resume

Shelby Thevenot
Published: November 17, 2021

This is not another article telling you to spell-check your resume—but do spell-check your resume. We're going to cover the not-so-obvious tips for getting your foot in the door to your Canadian dream job.

The resume is only one step to finding a job in Canada—and it is not even the first. Before you sit down to type up your professional background, do some research on Canada's job market, and identify the companies that you would like to apply for. The Canadian government website offers some tools that can help you in your job search.

For this article, we are going to focus on optimizing your resume for Canadian employers. Keep in mind, employers will have their own preferences, and there are different best practices for every industry. We hope to give you a general idea of what you can include on a Canadian resume and what is best left out.

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5 don'ts of Canadian resume writing

Don't include a photo

Unlike some countries, in Canada it is not necessary to include a photo with your CV — unless you're an actor or a model. In general, the only information you need on your CV is what is relevant to the job posting.

Don't overshare

You do not need to include most personal information on your CV. At this point, the only personal information the employer needs is your name, and how to contact you. They do not need to know your age, what country you are from, your race, your religion, your marital status, or anything about your family. In fact, if asked these questions in an interview it might be illegal under Canada's human rights laws.

Also, your CV is not the place to disclose your Social Insurance Number (SIN). Employers do not need that until you are already hired for the job. Your SIN card is a sensitive document, and you should only share it when it is legally required.

Again, all you need to include in your CV is your relevant skills, experience, and basic contact information like name, phone number, and email. Mailing address is not always necessary, especially if you are searching for a job in a different city. If you want to demonstrate that you are within a commutable distance from the place of employment, then you may want to include it, but most job seekers find it just takes up precious space on the page.

Don't write too much

In terms of length, one page is ideal but having two is fine.

You want the person reviewing your application to see only your best, most relevant, and recent experience. If you are just starting your career and you do not have a lot of experience, you can include items that may be less relevant to the posting.

In general, just keep your resume short and sweet. You want it to be "skimmable." Recruiters should be able to get an idea of your experience without feeling like they have to read a novel.

Don't include references

If your employer wants references they will ask for them. A good practice is to ensure your reference knows that you are naming them and giving out their contact information. Talking to your reference beforehand also helps you determine if this person really is going to give you a glowing review or not.

Don't use an inappropriate email address

Recruiters do pay attention to these details, and they might judge you based on whatever email address you thought was funny in high school. Using an email address that contains your name does not signal any red flags.

5 dos of Canadian resume writing

Do tailor your application to the job posting

It takes longer, but you will often get better results if you tailor each resume to the position you are looking for rather than the "spray and pray" method where you send out a bunch of generic resumes.

Not sure what order you should present your experience? Which skills to include and which to leave out? Are you between word choices?

Look at the job posting. This is your first clue into exactly what the recruiter is looking for, and the language they want to see in your application.

The posting will list the job qualifications and then the nice-to-haves. Include your necessary skills front and centre on the first page of your resume, then put your "assets" after that.

Do quantify your achievements

Try to quantify your achievements with numbers, if you can. For example, if you were a manager, mention how many people you were responsible for overseeing. If you worked in sales, how many products did you sell? How much profit did you ring in every month?

Listing your specific achievements, in numbers that an employer can understand, will highlight your skills better than a generic statement. Saying you have a "good work ethic" means nothing. Demonstrating that you grew traffic to your company's website by 20% over one year, for example, shows a recruiter that you know what you are doing.

Do write in third person

Write in third-person format, so no "I," "me," or "my." Keep your sentences short and clear.

For your work experience, include the name and location of your company, and list a few of your responsibilities. Include the years you worked at the company, or if you worked for less than a year you can include the number of months. There is no need to explain gaps in employment on the resume. It will come up in the interview if the recruiter even asks.

For your education, list the school, program, credential, and dates. Depending on the position you are applying for, you can include your GPA as well, but it is usually not necessary. You can include your awards here, or in a separate "awards" section.

Do include unpaid work experience

You can include things like your volunteer experience, as long as it prepared you for the duties you will be performing at the job you are applying for.

Do include a cover letter

Even if they do not ask for it, even if they are going to skip it and head straight to your resume, it is always good to include a cover letter.

A cover letter is meant to embellish the resume, and show the recruiter why you are the best fit for their job opening.

We could write a separate article about cover letters— and we probably will. But here we will give you a general idea of how to write a cover letter.

Your cover letter should contain the company's contact information, as well as your contact information. It should be no more than a couple of paragraphs, and it should not take up a whole page.

You can write in the first person here. Your goal is to connect with the recruiter. Use their name only if you are 100% sure you have the correct name of the person who will be reviewing your application. If you do know their name, use it, but note that there is usually no need to include a prefix. These days, starting a letter with "Sir" or "Madame" is usually inappropriate, unless you know for certain that the recruiter reading your letter prefers that.

The first paragraph should introduce who you are and why you want this job. Be sure to name the position you are applying for. In the subsequent paragraphs, you will want to demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the position, referring to your previous relevant experience. You can go above and beyond by showing them how your involvement will solve their problems, and make them a better company.

Conclude by thanking them, and letting them know that you will be following up.

Bonus tips for your Canadian job hunt

You are dealing with more barriers than the average Canadian-born job-searcher, however, there are immigrant support services, and employment services that can help you in your journey. Immigration Canada has a list of free services on their website, but these are by no means an exhaustive list of everything that's out there. You can also check your provincial, or territorial websites, or search for employment services in your city.

As much as possible, try to ask people you know if they have any connections or know of any job openings. LinkedIn estimates at least 85% of jobs are found through networking. If you are in Canada and you do not know a lot of people, try industry networking events in your area, which can be found online through events websites, like Eventbrite, or on social media, like Facebook events or groups.

Also, if you think you are underqualified for a position that interests you, apply anyway. In the best-case scenario, you get the job and learn to become the candidate that they are looking for, or else you just do not get the job. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

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