Resume

Résumés 101

By Michelle Boon

Posted on February 22, 2021

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One of the first steps to finding a job in Canada is writing an excellent résumé. A résumé is an overview of your professional experience, skills, and achievements. They are usually submitted alongside a cover letter. When you’re finished writing your résumé, check out this how-to article about cover letters.

Résumés look different all over the world. This article will show you what to include in your résumé to impress Canadian employers.

Before you start writing, it’s helpful to save a copy of the job listing you are applying for. You can take a screenshot, copy and paste the text into a word document, or write down the points listed under “responsibilities” and “qualifications.” This will come in handy as you write your résumé and cover letter.

What does a Canadian résumé look like?

Canadian résumés are generally one to two pages long. Résumés for senior-level positions, however, can be three pages long. When submitting an application online, send your résumé as a PDF (.pdf) or Word document (.doc). These are the easiest formats for employers to access.

Your résumé should be well-organized and easy to read. Use headings and bullet points to organize your professional experience and skills. Before submitting it, pay close attention to detail. Make sure your font is consistent and large enough to read. It is recommended to use a professional font, such as Arial or Calibri, in 10- or 12-point size. Also make sure your margins are wide enough. A general guideline is to use 1-inch margins. Résumés crammed with text can be overwhelming to read. Some words may even be cut off if the résumé is printed.

Canadian résumés also look different depending on the job and the company. Relating your skills and experience directly to a job description shows that you fully understand the position. Changing your résumés for each application increases your chances of getting an interview but takes more time.
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Additionally, many companies use software to filter applicants based on keywords. Language copied from the job description will help your résumé stand out positively.

Starting at the top of the page, your résumé should include:

  • Your full legal name
  • Phone number
  • An email address

Set your name to a slightly bigger font to stand out. Be sure that your email address looks professional. Avoid nicknames and email addresses with lots of numbers, like newcomer1234@gmail.com. Try to get an email as close to your full name as possible. Additionally, use email services like Gmail or Outlook. These are the most commonly used and look the most professional.

Summary statement

When a hiring manager reviews your application, you want to get their attention from the start with a summary statement. A summary statement includes the skills and accomplishments that qualify you for the job. It is usually no longer than two to three sentences, and it usually appears at the top of your résumé. Make sure to highlight skills that match the job description and use keywords in your statement. If possible, quantify your skills with numbers.

Here is an example of a summary statement for a cashier résumé:

Precise and friendly cashier with 1+ year of experience delivering quality customer service. Thrives in a fast-paced work environment, moves through the check-out process with consistent speed and accuracy, and serves upwards of 100 customers in a regular shift.

Notice how the summary statement avoids pronouns. Avoiding “I” statements saves space and lists your skillset more efficiently.

If you don’t have a lot of previous work experience, a summary statement might not be necessary. You may benefit more from expanding your list of skills or highlighting your volunteer experience.

Work Experience

This section makes up the bulk of your résumé. Here you list previous job positions and detail what you did in those positions in four or five bullet points. This does not necessarily mean paid work. Volunteer positions are also worth listing if you gained useful skills or completed impressive projects.

There are many different ways to format this information, but for each position, you must always include:

  • Your job title
  • The company name
  • Start and end dates for the position you held

As always, use key words and phrases when describing previous work.

There are different ways to organize your work experiences:

Reverse chronological is the most common. In this format, you list your most recent position first and work backwards.

Functional résumés emphasize relevant experience regardless of when you gained that experience. This format is ideal if you don’t have much work experience or if you had periods of time where you were not working. Gaps in employment may raise concerns for hiring managers. The best résumés draw attention away from any time gaps and highlight your work and skills.

Education

If you have limited professional experience, you can list your education directly after your summary statement. If you have multiple post-secondary degrees, list your highest level of education first. You usually do not include high school education unless it is your highest level of education.

If you completed education outside of Canada, consider getting your degree assessed. Listing the Canadian equivalent to your qualification can help employers gage your skill level.

You can also mention specific courses you have taken if they are relevant to the job.

Skills

Include skills that match the job description. Use those keywords! You might want to mention skills like proficiency in Microsoft Office, customer service, communication, and leadership.

You don’t have to list all of your skills in a single section. Your summary statement and bullet points detailing your work experience also convey your abilities. To save space, include skills that you haven’t already mentioned.

As a newcomer, you have many valuable skills. Settling in a new country demonstrates resilience, initiative, and the ability to learn new things quickly. Canadian companies also value candidates who can speak a second language. Multilingualism is a unique ability that not everyone has. Definitely show off these skills on your résumé.

Other things to include

So, you included your name, personal contact information, work experience, education, and skills on your résumé. Still have space? You can round out your résumé with hobbies, publications, awards, or a project you worked on. Again, always try to keep it relevant to the job posting and the company you are applying to. For example, if a company values sustainability, you could include a blog post you wrote about reducing carbon emissions.

What not to include

Leave out any information about your personal life. Canadian employers value professional skills and experience. They are not allowed to factor personal identity into the hiring process.

Never include:

  • A photo of yourself
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Social insurance number
  • Religious or political views
  • The number of children you have

If you need help writing a résumé, here are some resources:

Monster.ca offers sample résumés from all different fields and job positions.

Settlement.org also offers a search engine to find services near you. Search “employment resource centre” or “settlement services” to find a help centre in your area. These centres often offer free résumé and cover letter workshops.

If you’re not quite ready to write your résumé, check out this article which provides an overview on how to gain work experience in Canada.

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