You’ve been sweating bullets over your resume that you will be handing out to prospective employers in Canada. You’ve gone over your experience and work history and education and tried your absolute best to put together an overwhelmingly positive account of your professional or vocational life.
Stop. Ask yourself this before you go any further:
Why am I writing this resume?
To get a job interview. A. Job. Interview. Not just any job interview. A job interview with a specific company for a specific position. Everything in your resume has to be contribute in a focus and user-friendly way towards that goal.
Now ask yourself this:
Who is Reading My Resume?
I.e. who is the “user” you want your resume to be friendly for?
While it may be the owner of a small company, most likely it will be someone in human resources who has to work through a stack of interviews and will spend less than a minute – perhaps 10 to 20 seconds – on your resume. They have a problem. They need to fill an opening. If they don’t find someone who can successfully fill an opening, their own jobs might even be at risk.
How can you help them? Show them quickly and clearly how you will solve that problem:
- Once you have listed contact information and written up your profile, which should list your core strengths and competencies in a few sentences, you should then begin your work experience with your most relevant jobs.
- Highlight your work experience that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you have a number of years of work experience you don’t have to list every single job. The HR person won’t even read your about first telemarketing job in Mumbai 12 years ago. They will have already decided if you’re worth inviting to an interview.
- By all means use keywords that may help with scanning algorithms etc. but make sure they’re relevant keywords to the industry and job you’re hoping to land. Do NOT keyword stuff your resume with exaggerated, general-purpose language. That will land your resume in the reject pile.
- Link your keywords to specific achievements in those jobs you decide to highlight. Or in volunteer work you have done that you feel is relevant to the position.
- Finally, always proofread your resume several times, or have a professional proofread it. Any mistakes, even sloppy punctuation, will be picked up and will warn the employer that you don’t pay as much attention to detail as you should.
This means researching the job you’re applying for and reading as much as you can about what your responsibilities in your new job would actually entail. Go to Job Bank. Look at industry blogs. The better your research, the better you can customize your resume and get that recruiter’s attention. You can be sure that will take a little time. Do it. Take the time.
In other words, you should have a resume customized for every job you apply for in Canada. While that sounds like an annoying amount of preparation, it makes a difference. And here’s how to make the process of customizing your resume for each individual job application a little easier:
- Build a Master Resume, one that includes anything and everything you feel is relevant to your prospects as a potential employee in Canada for any job you might apply for. You’ll have to make sure the format is Canadian, which we get into below.
- Once you have pulled together all your relevant information, you can then fairly easily adjust and trim your Master Resume to produce individual customized resumes for specific job applications. If you’re not sure it’s relevant for a specific job, then it’s best to leave that information out when customizing your resume. A good resume is 1 to 2 pages long. Remember that.
Let’s now look at how to format a Canadian-style resume. There are two formats you can use:
- Chronological resume: this lists your work experience starting with your most recent position and moving back towards your first employment. It is generally suitable for older applicants with a lot of work experience.
- Functional resume: this lists your work experience by type of experience. Because it’s not chronological, it is a better format if:
- You have large gaps in your work history.
- You took time off for family reasons.
- You don’t have much work experience because you graduated recently.
Now let’s analyze this chronological resume.
What’s missing from the Contact Information shown above?
- Your date of birth.
- Your gender.
- Your parent’s names.
These are types of information that do NOT have to go in your contact information and in fact should NOT be included in a Canadian resume. Your contact information only needs the following as is shown above:
- Your name.
- Your address in Canada: This can be tricky if you still haven’t moved to Canada and want to send out resumes before you arrive in the country. If you have family or friends in Canada that you’ll be staying when you first arrive, try using their address, as long as you contact them to let them know.
- Your phone number: try if at all possible, to use a Canadian cell phone number if you can.
- Your email address: It should be professional looking which means no silly nicknames and preferably your own name in the address making it easy to remember and use.
- In most cases, in a Canadian resume, you do NOT need to include a photograph of yourself.
- Your social media profile – especially if you have one at LinkedIn – is often appreciated as well, although this may depend on what type of job you’re applying for.
From just observing how your contact information on your chronological (and functional) resume should look, it is fairly clear that you should NOT send out resumes too early. In other words, if it’s going to be many weeks or even months before you actually arrive in Canada, don’t send out your resumes.
Employers make a quick decision in general and often will then wish to contact you immediately. If your contact information is confusing and has addresses and phone numbers from abroad, they may likely not bother following up for an interview. If possible, it may be best to wait until you arrive in Canada and have a Canadian cell phone number and mailing address before you start sending out resumes.
The Summary of Qualifications is vital and that’s what will help your employer decide whether to keep reading or not. It should be brief with bullet points listing your qualifications and skills that make you an asset for that job.
Next, look at the Professional Experience section. Look carefully at the verbs used. While this is merely a generic sample, you should use proactive and positive verbs such as some of the ones used above:
- Conducted, designed, investigated, supervised, created, answered, solved, maintained, etc.
- Use clear and direct language with action verbs.
- Leave out personal pronouns. Use third-person narrative, as in the resume above.
- Don’t explain why you left a job. Focus on why you took on a new job. Keep it positive.
- Don’t list personal hobbies unless you feel they are directly relevant to your work experience and to the job you’re applying for. In general it’s best to leave them out.
- Don’t put the words “resume” or “CV” on your resume and don’t put the date you created the resume.
- As well, you don’t need to sign it. It’s not a contract, after all. That will come later, hopefully.
In the education section, you should always point out if you have had a credentials assessment. If you have applied to come to Canada through a program like Express Entry, you almost certainly will have had to obtain a credentials assessment of any degree, diploma, or certificate obtained abroad. Make sure to mention this.
List Volunteer work, especially if you feel it is relevant to the job.
Do NOT list references, but you may indicate that you can produce them if a potential employer is interested in following up on you.
Remember, your resume will be looked over in perhaps 30 seconds or so. Or much less if it’s lousy.
Now it’s time to consider the second format which lists what skills and abilities you have rather than providing a timeline of your work experience. As mentioned above, this format is useful for people with gaps in their working life as well as recent graduates with less working experience.
Let’s analyze an example of a functional resume, one that focuses on the skills you have acquired rather than first listing your jobs in chronological order:
What strikes you immediately about this functional resume?
Look at the work experience of our man from Lethbridge. He went from Assistant Manager at a branch of a major Canadian bank, to a low-level employee at a Fed EX office. Did he get fired? Did he quit in perhaps less-than-ideal circumstances? He doesn’t say because his functional resume focuses on what he has achieved since then, including the degrees he has acquired more recently. And he’s ambitious, looking for a career in politics or administration with the provincial government of Alberta.
The functional resume is way to tell the story you need to tell to get that job, even when your past work history is not letter-perfect. It presents your skill set in a clear and concise manner and relegates your work history to 2nd place, if you will. For many of us at certain points in our working lives, a functional resume is often the best resume to use for certain job applications.
So remember, a Canadian-style resume is brief, to-the-point, and transparent and is always customized to the particular job you are using it for.