Canada is a unique country that combines some traits you’ll find in the USA with some you’ll find in Europe.
This goes for resumes, too.
That’s why, when applying for a job in Canada, you have to make sure your resume conforms to Canadian application standards.
Naturally, you might be wondering - what does a Canadian resume even look like?
If you’re a foreigner, you’re likely drawing a blank trying to figure out what makes a Canadian resume different from the one in your own country. Even if you’re Canadian, you might still need to brush up on your resume writing skills.
Luckily for you, we’re here to show you how to write a compelling Canadian resume.
Here’s what we’re going to go over:
- Differences Between Canadian, US, and European Resumes
- Canadian Resume Formatting
- A Step-By-Step Breakdown on How To Write A Canadian Resume
And more! Let’s get started!
Canadian Resume Example
Let’s take a look at a Canadian resume example:
Here’s what this resume does right:
- Reverse-chronological format. This format highlights your most recent work experience first and is a recruiter favorite all around the world.
- Relevant contact details. This resume example highlights the candidate’s first and last name, phone number, email address, location, and LinkedIn URL.
- Captivating resume summary. The paragraph nested in the header summarizes the candidate’s most essential skills and accomplishments.
- Action words. The candidate uses action verbs and power words to describe work responsibilities.
- Bullet points. The resume leverages bullet points to appear easy to read, organized, and reader-friendly.
- Additional sections. Language proficiency, certifications, awards, and interests all give a holistic view of the candidate and add value to their application.
Free Canadian Resume Templates
Creating a resume from scratch is time-consuming work.
You need to twitch the margins, keep the fonts uniform, carefully align every element you add, and make sure it never spills over to page two.
But you can skip all that hassle if you use a resume template.
Novoresume’s templates are created in collaboration with recruiters and meet all job market requirements.
Any template you use can save you time and let you write your resume in minutes.
Canadian Resume Specifics
There are a few basic things to keep in mind when crafting your Canadian resume. First things first:
The terms resume and CV can be used interchangeably in parts of Canada. In Quebec, for example, both terms refer to a one or two-page-long summary of a candidate’s career that’s tailored to the job they’re applying for.
Outside of Quebec, however, a CV is different from a resume in that it’s far more detailed and appropriate for academic positions or specific senior-level applications.
Most job postings will ask for a resume unless explicitly stated otherwise.
Some other things to keep in mind about Canadian resumes include:
- Keep your resume one to two pages. A one-page resume is more than enough if you’re a recent graduate or new to the job market. Two-page resumes are recommended for seasoned professionals, and in certain cases, a three-page resume can be acceptable.
- Write your resume in the same language as the job offer. If you’re going for a position in Quebec and the advertisement is in French, then use French. Don’t assume they’ll accept a resume in English unless it’s explicitly written so on the job posting.
- Skip personal information and photos. Your resume should never give away your appearance, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, marital status, number of children, or any personal identification numbers.
- Don’t list references with your application unless the employer has requested them. Assumably, you can provide references if requested, so dedicating space on your resume when you’re not asked to is a waste.
Canadian Resume vs. US Resume
Both the USA and Canada prefer using resumes over CVs. In fact, Canadian and US resumes are almost identical.
The biggest difference? The language the document is written in.
You might be thinking - wait, I thought Canada used English?
Canada has two official languages - English and French. Both of these languages have standardized Canadian spellings, so that means they are not 100% the same as American English or European French.
Most of the terminology on your Canadian resume will be just about the same as it would be on its US equivalent. The biggest difference will probably be the added “u” to words like colour, and favourite, and the spelling of words like catalogue, centre, and cheque, as opposed to catalog, center, and check.
Before submitting your application, consider using a grammar checker like Grammarly or QuillBot to make sure your resume is up to par with Canadian spelling conventions.
Canadian Resume vs. European Resume
Typically, a resume in most of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific is referred to as a CV. The term resume in Canada refers to the same document that a CV refers to in Europe.
Both documents are meant to be one to two pages long, and list skills and experience relevant to the position you’re applying for. So in this sense, a European CV is actually different from a Canadian CV.
In Canada, a CV is an extensive document and is usually required in academic settings rather than for corporate job applications. The CV can be anywhere from two to ten pages long since it’s meant to list everything - from work experience to projects to publications.
European resumes also tend to be more detailed. For example, they can include details on high school education and grades, even if the candidate has a college degree. In Canada, that’s not the case. Your high school education is irrelevant if you have a higher degree of education.
The biggest difference between Canadian resumes and European ones is the amount of personal information you’re allowed to give away. For example, in Germany including a picture of yourself on your resume is common, but that’s absolutely not the case in Canada. There, your date of birth and nationality are a no-go.
These bits of information can be used to discriminate against you, so you’re supposed to keep them out of your resume as a precaution to give everyone a fair chance. Recruiters often consider resumes that overshare details of the candidate’s life (e.g.: race, age, date of birth, religion, political affiliation, etc.) unprofessional.
Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Canadian Resume
You’ve seen what a Canadian resume looks like. Now it’s time to write your own.
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry - we’ve here to help you get it right.
Just follow these steps:
#1. Use the Correct Format
The most popular resume format in Canada is the reverse-chronological format (which is also called the chronological format).
It’s so widely used that it’s expected by most recruiters. The chronological format puts your most recent work experiences first and then goes back in time.
Here’s an example of what it looks like:
One of the other formats is the functional resume format, also known as the skills-based resume format, which focuses on your key strengths and abilities. It’s recommended for career changers or recent graduates with little-to-no experience in the field they’re applying for.
Then, we have the combination resume format. As the name suggests, it mixes elements of both the chronological and functional format. This format gives equal attention to a candidate’s experience and skills. It provides a detailed skill summary and is a good choice for applicants who have a noticeable employment gap but plenty of work experience nonetheless.
#2. Follow These Layout Tips
If your resume looks cluttered and unorganized, the hiring manager is less likely to want to read it.
But paying attention to your resume’s layout can get you a better chance.
Stick to these formatting tips when building your Canadian resume:
- Have separate sections for all the information you want to add.
- Use a professional and easily legible resume font.
- Let your resume breathe - leave in enough white space so the contents are easier to read, by setting your resume margins to 1” on all sides.
- Save your resume in the correct document size. Canadian resumes use a standard North American letter size (8.5 x 11 inches), instead of the A4 size common elsewhere. You can do this easily in the Novoresume editor by choosing “Layout” in the top menu and choosing “US Letter Format”.
#3. List the Right Contact Information
Once you’ve sorted out your resume layout, it’s time to start filling in its content.
The contact information section is the first thing you should list. Here’s what to include:
- Name and surname
- Canadian phone number
- Address (City and Province)
- Professional email address
Optionally, you can include a link to your LinkedIn profile, a personal website, or an online portfolio. Just make sure they’re updated and relevant to the application.
#4. Write Your Resume Summary
Each resume only has a few seconds to catch a recruiter’s attention, so you have to make yours eye-catching and easy to read.
Here’s where a resume summary comes in.
Going at the top of your resume, a resume summary is a two or three-sentence-long summary of your career. It includes:
- Your professional title and years of experience.
- Two-three of your biggest achievements.
- One-two of your top relevant skills for the position.
If you’re less experienced, you can opt for a resume objective instead. A resume objective focuses on your skills and motivation to grow in your chosen field, rather than on prior experience and professional achievements.
When applying for a remote job for a company based in Canada, mention this in your resume summary. If you’re looking for a company that’s going to relocate you to Canada, make sure to mention that in your resume instead, so you don’t waste time for yourself or the hiring manager.
#5. Include Your Work Experience
It lets you expand on your past achievements and responsibilities, proving to the hiring manager you’re the best candidate for the job.
Here’s how you should structure this section:
- Start with your most recent job and go back in time. That said, don’t go back more than ten or 15 years ago, even if you’re a senior professional. The hiring manager doesn’t care about your job as a server from back in college.
- Start with your job title. The recruiter will immediately know if you have the necessary experience for the job from reading your job title.
- Add your company name and location. Sometimes you can even add a brief description of your former employer, particularly if it’s a smaller business that isn’t well-known.
- Include your dates of employment. There’s no need to be super detailed, so just stick to the mm/yyyy format.
- List your job responsibilities and achievements. Provide 4-6 bullet points for your most recent position and 2-3 bullets for older jobs.
Structuring your work experience the right way is only half the work. To stand out from the competition, you want this section to be as impressive as possible.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help with that:
- Reference the job ad, and focus on the top skills and qualifications required from candidates. Tailor your work experience around the skills that you do have to draw attention away from the ones you don’t.
- Focus more on achievements over day-to-day responsibilities. The hiring manager already has an idea of what your responsibilities for a certain job were. What they’re interested to know is what you achieved while doing it.
- Quantify your accomplishments as often as possible. Use the Laszlo Bock formula (“accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z”) to provide a timeframe, scale, and results for what you’ve achieved. e,g: “Increased annual revenue growth from 5% to 10% through the implementation of a financial roadmap.”
- Use powerful words and action verbs. Recruiters hate hearing generic phrases like “responsible for” or “team player,” so using the right vocabulary can help you stick out.
#6. Add Your Education
In Canadian resumes, the education section typically goes right under your work experience.
Here’s how you should format this section:
- Program Name. E.g: “B.A. in Computer Science”
- University Name. E.g: “Ohio State University”
- Years Attended. E.g: “08/2018 - 06/2022”
- Achievements (optional). E.g. “Minor in Linguistics”
It should look something like this:
B.A. in Computer Science
08/2019 - 06/2023
- Summa Cum Laude
- Minor in Business Analytics
Follow these tips to make this section pop:
- Don’t describe your high school education if you have a university degree.
- Mention courses you’ve taken that are relevant to the industry you’re applying to. (E.g: Statistics and Probability for a Data Analyst)
- Stick to a reverse chronological format when listing your degrees. E.g: A Ph.D. is listed above a Master’s Degree, which is listed above a Bachelor’s degree, etc.
- If you don’t have work experience, you can emphasize your academic background. Just list your education at the top of your resume instead of the work experience.
#7. Highlight Your Greatest Skills & Strengths
The skill section shows which candidates have the necessary expertise for the job, and no Canadian resume is complete without it.
Skills are typically divided into two categories:
- Soft skills consist of personality traits and characteristics developed in your personal and professional life. They involve communication skills, people skills, interpersonal skills, etc.
- Hard skills, or technical abilities, are skills you can gain from experience, training, or education. These can include computer skills or proficiency in the use of specific tools.
The trick here is, don’t list every skill you’ve ever learned, just the ones relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re going to be a graphic designer, your Photoshop skills are more important than your forklift certification. Recruiters want to know which skills make you the right candidate for them, not which skills make you the most well-rounded individual.
Scan the job description and jot down which of your skills the company is looking for. Then add them to your Canadian resume.
Just make sure you don’t focus solely on one type of skill over the other. A good application covers both soft skills and hard skills, depending on the job requirements.
Here’s an example:
#8. Leverage Additional Sections
If you’ve covered all the essential resume sections and have some space left, consider adding some optional resume sections.
These sections aren’t as vital as the ones we’ve covered so far, and they won’t do as much heavy lifting on your resume as your work experience, skills, or education.
However, they can help set you apart from candidates with similar work experience and skills as yours.
For example, if choosing between two equally qualified professionals, and the position includes collaboration with French-speaking employees or business partners, the hiring manager is likely to choose a candidate who can speak French.
Here are the additional sections you can include on your resume:
- Languages. Being able to communicate in more than one language gives you an advantage over other candidates.
- Internships. Adding any relevant internships to your resume shows you have some experience that’s prepared you for the job you’re applying to.
- Volunteer experience. Any experience volunteering is a great addition to any resume since it shows you’re a caring person who wants to give back to your community.
- Hobbies and interests. Certain hobbies or interests might give the hiring manager a look into who you are as a person, and work in your favor.
- Certifications and awards. Any relevant qualifications or awards, such as online classes, can go here.
- Publications. If you’ve published anything, ranging from magazines to research articles, you can add it to your resume.
- Projects. Interesting projects you’ve worked on can show the hiring manager your passion and dedication to your field.
#9. Include a cover letter
Cover letters are still an essential companion piece to any resume.
Adding a cover letter to your application shows the hiring manager you’re ready to take all the necessary steps to land the job.
Cover letters also complement resumes by allowing you to elaborate on things you don’t have the space for in your resume, such as certain achievements or employment gaps.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what your cover letter should include:
- Header. As with your resume, include your updated contact information with your name, surname, Canadian phone number, and professional email address. Be sure to include the employer’s contact information as well.
- Greeting line. Make sure you address the cover letter correctly with a greeting line like “Dear John Doe,” or “Dear Mr. Doe,”. If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, just use something like “Dear [Department] Team.”
- Introduction. Start off with a brief summary of why you’re writing the letter and which position you’re interested in. To grab the hiring manager’s attention, use your opening paragraph to also describe two or three of your top achievements.
- Qualifications and motivation. The body of your cover letter should emphasize your skills, experience, and enthusiasm for the position. Use it to explain exactly what makes you the right candidate and how you’re the right fit for the company.
- Closing paragraph. Wrap up your letter with a call to action and an official signature line.
Struggling to write your cover letter? Check out these cover letter examples to get inspired.
FAQs About Canadian Resumes
Do you still have any questions? Check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions about Canadian resumes.
1. How can I create a Canadian resume as an international student?
Education is highly valued in Canada and your credentials and relevant coursework will boost your resume, so long as you keep it relevant to the position you’re applying for.
When describing your education, you can also add the location next to your school or university’s name. E.g.: “Marmara University, Turkey” instead of just “Marmara University”.
2. Should the Canadian resume be in a PDF or Word file format?
Generally speaking, a PDF is the preferred format for resumes since it remains the same regardless of what operating system or device you use to open it. Moreover, it keeps your formatting and illustrations in place, and can’t be edited by accident when a recruiter mislicks.
Most career websites in Canada accept resumes as both PDF and Word files. Nonetheless, we recommend you have your Canadian resume exported to PDF unless the job ad specifically requests Word.
3. Do Canadians say CV or resume?
Depending on what part of Canada you’re in, people might say CV and resume interchangeably. However, outside of Quebec, these are two different documents.
Resumes are typically not longer than two pages and are meant to be tailored to the job you’re applying for. CVs, on the other hand, are far more detailed and appropriate for academic settings or specific senior-level applications.
4. What should you NOT include on a Canadian resume?
As an anti-discrimination measure, pictures of yourself and personal information, are legally prohibited from job applications. This means your nationality, age, gender, religion, immigration status, political affiliation, marital status, and social insurance number, have no place on your resume.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s taboo for applicants to include their salary expectations on a Canadian resume. Salary expectations should only be provided if requested by the employer, and even then, they are best included in a cover letter, never on your resume.
And that’s a-boot it for Canadian resumes!
Let’s recap the main things you need to know on the subject:
- Canadian resumes are essentially the same as US resumes. You won’t have any difficulties applying with a US resume for a position in Canada, but Canadian English is preferred over standardized American English.
- A Canadian resume is the equivalent of a CV in Europe and most other parts of the world. However, a CV in Canada is a much longer document that’s used mostly to apply for jobs in academia.
- Keep your formatting clear, and use separate sections and legable fonts when building your resume.
- When applying to jobs in Canada, you should never include anything that could be used to discriminate against you, such as information about your age, nationality, and immigration status, or pictures of yourself.