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For Job Seekers

Resume best practices in Canada

A helpful guide to support newcomers with creating a resume for the Canadian job market.

Published on

June 6, 2023


Searching for work can be overwhelming, especially for those who are new to Canada and unfamiliar with our labour market. A key first step for job seekers is having a current resume, but the format differs slightly from one country to the next.

To help newcomers prepare for their Canadian job search, we’ve summarized some resume tips and best practices below–both in terms of content and layout.

First things first: Resume formatting

Before you start writing, note the following:

  • Your resume should be a maximum of 1 to 2 pages
  • Use plain language and write in the first person (i.e., use “I” and “my”)
  • Use an easy-to-read font in a legible size (we recommend Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri, size 10 to 12, no smaller)
  • Use past-tense verbs (action words) to start each line of your job responsibilities/accomplishments (e.g., managed, generated, located, etc.)
  • If you’ve held multiple roles in one company, be sure to indicate the dates associated with each role

Step 1: Personal details

We understand that in some countries it’s common practice to include a photo, date of birth, marital status, driver’s license and/or passport information, and your ability to travel. In Canada, resumes don’t include personal details like these—we tend to stick to the basics:

  • Your first and last name – feel free to include the phonetic pronunciation in brackets (employers will appreciate this when reaching out). There’s no need to include middle names.
  • Your contact information – include a phone number and email address where employers can reach you. Some resume templates have a spot for a home address, but you don’t need to provide one, especially if you are living in a temporary location.
  • Languages spoken – specify which languages you speak and, ideally, whether you have both written and verbal fluency.

NOTE: You do not need to include a photo, although some templates will have a spot for it.

Step 2: Write your headline

Write a short headline for the top of your resume that says what you do for work and what type of job you want. For example, Professional Writer Specializing in Business Proposals OR Office Manager with 8+ years’ experience. You do not need to include your most recent job title.

Step 3: Write a resume summary

This two- to three-line statement highlights your professional experience and key strengths and goes directly under your headline. You don’t need to go into a lot of detail–you’ll expand on your work experience later in the document.

Questions to ask yourself when writing your resume summary: 

  • What am I naturally good at in my role?
  • Why do people want to work with me and come to me for help?
  • What type of work environment do I thrive in?
  • What am I most proud of in my career?

Here is a template to guide you:

[Your title / position] with X years of experience in the [blank] industry and a reputation for [list your top strengths or accomplishments]. Practical experience complemented by [list relevant education or training].  

Step 4: Highlight your key skills

This is a snapshot of your top skills. The average recruiter or hiring manager will spend less than 30 seconds reviewing each resume, so you need to catch their attention. Think of this section of your resume as the hiring manager’s “checklist” and your first chance to “sell” yourself. Depending on the resume template you choose, this section will either appear as a sidebar or above your work experience.

Briefly list things like your technical skills and/or software knowledge in bullets, rather than full sentences. 

Tip: Be sure to update this area of your resume to match the required skills listed for every job you’re applying for. This will help automated applicant tracking systems (ATS), which scan resumes for keywords, identify you as a candidate for the hiring manager to consider.

Step 5: Outline your work experience

This is the most important part of your resume. Starting with your most recent job, list each role you’ve had, including:

  • Job title
  • Company name
  • Dates when you worked there (years, not specific dates)
  • Two to three lines describing your job duties in sentence format
  • Top accomplishments and duties (bullet format)
  • Also include quantifiable results (numbers to support the impact of your efforts), awards or recognition, and/or anything you are particularly proud of accomplishing.

Step 6: List your education, training, certifications, etc.

Next, list your education (anything after high school) and/or any professional certifications or designations. You don’t need a ton of detail here. List the educational institution, the name of your degree or diploma, and the year you obtained it. Only include certifications that relate to the job you’re applying for and are recent (last 5 years).

As a reminder, you can have your academic credentials assessed using services such as WES (World Education Services) and the University of Toronto’s Comparative Education Service.

Step 7: Write your final statement

End your resume with the simple statement: References available upon request. You don’t need to provide reference names and contact details on your resume.  

Should you list hobbies / personal interests?

We understand it’s common practice in some countries to include a few hobbies and personal interests, but in Canada, this kind of information is optional. If you have room on your resume, feel free to add some short bullets listing hobbies/interests that might help spark a conversation with a potential employer, such as your interest in music, sports, arts, and volunteering – anything that demonstrates your personal strengths and abilities.

FREE resume resources

To help you format and review your resume, here are a few FREE resources:

  • Canva:  resume templates
  • Google:  if you have a Gmail account, log in to Google Docs, click template gallery and scroll down to see resume templates
  • MS Office:  resume templates (bonus tip: many libraries will have access to Microsoft office for free!)
  • Grammarly:  software that reviews spelling, grammar and tone
  • Jobscan:  helps optimize your resume for keyword searches used by applicant tracking systems
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