If you’re new to Canada, chances are the cultural norms and expectations are a little different than in your home country. That applies to writing a resume as well. To have the best chance of finding a great job, you’ll need to adapt your resume to match the expectations of Canadian hiring managers. Depending on where you live in Canada, your new resume will most likely need to be in English or French. As a rule, always submit your resume in the same language as the job description is posted. Below we’ve covered some important things you should know about adapting your resume for the Canadian job market.


don’t waste space with a heading that says ‘resume’

One rookie mistake we see people make often is to put a big heading at the top of their resume that says ‘resume.’ This is completely unnecessary and a waste of valuable space! Your name should be the only thing at the top of your resume. There’s no need to say ‘Joe Smith’s Resume’ or anything of the sort. Put your name in a slightly larger font than the rest of your resume text and leave it at that. Hiring managers know they’re looking at a resume, you submitted for a job after all! No need to state the obvious. Since you have limited space, make the most of it.

don’t include a photo

Though including a photo on your resume is the norm in some cultures, in North America, it’s generally considered unprofessional. Unless you’re providing a headshot for an acting or performance-based job, it’s best to avoid including a personal photo on your resume. A photo can lead hiring managers to rule you out because they don’t like your ‘look’ or because you don’t photograph well. That means they’re making a snap judgment before they even meet you! Since the way you look has nothing to do with whether or not you’re right for a job and there’s no benefit to including a photo, just don’t include one.

don’t share personal information

In Canada, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender, background or other personal factors. That said, it’s best to avoid including any personal information that could be used against you on your resume. It’s not relevant to the job and can be viewed as unprofessional or oversharing. Also, beware of companies that say they need this information before they can interview you. That’s not true. Only after you’ve accepted a job offer and are signing an employment contract may personal info be required. Some information that’s off limits on your resume:

  • your age or birthdate
  • your marital or relationship status
  • your religious or political affiliation
  • your country of birth or your immigration status
  • whether or not you have children
  • any personal identification (i.e. driver’s license number, social insurance number)

information you should include

Though every resume is a little different and what’s included changes from industry to industry, the fundamental sections that everyone should include on their resume are:

  • your full name
  • contact information such as your email and phone number, your address is optional
  • work experience and a short description of your accomplishments in each job
  • your post-secondary education, unless high school is your highest level of education, in which case you can include it

should you include a list of skills?

It depends. If your work is technical and you use a lot of different industry software or tools, it can be a good idea to list your technical proficiencies. However, there’s not necessarily a reason to create a skills section for soft skills (i.e. leadership, communication, etc.) as these are widely viewed as pointless by recruiters and hiring managers. One exception is if you have limited experience. In this case, a skills section can help add some depth to your resume.

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use reverse chronological format

This is the standard way resumes are formatted in North America, and it’s what recruiters will expect to see. If you aren’t familiar with reverse chronological formatting, it requires listing your newest experience first and your oldest experience last. Also make sure to include the date range with each job and educational program on your resume. You should include the month and year of your start and end dates.

get your education assessed for canadian equivalency

If you obtained your education outside of Canada, get an official assessment to compare your education against Canadian standards. Include this information on your resume to help Canadian hiring managers understand the knowledge and level of experience you bring to the role. In Canada, the official government educational assessment program is Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). There’s no official program to assess work experience, however, you can check the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list to see if your work experience is valid in Canada.

list accomplishments, not duties

In some countries, your resume is a simple list of your work experience with very little added detail. In North America, you’re expected to highlight your strengths and accomplishments and sell yourself on your resume. It’s not enough to list your day-to-day duties. Hiring managers expect you to show the impact you had, rather than simply list your responsibilities. For instance, instead of writing ‘created weekly reports for clients’ consider ‘created detailed weekly reports for our biggest client, finding ways to further optimize their budget.’ Though the underlying responsibility is the same, the second one sounds a lot more impressive!

keep your resume under 2 pages

Though some countries welcome or expect lengthy resumes, Canada isn’t one of them. Most Canadian recruiters will expect resumes to be 2 pages or less. In fact, some hiring managers refuse to read resumes that are longer. So do yourself a favour and limit yourself to 2 pages. If you’re a student or have limited experience 1 page is even better. Also, don’t try to pack in more text by shrinking the text size or margins. Play it safe and keep standard margins and a 12-point font.

proofread your resume carefully

Proofreading your resume is an absolute must, particularly if you’re writing it in a language that isn’t your first language. It’s easy enough for someone who speaks the language fluently to make spelling and grammar mistakes, so when you’re less familiar with the language you’re writing in, spellchecking and proofreading become even more essential. Don’t rely on your computer’s spellcheck, either, as these tools are not perfect. If you can, ask someone who’s fluent to proofread for you and ensure your resume is flawless. Typos or other mistakes can be a red flag to recruiters, and some hiring managers may even refuse to read a resume if they spot glaring mistakes. So it’s important that your resume is thoroughly checked over.

when in doubt, hire a professional resume writer

If you’re really lost when it comes to writing your resume for the Canadian market, hire a professional resume writer to do it for you. There’s no shame in needing a little help to perfect your resume! You can hire a professional for a relatively small fee, and it can quickly pay itself off if it helps you land a great job. However, beware of fraudsters, especially if you’re looking for a resume writer online. Verify their experience and look for reviews of their work on LinkedIn or other professional resources to ensure you find a legitimate writer or company. If paying someone isn’t an option for you, there are lots of not-for-profits that help new immigrants build essential career skills such as resume writing and interviewing. Look for organizations in your community.

If you’re having trouble breaking into the Canadian market, even if your resume follows all these guidelines, one option is to focus on temporary or contract roles. Whether it’s fair or not, some employers seek out workers with Canadian work history. Once you’ve built up your resume with a few jobs based in Canada, you might find that it becomes easier to connect with the roles you really want.

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