Canadian Resume Writing Tips

Canadian resume or CVsThe purpose of a resume or CV is to grab the reader's attention immediately so they call you for an interview.

By grabbing the attention of the reader you ensure that your resume is immediately put into the "call this person" file and not the junk file.

Whether the reader is a Human Resources Manager, a Recruiter, a friend, a contact or the actual hiring manager, people usually scan a resume and make a decision whether to call that person in under 30 seconds, so you must get their attention quickly.


Cultural Differences in Resume Writing Format

CVs or resumes, as they're more commonly called in Canada, are different here than they are in other parts of the world, Europe and Asia in particular. While it is a normal practice for Europeans to have plenty of personal information on their resume such as age, marital status, kids' ages, health status and a picture of themselves, this is not standard practice in Canada.

American resumes are quite similar to Canadian resumes. The one thing that does give away an American resume is a "head shot" picture at the top of the first page. Many Canadian managers feel this is a little cheesy.


Resume Writing Tips: Format

> Don't bother adding "Resume" or "CV" at the top of the first page. It's already obvious that this document is a resume.

> Keep it short and easy to read.  Anything over 2 or 3 pages is considered by many in Canada as a bad resume.

> People don't care what you were doing from 1982 to 1985 when you were 18 years old so leave your summer jobs during university off your resume.  However, if you lack numerous years of professional experience you need to make your student or summer jobs sound like they set you up for the work force.

> To make up for your lack of professional experience focus on how other aspects of your background make you a good candidate (i.e. athletics, arts/music, volunteering and academic achievements).  There is nothing you can do to hide your lack of experience, but what you can do is get across the message that you're organized, hard working and have a positive attitude.  

> Keep your resume relevant to the job you're applying for. It should be organized chronologically from most recent experience to the oldest.


Resume Writing Tips: Basic Personal Information

> A Canadian resume should be simple and contain basic personal information such as: name, home and cell phone number, email address and your home address (if relevant).

> If you're still using a cell/mobile number from another province or country, change it immediately. This will drastically increase the likelihood of getting a call and an interview.


Joe Smith

#895, 1435 Quebec Street

Vancouver, BC


Cell: 778 999 9999

> Keep your email address professional. Having an email such as crazymikebeerhog is fine for your buddies on your hockey team but not for job applications.  

> Your education can either go before your career history or at the end of your resume, depending on which is more relevant to the position for which you're applying.

> Be honest and accurate with your education. Employers will verify your education so don't say you have a degree if you still have a few credits left.  Simply say "in progress" and provide estimated completion dates if relevant.


Resume Writing Tips: Career Objective Statement

A brief career objective statement should follow your personal details. This sentence should be short, to the point, and tailored specifically to the job you're applying for.

There's nothing worse than reading a resume that states that a person's objective is to become a Key Account Manager, when the job they're applying for is in IT or health care.  It becomes obvious to the reader that you're simply sending generic resumes to every opportunity you see online. The same rule goes for cover letters. While not entirely necessary in most people's eyes, they can be effective if written properly.  The most important thing to remember is keep it to the point and tailor it specifically to each opportunity you're applying for.

Good Example:

Objective: To find a Technical Sales Position with a reputable, stable organization, a company where I can successfully continue my career.


Resume Writing Tips: Career History

Under career history, the reader wants to see the company name, the dates you worked there (make sure these are accurate) and then a few bullet points highlighting achievements and any awards or accolades you've won.

What the reader doesn't need is an entire paragraph explaining what the company does and how long they've been in business. That can be discussed during the interview if relevant.  Keep it brief and use bullet points to make it easier to read. Don't use "I" to describe your responsibilities, and try to use action-oriented words.

You don't need to list your references on your resume. When an employer is ready to check your references they'll request a document with your references contact details.

Good Example: Jun 07 to Sept 09   ABC Group Construction - Vancouver, Canada

Western Sales Manager - Canada

Increased regional sales by 29%
> Managed new products introduction for Canadian market
> Developed relationship with key engineering consultancies / specifiers (Stantec, RJC, Glotman Simpson etc.)
> Provided  training & technical support to specifiers and end users

Bad Example:

April 06 to August 08    Cola Cola Bottling Company - Vancouver, Canada

Account Manager, Vancouver   

Cola Cola is a market leading consumer goods company that employs 392,800 people and sells their products in over 230 countries worldwide.

As an Account Manager, I was responsible for selling Cola Cola products in my territory.
> I built relationships with my customers to ensure an increase in sales year after year.
> I was responsible for promoting and selling multiple product lines to my customers.


Highlight Your Accomplishments

Depending on what you do for a living and what stage you're at in your career, your resume should tell the reader not just what your job responsibilities are, but what you actually accomplished during your time there.


> If you're in sales, people want to see numbers.  Give the reader quantifiable facts and figures to prove your success.  

> If you're in social work, describe the impact your work has had on the community.  

> If you're an accountant, show how you've saved your firm money or increased the bottom line.

> If you're changing industries all together, focus on your transferable skills and how they could be applied to a new industry. If you're a Manager from the retail industry and are looking to move into business services, focus on your leadership skills and how people management has similar challenges in retail as in business services.

Let the reader know your achievements and how you can help their business by using action words (i.e. achieved, budgeted, upgraded, verified, qualified, implemented, inspired, etc). These words show the reader you get things done. The challenge is to do this without getting too long.

Most importantly, be honest! If you exaggerate your skills and experience and then are not able to do the things you claim when hired, you won't make it past the first week and then you'll be back to job hunting once again.

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