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Your resume is not enough

  • Many BE members come onto the forum, say they've emailed their resumes to dozens (or hundreds) of prospective employers, and have not heard back from even a single one.
  • Please understand that simply sending a resume off to hundreds of employers is not enough.
  • Employers get heaps of junk mail, junk email, and junk fax. Recruiters can receive 500 resumes a day.
  • In addition to that, Canadians are very much into personal contact -- phone calls and face to face meetings.
  • While your resume needs to be impeccable, understand that it is only one of several elements in the job hunting process.
  • Certainly you should send your resume to prospective employers, but you need to follow up with phone calls (or even make phone calls in advance).
  • The way in which you should present your resume and your covering letter to a prospective employer is covered in the Wiki article called Hiring Culture. This article covers the phone call you should make before or after sending your resume and covering letter, and it covers many other nuances of the Canadian employment market.
  • To understand the importance of personal contact in the Canadian employment market, please take special note of the Wiki article on Networking.
  • It will stand you in good stead if you read the entire series of Wiki articles about the Job Hunting Process in Canada.
  • In most cases your entry to Canada and your viability once you're in Canada depend on your understanding of how the employment market in Canada works.

Marketing yourself

All applicants need resumes

  • In Canada employers expect resumes from all job applicants, even people who are applying for jobs at coffee shops.
  • So, regardless of the job for which you are applying, you must have a resume (pronounced rez-you-may).

Convince the employer that hiring you is a good investment.

Why should they hire you over someone else? This is a particularly big challenge if you are hoping for some help with the immigration process and work permits.

Tell the employer what makes you special.

You should be able to answer this question that is in the prospective employer's mind (either consciously or subsconsciously), "When there are X number of people available, why should I hire you?"

Convince the employer that you are credible.

  • When you are marketing yourself from a long distance, you have to work even harder to establish your credibility.
  • Qualifications that a Canadian employer recognizes and understands add to your credibility.
  • Job titles and job descriptions that a Canadian employer recognizes and understands contribute to your credibility. If you say you're a panel beater, a Canadian employer won't have the foggiest idea what you're on about. You need to say that you're an autobody repairer.

Marketing yourself on paper

  • Remember that, depending on the industry in which you work, it may be in your interests to produce other presentations on paper as well.
  • For example, in some industries there may be an advantage to assembling a portfolio of your work. This would apply to occupations such as graphic artist, web designer, display consultant. Any occupation that is very visually oriented.
  • If you want to create a portfolio and do not know how to do so, you may want to consult this web page entitled How To Create An Awesome Work Portfolio.
  • As you will read further down the page in connection with a resume (CV), it is ideal to customize your portfolio to the individual employer to whom you are presenting it. That demonstrates your commitment, and contributes to your credibility.
  • Proof read and read again. Then get two other people to proof read it for you. One spelling mistake can be the difference between an interview and the shredder for your resume.
  • When you write your letters and a resume, it is polite to use the grammar and spelling of the nationality sending it to. In this case Canadian English and spellings. Microsoft Word has a Canadian dictionary in it. Get someone who knows to check it if you are unsure. If you cannot be confident doing this, use what you are familiar with. Better that than make mistakes.
  • It is all in the details. Especially so if you are after a job that requires attention to detail.
  • Don't rely on spelling checkers. You may get the spelling right, but the wrong word.

Resume versus Letter versus Interview

  • There are some pieces of information that you should provide in your covering letter rather than in your resume.
  • There is some information that you should share in an interview rather than in your written documents.
  • The only time you should mention anything with respect to your immigration situation in your resume is a brief reference to concrete authorisation, if you have it. For example, you may be the spouse of someone who has obtained a work permit and who belongs to the O, A or B skill levels in the National Occupational Classification. Therefore you have received an open work permit. This means that you can accept any job in Canada, and your prospective employer does not have to apply for a Labour Market Opinion before offering you a job. In that case your resume could state, "Have open work permit authorizing me to accept any offer of employment in Canada."
  • Usually the Covering Letter is a better place to mention where you are in the immigration pipeline. It is in the covering letter that you can say you'll be in Toronto from November 15th to November 30th and would love to get together for a coffee (if you're requesting an informational interview) or would be available for a meeting (if you're requesting a more formal job interview).
  • You resume should list only the concrete accomplishments that you have achieved to date.
  • If you already are enrolled in studies, it is fine to mention them in your resume. Let's suppose, for example, that you have earned 50% of the credits towards an MBA. It is perfectly all right to mention that in your resume, because it is a measurable achievement that you already have accomplished.
  • If, however, you are planning to undertake retraining or further education, but have not yet started the course, do not mention it.
  • If you have plans for the future, it may be appropriate to discuss them during a job interview, but it's not appropriate to mention them in a resume.

Avoid abbreviations and acronyms

  • It is dangerous to use abbreviations and acronyms in a resume.
  • The person who initially reads your resume may not be a specialist in the area in which you work.
  • In addition to that, British terminology may be different from Canadian terminology.
  • Abbreviations for degrees are the same in Canada as they are in the UK (B.A., B.Sc., MBA, PhD).
  • Other than abbreviations for degrees, which are all right, avoid abbreviations and acronyms like the plague.

Assume ignorance of immigration process

  • Many Canadians don't have the foggiest idea about the immigration process.
  • Assume that the person who is reading your resume and covering letter is entirely ignorant of the immigration process.
  • Express the information about your position in the immigration pipeline in a way in which an inexperienced person would understand it (and in most instances your covering letter would be the appropriate place to mention it).
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use abbreviations and acronyms for immigration terminology. It is entirely possible that the person who is reading your covering letter and resume has no idea what PR, PNP or WP mean.
  • There are times when one person in a company knows something about the immigration process and another person does not. Your covering letter and resume may be passed from one person to another. In writing your covering letter and resume, use the concept of the lowest common denominator. Write them so that the most ignorant person in the chain can understand them.
  • But, with that having been said, remember that your resume and your initial covering letter should keep statements about your position in the immigration pipeline to a minimum.

Chronological vs Functional Resume

Chronological resume

  • If you have spent your whole career in the same field and if you’ve been steadily employed, your work history lends itself to being described by a chronological resume.
  • List your jobs in reverse order.
  • Start with your current or most recent job, and work backwards.

Functional resume

  • If you have changed careers or have gaps in your career, the standard, reverse chronological resume may not showcase your experience to the best advantage.
  • In that case, you are better off using a functional resume.
  • Functional resumes sometimes are called by other names, for example, skills based resumes.
  • By whatever name it is called, a functional resume highlights the transferable skills you have acquired, and it downplays the timeline of your work history.
  • You can find examples of functional resumes on Susan Ireland’s website.
  • See how she approaches employment gaps, job hopping, career changes, and other situations.

Sample Resumes

  • Please look at sample resumes to see how they are laid out.
  • An excellent website for looking at sample resumes is Susan Ireland Resumes.
  • The Job Boom website also provides excellent advice on writing resumes as well as sample resumes.
  • On the Canadian government's Job Bank website there is an online form into which you type information about your current and previous positions. The website then automatically builds a resume from the information you have provided.

Resume Content


This is an optional, one-line statement describing the position you are seeking. It is quite common in North American resumes. Michael Masterson, a self-made multi-millionaire, recommends against including your objective in your resume. He says that your covering letter and your resume should not be about what you want, but about what your customer (the prospective employer) wants. Naturally, you need to list your previous jobs on your resume. But the whole objective of doing that should be to demonstrate to the prospective employer that, if he hires you, he will get a high return on his investment and that you are credible. The focus of your resume, and even more so your covering letter, should be to show the prospective employer that you understand what his problems are, and that you are the person to solve those problems (or at least one of those problems). Therefore your correspondence to the prospective employer should concentrate on your tangible, quantifiable accomplishments.


  • This is an optional, brief list of the most important attributes you can bring to a job.
  • Keep it to between 3 and 6 bulleted points.
  • Other acceptable heading titles include Summary of Qualifications, Strengths or Key Attributes.

Team worker

Dedicated and hard working

Problem solver & creative thinker

organised & attention to detail

Professional Experience

  • You also may call this Career History, Career Experience, or Summary of Experience.
  • If you are using the more common chronological format, list your jobs in reverse order (most recent job first, and working backwards from there).

Dec 2008 - July 2009 During this period I have working full-time with in a local government run museum & art gallery in two part-time roles. Exhibition Officer, programing exhibitions in line with the organisations guidelines. this involves including, an educational, where possible exploring heritage and an opportuntiy for people to contribute adding their memories,

Merchandising Officer, managing two small museum shops plus supplying libraries with heritage publications.

July 2007 - Dec 2009 Merchandising Officer, (managing two small museum shops plus supplying libraries with heritage publications. Acting Exhibition Officer programing exhibitions (covering for maternity leave)

Nov 2006 - July 2007 Merchandising Officer, Full-Time managing two small museum shops plus supplying libraries with heritage publications.

Dec 05 - Nov 06 Senior Heritage Administrator Supporting museum officers with admin tasks such as minute taking, letter writing, impilmenting systems for record keeping, managing administration of events or conferences, purchasing, invoicing and general finance, contributing to team meetings and general support such as helping with contacting other departments such as information technology with faults or following up payment.

Job title

For each job, provide a heading and sub-headings that state

  • Company Name - Type only one company name. It is confusing for the reader if you type two company names. Do not type Ace Petroleum / Stellar Oil. If you worked for a company that was bought out by another company, use the most recent company name. If you must mention both names, type Ace Petroleum and its predecessor, Stellar Oil.
  • City
  • Province (if job was in Canada), State (if job was in USA), Country (if job was in UK or elsewhere)
  • Position Title (provide a job title that is familiar to Canadians)
  • Dates (it is preferable to provide months and years rather than just years)

Job description

  • Devote the most space to your current or most recent job. You will have progressed to the most senior level of your career in that job, and it deserves the most detailed description. Keep the descriptions of your earlier, more junior jobs brief. A junior and/or entry level job that you held way back in the past can be reduced to a single line or even just a job title.
  • If you have worked for one company throughout your career, you must still break your career down according to the various positions you've held.
  • If your current or most recent job is not the most senior or impressive job you can quote, your career may not lend itself to being described in a chronological resume. You may want to consider a functional resume.
  • It would be useful to introduce the description of each job by stating very briefly the nature of the organization for which you worked. Was it a 400-room hotel? Was it a police force that served a city of 3 million? Was it the head office of a retail chain with branches throughout the UK? Was it a multi-national oil company? Remember that, even if a company's name is a household word in the UK (e.g., Tesco), there are many Canadians who have never heard of it. A Canadian who reads your resume may not be aware, unless you mention them, what products or services your employer provides.
  • Use verbs instead of nouns whenever possible. Action words make you sound stronger. "Recruited computer programmers," has a more active ring to it than "Recruitment of computer programmers." For inspiration, look at this list of Power Words.
  • Include as many quantifiable accomplishments in your work history as you can. Anything that demonstrates the size of the budget that you were responsible for, the number of people you supervised, or the number and complexity of the operations you performed, sounds concrete. For example, a person might say, "Managed a group of shelf stockers," but it would be more powerful to say, "Managed a group of twenty shelf stockers."
  • If you mention an amount of money (e.g., the size of the budget for which you were responsible), consider expressing the amount in Canadian dollars (e.g., $50,000).
  • If you can do so, it is even more compelling to quote improvements that you made and problems that you resolved on behalf of your employers. An effective formula to use is C-A-R. Describe the Challenge the company or department was facing, state the Action you took, and mention the Result you obtained.
  • Many people make warm, fuzzy, motherhood statements in the Personal Profile or Key Attributes part of their resume, but fail to back them up with specific examples. For example, one of their points under Key Attributes might be their dedication to quality. Yet, when it comes to their Career History, they fail to mention even a single instance in which they have improved the quality of their company's products or services.
  • Be creative. Although you should tell the truth on your resume, you do not have to confess everything about your life. For example, when you arrived in Canada, you may have done a stint in a job that was inconsistent with the rest of your work history. You may be a computer programmer in “real life,” but you may have cleaned hotel rooms or worked at a gas (petrol) station for a couple of months to keep the wolf from the door. You do not have to ‘fess up to a temporary job that you did in an emergency and that was outside your normal pattern of employment. You can omit it from your resume.


  • List the degrees and diplomas you have earned.
  • High School:
    • Most Canadians don't understand what A levels and GCSEs (or Scottish Highers) are.
    • If you have A levels or GCSEs, simply say you have a high school diploma, and give the date at which you finished what Canadians would call high school (A levels or GCSEs).
    • Type it as High School Diploma – 1992.
    • Do not provide two dates for your completion of high school (A levels and GCSEs).
    • Canadians have only one high school graduation, and they will find two dates very confusing.
    • Just state the date of your final high school qualification, whether that is A levels or GCSEs.
    • Do not state what subjects you took at high school. The last year of high school in Canada is grade twelve, which falls roughly half way between GCSEs and A levels. Canadians take quite a few subjects in high school. If you mention just three A levels (say Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics), they won't understand why you did only three subjects at high school. They won't understand that the courses you did were the equivalent of the first year of university in Canada.
    • Besides that Canadians themselves do not list their high school subjects on their resumes. It is not customary. On their resumes they just say High School Diploma - 1992, or something like that.
    • So keep it simple. Just say High School Diploma - 1992.
    • If you want, you can provide a little more detail, e.g., High School Diploma - Dundee, United Kingdom, 1992.
    • If you have a degree or degrees, you may abbreviate them as you would in the UK -- B. Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., etc.
    • The abbreviations for degrees are the same in Canada as they are in the UK.
    • But abbreviations for degrees are really the only abbreviations that are safe to use on a resume.
    • Everything other than a degree should be typed out in full.

Professional Development

  • May also be called Continuing Education.
  • This list refers to career-related courses that you have undertaken while you’ve been working, after you've already received your basic qualifications (degree or whatever) for the work that you do.

Vocational Qualifications

  • Canadians don't know what abbreviations like HND and NVQ stand for. You should type the names of these courses out in full.
  • Type out these kinds of qualifications as a bulleted list.
  • Type the names of the courses out in full (National Vocational Qualification rather than NVQ, for example) and provide the Level Number and the name of the subject that was covered.
  • Although it is optional, it would be nice if you provided the name of the institution that granted you each qualification and the year in which you obtained that qualification.


  • May also be referred to as Professional Affiliations.
  • This list refers to professional or career-related societies, associations and other organizations to which you belong.
  • Such affiliations are valued in Canada.
  • If you have them, you absolutely should mention them on your resume.


If you have authored career-related books or articles, list them here.


If you have received career-related awards, list them here.

Computer Skills

  • Depending on the job you are seeking, it may be relevant to list the computer programs with which you are familiar, e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • If you are in a *technical* IT job, list the skills, the number of years of experience and when you last used it. If you used something for a really short time many years ago, omit it unless it is relevant to the job you are applying for. If it seriously dates you, omit it unless it is relevant to the job. This section should be on the front page, not take up more than half the page and should still allow you to start your work experience on the first page.

Referees / References

  • It is acceptable to end your resume with the statement, “References available upon request.”
  • Do not actually provide the references on your resume.
  • Have the references ready on a separate sheet of paper that you can hand over during an interview.
  • When Canadians ask for your references, what they want is a list of your referees' names and contact details. Many prospective Canadian employers phone people with whom you have worked in the past. The more critical the job, the more carefully they check your references (the more thoroughly they pick the brains of your referees).
  • If you are providing addresses and telephone numbers of overseas referees, follow the same rules as you followed in preparing your resume. That is, type the information exactly as the Canadian employer would have to use it. Remember, a North American has to dial 011 to get an overseas line. The UK's country code is 44. Drop the 0 (zero) at the beginning of the local area code. Remember that North Americans are used to seeing phone numbers arranged in groups of three or four digits and separated by dashes. So a British referee's phone number would look something like:
  • 011-44-113-243-2667

The breakdown of this number is as follows:

  • 011 = overseas line
  • 44 = UK country code
  • 113 = area code for Leeds (by way of example)
  • 243-2667 = referee's individual phone number (this just happens to be Marks & Spencer's number, which is being used for purposes of illustration)
  • When prospective Canadian employers ask for your references, they are not asking for letters that your former employers have addressed "To whom it may concern." As already has been stated, they want you to give them names and contact details of people with whom you have worked in the past.
  • Recruiters follow up on references before they have found you a job - if you refuse to supply them until you get a job, they may not be able to represent you

Volunteer positions

  • If you have an unbroken career record, mentioning volunteer work for community and recreational organizations is risky. One potential employer may think that your volunteering for the ski patrol demonstrates that you are fit, lead a balanced lifestyle, and participate in activities that re-energize you for work. Another employer may interpret it to mean that you are not committed to your career.
  • Volunteer work that is closely related to your job adds to your credibility. If you volunteer for a professional or technical society or association, feel free to mention it on your resume.
  • If you are re-entering the workforce after an extended absence, mentioning volunteer work may be helpful. For example, if you are a mother who has been raising children fulltime, it would be constructive to mention that you edited the newsletter for the Parent Council at the local school or you were the treasurer for the local Soccer Team.
  • If you are using your history of volunteer work to demonstrate your capabilities, describe your volunteer jobs as you would describe a career position. Cite concrete accomplishments – how many volunteers you managed, the size of the budget you were responsible for, etc.


  • Leave out personal information (age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, family details, hobbies, etc.).
  • Don’t mention your driver’s licence. Most adult Canadians have drivers’ licences, and it’s taken as a given that people have them. The only time it would be worth mentioning would be an instance in which the job description specifically required it. For example, some jobs in the Alberta oil industry require people to drive long distances to reach oil wells, and employers stipulate that workers have drivers’ licences.
  • It is especially damaging to mention that you have a UK driver’s licence. If you already are in Canada, it begs the question as to why you have not yet exchanged your UK driver’s licence for a provincial one.
  • Omit skills and qualifications that are irrelevant to the job you want. If you are looking for a job as a geologist and you can type 80 words a minute, do not mention your typing speed on your resume. You are looking for a position as a geologist, not an administrative assistant.
  • Do not provide your Social Insurance Number. You need only give it for tax reporting purposes. Once hired, and only then, do you part with this information.


  • Maintain a business like tone.
  • Refer to yourself in professional terms. Call yourself an “administrative assistant” rather than an “admin assistant.”
  • Leave humour out of your resume.
  • Grammar and spelling have to be impeccable.
  • Thoroughly proofread your resume and, better still, ask someone else to proofread it for you as well.


  • To the extent that you can, Canadianize your English.
  • For more information on this, please see the Wiki article called Resume Language-Canada.


  • Some people firmly believe that a resume should be no more than two pages.
  • This can present you with a dilemma. If you have extensive experience and radically trim your work history so that it can fit on two pages, it may end up looking meaningless. Once the detail has been stripped out of your resume, you may appear to be a junior in your field.
  • Yes, by all means, have a critical look at your resume, and delete all “padding” and “fluff.” But, if you’ve pruned your resume and cannot do justice to your experience on two pages, let your resume roll over to three pages.
  • If a list of your accomplishments runs to several pages, another approach is to create two different resumes. One is a summary resume that fits onto two pages, and the other is a detailed resume.
  • Don't just send a one page summary. It tells the prospective employer nothing and makes them think you have no experience.


  • Format the page to print on US letter sized paper (8.5" x 11"). Do not format the page to print on A4.
  • Bullet points give a resume a clean, crisp appearance.
  • Make it easy to read. Favour short statements over long, convoluted sentences.
  • Although dropping "I" is optional, it is common for Canadians to drop "I" from sentences in their resumes. More of often than not, they will write, "Prepared tax returns," rather than, "I prepared tax returns."
  • There are different resume styles, and there is not a “right” one or a “wrong” one. (See the Sample Resumes section of this article for links to websites that provide examples of various styles.) Whichever style you choose, be consistent. Once you have settled on fonts, indentation style, etc., stick to them throughout the resume.
  • Use a standard font. Stay away from an exotic font. Arial and Times Roman are best.

Submitting your resume

  • Create a boilerplate resume as a starting point. However, avoid handing out your boilerplate resume. Try to customize each resume you send out, so that it highlights the fit between your qualifications and experience and the employer’s needs.
  • If you e-mail your resume to a prospective employer, it would be a good idea to send it as a PDF file, which makes it more difficult for other people to mess it up.
  • If you send your resume to a placement agency (head hunter), send it as an MS-Word file. Agencies often present resumes to client companies on the agencies’ own letterhead and/or in their own format. You’ll save them work if you send them an MS-Word file that they can edit.
  • If you send your resume by conventional mail, print it on good quality, plain, light-coloured paper (white, off white or pale grey).
  • The Wiki article called Hiring Culture has more tips about the ways in which to send your resume (electronic file versus hard copy, etc.).
  • The Covering Letter to which you attach your resume is critically important. It is, if anything, even more important than the resume itself.

Resume checklist

Resume Checklist is a bulleted list that helps you run through the points made in this article on Resumes and check that you have complied with the suggestions.

Related information