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What's the Canadian Format for Resumes?

Written by Jessica Steer
There are so many ways that finding a new job can be daunting. And while there are so many things to think about, the most important is your resume. How your resume looks reflects your abilities for many jobs, and is meant to prove to potential employers why they should give you a chance for the position. Because there are so many different resume formats out there, it’s not always obvious which is the best choice. While the format is important, especially reflecting a Canadian style resume, the most important part is what is included and if the resume reflects the position that you are applying for.
Table of Contents

    How to Make a Resume in Canada

    When it comes to making a resume, the first thing you are going to do is choose a format. Once you have done that, then you can start entering the information needed. All resumes should start with your contact information as a header. This would have:

    • Your full name
    • Phone number
    • Email address
    • Mailing address

    The rest of the resume is where you aim to showcase your specific skills related to the position. You want to make sure that everything that you write is clear and concise. Potential employers typically don’t spend a lot of time looking at a resume so you don’t want to add too much detail. It is also important to proofread before you send your resume off. You don’t really want any spelling mistakes on there.

    The content of the resume should reflect the specific qualities that the employer is looking for, only if they're true. Lying on your resume is hard to come back from. Stick to the truth. Relate your skills to the job posting and see where they fit in.

    Another thing you want to focus on is being specific where you can. Being specific is key. For example, if you are applying for a supervisor position and currently do a similar job, mention how many people that you supervise. And don’t forget, any experience you have, whether it’s paid or not, is relevant.

    Resume Sections

    When it comes to writing a Canadian resume, there are many different options of formatting, but the sectioning is pretty much the same all throughout. The first section, however, is the resume header. This is where your name, address, and contact information is listed. Below that is the objective. This is where you list what the goal of the resume is. It could be something as simple as: To obtain a full-time position.

    Once you have completed those portions, then you move onto the meat of the resume. This is where you portray to the employer why you would be an asset to the company. Since this is going to be the majority of the resume, you want to be very detailed when you are listing your employment history as well as your education. When you are listing these, you usually start with the most recent work history then work your way to older jobs. Under each job title it is also important to list the start day, end date and all the relevant job responsibilities. Once you get to the education portion, the same format applies.

    Once you have completed all of that, it is time to list all of your relevant skills. Then you can add any additional sections that are necessary. Some people like to put their reference here, but really any additional information is up to you.

    What not to Include in your Resume

    When it comes to writing a resume, you want to keep it as relevant as possible. As job seekers, you want your resume to appeal to your potential employer and not be too in your face. It is best to avoid personal details like marital status or age, and to just include your name and contact information. It is also important to double check your work. You don’t want grammatical errors and spelling mistakes left in your resume.

    While it is good to add your hobbies and interests in your resume, be sure you don’t go into too much detail. Only the basics are needed. It is also best to leave out any negative information regarding your former employers as well as avoid passive language. You should define yourself as confident in your resume. That being said, you shouldn’t overdo it with unnecessary details like pictures.

    While you can add your references to your resume, it is recommended to wait until the employer has asked for them. Don’t provide too much unnecessary information. That, however, does not apply for a CV which requires as much information as possible.

    Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out

    When it comes to making your resume stand out in your job search, it is important to include everything that could potentially relate to the position you are applying for. This means it is important to make use of those additional sections in your resume. You can add things like:

    • Hobbies
    • Any additional languages you speak
    • Certificates and licenses
    • Volunteer work
    • Publications
    • Cover letter

    Another great way to stand out is to not use a cookie cutter resume. Many people just make a generic resume and then submit it to every job they are applying for. Taking a bit of extra time to specify the resume to the company's qualities specified in the job description can set you apart more than you can imagine. That in itself shows the company that you are committed to them and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

    Average Number of Pages in a Resume

    While it is important to include all the relevant information in your resume, you also don’t want to overdo it. If the resume is too long, then the employer won’t be interested but if it’s too short then it shows you don’t have much history. It’s a fine line. Ideally you don’t want your resume to be any longer than 2 pages. It is also important to keep in mind that you should stick to the points that are directly related to the position you are applying for. The point of the resume is to showcase your skills. If you start filling it with too much information, it has the opposite effect.

    Canada: Resume or CV?

    While I am sure many have heard the term CV used instead of Resume, what you may not know is that, even though the terms can be used interchangeably, they are actually very different. The term CV stands for Curriculum Vitae. For most people, you really don’t need anything more than a 1 to 2 page resume. A CV though, is often used for job applications like:

    • Professors
    • Senior Executives
    • Lawyers
    • Scientists
    • Doctors

    The reason for using a CV instead of a Resume is that a CV is supposed to be longer than 2 pages and contain lots of information. While A CV does contain the same information that a Resume does, it also allows for additional information like:

    • A list of references
    • Publications
    • Academic presentations
    • Scientific research
    • Academic research
    • Travel/Cultural experiences
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Relevant coursework
    • Thesis descriptions

    Really, you can add anything to a CV that is relevant and will set you apart from the rest of the applicants. Anything you think will help you land that dream job. A CV requires you to be as transparent as possible to set you apart from other applicants.

    Length of a CV

    Unlike a resume, a CV is supposed to be around 5 to 10 pages. This is the main reason why a resume is much more common in Canada. Some companies will specify if they prefer a CV or a resume, but the fact of the matter is that hiring managers for a position that requires a lot of experience and qualifications are probably going to expect a CV over a Resume.

    CV vs Cover Letter

    Both a CV and a cover letter are meant to set you apart from other candidates. The difference is that while a cover letter is a way to talk yourself up to the employer, a CV gives detailed specific information about your qualifications. While a cover letter does also go into details on how you qualify for the positions, it is only 1 page long. A CV just uses your skills and experiences to set yourself apart. Which one you use really depends on the position, but most jobs require a resume instead of a CV, and also ask for a cover letter. This isn’t always the case with a CV.

    Different Resumes in Canada

    When it comes to the different types of resumes in Canada, there are three standard resume formats that are recommended.

    • Traditional reverse chronological resume
    • Strategic functional resume
    • Balanced hybrid resume

    The main difference between these different formats is the way the information is laid out, not the information that is included. No matter where you live in Canada, even Ontario, one of these three formats is recommended.

    While it may not seem relevant to follow a standard resume format, the main reason for this is how most employers in Canada filter through their resumes. Before they start looking for who best suits their company, employers run the resumes through software known as the applicant tracking system or ATS. While your resume may be good, if it is not matching the standards of the computer program it won’t get selected. That’s why it is strongly recommended to go with one of these three formats.

    Traditional Reverse Chronological

    This is the most common format of resume. This format lists your work experience from most recent to furthest away, known as reverse chronological order. This is also the main format that the ATS looks for. This is not an ideal format, however, if you do not have much on your resume or significant time gaps. Here is a basic Microsoft Word template example.

    Strategic Functional

    This resume format focuses more on skills and education than work experience. While your work experience is included, this resume puts your skills and education at the forefront. This is ideal if you have a short work history or a detail oriented job you are applying for. It is also a great option if you are in the middle of switching careers. Here is a basic Microsoft Word template example.

    Balanced Hybrid

    This last resume format focuses on the expanded work history as well as the expanded skill set sections. While this resume is arguably the most detailed, it is still recommended to go with the reverse chronological resume option when possible. Ultimately, though, you should look at the job posting thoroughly before you decide which resume format would work best. Here is a basic Microsoft Word template example.

    Final Thoughts

    When it comes to formatting your resume, you want to pay close attention to the position you are applying for and what qualifications the potential employer is asking for. These can help to break down what information should be included, ultimately deciding the format. Unless you are writing a CV, you want to keep your resume relevant to the position you are applying for and relate your skills and experience to the qualities the employer is looking for. The key is to give detailed information without overdoing it. Remember, your resume is the employers first impression of you so, even if you have to get some help from a professional resume writer, it is worth it. And while the employer may not ask for a cover letter, it is usually recommended.

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