How to Write a CV for Canada: A Guide, with Tips
It’s easy to see the appeal of moving to Canada for work. A higher average salary than the UK, a slightly lower cost of living and generous in-work benefits all combine to make Canada an attractive prospect. Meanwhile, Canada offers spectacular scenery and some of the world’s most liveable cities, while remaining culturally similar to the UK. All this contributes to making Canada’s jobs market extremely competitive. As such, it’s critical to ensure your CV is up to standard for Canadian applications. In this article, we discuss how to write a strong CV for Canada, so you can start applying for your dream job abroad.
Canadian CV/Resume Format & Specifics
While Canadians may use the terms ‘resume’ and ‘CV’ interchangeably in parts of Canada, they more often refer to two different types of document. A resume is typically a short career summary, while a CV refers to a longer, more detailed document favoured for academic or senior positions. In this article, we’ll be discussing what Canadians generally refer to as a ‘resume’, but what Brits call a ‘CV’.
CVs in Canada typically follow a reverse-chronological format. Your CV format for Canada applications should follow this structure. The format concentrates primarily on your work experience. It also means adding your current or most recent employment and achievements first, followed by each preceding job or event. Canadian CVs tend to be a maximum of one or two pages long, so keep your document brief and to-the-point.
Canada Resume vs UK CV
A Canadian resume is closely related to a modern UK CV. Although CVs in the UK were longer in the past, the competitiveness of the jobs market led to employers favouring shorter, more concise documents. These more closely resemble a Canadian resume format.
As with UK CVs, your Canadian CV should include some contact information, such as your email address, phone number and address. If you have an online portfolio, website or LinkedIn profile, you can also include this. Similar to the UK, Canadian employers discourage applicants from including personal details on their CV, such as date of birth, gender or a photo.
The sections of a Canadian and UK CV are broadly the same, with the Canadian CV placing more emphasis on work experience than any other section. One key difference is the education section. If you’re a graduate in the UK, you might still include your school grades (A-level and GCSE results). However, in Canada this isn’t necessary.
In the UK, the terms CV and resume are often used interchangeably. Both words refer to a short career summary document. This isn’t the case in Canada. Canadians use the term ‘CV’ to refer to a longer document outlining your career in great detail. This might include all your previous employments, not just the most relevant, and might include things like published works. As such, Canadian employers rarely require a CV, unless the role is particularly senior or academic. Quebec is slightly different, though. In this territory, the terms ‘CV’ and ‘resume’ are interchangeable.
Never include any personal information in your Canadian CV that could lead to discrimination against you. In Canada, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against you based on protected characteristics, such as your age, gender, religion or immigration status. As such, employers prefer CVs that avoid any of this information, and don’t include a personal photo.
Essential components of a Canadian CV
Follow this structure to make sure your CV includes everything Canadian employers expect to see from applicants:
Add your name, phone number and email address at the top of your CV. You may want to add your address, but a full address isn’t always necessary and an indication of your location may suffice (particularly if this is an address in Canada). Avoid adding personal demographic details such as your age and gender, and don’t include a photograph of yourself.
Write two to three sentences explaining your experience, skills and ambitions. This is the first thing employers will read, so make sure it provides a fitting summary of your career and qualities.
Include your job history in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent role. Add the job title, organisation name, location and the dates you worked there. Underneath, add some bullet points to explain your responsibilities and achievements, referencing the qualities required in the job description. Quantify your achievements and explain how they made an impact. Using the STAR method is a useful way to do this (for each entry, explain the Situation, Task, Activity and Result).
List your highest or most recent educational achievements. If you’re a graduate, this is likely to be your degree. Adapt your CV to use Canadian words and phrases such as ‘high school’ instead of ‘secondary school’ and ‘GPA’ (Grade Point Average) rather than ‘grades’. List your degree, the name of the institution, its location and your graduation date.
Include a mixture of hard and soft skills, referring to the job description for an indication of the essential skills required for the role. You could present this as one combined list or separate it into hard and soft skills.
There are several optional sections you could include at the end of your CV, though volunteer experience is probably the most relevant. Add any voluntary work you’ve done, if it’s relevant to the role you’re applying for. You could also mention hobbies and interests (if they relate to the role), additional languages (French is particularly useful in Canada) or certifications and training you’ve completed.
Effective CV Summary/Objective
Your CV summary or objective is one of the most important elements of your CV. It gives you the chance to make a positive first impression and compels the hiring manager to read your CV in more detail. It’s also your first opportunity to showcase your best qualities. If you have plenty of experience, write a CV summary. This focuses on your experience and skills. For those with less experience, a CV objective might be more suitable. This style focuses more on your career ambitions and objectives.
Follow these tips to create a CV summary or objective that will capture the attention of Canadian recruiters and employers:
- Reference your experience
- Mention your key skills
- Add achievements
- Include your ambitions
- Use strong verbs
- Mirror the job description
Take a look at this example CV summary for inspiration:
A highly motivated and dedicated sales director with seven years’ experience in cutting-edge software sales and business development. A strong communicator with excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to build thriving sales teams. A proven track record of meeting and exceeding ambitious sales targets, bringing new business worth $8.5m to a startup retail analytics firm within three years.
The sections of a Canadian and UK CV are broadly the same, with the Canadian CV placing more emphasis on your work experience than any other section.
Follow these additional tips to make sure your CV creates the best possible impression with Canadian hiring companies:
- Keep your CV updated: Ensure you keep your CV up-to-date and tailor it to every job you apply for. A stale or generic CV is unlikely to make an impact in the competitive Canadian jobs market.
- Include Canadian contact details: It’s worth adding a Canadian address or phone number if you have them. This shows you’re already in Canada and ready to work.
- Use Canadian terms and phrases: Translate any British phrases and terminology to their Canadian equivalent. This might mean referring to ‘high school’ rather than ‘secondary school’, or converting monetary figures from sterling into Canadian dollars.
- Avoid adding references or salary requirements: It’s not necessary to include references on your CV, or to state ‘references are available on request’. Canadian managers and recruiters will assume you have references ready to go, and they’ll contact you for details if they need them. Additionally, refrain from adding salary expectations. This will come up in the interview stage.
- Write a strong cover letter: Support your Canadian CV with a strong cover letter that emphasises your skills and experience, and outlines your enthusiasm for the job opportunity. For help with your cover letter, check out Jobseeker’s cover letter examples.
- Use a beautiful CV design: While the content of your CV is the most important factor in determining your Canadian job prospects, an eye-catching design can help to make an even more positive impression. Use Jobseeker’s CV examples and tools to create a beautiful CV design that makes your document more appealing.
Key Takeaways for a Canada CV
With a few tweaks and adjustments to your UK CV, you can create a strong CV for Canadian job applications. Use a reverse-chronological order and write a compelling CV summary and a work experience section that shows how and why you’re suitable for the job. Keep your CV to a maximum of two pages and use Canadian terminology and phrases where possible. You can improve your chances of success by using a clean, professional CV design and layout. Jobseeker has a wealth of easy-to-use tools, including CV templates and cover letter templates, to make your job applications stand out. Sign up today to start your application for your dream Canadian job.