Canada has a very competitive market for quality jobs. It becomes imperative to differentiate and stand out from the competition in every way possible. A quality resume is a very important part of this process but very few people put the required amount of effort on this front. When applying for competitive roles, even a minor oversight can make or mar your chances of making to that coveted shortlist. Let understand the key fundamentals of a Canadian style resume and how to make one.
Difference between a resume and CV
First things first. In most of Canada’s provinces, resume is very different from a Curriculum Vitae (CV). Resume is an abridged version of CV and should not span more than 2 pages at max. In fact one page resumes are considered perfectly acceptable for people coming fresh out of college. Whereas a CV can be 5 pages or more. Thus unless someone specifically asks for your CV, you should circulate your resume only.
Why should your resume be short?
If you have ever been on the recruiting side you would understand that it requires a tremendous amount of patience to sift through hundred’s of resumes just to prepare an initial shortlist. An average recruiter typically spends 10-30 seconds to make a decision. Effectively no one would have the patience to read anything more than 2 pages long. The entire onus of making an impact in those 20 seconds lies on the applicant. I know a few hiring managers who would simply refuse to consider candidates with a resume more than 2 pages long. An inordinately long resume signifies a lack of respect for the person to whom it is submitted. Hiring managers are typically senior middle management professionals with very limited time at their hands often with several competing priorities. Keep your resume sharp and crisp and you would definitely be able to score over quite a few candidates easily.
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What is a Canadian style resume?
Most job applicants are focused on building a Canadian style resume presuming that it is something extremely important. But there is not much difference in a Canadian style resume vs. other countries if you follow the best practices. It may be argued that showcasing one’s volunteering work may be especially important under the Canadian context as it is some sort of Canadian experience. But there is not much difference in terms of the key tenets of preparing a focused resume. Lets us look at these key principles one by one:
Targeted: Every resume needs to be extremely targeted to the position that you are applying for. This becomes a critical requirement due to several reasons. Most large corporate employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems are designed to filter resumes by identifying certain keywords from the job description and matching them with the submitted resume. The number of occurrences of such keywords (example: business development) are counted to determine a fit. Clearing ATS becomes crucial if you are applying online for role. A competitive position is likely to get thousands of applicants. The person shortlisting may simply generate a more workable list by using ATS. There is a particular third party tool çalled Jobscan. The tool requires you to paste the job description along with your resume content to come up with a % match. A match above 70% is considered acceptable.
A targeted resume also implies that you can choose to omit your professional experiences that are not relevant in the context of the job requirements. For example if you had switched careers earlier, say from IT into finance, you may choose to omit the IT related experience or make it extremely succinct. Typically, your work experience within the last 10 years is what is important.
A targeted resume demonstrates your level of interest in the position while respecting the time of the hiring manager. The fact that you have spent quite some time trying to understand what the job entails and presented your accomplishments in a targeted way designed to highlight such competencies speaks volumes about the quality of a candidate. It may be a painstaking process and may demand a lot of your time, hence do so only in cases where you are either really interested in a position or already have someone willing to refer you for a position.
Achievement oriented: The general trend in resumes has shifted to showcasing one’s quantifiable achievements rather than responsibilities. For two reasons: first, it gives a better insight into your capabilities to add value and second, it is difficult to fake. For example stating that you were able to increase annual revenue of your department by half a million by on-boarding 3 new Clients through innovative sales techniques has far more impact that stating that you exceeded your business development goals. Agreed, coming out with such quantifiable impact is not easy but that also reflects on your abilities. Just think through and spend some time on carefully wording every line. Please do not fake achievements as it is quite likely that you may be questioned on such achievements during the interview process and an experienced interviewer can catch these things pretty quickly. You may also want to keep in mind that your achievements should reflect your individual contribution rather than teamwork.
Contextual: This is especially important for newcomers to Canada. You have to be careful about the context of where and to whom you are submitting your resume. For example, your earlier experiences may be in a different country with a small firm. A hiring manager in Canada may not have heard about the firm and be aware of its reputation. Thus the onus lies on the candidate to elucidate these points to convey the quality of one’s experiences. You may choose to dedicate one line to introduce your company with an appropriate metric like market capitalization/turnover etc. Some candidates choose to include a clickable hyperlink to the website of the firm. I do not highly recommend this approach as most interviewers carry a hard print of your resume during interviews and such links would fail to serve their intended purpose under the context.
Suitably elaborating on your qualifications is equally important. You may have pursued your MBA from a very reputed institute in your country but a hiring manager may not have heard about it. Using internationally known benchmarks like Financial Times rankings may help you put across your point. Highlighting international certifications is equally important. Remember, for every sought after job you are competing with local candidates having local work experience/education. Thus you really have to focus on demonstrating the portability of your international experience, qualifications and skills.
A tricky thing to be kept in mind is the risk of being perceived as over-qualified. Quite a few recruiters overlook candidates due to concerns like over-qualification. You should be mindful of such issues as well when submitting your resume.
Circumspect: One should refrain from sharing personal confidential information that can potentially compromise your interests or increase the possibility of discrimination. For example your date of birth coupled with your address may be used to steal confidential information/government records. Date of birth may also open doors of discrimination for candidates with an advanced age. Marital status and even gender is not important. You should focus on mentioning details that communicate your work status in Canada, your local presence (address and telephone number), email and a link to your LinkedIn profile. Make sure you customize your LinkedIn profile URL by choosing a short username. Also please ensure that your email id looks professional. Please refrain from including your photograph in your resume.
References: References play a very critical role during a hiring processes. A local reference is valued a lot more. Employers look favorably at candidates who have volunteering experience in Canada. Apart from communicating some aspect of a cultural fit, it also offers opportunities to general local referrals. Thus, in case you have worked with anyone locally even if volunteering activity, be sure to mention that you have local referrals. There is no need to mention the details of a referral and you can simply state that “Referrals are available upon request”.
Language and formatting: It is fine art to convey one’s accomplishments in an assertive way without sounding arrogant. Usage of simple words and action verbs is recommended. Write your resume in the third person and refrain from using terms like I, We or Me. You may reach out to some local connections who are well employed and seek out their resumes to understand more about it. Having a simple formatting is also important since ATS’s have a hard time reading a resume which has too many tables or is complex. Having a plain simple formatting is what you can certainly consider the Canadian style.
Typical sections on a resume
A good resume will focus on providing a small summary and then narrate professional/volunteer experiences/achievements (preferably in chronological order), educational qualifications/achievements, any special projects ending with a Reference section. Refrain from mentioning your general hobbies/interests unless there is something distinct that you have achieved (for example being a State level Tennis champion) or you think it would be a great differentiator.
Should you subscribe to resume writing services?
Unless you are very bad at it, there is no need to subscribe to resume writing services just to get that Canadian resume. Given that there is a need to customize your resume for every position that you intent to target seriously, hiring a resume writing specialist is not really useful. You simply cannot afford to get your resume tailored for every job application and there is not much choice apart from doing the hard work yourself. No one can get a better sense of yourself and know your achievements than yourself. Invest your time in preparing a high impact resume and you will notice the difference pretty soon.
Canadian Style Resume template
You may use the link below to get a Canadian styled resume template in your inbox.
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