• Menu

3 Basics To Start Job-Hunting (2/10)

Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill
Canadian Flag on Parliament Hill

Welcome to the “How To… Find A Job In Canada” series!

Saying that last year wasn’t great economically speaking is an understatement. Pretty much all countries worldwide suffered from the global economic downturn and Canada was no exception. Yet, a lot of people are still considering moving to Canada, while others are already in the process and are probably worried about whether they will get a job at all.

There is no easy answer when it comes to employment. You know the story… a bit of patience, a bit of skills, a bit of luck.

I’m not a job counselor, and I’m not an expert. But I do know how it works in Canada and I’m hoping to pass along some informations that may not be obvious to everyone. A post will be published every Saturday… enjoy!

In order to start looking for a job, you need 3 basics: an up-to-date resume, a cover letter and a few references.

The Resume

Canadian resumes are pretty straightforward. They stress on your abilities, achievements and experience. A resume is your business card and a marketing tool: employers usually scan them fast, so you need to catch their eye.

Resumes are typically divided into several sections, but shouldn’t be more than one or two pages long.

  • Contact informations: your full name, address, home and cell phone number and email.
  • Skills highlights or profile: this is a short list of your main skills, achievement or abilities (for example, I usually include the fact that I’m bilingual since it’s pretty useful in Ottawa!). The highlight should target the skills needed for the position your are applying for.
  • Education: list your degrees, the schools you attended, any training you may have received. Ideally, “translate” your foreign degrees for Canadians employers. If you did an official foreign credentials assessment, go with that. Otherwise, explain in bracket: for example, a French DEUG would be a two years university degree etc.
  • Work experience: this is obviously the most important section. You can organize your past experience chronologically, or you can write a functional resume.
  • Skills: add useful skills, such as computer skills, foreign language you master etc.
  • Hobbies and interests: employers do look at this section. It can give them an idea of your personality: for example, someone who plays a lot of team sports could be a good team player etc.

You do not need to include a picture, nor you should mention any personal informations such as marital status, religion, immigrant status in Canada, political affiliations etc.

Finally, be confident when you write your resume. North Americans are not shy about telling their employers about achievements and success. You should use a lot of pro-active verbs (such as “performed“, “achieved“, “increased“…) and refrain to mention anything negative.

Useful links:

The Cover Letter

Covers letters are very important. They should demonstrate how your skills fit the position you are applying for. Don’t just describe your resume, include examples and details! The cover letter should expand your resume’s objectives and impress the employer.

Okay, I know, easier said than done. But the more you practice, the easier it gets. A nicely written cover letter does make a huge difference in your application!

Useful links:


All in all, as far as I know, resumes and cover letters are pretty universal. Sure, you need to “canadianize” them, but chances are you are already familiar with the concept.

Now, the concept of references is something that totally puzzled me when I first came to Canada. As far as I know, in Europe, no one ask for references, unless the position is really important. But when I first started applying for jobs in Canada (yes, even for call centers!), employers automatically assumes I could provide contact informations of up to three people that could vouch for me. Needless to say, I was pretty new to the whole thing.

A reference is someone who can vouch for you and can provide information on how you perform in various task, ranging from basic ones (“is he a team player?“) to the most precise ones (“how does he perform with…?“).

References are ideally co-workers or employers. If you are new to Canada, it’s acceptable to provide references abroad, but be aware that some prospective employers don’t bother checking them (been there, done that…). I know, it’s a bit of a catch 22.

Ideally, you should always have three up-to-date references. Keep the names and the contact information on a separate sheet of paper since references are not listed on the resume, but provided later.

Always ask people’s permission before listing them as a reference. I found it a bit awkward at first (okay, I still do!) but because everybody need references, people are used to it and usually won’t mind. Pick your references carefully since employers do contact them.

Useful Link: How To Get And Provide References

See you next week for another article on How To… Find A Job In Canada!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *