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Resume and Interview Tips
for Newcomers to Canada
Finding a job is one of the most challenging aspects for newcomers in Canada and, in many cases, the job search process can take several months.
In this article, we’ll share guidance to help newcomers get more familiar with the job application and interview process. We’ll also share some tips to help you craft an impressive Canadian-style resume and master some essential job interview skills.
Tips for writing a Canadian-style resume
Creating an impactful Canadian-style resume takes time and patience. Here are a few tips to help you improve your resume-writing skills.
1. Pick the right resume format
As a job seeker in Canada, there are three types of resume formats you should be familiar with.
A reverse chronological resume outlines your professional experience in reverse order, starting with your most recent position. This format is ideal if you have consistent work experience and are not looking to change your field.
A functional resume lists your skills and education before your employment history. It is best suited for recent graduates or people who are switching to a new field.
A combination or hybrid resume is a mix of both these formats, with a focus on transferable skills. It is commonly used by recent graduates and candidates with several short-term roles or significant work gaps.
Each of these formats includes the same basic information adapted into a format that draws attention to your particular strengths. Pick a format that best suits your situation and employment history.
2. Customize your resume for each job listing
In Canada, it is essential to customize your resume to each position that you’re applying for. Tailor your work experience and skills based on keywords included in the job posting. Start your sentences with action verbs like managed, spearheaded, achieved, led, trained, etc.
3. Optimize for Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Many Canadian companies use ATS software to pre-screen resumes and determine if they are a good match for a specific job listing. Resumes that match the pre-defined criteria are forwarded to hiring managers or recruiters. So, if your resume isn’t optimized for an ATS, it may be rejected even if you’re qualified for the role.
You can optimize your resume for ATS by using standard resume formats, including keywords from the job description, and including experience, skills, and qualifications that are relevant to the position.
4. Proofread your resume
As a newcomer to Canada, English may not be your first language. It’s always good to proofread your resume or ask a native English speaker to review it to check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence formation.
5. Focus on accomplishments rather than responsibilities
Many newcomers make the mistake of outlining roles and responsibilities instead of achievements in their resume. Recruiters and hiring managers prefer seeing quantified accomplishments on resumes.
6. Include a cover letter
A cover letter is a formal one-page document that highlights how you fit the role you’re applying for and why the organization should hire you. The cover letter is also a good way to justify any gaps in your resume or provide any additional info that your resume can’t.
Adding a customized, well-written cover letter to your resume can improve your chances of being shortlisted for an interview.
7. Highlight your skills with volunteer work
Including unpaid or volunteer work is a good way for newcomers to start building Canadian work experience on their resume. If your volunteer work requires skills that may also be valued in the position that you are applying for, adding it to your resume may work to your advantage. Volunteering can help you build your network and learn about the Canadian work environment.
The Arrive Newcomer’s Guide to Starting your Career in Canada provides all the resources, tools, and templates you’ll need to navigate through the Canadian job market.
How to ace your job interview in Canada
Once your resume gets shortlisted for a role, the next step is typically a job interview. Depending on the organization you’re applying to, there may be several rounds of interview, over the phone, in-person or virtual, and with a varying number of interviewers.
Here are a few tips that can help you prepare for a job interview in Canada:
1. Analyze the job description
Be sure to read the job posting in its entirety to get an idea about the responsibilities, desired qualifications, skills, and previous experiences the interviewer is looking for in their ideal candidate.
The more you are able to align yourself with the employer’s expectations, the better are your chances of landing the role. If there are specific areas where you sense a gap, prepare a response that demonstrates your ability to learn and grow.
2. Do your research
Researching the company where you’re applying for a job is an important step in preparing for a job interview. It will not only help you ask relevant questions but also help you learn about the company and provide context during your interview conversations. Be sure to check out the company website and their pages on LinkedIn and Glassdoor before your interview.
3. Prepare your elevator pitch
Elevator pitches are short (20-30 seconds) introductory speeches to introduce yourself and essentially answer the “Tell me about yourself” question. A good elevator pitch sounds natural and compelling.
You can use the following framework to craft an impressive elevator pitch for a job interview –
Introduction: Start by mentioning your full name and providing a brief overview of your education and work experience.
Expertise and ambition: Add in your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and a couple of things you want to highlight about yourself. Remember to focus on the problem you solve.
Call-to-action: End your elevator pitch by asking a question and allowing the interviewer to respond to it, thus making the pitch more conversational.
4. Organize your portfolio or work samples
Compiling portfolios, work samples, or a self-managed blog are great ways to stand out from the competition, showcase your domain knowledge, and demonstrate how you can add value to the role and the organization. You can also go the extra mile by preparing a 30-60-90 day plan for the role in alignment with the job description.
5. Prepare to answer common interview questions for your role
The initial rounds or screening interviews will often have common interview questions ranging from “Tell me about yourself” to “What are your strengths/weaknesses.” It’s important not to memorize answers but instead have an overall idea of key points that you would like to convey. This will help you answer these questions in a natural, conversational style.
6. Think about questions you would like to ask the interviewer
At the end of the interview, the interviewer will usually ask you if you have any questions for them. It is a good idea to prepare some questions in advance based on your company research or the points you may have read in the job posting. Asking intelligent questions during an interview is a great opportunity to learn more about the position and organization and clarify any doubts you may have. It also reflects your interest in the position and showcases that you’ve done your research about the company.
7. Know your resume
Ensure that you are well-aware of all information on your resume and be prepared to elaborate on any of the points mentioned. Have specific case examples of your work experience ready to support your resume.
8. Pick your interview outfit
Your interview outfit should be well-fitted, clean, pressed, and matched with appropriate accessories and shoes. Business formals are generally preferred at interviews—even if it is a virtual interview.
9. Plan your time
For in-person interviews, be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. If using public transit, keep an eye out for any delays. For virtual interviews, test technology in advance, including the video call platform, your camera, and microphone, to ensure there are no technical difficulties during the interview.
Navigating the job market in a new country can be stressful. But with the right resources and guidance at your disposal, you can find and secure your dream job in Canada.
About the Author
Perla Aroyo is a professional resume writer at Skillhub and ResumeService24 in Boston, MA. She is a member of The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. She has worked with the most powerful corporations around the world, including Walmart, Uber and American Express.