A resume’s main goal is to get you an interview with the employer. The two basic principles are to keep the resume brief and to be formatted correctly. A standard resume should be 1-2 pages in length (if you have limited experience, keep to 1 page), and in reverse chronological order (most recent on top) when listing your education and work experience. When describing work experiences, use bullet points to list accomplishments (both qualitative and quantitative). Each bullet is a full sentence using action words listing the outcome of that action.
Sections to consider including (Order can very):
- Work Experience
- Volunteer Experience
- Personal Projects
- Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities
For a full resume guide with templates and examples, see University of McGill’s How to write a CV.
Cover letters are about convincing the employer that there is a match between your skills and qualifications, and the employer’s needs. The goal should be to answer the following questions:
- “What do you want the employer to know about you and your experiences?”;
- “Why do you want to work for this organization and work in this role?”, and
- “Why should they hire you?”
The cover letter should fit on one page, and should be tailored to each position, employer, and industry you’re applying to. To customize your cover letter, demonstrate knowledge of the organization and relate your skills and experiences to identify how you can help them accomplish their mandates.
Extra note: Spend some time researching who to address your cover letter. This shows commitment to wanting to go the extra mile, and can help make you stand out from more generic cover letters.
For a full guide with templates and examples, see McGill’s Cover Letter Guide.
The first thing to consider is whether you meet the ‘core’ requirements. If you are able to meet the basic requirements to do the job, then it may be worth applying to. The next step is to consider if you are able and willing to obtain the remaining skills on your own. Although an employer will know that you are missing a requirement, if you have a plan to fill that gap, it may be enough for the employer to give you a chance. Remember that you don’t know who else applied for the role, and you have nothing to lose by trying.
It is important to note that unrelated work experience is still work experience; it shows you’ve reported back to a supervisor, worked as part of a team and followed a work schedule. These past experiences have taught you skills that you can highlight for the position for which you’re applying. For example, human skills such as communication and teamwork are always relevant and in demand.
Other skills can come from different types of experiences:
- Volunteer experience → development of soft skills in a work-like setting, teamwork, etc.
- Education → courses in which you’ve written essays, developed your writing and communication skills; labs or other projects which developed your research and analysis skills, etc.
- Personal projects → websites created, apps developed, blog, podcast, etc.
Your cover letter is your time to shine and showcase how your experiences have taught you the skills to excel in this new position. Draw from your work and volunteer experiences, education background and personal projects outlined in your resume. Always relate these back to the position for which you’re applying and how they’ll help you excel in your new role. Providing evidence of your knowledge of the company to show your interest in the position will also help set you apart.
Your post-secondary institution may have a job portal or website dedicated to listing student jobs from around your community. Each province and territory, as well as the federal government, has a job board available to all. These jobs are posted from all sectors of the economy, including private and public sectors.
Corporate job sites are also a common way to find jobs. Places like Indeed, Workopolis, and Glassdoor are all popular job posting sites. The other place to check out is LinkedIn, where you’ll be able to build up your profile and use it to apply directly to jobs or network with recruiters.
Students who have to work from home require different skills than working within an office. Working at home means less oversight from your direct supervisor, which requires you to have good time and self management. Demonstrating your ability to work under little supervision as well as manage your time effectively to reach deadlines. Communication also becomes very important; your supervisor needs to trust that you can clearly communicate when you need help or when you’d like more work to be assigned to you.
For more information, see STU’s Working from home: A guide for STU interns.
You can talk about your soft skills throughout the whole application process.
In the Resume:
Use numbers to illustrate the impact you have made. For example, provide the number of people you have trained / mentored, the size of the team you’ve worked with, or the audience size to which you’ve given a presentation.
In the Cover Letter:
Tell short stories that highlight the use of soft skills. You can reiterate the numbers from your resume in depth, but make sure to mention any mentorship, teaching or teamwork experiences, or when you’ve engaged with customers in a meaningful way.
In the Interview:
Include soft skills in your answers. As you tell your story using the STAR method, provide examples of how your soft skills helped you solve a problem or manage a complication situation. When a “how did you…” question is asked, you can generally include your soft skills within your answer.
You can share information regarding your pronouns and name in whichever way feels the most comfortable to you. Some general options are to add your pronouns and name to your email signature as well as your resume. You can also meet with your supervisor to co-create a communication plan.
Some things to remember:
- Be your own advocate and connect with allies in your workplace to support you.
- Make it known that your pronouns and name are not just “preferences”
- Remember that you have multiple avenues that you can use to share your name and pronouns, such as your resume, cover letter, email sign off.
- Be confident in who you are, whether or not you decide to share your pronouns and name with others.
You can use your preferred or chosen name on your resume and on the application form. However, you will have to provide your legal name to your employer to set up payroll and your employment profile, so it will be important to differentiate between the organization’s administrating internal processes and your introduction to the team. Your employer may require documentation with your legal name on it, such as identification and social insurance number. But in day-to-day practice with the team, you will be able to use your preferred or chosen name.
For more information, see UBC’s Resources for LGBTQ+Students.
International students registered in study programs which require work experience as part of their curriculum may need to apply for a co-op or intern work permit. To be eligible, you must:
- Have a valid study permit
- Have a letter from your school confirming that students in the program need to complete a work placement as part of their degree requirements, and
- The co-op or internship totals 50% or less of your study program.
You are not eligible for a co-op or intern work permit if you are taking one of the following:
- English of French as a second language,
- General interest courses, or
- Courses in preparation for a study program.
For more information on how to apply for a co-op or intern work permit, check out the Government of Canada’s website.
There are generally three categories within your resume where you can include your international experiences:
- Education: if you studied or completed coursework abroad, as well as any research done abroad
- Experience: if you worked or volunteered outside of Canada
- Skills: if you gained unique skills from having an international background or have been exposed to different sets of cultural skills
You may be able to talk about how your international experience gave you the skills to meet the requirements of the position if that is the case.
During the interview, you can include your international experience in any questions such as, “Tell me about yourself” or, “What interests you about the position.” Stories about your international experiences might be called upon to demonstrate your skills and behaviour.
To be eligible to work in Canada post-graduation, you are required to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) if you graduated from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). You typically have 180 days to apply after receiving your final grades or before your study permit expires. If your study permit expires before you receive your final grades, you may either apply to extend your status as a student or leave Canada and apply for your PGWP.
For more information on DLI checklist and PGWP eligibility, refer to the Government of Canada’s website.
Employees with disability have the following rights and responsibilities:
- Disclose it if legally required to do so (see “When should you disclose?”)
- If you’re not in a situation where you are legally required to disclose, you have the right not to.
- Provide sufficient information in regards to your disability in order to support your request for accommodation
- You may be obligated to cooperate in undergoing assessments in order to support your request as your employer is entitled to receive accurate and relevant information in regards to your disability.
- For the employer rights and responsibilities, see “What are my rights & responsibilities as an employer to an employee with a disability?” in the employer FAQ.
There are three circumstances in which you are legally obligated to disclose your disability:
- You are in need of accommodation in the workplace. You can disclose during the interview, at any other time in relation to your employment, or at any time during the process of applying for employment
- It is likely to affect your work performance, attendance, or your ability to fulfill the essentials duties of your job. As a general principle, if you choose not to disclose your disability, it is important that you be able to complete all the essential duties of the job before accepting it.
- There are health or safety risks for yourself or your co-workers.
If your circumstance does not apply to any of the three cases listed above, you can choose whether you would like to disclose your disability or not, depending on the situation and your comfort level.
When requesting accommodation, you’ll be disclosing your disability to someone in the organization and providing additional information as needed. You need to ask yourself two main questions:
To whom should you disclose to receive accommodation?
- This depends on the company. You’ll need to figure out who within the organization is in a position to assist you with your accommodation request. For example, this could be HR staff, or your manager/supervisor.
How much information do you provide?
- You are obliged to give sufficient information in regards to your disability in order to support your request for accommodation and in order for your employer to properly and promptly fulfill the duty to accommodate. Otherwise, your request for accommodation could be rejected for lacking sufficient information.
Your Office of Experiential Learning/Education can also be a resource in helping you disclose the necessary information.