How to write a strong CV and cover letter in Québec
Studying can take up a lot of your time, energy and resources. But looking for a job while you’re still in school or just after you graduate is definitely worth the investment. Kick-start your career by getting ahead of the game!
If you’re about to respond to a job offer or take part in a recruitment event, take the time to prepare all your documents and make sure your social networks are on point. Your CV, cover letter and online profile are your passports to success … give them the attention they need!
Leverage your experience as a student
Since you’ve spent the last few years studying, it’s only natural that your work experience is limited. But you can still leverage your experiences at school to help land your dream job. When it comes to writing your CV and cover letter, be sure to include any relevant school or extracurricular experience—like volunteering, summer jobs and internships. Keep in mind that the way you present yourself on social media can also play a role in whether you’re hired.
The goal of CVs and cover letters is to showcase your unique skills and personality. And the effort you put into writing them will reflect your level of maturity and motivation. Make sure you prepare these crucial documents with care to boost your chances of success.
Make sure your CV stands out
You can find endless examples of CVs online. But instead of simply copy-pasting your information into a readymade template, try writing a CV that represents who you are. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your career counsellor or job placement advisor at school for advice.
Master the art of CV writing
Abstract art is great at the museum but when it comes to your CV, it’s best to take a more direct approach! Keep in mind that recruiters have to sift through endless documents every day. Keep yours clear and simple to make sure it stands out from the pack.
- The header: your name, address, email and LinkedIn profile (no pictures please!)
- 1st section: your skills and spoken/written languages, presented in one short paragraph
- 2nd section: your education and training in bullet point form, presented in chronological order (starting with the most recent)
- 3rd section: your professional experience, projects and achievements, again starting with the most recent
- 4th section: your awards and distinctions
- 5th section: any causes you’ve been involved with and other relevant experience (volunteer programs, internships, foreign exchanges, networking events, fundraising activities, etc.)
- The conclusion: a short sentence to let potential employers know that you can provide references on request (letters of recommendation, proof of graduation, etc.)
Make sure everything you include counts
You only have one chance to make a strong first impression. Your CV is the first point of contact with potential employees, so choose the information you include wisely.
- 1. Limit how much personal information you provide (note that you don’t need to provide your age, social insurance number, photos or marital status in Québec).
- 2. Write in the language required by the role and use the correct terminology (have a proofreader look it over if necessary).
- 3. Clarify anything that could be unclear to the reader (for example, a job title in your home country may be known as something different in Québec).
- 4. Make sure your document is clear, concise and legible (your CV should fit on one page if you don’t have a lot of professional experience).
- 5. Only include information that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for.
- 6. Include any other skills you’ve learned over time (language programs you’ve completed, certificates you’ve been awarded, etc.).
Aim for quality over quantity to make your CV shine
Make sure your cover letter is clear and engaging
The goal of a cover letter is to show potential employers why you’re the very best candidate for the job. Be sure to highlight the things that set you apart from other candidates.
You should demonstrate your interest in the job as well as confidence in your own abilities by presenting clear and structured arguments. And if you’ve met your potential employer before at a recruitment event, don’t be shy to point it out. It always helps to add a personal touch and to show that you understand the company and its values.
How to structure your cover letter
During the course of your studies, you’ve no doubt learned how to write a clear and concise argument. Follow this guide to structure your cover letter and better articulate your ideas:
The header (intro):
- Mention the role you’re applying for and how you heard about it.
- Include the date.
- Specify who you’re writing to (name, position, department and address if you’re sending the cover letter by mail).
- Explain briefly how your skills and experience match the position you’re applying for.
- Invite the recipient to refer to your CV for more detailed information.
- Present your educational background, training, professional experience, school and community activities, skills and work approach, explaining why this experience is relevant and valuable to the role.
- Point out how your skills will allow you to meet the job requirements.
- Briefly include what inspires you about the company or organization.
- Thank the person you’re writing to for their attention and interest in your application.
- Note that you’re available for an interview and request an interview meeting at their earliest convenience, encouraging them to contact you.
Last section (conclusion): sign off with a polite phrase like “Yours Sincerely” or “Best Regards”.
A few final tips: Make sure you save your documents in PDF format instead of Word. Name them using your first and last name (“CV1” won’t tell the reader anything!). And don’t forget to close with your signature.
The content of your cover letter
The cover letter is a great opportunity to put your personality onto paper. It shouldn’t read as a shorter version of your CV—this is your chance to sell yourself!
Show that you’re motivated
Be sure to highlight your skills and experience to show why you’re right for the role. If you were the editor of the school newspaper or head of communications on the student committee, say so.
By presenting yourself in a strategic way, while showing that you’ve done your research and understand the organization, you can show your potential employer why you’d be a valuable addition to the team.
Set a positive tone
Make sure your cover letter is concise, precise, confident and optimistic. The goal is to make the person reading want to meet you! Use action verbs wherever possible to keep the reader engaged and to let your personality shine.
Be humble and transparent
Remember that the cover letter serves a different purpose to the CV. You’re writing to someone who holds a key position in the company. Generic cover letters are easy to overlook, so adapt your content to fit the characteristics of the company. It’s often the smallest details that make all the difference!
Another thing to keep in mind is that honesty and transparency are key. Use objective rather than subjective arguments to showcase your skills and experience.
Optimize your online profile
Don’t think for a minute that your potential employer won’t “Google” you! In Québec, employers will often check search engines and social networks like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to learn more about their candidates. Type your own name into different search engines to make sure your online profile is on point.
Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, your online photos, stories, shares and likes say a lot about you! Some things may have slipped into your profile without you even knowing (when someone tags you in a photo, for example). Appearances can be misleading. Make sure that your online profile is a positive reflection of who you are.
Make a good impression on social media
About to jump into the job market? Your social networks can be valuable tools! Be on the lookout for new features to optimize your social presence and boost your visibility for potential employers.
It’s also important to be consistent, so make sure your social media accounts are aligned with the content of your CV. It’s always a good idea to update your LinkedIn profile, to show your professionalism and commitment to finding a job. You can even update your status to show that you’re a student who’s actively looking for a job (specifying your chosen field). This information will be extremely useful to recruiters. And finally, make the most of keywords most commonly used in your field. Happy job hunting!
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