Please Enter a Search Term

Résumés and Cover Letters for International Students: Frequently Asked Questions





Should I let prospective employers know that I am an International Student?

There are two possible answers to this question. A few years ago "experts" advised against letting prospective employers know that much information about you so soon. However, recently the trend seems to be to let employers know in advance. This position is based on the rationale that international applicants typically have résumés that list education and work history in foreign countries so there is little point in avoiding the obvious.


How do I let my prospective employers know my level of English proficiency?

This is optional, if you feel your language ability is a strength than add it, if it is a weakness do not. Generally, you want to avoid placing English test scores (TOEFL) anywhere on your cover letter or résumé. While you may know what a good score is, many Canadians do not, so scores may not carrying any meaning for a potential employer reading your résumé . Rather, it is common practice to refer to the number of years you have been studying English. For example: studied English for # years or fully immersed in an English speaking society for # years.


As an International Student do I possess skills and abilities that put me at an advantage over Canadian applicants?

The answer obviously depends on the individual however International Students often possess abilities that they do not capitalize on. For example, most Canadians speak English with the minority speaking English and French. If you possess fluency in other languages then this probably puts you at an advantage (again, that can depend on the job as well). Knowledge of foreign business, international contacts, etc. can be attractive to employers trying to expand into the global market. Remember, you are trying to impress your prospective employer with your accomplishments, now is not the time to be humble.


Should I include specific references to my grades on my résumé?

If your grade point average (GPA) is very high then usually it is a good idea to include it but always specify the scale, i.e. if your GPA is 2.7 then you should clarify 2.7 on a 3.0 point scale which sounds better than 2.7 on a 4.0 scale. If you are referring to high school performance you generally do not refer to specific numbers instead mention Honours or Distinction.


In my country we usually include a photograph and information about our marital status, religion and other personal information. Should I include this in my résumé or cover letter?

No. You do not want to include this information in your résumé or cover letter. In North America employers cannot base hiring practices on applicant’s personal information. Therefore, North American résumés do not include any reference to gender, religion, marital status, etc. In fact, prospective employers may feel uncomfortable knowing that type of information about you.


If the job advertisement does not request a cover letter do I have to include one?

It is always best to err on the side of caution, so yes you should include a cover letter with your résumé. It is better for your résumé to look too professional than not professional enough. It is not considered good practice to submit a résumé without prefacing it with a letter that specifically indicates the position for which you are applying.


Do I have to change my cover letter for every job I apply for or can I have one standard letter that I always use?

Yes, you should change your letter for each job you apply for. Remember, you want to demonstrate to the prospective employer how well suited you are for that specific job. Mass produced, standard letters are generally not well received.