A practical guide to building your strongest CV: Tips for displaced job seekers

Building a strong CV is an essential part of putting your best foot forward to potential employers. It is a key way for you to clearly articulate how your skills and experience align with the employer’s requirements, allowing employers to easily visualize you in the role.

It’s an opportunity to outline relevant experience, skills and achievements, while also telling employers a little bit about yourself and your personality.

Using the following suggestions, we recommend building a standard CV that you can use widely but that you can also tailor for each employment opportunity that you apply for so that it is as relevant to the opportunity as possible.

Many of these tips come from talent acquisition professionals Rabia Moaz, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition – Tangerine and Sean Araujo, Head of Talent, Klarna Canada, who shared their expertise in a CV workshop for displaced job seekers. This workshop can be viewed in English and Spanish

Basics of a strong CV

Name and contact information: If you have a preferred name that differs from your legal name, you can use your preferred name in your CV. As for contact details, we recommend including your email address and, if applicable, a link to your LinkedIn profile or other professional page, such as GitHub. There is no need to include a phone number or home address.

Summary: This is an opportunity to summarize your strongest qualifications for an employer such as length of work experience and highest education. You can list core technical skills here. You can also include a career goal, though this is optional. An ideal length would be 2-4 sentences.

Education: List all your post-secondary education. You may include your grade point average (GPA) or designation (i.e. ‘honours’) if it’s a strength you would like to highlight. Only include your high school if it is the highest level of education obtained. If you would like to include incomplete education, you can do so. You can clarify that this was incomplete with a note, such as: “Incomplete due to displacement.”

Work experience: A good rule of thumb is to start by including all your work experience in the past 10 years, all of which should be listed in reverse chronological order (from most recent to oldest). You can also include earlier work experience, depending on how relevant this older work experience remains. Very short-term jobs don’t need to be included, but avoid creating many gaps in your work experience history.

Under each job, we recommend including a few points to describe your responsibilities and any major achievements or key performance indicators (KPIs). Hiring managers often have many CVs to review and have only a short amount of time to dedicate to each CV they receive – being as specific as you can be in your job descriptions while keeping it short and concise allows them to learn as much about you as possible in their limited time.

You may also choose to include unpaid internships and volunteer experience to strengthen this section if you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience. If you have a long gap in your work experience, you may choose to explain it. You can add a note, for example: “Unable to work due to relocation” or “Unable to work while providing care for children and family” or “Worked in several short-term jobs while settling into a new country.”

Projects, certificates, or volunteerism: This is a great opportunity to include items that make you stand out. This may include personal or educational projects outside work, continuous learning certificates, and volunteer experience. Include items that might show you’re creative, curious and dedicated. You may also include links to personal projects, publications, or portfolios here. 

Skills (optional): You may want to have a skills section if you think you have specialized or job-related knowledge and abilities, such as software programs or tools. If you do opt to include a skills section, try to focus on your core technical skills. 

You may also include ‘soft’ skills or strengths that make you a good colleague. Think of items like communication, attention to detail, reliability, creativity, etc. You may include one or two hobbies outside work that help show you as a fuller person (optional).

Languages: List the languages you know and your level of proficiency. You can include adjectives such as “fluent” or “intermediate” or “beginner” and test scores if you have them.

With this basic structure in place, here are some general dos and don’ts to think about throughout your CV writing process.


  • Do aim for 1-2 pages in length.
  • Do use consistent fonts and spacing, leave enough white space for comfortable reading, and ensure clear organization of information.
  • Do check your spelling and grammar, and once you’ve done that, have a friend check your spelling and grammar to ensure nothing was missed.
  • Do keep your CV updated and make sure TalentLift has the most recent version.
  • Do, if possible, add photos of your work at the end of your CV, using an extra page or two, if relevant. For example, carpenters or roofers may wish to add photos of their work. Alternatively, a link to a portfolio may be included. 


  • Don’t include your photo. 
  • Don’t include private biographical information such as gender, age, or marital status.
  • Don’t include references, but you may say: References available upon request. 
  • Don’t include a cover letter unless asked. 

With all this information in hand, we are confident that you will be able to build a strong CV, allowing you to put your best foot forward to potential employers. 

We also encourage you to reach out to TalentLift through the live chat on our site or talent platform with any questions you may have. We are here to support you along your journey and hope that you found this guide helpful.

Further resources: 

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.

Miles4Migrants advances equity for talented people living as refugees, with donated flights to new homes

Adnan and Ranim and their son during a flight from Beirut to Toronto. Adnan and Ranim, both musicians and music teachers, left their home country of Syria during the war.

What does it mean to support talented people living in refugee circumstances to compete, on an equal footing with international talent from any other background, for job and skilled visa opportunities? 

It means removing as many barriers as possible between Canadian teams and displaced job seekers, for a seamless recruitment and relocation experience. 

For TalentLift, this has involved working alongside pioneering companies to design inclusive hiring processes; alongside governments to remove visa-related barriers under the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP); alongside the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and NGO partners around the world to onboard job seekers on our talent platform; and alongside Miles4Migrants for barrier-free travel to Canada. 

Many of the candidates we support have little or no savings to finance their relocation, and reducing the costs for them and their employers (who substantially contribute) is significant in advancing their access to job opportunities.

Mulham, a carpenter, and his family fly from Tripoli, Libya, where they were living as refugees from Syria, to their new home in Toronto.

Each candidate relocating to Canada with TalentLift’s support has taken a flight booked by our partners at Miles4Migrants, a charity that uses donated miles to fly people in refugee circumstances to their new homes. Once a visa is approved and our candidates and their families can travel for work to Canada, Miles4Migrants books a flight at no cost to the family and without any administrative burden to them.

Travel is stressful at the best of times, but our candidates have faced steep exit fees from a host country, denial of boarding, and denial of transit – because, even with everything in order, overworked airport or airline staff are the ultimate greenlight on entry and can misinterpret complex visa rules. All this plus lives packed up in suitcases, children, maybe pets, and – for many – the first time ever travelling by plane. The Miles4Migrants team has been with us through it all, including late nights of rebookings or airport hotel bookings, always with expertise, calm, and the deepest empathy. 

Everyone is invested in a smooth experience for a family’s departure, in contrast with difficult movements in their past.

Miles4Migrants is behind the final stretch of a displacement journey to new homes across Canada. But cost-free, seamless flights have been fundamental in the work leading up to relocations too – this support is part of making job and skilled visa opportunities increasingly accessible to displaced talent.

How to get involved

The remarkable work of our partners at Miles4Migrants is powered by donations. 

  • Donate your airline miles, credit card points, flight credits, or cash to help people living as refugees worldwide reach their new homes: https://miles4migrants.org/donate/ 
  • Share this post with colleagues, friends and family who may be keen to contribute. 

If your team can’t find the skills you need locally, start hiring internationally with TalentLift to find talent within the global refugee population. Be part of a transformative relocation for a new employee and their family. 

Andrii, an engineer, and Natalia, an architect, fly with their daughter from Munich to Toronto, with a stop to pick up visas in Vienna. The family left Ukraine during the war. 

Hack the hiring process to recruit tech talent in refugee circumstances

A new ‘Guide on Redesigning the Tech Hiring Process to Include Displaced Talent’ is a collaboration by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Refugee Action Hub, Na’amal, TalentLift, the Tent Partnership for Refugees, and World Education Services, with sponsorship by World Education Services.

Download the guide. 

The tech sector needs talent, and people living and working in tech within refugee populations need livelihood opportunities. This guide of practical ideas aims to help teams design their hiring process to more successfully recruit displaced talent. 

The talent gap across the tech industry and other industries recruiting for tech is significant. As a Forbes writer quipped, “the pandemic transformed nearly every organization into a tech company.” Canadian companies face a shortage of 200,000 software developers. Nearly 80% of CEOs in the United States are concerned about filling tech roles, and it’s projected to get worse. 

Meanwhile, there are immensely talented people working or trying to work in tech, who are living in refugee and displaced populations around the world, searching for international jobs. They keenly want a place in the talent pipeline. 

Work conditions can be extremely difficult in the countries where they live. Many work for lower pay and longer hours than their non-refugee peers, without job security, and without work rights and other legal protection to rely on. Life at home can be highly stressful because of low incomes and fearing for the safety, health or future prospects of loved ones. Despite all this, people find ways to grow their skills, continue learning, undertake passion projects, and look for new opportunities. Their accomplishments in these circumstances show remarkable perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and drive. 

Pioneering companies are sourcing displaced tech talent as part of their talent acquisition strategies, in recognition of the human potential and the transformative impact of extending a job opportunity in Canada or beyond to someone who’s living displaced. The Tech Talent Welcome Council network of companies across Canada is one example of this growing community. 

As more teams explore this underleveraged talent pool, they may find a design opportunity: Recruitment processes can be adjusted to recognize and overcome some of the challenges facing qualified candidates that are unique to their displaced circumstances. For example, candidates may be unfamiliar with interview formats, and can face cultural differences in representing their experience or their interest in the company. Employers can be unfamiliar with how domestic interviewing norms differ from international ones, lack the flexibility to accommodate scheduling and connectivity challenges, and screen for particular skills that are uncommon in other markets such as software testing automation. 

This guide presents some of the challenges experienced by teams and candidates during the hiring process, and ideas to overcome them. The ideas range from smaller tweaks to larger redesigns towards a more inclusive hiring process. 

The insights and ideas are drawn from a co-design workshop series in September 2021. The workshop convened six tech hiring teams across Canada, candidates who are currently living displaced, and supporting non-profit or training organizations with a goal to explore practical ways to better bridge job and relocation opportunities and the unique circumstances of displaced job seekers.

Why hire displaced tech talent? 

  • Access an underleveraged candidate pool with in-demand tech skills and high potential 
  • Gain knowledge and experience of different cultures, regions, and socio-economic circumstances that will expand diversity of thought on the team
  • Gain creative, agile problem-solvers who have remarkable perseverance and determination
  • Engage your team in a transformative change for peers in refugee or displaced circumstances, and in enriching community-building when new hires can relocate alongside their families from displacement

Excerpts from the ‘Guide on Redesigning the Tech Hiring Process to Include Displaced Talent.’

How hiring teams in Canada can support displaced Afghans

More than 2.6 million Afghans have left the country in search of refuge and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expects this number to grow in the coming months. Many of those who are in refugee circumstances in neighbouring countries are professionals, tradespeople, recent graduates, or parents, all eager for an opportunity to put their skills to use and contribute in a new home community.

Hiring teams across Canada can be part of the solution by extending job and skilled visa opportunities to talented Afghans and others displaced by conflict or persecution globally.

We and our partners at Lifeline Afghanistan, a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, hosted a webinar for hiring teams and other community members to learn how recruitment and relocation from within the displaced talent pool works. 

This unique form of recruitment, supported by the Canadian government and UNHCR through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, is a solution to both skills shortages and displacement. It’s a brilliant way to find talent while helping candidates and their families to relocate from displacement. Skilled immigration is additional and complementary to humanitarian resettlement and is a much-needed mobility option for those who can and want to use their professional skills to relocate.

The webinar recording is available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/SrQC2Ma9QGk  

We urge you to watch and consider these actions: 

  1. If you’re part of a team, start hiring with TalentLift.
  2. If you know Afghans who are displaced outside Afghanistan, job-ready and searching for a mobility solution, invite them to seek a job by joining TalentLift.
  3. If you want to engage another way, join Lifeline Afghanistan efforts to support private sponsorship of refugees.

You can also share the webinar recording with colleagues, friends or family and encourage these actions by others.

With the support of the Scotiabank ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift has built a talent platform for displaced job seekers to self-register, develop job-readiness, and connect to transformative job and relocation opportunities to Canada. Learn more