Does it Really Matter? Canadian vs. English Spelling and Implications for Job Seekers

With Canada turning 150, many Canadians are reflecting on what makes us unique – our food, our culture, our inventions. Something that hasn’t received a lot of coverage is our language. Although it’s a bit of a dry topic, it’s important for job seekers and their work-search documents. As a member of the Commonwealth, Canadian English has its roots within the British tradition with subtle differences from American English (e.g., using “our” versus “or” for words like behaviour, colour, and honour; including two l’s within words like counselling; and adding an “e” after “dg” in words like acknowledgement). However, Canadian English also borrows from American English for words like recognize and analyze; the British would use “s” in place of “z.” You can read some more differences at Canadian English Differences: 12 Weird Quirks That Make Our English Unique.

In our increasingly interconnected world students are completing training/degree programs in different countries from where they live, companies are operating businesses across borders, and job seekers are applying for work in multiple countries. This can present a challenge when trying to uncover job openings across borders. For example, searching for “Behavioral Specialist” or “Counselor” (i.e., using American spelling) may not uncover opportunities in Canada or Australia, where spelling differs. A job seeker’s work-search documents may need to be customized for applying for jobs in the US versus Canada. The distinction between British, American, and Canadian English for English language learners who are new to the country and looking for work may be enough to make their heads spin as they grapple with an already complicated language.

Daisy Wright shares some interesting thoughts within her blog, How to Differentiate between Canadian & American Spelling, where spelling differences were interpreted as errors by a recruiter who was unaware of the differences between American and Canadian spelling. Although we can’t assume that those responsible for hiring will know or understand spelling differences, we can do our due diligence to ensure our work-search documents match expectations.

We recommend job seekers match spelling conventions for where they are applying, taking clues from the company’s physical location, the website / social media, the job posting, and any written communications (e.g., emails) that they’ve had with company staff. Job seekers should keep in mind that in some instances spelling conventions may need to be retained (e.g., name of an educational program, reference’s title, publication). We’d also suggest avoiding the “find and replace” when customizing work-search documents to make sure items which need to stay the same aren’t inadvertently changed.


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