I recently attendedin Markham, Ontario. It was a free conference for newcomers to Canada who were struggling to find work, giving them an opportunity to express their concerns, ask questions, and network with CEOs and other Canadian professionals.
I got to see first hand the complaints of skilled immigrants who do not get jobs in Canada, and this is what I discovered.
#1 Misunderstanding what Canadian Experience means
Almost everyone was talking about Canadian experience. They even had a panel discussion about it.
One woman came up to the mic and was angry at the Canadian system. You could hear the frustration in her voice – “How can I get Canadian Experience if I don’t have a job? I have been looking for a job for 8 YEARS!”
After her 10 minute rant about Canadian experience, I asked random people “Would you hire that person?” They all replied “No way!”
A lot of people think that Canadian experience is about working in Canada. It is not! This is my personal definition of Canadian experience:
A hiring manager’s perception of your soft skills and knowledge of Canadian work culture.
One peculiar observation: A lot of people were saying they were getting calls for interviews, but it never converted to a job.
Think about it, if you got called for a job interview, the hiring manager already knows you have not worked in Canada from your resume. Why would he or she call you for the interview if this was a problem?
What most likely happened was that during the interview, the candidate failed to demonstrate the soft skills that the job needed. Either communication skills were falling short, or they downplayed their accomplishments when asked to talk about professional experience (using too much “we” instead of “I”)
One recruiter told me that some people she interviews don’t even make eye contact when they speak.
In the case of the woman above, it’s not Canadian experience that was her issue, but her attitude. If she reveals even a sliver of that attitude during an interview, she will never get hired. Canadian’s hire problem solvers, not complainers.
At this stage in the interview, Canadians will politely and indirectly turn you down (maybe even fear a discriminatory lawsuit) and they default to “You don’t have Canadian experience” or “You are overqualified”, when what they really mean is “Your English is not up to the mark” or “You have the wrong attitude for my team” or “Based on your stories it doesn’t sound like you accomplished a lot”.
I was in a panel discussion myself talking about my experience as a newcomer. A gentleman at the back of the room told me that whenever he goes into an interview, he is always told that he is “overqualified”.
I gave him advice on how to tackle an “overqualified” problem, but when he spoke to me I knew straight away what his problem was, but I felt uncomfortable to tell him in front of the whole room.
Unfortunately, he did not privately speak to me after the talk, else I would have told him “Canadian recruiters are telling you you’re overqualified because they are hesitant to tell you the real reason – it’s your English”. His English fell way below the mark for Canadian standards.
I’m not saying this is the fault of the candidate. This behavior stems from the culture of the country they came from. Maybe English is not their first language. Maybe in their culture highlighting personal accomplishments is considered selfish and credit must always be shared with the manager and the team. Maybe it’s in their culture to remain silent and not make eye contact out of respect.
The bottom line is, you need to understand how Canadians think and what hiring managers and recruiters expectations are to.
Unless you do the research or ask the right people who aren’t afraid to give you an honest answer and most importantly upgrade your English language skills, skilled immigrants will continue to complain about not getting jobs.
#2 Not taking an active approach to your job search
This is how I personally had success in Canada, securing.
If you just machine gun your generic resume to online jobs and rely on technology to do the rest you will be job searching for a long time.
Machines don’t hire you. Humans do. So you have to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are willing to work hard and think outside the box.
This is why I customize my resume and personalize my cover letter for every job application, and created my own personal website () to stand out.
I used the same tactics when I applied for a managers job within my company and I got the job again, so I’m confident it works.
As long as you’re aware of the process, the expectations of the hiring manager and skills in the resume and cover letter writing, you can increase the chances of landing that job tenfold.
#3 Not using publically available services
If it’s free it’s probably not worth it, right? Not in Canada! If you want to see the Canadian tax dollars at work, make use of the public services that are available to you.
New immigrants do not use these services either because they are too proud or they do not feel it’s worth it.
From this conference that I attended, where companies that host these services were present, you will see the quality in what they provide.
They may not get you the perfect job, but will fit you into a well-established company and then it’s up to you to work your way up.
I have personally hired and trust candidates from, which have locations in Toronto, York, and Peel region.
My cousin was struggling to find a job in finance, till she eventually gave up on the DIY approach, and used. They placed her in a logistics company doing account receivables where she got a full-time employee after proving her worth and working hard.
10 months into the job, the company, unfortunately, filed for bankruptcy. She updated her resume and LinkedIn profile with her new found Canadian experience and her phone started to ring off the hook! She told me she started rejecting recruiters. She now works full time with another logistics company with a higher pay.
A small dash of Canadian experience was all she needed to go from insufficient to in demand!
This conference that I attended is an example of what Canada is prepared to do for its new immigrants – for FREE! It was held at Hilton hotel, led by a Canadian TV host, attended by the mayor of Markham and CEOs of companies in the York region. And don’t forget the catered buffet!
Canada takes it’s free services very seriously.
#4 Not Canadianizing your resume
Someone at the conference mentioned that their resume was 6 pages long!
People mistakenly believe they should throw all their experiences up on a word document and mail blast it to every Canadian job board.
It’s guaranteed failure.
People should seek professional help and learn the methodology ofto suit the manager’s needs. A big part of this is knowing in a way that convinces a Canadian hiring manager and recruiter that you are the best person for the job.
One of my favorite tools for doing a quality check on the resume is. This tool allows you to compare your uploaded resume to the copy-pasted job description side by side and score it for compliance.
#5 Not using bridging services
During one of the breaks at the conference, I walked up to table where three strangers were sat. I introduced myself and they turned out to be a nurse, a physician, and a dentist.
They were all already enrolled in a bridging program at, one of the most popular hosts of bridging programs in Ontario.
But in most cases, I find that a lot of people don’t utilize these services. I hear them say “I have over twenty years of experience, why should I go back to learning something I have been doing ?”
Look, I understand it’s not easy to feel like you’re going back to paying your dues in your career.
It takes courage to leave your family and friends behind to move to a new country in hopes of a better life.
You need to tap into that same courage to choose to take a step back in your career too.
When I applied for my first job in Canada as a newcomer, I applied for a position that was two levels below the job I had in Dubai. But because I took an active approach to it, that job application revealed a hidden job that was one level higher and unadvertised, that the recruiter thought I was better suited for.
And two years later, after working my butt off on that job even though it was a lower position from before, and using the smarts and the experience and the work ethics I developed from my 12-year career prior to landing in Canada, I got a promotion back to a manager’s position.
If you have the humility to learn and the courage to take a few steps back in your career and the vision and strive to pick up where you left off, you will eventually start to see hopes become reality.
An expert I follow say that it may take anywhere from 6–12 years on average for a Canadian newcomer to get back the quality of life they left behind. I’m in year 3.
Don’t let pride delay the process.
To sum up…
Canada welcomes diversity in the workplace. That is what the Gateway 2017 conference was all about.
But one area where diversity is not accepted, and this is my personal insight, is the norms of business conduct.
Your diversity will be accepted from your fresh perspective, unique experiences and innovative ideas that you bring from your home country.
But when you communicate to others, when you manage your teams, when you deliver presentations, when you attend meetings, when you make a sales pitch, when you care for patients, when you ask for a raise, how you work with your boss, how you provide and receive feedback, and every other aspect of business conduct you can think of, it’s done one way – the Canadian way.
Take the 5 points stated above as a guideline and learn about how Canadian workplace culture is different from your home country.
To help you out, I’ve created a free videoabout what I’ve learned and researched about Canadian Work Culture. It’s from these learnings I was able to secure my first Canadian job, and get two promotions 3 years after that.
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