Finding your first job in Canada as a newcomer isn’t always easy. Navigating your way through a new job market and work culture requires preparation and dedicated effort. Whether it’s building your network, perfecting your resume, or getting some much-needed Canadian experience, there’s a lot you should be doing to improve your odds of finding a job.
As you prepare for your job search in Canada, learning from other newcomers who’ve travelled this path before you and succeeded can help you avoid mistakes and land your dream job faster. To make things easier for you, we interviewed 10 former newcomers who are now well-settled in Canada, and asked them to share their top newcomer tips to find a job in Canada.
In this article:
- Research the Canadian job market
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to the Canadian market
- Learn how to network effectively in Canada
- Enhance your language and communication skills
- Leverage all job search resources available in Canada
- Gain Canadian work experience
- Understand the licensing or credential recognition process for your profession
- Familiarize yourself with the Canadian work culture
- Prepare for your job interviews in Canada
- Don’t give up on your dream job
Research the Canadian job market
The Canadian job market can differ from that in other countries, in terms of local trends, salaries, and demand for specific skills. It’s important to explore the job market for your industry and in your target province or city to familiarize yourself with potential job prospects and sectors that are growing. “Understanding the Canadian job market is crucial,” says Prince John, who moved to Canada from India in 2018. “Do your homework, do the research, and arrive job ready,” he adds.
“Before leaving your country, you need to have an idea of what the expectation is from your role. Look at Canadian job listings to compare how roles differ from your home country,” advises Prince.
Use your pre-arrival preparation time to identify job titles and roles that align with your qualifications, experience, and interests. Read the job descriptions that interest you and make a note of the skills employers are looking for in candidates. Not only will this exercise help you position yourself well, but it will also uncover skill gaps that you may need to bridge before you actively begin applying for jobs in Canada.
Tailor your resume and cover letter to the Canadian market
Many newcomers make the mistake of using a resume format from their home country when searching for their first job in Canada. However, depending on where you’re from, your old resume may be very different from the Canadian-style resume that recruiters and hiring managers are used to in Canada.
“When I came to Canada, my resume was four pages long,” says Wanzi Silva, who arrived in Canada from Sri Lanka in 2017. “However, a Canadian resume is much shorter and should be specific to each job,” she points out.
Most Canadian employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes that are best suited for the role, and customizing your resume and cover letter to include keywords from the job description will help improve your chances of being selected for an interview.
Make sure you’re emphasizing relevant skills, qualifications, certifications, and work experience, instead of putting everything on your resume, regardless of whether or not it’s applicable to the job. A good resume and cover letter should not only highlight your strengths but also emphasize how these will help address the employer’s needs.
Suzie Zhang, who first came to Canada as an international student from China in 2012, highlights another significant difference that sets the Canadian-style resume apart. “Canadian hiring managers want you to call out your achievements in your resume, instead of simply listing roles and skills, like you may have done back home,” she says.
Wherever possible, use numbers or data to quantify your accomplishments, so the hiring manager can see the impact you made in previous roles. If you don’t have any relevant full-time experience, consider adding part-time or unpaid work you may have done in Canada, such as volunteering.
Learn how to network effectively in Canada
“As a newcomer, one of the biggest challenges is that you are new. Reach out to ensure that people know who you are and what you can do,” says Prince. You can expand your professional network in Canada in numerous ways, including through LinkedIn and social media, industry events, community gatherings, and job fairs.
In addition to LinkedIn, Prince recommends that newcomers leverage settlement agencies like ACCES Employment, TRIEC and other mentorship platforms, YMCA’s networking events, and regional job events and fairs to grow their network.
Coffee chats with professionals in your industry can help you learn about the job market, skills employers value, the culture in specific organizations, and even potential job opportunities. Plus, the more you interact with professionals one to one, the more prepared you’ll feel when it’s time for your interviews. “Coffee chats gave me a sneak peek into what interviews were like in Canada,” Prince points out.
Amit Chauhun, who moved to Canada from India in 2021, reiterates how crucial networking is for landing a job in canada. “Get comfortable getting out of your comfort zone,” he advises. “Meet as many people as you can. You’ll meet new people, you’ll learn, you’ll grow,” says Amit. “I learnt that in Canada you can even reach out to CEOs of companies. I would ask, ‘Do you have some time to talk to me?’ and they did!” he adds.
Don’t forget to keep your profile up-to-date and complete on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to enhance your online visibility. “It takes a bit of courage to meet new people and reach out on LinkedIn,” says Avantika Sardana, who moved to Canada as an international student in 2020. “Add a customized message to your connection request so the recipient knows why you are reaching out and how they might help you.”
A majority of jobs in Canada aren’t published or advertised online and the best way to identify these opportunities is through networking. “Connecting with people in your industry can uncover opportunities in the hidden job market,” says Nazanin Akhavan, who moved to Canada from Iran in 2008. “That said, don’t be disappointed if people don’t respond. All you need is one good connection to get you started,” she advises.
Once you’ve built meaningful connections, you can start leveraging your network for referrals and recommendations. But Suzie Zhang advises against approaching professionals in a transactional manner and asking for a job upfront. “When connecting with people in Canada, look beyond the short-term goal of finding a job. You’re building a network, building long-term relationships,” she says. With networking, the idea is to get your foot in the door, make a memorable connection, and find a way to offer value before you can ask for help.
Networking isn’t just about making professional connections alone, it can also help you socially. “When you move to Canada, you leave your support network behind, so it’s really important to start building a strong network here from day one,” says Neha Khandelwal, who moved to Canada in 2011 and established the Indian Women’s Circle (GTA) in 2015.
Enhance your language and communication skills
Canada has two official languages, English and French, and unless you’re in Quebec, most workplace communication will be in English.
“While finding a job in Canada, language can be a challenge for many newcomers,” says Nazanin. “Do your homework and improve your English, but don’t worry if it isn’t perfect,” she adds. She recommends that you start practicing before arriving in Canada and regularly talk to people who speak the language fluently to improve your English skills. Practicing your language skills through daily interactions can help you improve your fluency, gain confidence, and overcome language barriers in advance of your job interviews. So don’t hold back because of your accent or lack of confidence.
As a newcomer, you can also enrol in language courses or programs to enhance your proficiency in English or French. New permanent residents may have access to free English classes under the government’s Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. You can also use online learning tools like Duolingo or Mauril to get some extra practice. Alternatively, you may want to get professional assistance, such as language coaches or tutors, to further refine your communication skills.
Jaspreet Kaur, who moved to Canada from India when she was 19, also emphasizes the importance of practice when it comes to language and communication skills. “You’re the best judge of your skills,” she says. “If you think you speak too fast, and you’re searching for a job, try to speak a bit slower. Practice it at home with your family members.”
Leverage all job search resources available in Canada
As a newcomer, it’s important that you use all the tools and resources available to you to reduce the time it takes to land your first job in Canada. Spend the time before your move familiarizing yourself with popular Canadian job portals, the recruitment websites of employers you’d want to work with, and employment consultancies.
Create profiles on the job platforms employers in your industry use, such as LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Glassdoor, Job Bank, and other sector-specific websites. Keep close track of new job postings being published, or if the portal allows you to, set up alerts to receive relevant job listings over email on a daily or weekly basis.
Although many newcomers shy away from employment agencies, in Canada, this service is free-of-cost for prospective employees. Agencies receive a commission from the employer when a position is filled, so when you register with an agency or find a job through one, you do not have to pay a fee. Employment consultants can connect you to employers who’re looking for candidates with your skill set or experience or can send relevant job opportunities your way.
If you’re in a regulated occupation, it’s a good idea to contact your provincial or territorial authority or review their website for information on employment portals and opportunities. Job fairs, both virtual and in-person, are another great way to meet Canadian employers who are actively hiring for multiple roles.
Gain Canadian work experience
One of the biggest challenges newcomers face while looking for their first job in Canada is the lack of Canadian experience. Unfortunately, despite the fact that most newcomers have significant foreign experience and achievements, many Canadian employers still prefer hiring candidates who have at least some exposure to the Canadian work environment.
“Starting from scratch is tough, but many have succeeded,” says Prince. “You’ll have to create opportunities to prove yourself and gain Canadian experience,” he adds. However, the Canadian experience you need to get your foot in the door doesn’t have to be from paid work. Volunteering can be a great way to put your skills to practice and get some coveted Canadian on your resume. If you’re actively looking for your first job in Canada, volunteering is also an excellent way to meet professionals, and possibly even hiring managers, and expand your network.
Part-time or contract work can also serve as a stepping stone to permanent employment and help you build a professional network. Some bridging programs that are designed to help newcomers adapt to the Canadian job market also include work placements as part of the curriculum. These programs are subsidized by the government and can be an excellent way to gain Canadian experience or additional skills sought after by employers in Canada.
Understand the licensing or credential recognition process for your profession
Some occupations are regulated in Canada, such as medicine, nursing, engineering, and teaching, and you require a federal, provincial or territorial license to practice these occupations.
If you’re in a regulated occupation, research the licensing or credential recognition process for your profession well before you arrive in Canada. Many licensing authorities allow newcomers to begin (or even complete) the licensing process remotely from their home country, so you’re eligible to work in your field soon after you arrive.
You can also use your pre-arrival period to identify any additional certifications, examinations, or training you need to stand out in the Canadian job market. Reviewing job descriptions of opportunities in your field is a good place to start, as it gives you insight into the skills you need to build to meet the needs of Canadian employers.
Familiarize yourself with the Canadian work culture
One of the key things Canadian employers try to assess during the interview process is how well a particular candidate would fit into their company or team culture. Some organizations have even added a “culture fit” interview round to the hiring process. Unfortunately, as a newcomer, learning about and adapting to the Canadian work culture can take some time, especially if you’re moving from a country with a significantly different culture.
That said, you can start familiarizing yourself with the Canadian work culture even before you start working. Networking with professionals in your industry and asking questions about the culture is a great way to learn. Many companies also provide information about their culture and values on their website and social media.
Once you get an interview call, you can dig deeper into that specific company’s culture to learn more about what to expect. “Call a friend or connection who’s been working there,” says Jaspreet. “Ask them how the work culture looks like there. What do you need to be ready for?” she advises.
The interview itself is another opportunity to ask the hiring manager questions about the company culture. Just make sure the answers to your questions aren’t readily available on the company’s website.
Prepare for your job interviews in Canada
Most Canadian employers interview multiple candidates for each job position. So, when you’ve made it this far into the hiring process, it’s imperative that you prepare well for your interviews. Usually, you’ll go through two or three interviews before getting a job offer, and in some cases, you may face a panel of interviewers.
Be sure to research the employer, the interviewer/s, and company culture before your interview. This will help you customize your responses and ensure that the skills and accomplishments you highlight resonate with the interviewer. You can also use insights from your research to inform the questions you ask the interviewer.
Craft an elevator pitch that articulates who you are, the value you bring, and your career goals in a clear and concise way. It’s also a good idea to practise your responses to commonly asked interview questions, so you know the points you want to convey.
“In Canadian job interviews, employers want to get to know you as a person: your personality, your interests, and how you’ll fit with the company culture,” says Suzie Zhang.
Amit Chauhun agrees. “Interviewers want to know who you are as well as what you can do,” he says. “Someone I interviewed with told me ‘Show your personality, not just your skills,’” he recounts.
You should also have a list of questions for the interviewer. Not only does this show that you’re engaged and interested in the role, but it can also show that you’ve done your research about the company.
Finally, being confident and having the right body language can work wonders during an interview. “Interviewing is an overwhelming experience and you might be nervous,” says Jaspreet. “Have a firm handshake and make eye contact. Keep your elevator pitch ready in case you need to describe yourself in two sentences,” she advises.
Don’t give up on your dream job
As a newcomer, finding a job in your industry in Canada can take time, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a survival job to help cover your living expenses. However, some newcomers feel disheartened by job rejections or the lack of response from employers. They may lose confidence, feel demotivated, and settle for their survival job, inaccurately believing that this is the best job they’ll get in Canada.
“Canada gives you the opportunity to do anything you want,” says Chris Gonsalvez, who immigrated to Canada from Dubai in 2020. “There’s dignity of labour and people respect you for what you do, no matter what you do. So, don’t be ashamed to take a job to pay the bills,” he says. “Even your side hustle or survival job can help you grow your network and lead to career opportunities. But don’t let go of your dream job,” Chris advises.
Jaspreet has a positive word for newcomers who’re struggling with their job search. “As long as you have the right skillset and the right mindset, you can achieve your career goals in Canada,” she says.
If your job applications haven’t been yielding any success, revisit your resume and cover letter and make small improvements before sending out the next batch of applications. It can take some time to figure out what employers in your industry are looking for in job applications, but be patient and you’ll surely find success.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to landing a job, we hope this collective wisdom from newcomers who’ve made Canada their home before you will help point you in the right direction. In the end, persistence, adaptability, and a proactive approach will pay off, and help you find a suitable job in Canada.