For most newcomers, finding a job in Canada is a priority. Delays in your job search process can cause financial stress during your initial months in Canada. In addition, a prolonged job search can result in an employment gap on your resume, impacting your ability to find suitable jobs in your field.
Yet, as a newcomer, finding your first job in Canada can be challenging. You may be unfamiliar with the Canadian job market or the typical hiring process employers in Canada follow. You’ll be in an entirely different work culture without a clear understanding of what employers look for in candidates. In this article, we cover 15 job search mistakes you should avoid as a newcomer in Canada so that you can land a job soon and start building your life in your new country.
Starting your job search only after arriving in Canada
As a newcomer, finding a job in Canada can take time, so the sooner you begin your job search, the better. Ideally, you should start reviewing job descriptions at least a few months before your arrival to get a better idea of what skills and experience Canadian employers look for in your industry. This will give you time to build new skills and gather relevant certifications.
The hiring process in most Canadian companies takes at least three to four weeks, so you should start actively applying to relevant jobs at least a few weeks before your landing date. With most interviews happening remotely, you may even be able to land an offer before you arrive in Canada.
Not using a Canadian resume format
Applying to jobs in Canada using a resume format from your home country is a common job hunting mistake. First, using a resume format that’s not common in Canada gives recruiters the impression that you’re not familiar with the Canadian work environment. Second, most employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes, and the software can’t easily read non-standard resume formats. Both these reasons may lead to your resume being excluded by the employer.
Another major difference in the Canadian resume format is that it focuses on your professional achievements rather than job duties.
In some countries, resumes also include personal information, such as your age, gender, photograph, and marital status, which Canadian employers don’t want to see on resumes. Using a Canadian-style resume format, which includes all the information employers in Canada value, can significantly improve your chances of landing a job.
Using the same resume for all your job applications
Always customize your resume with keywords from the job description you are applying to. ATS software shortlist resumes that best match the job description, and only the selected resumes are shared with the hiring manager. Tailoring each resume you send out will increase your likelihood of your resume being seen by the hiring manager and, consequently, your chances of being called for an interview.
While customizing your resume, avoid including skills and experiences that are not relevant to the role, so the hiring manager can focus on what you bring to the table for the company.
Lack of focus or clarity in your job search
Throughout your job search, it’s important to be clear about the type of job you want. It’s common for newcomers to feel frustrated if they don’t get a positive response from employers after a few weeks of job searching. However, don’t be tempted to apply to every job post you see. Instead, focus your time and energy on job opportunities that best fit your skills and experience. This will allow you to dedicate all your attention to jobs you’re actually interested in and improve the quality of your job applications.
One exception is if you need a survival job to cover your living expenses in Canada. Even in that scenario, it is recommended that you try to find a role that allows you to build or leverage transferable skills that are valuable to employers in your primary industry.
Applying to multiple open positions in one organization is another job search mistake you should avoid, as recruiters may think you’re unclear about your career goals or are desperate for a job.
Aiming too low or too high
A common myth many newcomers believe is that you need to take a step down or get an entry-level role when restarting your career in Canada. This isn’t always true. Your work experience from your home country is still relevant, provided you showcase it properly.
Ideally, you should prioritize applications to job opportunities that align with your experience. If you aim for job levels below your previous one, you may come across as underconfident. On the other hand, applying to roles that are significantly above your previous job level may lead employers to believe you’re underqualified for the job. Moreover, since Applicant Tracking Systems match keywords in resumes to the job description, you’ll have a better chance of qualifying for positions with job titles similar to your recent roles.
Underestimating the importance of volunteer work
Most employers want to hire applicants with Canadian experience, which poses a problem for newcomers. However, the definition of Canadian experience is quite broad and includes unpaid positions, such as volunteering, or even freelance or survival jobs that help you build transferable skills.
As a newcomer, volunteer experience can look great on your resume. It also has many other advantages, such as keeping you motivated, growing your professional network, and building specific skills that are in demand in Canada.
Volunteering is ingrained in Canadian culture, but many newcomers disregard it due to the perception that this is free work. In reality, many Canadians, including senior professionals, donate their time to volunteer for non-profits, organizations, and causes they believe in.
Only applying to posted jobs
Canada has a huge hidden job market, which means that between 65 and 80 per cent of available job openings are not posted online. Instead, these positions are filled through recruiters’ networks. Only focusing on jobs posted online can significantly reduce your chances of landing a job, as you only end up applying to a small fraction of available positions.
Ideally, you should ask your network about available jobs within their organizations or networks and apply to those unlisted roles as well. If you’ve nurtured strong relationships within your network, you may be able to get information about available roles as well as referrals.
| Tip: Even with jobs that are publicly advertised, recruiters give preference to applicants referred by someone they know and trust. Getting job referrals from people in your network can improve your chances of getting a job offer in Canada.
Not building or leveraging your network in Canada
Your professional network is your most valuable asset during your job search in Canada. Many newcomers are unfamiliar with the concept of networking and reluctant to reach out to professionals they don’t know. However, in the Canadian job market, networking is a necessity. Canadians network not only when it’s time to look for a new job, but throughout their careers.
Although connecting with professionals on LinkedIn and asking them for coffee chats may be new to you, remember that people in Canada are used to such requests. You’ll find that many professionals, including senior executives, are willing to take out time to speak with you and offer advice as you start your career in Canada.
As a newcomer, your network can open doors to the job market through introductions and referrals. You can also leverage your network to learn more about your industry or about particular organizations.
Not optimizing your LinkedIn profile for your job search
Most employers will go through your LinkedIn profile and other social media pages before offering you a job. Your LinkedIn profile is a reflection of who you are as a professional, so be sure to keep it updated, optimized, and polished.
Many recruiters also actively look for and contact prospective candidates on LinkedIn, so make sure your profile clearly states what type of job you’re looking for, as well as your skills and work experience. You can also improve your visibility on LinkedIn by posting thoughtful, relevant content regularly, and engaging with other professionals in your industry.
Emphasizing only technical skills on your Canadian resume
Soft skills or interpersonal skills are highly sought after in the Canadian job market. Some skills that are commonly in demand in Canada include communication, adaptability, time management, problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, leadership, and attention to detail. Although job-specific skills are important as well, listing only your technical skills on your resume can lower your chances of securing a job.
Make sure you read the job description thoroughly and include relevant soft skills on your resume. Including soft skills helps the employer determine whether you’ll be able to perform the job and fit well in the team culture.
| Tip: Want more information on the in-demand skills in your industry in Canada? Read our industry-specific articles below:
Not including a strong cover letter with your resume
Even if the job listing doesn’t ask for one, it’s always valuable to include a cover letter in your job application. A well-written cover letter can help you stand out in situations where the employer needs to choose between several candidates with similar work histories and skills. Like your resume, your cover letter should be customized for each role.
Avoid repeating information from your resume in your cover letter. Your cover letter is your opportunity to share extra information not included in your resume, such as examples of your accomplishments or why you’re passionate about that particular company or role.
Lying on your job application
Lying or exaggerating on your resume is a job search mistake you cannot afford. Most Canadian employers undertake extensive background checks that involve contacting your previous employers, verifying your education credentials, and more, so a white lie will likely be caught.
Moreover, you’ll be asked questions about the information you put in your resume during the interview, and may have to give examples of how you used a particular skill or achieved a particular outcome. Even if you somehow land a job offer, most employment contracts have a condition that allows employers to terminate employees who are found to have lied on their application.
Appearing for a job interview unprepared
In Canada, interviews are meant to evaluate your technical skills, soft skills, culture fit, as well as your interest in the role. Showing up without sufficient interview preparation can ruin your chances of being selected. Make sure you do your research about the company and the interviewers and practice your responses to commonly-asked questions. You should also have examples to support your responses and a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
Don’t assume that just because you’ve been selected for an interview, you’ll land the job. Most Canadian employers will interview several candidates before selecting the most suitable one. You want to go in prepared so you can put your best foot forward and impress the interviewers.
| Tip: Even if you’re appearing for several interviews over a short period, be sure to prepare for each one separately. Learn as much as possible about the company, the job, and the interviewers beforehand. This will help you customize your responses for that particular job and ensure that you have relevant, well-researched questions to ask the interviewers.
Not following up after an interview
Always send a thank you email to the interviewers within 24 hours of your interview. Not only is it polite to thank them for taking time to speak with you, but it’s also a great way to reiterate your interest in the job. You can personalize your note by including one or two pertinent points you discussed.
Ideally, you should ask the interviewers when you can expect a decision on the next steps at the end of your interview and follow up accordingly. Avoid following up too often as that can make you seem pushy and impatient. If you don’t receive a response after your third email or within a month of your interview, it’s best to focus your energy on other job applications.
Asking for a salary that’s not in line with industry standards
Most Canadian employers will ask about your expected salary at some point during the interview process. Some recruiters may bring this up during the screening (first) interview, while others may only pose this question when they are close to making a hiring decision. Either way, it’s important to research the pay range for the role or industry, so you don’t ask for an amount that’s too high or too low. Asking for a salary that’s outside the employer’s expected pay scale will surely get you excluded from the hiring process. On the other hand, you also don’t want to ask for too little if the employer is willing to pay more.
Websites like Glassdoor provide an estimated range for how much employers in your city pay for similar jobs. You can also ask close connections in your network about the pay range for different job levels to get a better idea of how much you can expect to earn. (Don’t ask people about how much they make, as that is considered rude.)
When asked about your expected salary, avoid quoting a single figure, and instead, provide the recruiter with a range that aligns with industry standards. If their offer is lower than what you hoped for, you can always negotiate later. Also, be sure to look at the compensation package as a whole, instead of just the salary.
| Note: In Ontario, the Pay Transparency Legislation bars employers with 100 or more employees from asking job candidates about their salary history. Although similar rules don’t exist in other provinces, most large companies in Canada won’t ask for proof of your previous employment income.