Human resources (HR) is an important function in businesses across Canada as the need to attract and retain skilled workers continues to grow. Human resources professionals often play an integral role in establishing a company’s culture, training and retention, diversity and inclusion, and labour relations. Whether you are a seasoned HR manager or are at the start of your HR career in your home country, moving to Canada can open doors to new employment opportunities.
Landing your first human resources job as a newcomer in Canada, however, can be challenging. You’ll need to understand the job market and start your job search in Canada before you arrive. In this article, we discuss immigration programs for HR professionals wanting to move to Canada, as well as tips on how to get an HR job in Canada as a newcomer.
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Canadian immigration programs for HR professionals
The Canadian job market offers excellent career opportunities and growth prospects for HR professionals. However, as an internationally trained human resources professional, you can only work in Canada if you are a Canadian permanent resident, citizen, or work permit holder. If you are a HR professional planning to move to Canada, here are some immigration programs you can leverage:
The Express Entry system is a popular permanent residence (PR) program that allows skilled individuals who meet the education, experience, and language criteria to work and settle in Canada. To apply for PR through Express Entry, you must create an Express Entry profile and fill out details about your educational credentials, work experience, language test scores, age, and more. Based on your responses, a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score will be calculated for your profile. If your CRS score meets the draw cut-off, you’ll get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR.
As an HR professional, you may qualify for one of the two Express Entry programs described below:
Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program
This Express Entry program is aimed at individuals with at least one year of foreign work experience in a managerial, professional or technical job (TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3, previously skill type 0 or skill level A or B) in the last 10 years. Most HR jobs fall under National Occupational Classification (NOC) TEER 0 (human resources managers, previously skill type 0), TEER 1 (HR professionals, previously skill level A), or TEER 2(HR and recruitment officers, previously skill level B).
As an HR professional, you may be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker program if you have a high degree of education and a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) score of at least 7 in an approved English or French language test.
Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
The Canadian Experience Class program is aimed at individuals who have Canadian work experience in a NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 (previously skill type 0 or skill level A or B) job. As a human resources professional, you may be eligible for CEC if you’ve worked in Canada in a paid position for at least one year on a valid work permit (such as an employer-specific work permit or Post-Graduation Work Permit). To qualify, you need a minimum CLB score of 7 in all sections of an approved English or French language test.
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)
These programs allow provinces and territories to invite newcomers with the skills, experience, and education needed to meet local labour market requirements. Each province/territory has its own Provincial Nominee Program streams with varying eligibility requirements and, in some cases, applicants with experience in specific NOC jobs may be invited to apply for PR.
Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)
The Atlantic Immigration Program is a federal immigration program that allows newcomers to move permanently to one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador. In addition to possessing the necessary work experience, education, and language skills, AIP applicants must also have a full-time permanent job offer from an Atlantic Canada employer.
Work permit: Moving to Canada temporarily as an HR professional
Most foreign nationals (non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents) require a work permit to work in Canada. There are two types of work permits:
- Employer-specific work permit: You must have a Canadian job offer to qualify for an employer-specific work permit. This work permit only allows you to work for one employer at a specific job location for a predetermined period.
- Open work permit: An open work permit allows you to work for any eligible employer in Canada, and you don’t need a job offer to apply. However, you can only qualify for an open work permit under certain situations, such as if you recently graduated from an eligible Canadian study program or are the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign skilled worker or international student in Canada.
If you want to settle in Canada permanently but aren’t eligible for any PR programs, applying for a work permit can be an ideal option. With a few years of Canadian work experience under your belt, it will be easier to qualify for the CEC, FSW and PNP programs.
In-demand HR jobs in Canada
Occupations in human resources are in demand in many provinces in Canada. For human resources managers, job prospects are good in New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Ontario also offer fair job prospects.
For human resources generalists, job prospects are good in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Opportunities are also available in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon.
Human resources and recruitment officers are in high demand in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, while prospects for this job are fair in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island.
Types of human resources jobs in Canada
Human resources jobs in Canada are categorized under three National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes: NOC 10011 (human resources managers, previously NOC 0112), NOC 11200 (human resources professionals, previously NOC 1121), and NOC 12101 (human resources and recruitment officers, previously NOC 1223).
NOC 10011 covers TEER 0 (previously skill level 0) jobs in HR management that require a university degree. This includes job titles such as employer-employee relations manager, human resources manager, human resources director, occupational health and safety manager, pay and benefits manager, personnel director, personnel training and development manager, and staff relations manager.
NOC 11200 covers TEER 1 (previously skill type A) jobs in human resources that require a university degree or related college diploma. Example job titles include employment advisor, classification specialist, conciliator, employment relations officer, human resources consultant, human resources generalist, job analyst, labour relations officer, mediator, union representative, job evaluator, and wage analyst.
NOC 12101 covers TEER 2 (previously skill type B) jobs in human resources. A college diploma or specialized training in a field related to personnel management is usually required. Job titles include employment interviewer, executive recruiter, head hunter, human resources officer, personnel administrator, recruiting officer, staffing advisor, and student placement officer.
How much do HR professionals earn in Canada?
According to the government’s Job Bank, human resources managers and directors can earn between $28.85 and $70.51 per hour in Canada. According to Glassdoor estimates, HR managers make an average of $87,657 per year.
Human resources professionals such as HR generalist, supervisor, or consultant can earn between $23.08 and $56.73 per hour in Canada.
For human resources officers and recruitment officers, hourly wages range from $18.00 to $48.08. As per Glassdoor, the average base pay for a recruitment officer is $58,361 per year and for an HR generalist it’s $63,965 per year.
How to find HR jobs in Canada as a newcomer
Finding your first job in Canada can take time, so you should consider preparing for your job search and actively applying for jobs before you arrive. Here are some tips to help you find your first human resources job in Canada:
Understand the job market
Human resources professionals are highly sought after across many industries, especially in manufacturing, education services, and healthcare—all of which tend to have dedicated HR departments responsible for recruiting and manage employees. You should also consider the local job market when determining which city to settle in. Urban centres, like Toronto and Vancouver (as well as their surrounding areas) typically have more job openings, but also higher competition compared to smaller cities. In smaller cities or less populated provinces, it may be easier to land a job you want. Researching the job market in advance can make your job search more efficient and fruitful.
Build skills Canadian employers are looking for
Although the skills you leveraged in your profession in your home country will usually still be relevant, Canadian employers may be looking for additional capabilities, including some that are specific to the Canadian market. Gaps in your skill set can make it harder to land a job in Canada, and you can improve your employability by understanding the skills that organizations seek in potential HR employees. To compare your skill set against what is expected for the role, research job postings you’re interested in and speak to HR professionals in Canada.
Many human resources roles require proficiency in platforms including Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) such as Ceridian or Workday, Talent Management Software (TMS), and Application Tracking Systems (ATS). Familiarizing yourself with these platforms can help you upgrade your technical skills.
Depending on your career aspirations, you may also want to expand your knowledge in topics such as pensions and benefits, labour relations, diversity and inclusion, and mental health through online workshops and courses. Platforms such as Coursera, EdX, LinkedIn, and Udemy are useful resources for developing HR related skills.
Obtaining an HR designation can also help your resume stand out. The Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation is offered by Chartered Professionals in Human Resources Canada (CPHR). It has member associations in Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.
In Ontario, the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) offers three HR designations: Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP), Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL), or Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE). Internationally trained HR professionals can join the HRPA if they’ve obtained landed immigrant (PR) status or an open work permit in Canada within the past 24 months.
Craft an impressive Canadian-style marketing resume
The Canadian-style resume may be different from the resumes used in your home country. There are three main types of Canadian resume formats—reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid. The ideal resume format for you will depend on the length and continuity of your work history.
When drafting your human resources resume, start with a professional summary highlighting some of your key achievements, skills and strengths. The work experience section should include all the relevant jobs you held in the past. Instead of listing your job responsibilities, highlight your accomplishments in each role. Many employers prefer applicants with at least some Canadian work experience, but this experience does not need to be paid—volunteer work counts!
The key skills section should list relevant transferable skills you gained through your work history, in university studies, or developed through certifications or training. For instance, if you’re applying for a recruitment officer role, you can highlight your proficiency with talent management systems or applicant tracking systems. Review the job description carefully and include relevant keywords to make your resume ATS-friendly.
The education section should highlight your academic credentials as well as their Canadian equivalency. Also be sure to include your contact information and updated LinkedIn profile.
Build your professional network in Canada
Networking is essential for your job search in Canada, and also for future career growth. Your professional network can help you understand the Canadian job market, industry trends, or skills employers look for in HR professionals.
As a newcomer, you’ll need to build your network in Canada from scratch. You can start connecting with HR professionals and recruiters on LinkedIn and set up coffee chats or informational interviews with them before moving to Canada. Once you build meaningful connections, you can leverage them to learn about job openings and hiring practices in various organizations, get referrals, or feedback on your resume. If you’re looking for recruitment roles, your network will continue to be an asset even after you get hired and will be invaluable in helping you fulfill your job responsibilities.
Know where to look for human resources jobs
When you’re ready to start applying for jobs in Canada, look for HR job listings on online platforms, such as Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, and Grabjobs. You should follow companies you’re interested in on LinkedIn and keep track of career pages on their websites. It’s also a good idea to register with employment agencies that specialize in human resources recruitment.
Canada has a large hidden job market and a majority of job openings are filled through recruiters’ networks without being posted online. Your professional network can introduce you to some of these opportunities, and if you’ve built meaningful relationships with people in your network, you may even be able to request referrals for jobs in their organizations.
Enrol in a bridging program for internationally educated professionals
Bridging programs are designed to help newcomers to Canada bridge skill gaps, access sector-specific employment services, and prepare for the Canadian job market. Many provincial governments subsidize bridging programs or offer financial aid to make them more affordable for newcomers. In Ontario, ACCES Employment offers a seven-week Human Resources Connections bridging program for newcomers.
There are also a variety of bridging programs for general business professionals that help newcomers get ready for the Canadian workplace. York University, in Ontario, offers the Foundation Program for newcomers to improve their language and professional communication skills to help transition into the Canadian workplace.
Work on your language skills
Human resources jobs usually require fluency in English or French or both. If your language skills need work, practice your listening and speaking skills at home or with friends. You can also sign up for free English as a second language (ESL) classes for newcomers offered by provincial governments in Canada or register for language classes at your local public library.
Prepare for your interviews
For many newcomers, interviews are the most stressful part of the recruitment process. Preparing for commonly asked interview questions can help alleviate some stress and give you the confidence you need to excel. Use the STAR method (Situation Task Action Result) to frame your responses in a way that showcases the skills and expertise you bring to the table. It’s also good practice to have some intelligent, well-researched questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview.
HR interview questions to expect
The questions employers ask during interviews will depend on the type of human resources job you’re applying for as well as your seniority. However, some common HR interview questions include:
- What made you consider human resources as a profession?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What do you like most about working in human resources?
- Describe a time when you had to deal with an employee dispute. How was it resolved?
- How would you handle an employee grievance?
- Can you describe your management style?
- What is your experience in fostering inclusion and diversity in the workplace?
- Tell me about a time you helped improve employee engagement at work.
- What are the main challenges facing HR today? How would you approach them?
What is the recruitment process for HR jobs in Canada?
As a newcomer, the job search experience can be stressful. Familiarizing yourself with how the recruitment process works can help you feel more confident and better prepared. Most Canadian employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes that match the job description closely. Therefore, your resume will not reach a human recruiter or hiring manager unless it passes the ATS. To make your resume ATS-friendly, include keywords from the job description where possible, and use a standard Canadian resume template.
Once your resume is shortlisted, employers may conduct a screening interview over a phone or video call to verify your background and interest in the role. This is usually followed by two or three interview rounds, which allow the employer to better assess your technical skills, experience and achievements. Culture fit interviews are common as well, as they help recruiters gauge how well you’ll fit in their team.
Most Canadian employers conduct comprehensive background checks before hiring a new employee. This may include reaching out to your former employers, verifying your educational credentials and, in some cases, even your credit history. After you’ve cleared this final step, the employer will give you a job offer, and you may get a chance to negotiate your salary before accepting the offer.
Should you move to Canada as a human resources professional?
Human resources is an essential function across every industry and is highly valued by most Canadian businesses. There’s always a demand for HR managers, professionals, and recruiters throughout all provinces and territories. As an HR professional with international qualifications and experience, Canada presents the opportunity to advance in your career, be part of a global work environment, and earn more money. Although moving to a new country is never easy, for HR professionals, the benefits may outweigh the challenges. The Canadian job market is always expanding and you may even be able to land your dream human resources job in Canada before you arrive.