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Getting a Job in Canada for New Immigrants

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Getting a job in Canada doesn’t have to be difficult. In this guide, I am sharing my experience and professional tips on how to get a job in Canada for new immigrants. For those wondering about how a job application process looks like, or who need tips for a resume and interview – keep reading, you will find some useful insights for your next gig!

Getting a job in Canada: How to get a job in Canada for new immigrants

Finding a job in Canada

Who am I to advise on getting jobs in Canada?

I am Mayuri, a Registered Professional Recruiter in Canada. I have 10 years of experience working in Canada in the field of Operations and Human Resources Management. I have worked in MNCs and with federal (crown corporation), and provincial governments. 

I have a University degree in History and earned my MBA with high honors. I have also completed post-secondary studies in International Business Management and Labour Relations. 

In this post, I am sharing my experience finding and interviewing for jobs in Canada. I moved to Canada in 2009 as a student (on a student exchange program), worked my way up to become a manager, and later an HR Consultant, working for the government. I now run my own digital business.

I have been on both sides of the table – where I have interviewed candidates from entry level to senior management roles (as a Hiring Manager), and also worked on job profile classification and compensation strategies. 

In this guide, you will find tips on preparing your resume, interview and job search. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out or ask in the comments. 

Also note that everything listed in this post is based on my experience, and of my closed circle of acquaintances. 

Important information about working in Canada 

Before I cover the step by step process of job application, here is some important information that you must know about working in Canada. 

Work Permits

To work in Canada, a valid work permit is required. There are closed and open permits. Closed work permits are issued for a set duration, and are applicable for the employer listed on the document. You cannot work for any other employer. 

Open work permits allow you to work for any employer in Canada. These permits are also time bound, and they expire after a certain time, and have to be reapplied for. 

You can apply for an open work permit if you’re: a spouse of a skilled worker in occupation under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill type 0, A, or B approved to work in Canada six months or longer. Source

For international students, you can apply for a student work permit, which allows you to work up to 20 hours per week. Working more than 20 hours per week is a violation of your study permit conditions. Source

Co-op work permits or employment is slightly different. This is like a paid internship and something that needs to be completed to graduate from a college/university program. Requirements for co-op and placement options and guidelines will be listed in the university or course you are enrolling for. Source

For temporary foreign workers, the process of applying for a work permit is as follows. You will need to get a job offer from a Canadian employer before you apply. Your employer must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The decision in granting the work permit comes from ESDC, who decides whether the employer can hire a foreign worker to fill the job (vs filling the vacant position with a resident or a citizen). 

Social Insurance Number

Along with a valid work permit, you’ll need a Social Insurance Number or SIN to secure your employment. 

Service Canada issues SIN, which is a 9 digit identification number. Any record of employment, government assistance or benefits, taxation, credit checks, etc. are attached to your SIN. 

A SIN is issued to one person and cannot legally be used by anyone else. It is important to secure and safeguard your social insurance number. 

Canadian Experience Class | Federal Skilled Worker or Trades Program | Provincial Nominee Program | Working Holiday Visa Canada

Government of Canada has a variety of programs that allow you to migrate to Canada with or without a job. It is worth knowing about these programs if you are planning to move here temporarily or permanently.

Canadian Experience Class is a program for skilled workers who have Canadian work experience and want to become permanent residents. You can read all about the eligibility requirements here – Source

This is very different from the so-called ‘Canadian experience’ that immigrants hear about. Read more about it below.

Canadian Experience Class is a government-approved program. And Express Entry manages applications for it, along with two other economic immigration programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program

You can access all the information here

Provinces and territories also recruit skilled workers. Through the Provincial Nominee Programs, provinces grant permanent residency to immigrants with a valid job. 

Salil and I, both got our PR through the Saskatchewan Nominee Program or SNP in 2012. We went through all the periods of student work permit (with 20 hours per week), closed work permit to PR and finally a citizen.

Different provinces have their own nominee programs and different eligibility requirements. You have to apply for each separately. Quebec follows a very different policy program from the rest of Canada. 

Check the following programs

More resources: Family Sponsorship Canada program

Working Holiday Visa Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada offers young people from around the world the opportunity to work in Canada for up to two years, in any Canadian province and for any Canadian employer. The Working Holiday Program does not require a job offer to qualify.

We have interviewed a couple from Ireland and the UK who moved to Canada on a working visa and worked in the Canadian Rockies. Read about it here: How to move to Canada from Ireland

Canadian Experience’ 

If you are new to Canada, and looking for a job, you will hear this term, ‘Canadian Experience’ – from friends, acquaintances, and people from the community. We heard it too when we graduated from our educational institutions in Toronto and were looking for a job. 

Salil and I are both from India. I had never worked back home – I was still a student when I moved to Canada, and Salil came with 3 years of management experience. 

Now, jobs and work culture in Canada is slightly different. 

Sure if I completed an MBA I will be a manager even before I graduate in India. But here in Canada, you have to work your way up. Start at the entry level, learn and apply the skills to become a ‘working professional’ before you are proficient to be a manager or a leader in your field.

Preparing for a job in Canada

So whether you want to be a Bank/Branch Manager, Store Manager, HR Manager – you either start at an entry level, or working level (in fields like Accounts, HR, IT with a University degree and/or Canadian Professional designation) and work your way to lead the team/branch. 

Don’t be discouraged, as working your way up from entry to managerial level will only make you effective in your role, and will set you up for success.

Degrees and certificates will give you an entry to an interview, it is your soft skills and tenacity that will help you ace your job!

Canadian Employment Laws (Federal and Provincial, and Employee Rights)

Canada takes employee rights and protection seriously. Everyone working here has a right to be treated fairly in workplaces free of discrimination. 

As a newcomer to the country you might be wondering if job opportunities will be available to you. Trust me, there are opportunities, and there are special programs for immigrants. 

Your work permits/documents, and skills are the only criteria that can make or break your case. 

Every employer is required to abide by the provincial and federal employment laws. One of the most common ones that you will hear is minimum wage, vacation and statutory hours, hours of work, probationary period and termination of employment. When you are offered a position, these items are listed in your offer letter. 

While at work, and when you apply for a job, the Canadian Human Rights Act safeguards the basic right of every candidate, and this legislation prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and other grounds. 

Canada’s Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program require employers to take active measures to improve the employment opportunities for specific groups of people in the country.

The rights of foreign workers in Canada are also protected under federal or provincial/territorial labour laws. There are avenues to file complaints or inquiries with Labour Canada, if you encounter any unfair employment practices. 

Mindset: Be open, take feedback, keep improving – it is not personal

…..with an open mindset

Now that you know there are laws to protect you, and is fair, have an open mindset when you apply for jobs. 

I will share all the tips below, but your mindset is of paramount importance to your success. 

I moved to Canada solo, and have no family here (other than my husband) or any connections. I applied for jobs using the methods I listed below, I was open to job opportunities, did a very good job, received accolades, promotions (salary raises), and kept moving up from there. 

In each job profile, I learned something new, and I always had my hand-up for extra projects or cross-training into other roles. This is how I got work exposure to different departments within a company. I am very respectful of my superiors and treated my direct reports with a lot of care and respect. 

Each organization that I worked with, I spent an average of 2.50 years. It is important to stick to an employer for 1-2 years to learn, and showcase what you are capable of. Once you gain the experience you can apply for another job profile, or move to another organization. 

So, be open to opportunities. 

While searching for employment, it is normal to face rejections or get no callbacks – it is part and parcel of job applications. Sometimes the recruiters are busy, or they find someone better qualified, or someone internal to their organization – there is nothing personal, just move on to the next job ad.

Some organizations provide feedback to candidates, and I highly encourage you to request feedback so that you can work on your opportunities. 

Applying for jobs in Canada for new immigrants 

Here is the start to finish job application process and strategy tips that I have applied during my job searches in Canada. These tactics apply to entry level, and general management and business support positions. 

How and where to find jobs in Canada

Where to find jobs in Canada 

Employers in Canada post job ads and vacancies online. This is the most common and the popular way to apply for jobs. I am sharing a few of the websites I have used in the past (below).

For most entry level jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector (retail, fast food, etc), it is possible to apply for a job by walking into the worksite. Some retailers will accept the paper application, but will require you to send in an online form as well – it depends on the employer.

Job fairs are also another way to find work. In my 10+ years of working in Canada, I had only attended 3 job fairs – one when I graduated from school, one when I was representing my employer (company ambassador), and another for a retail job. Point is – job fairs are very rare nowadays, and are mostly used as a marketing mechanism to promote the organization. So unless you are looking for work in a very specific market, I won’t rely on job fairs to secure employment. 

Networking and placements are powerful ways to find jobs. Network in your social or professional circles, let them know you are looking for work/career change, etc. Job placements are provided by colleges and Universities in the form of coops, internships and/or employment. 

Websites to apply for jobs in Canada

These are the websites where you can search jobs,

  • Indeed: Indeed.ca is my favorite job search website. It is like Google of all job ads out there. Steps for creating a profile online
    • Create a ‘job seeker’ account on Indeed.ca using your email address
    • Fill out the essential information, and resume if you have one created already. This CV or resume is generic in nature (and not customized to any specific job ad. More on that later)
    • On Indeed.ca’s account, you can create daily or weekly job alerts to be notified of job postings. If you are actively looking for jobs, I would recommend daily alerts. If you are in the transition phase, opt for weekly alerts. Only create alerts for jobs/positions that you are interested in. 
  • Just like Indeed.ca, Monster.ca, Ziprecruiter are some of the other job search websites
  • Government Job Sites: Government-managed job search websites are also a great way to learn about vacancies. I have used – Canada Job Bank, Alberta Public Services website
    • Search for the specific province, city, or jurisdiction to find regional job boards 
  • Individual Companies: Organizations like the City of Toronto, Hudson Bay Group, Canada Post, Staples Canada, etc will have job postings on their own websites. Be sure to create an account, fill out all the essential details, and create an alert

When searching for jobs, I rely on Indeed.ca for alerts. Once I get an alert and I am interested in the job, I prepare my application. Most employers will require you to apply on their website directly, and that means you have to create an account on that site as well.

Remember that at this stage, you are merely creating an account on the jobs website. Employers do not know that you have applied for a job. This just helps you to get alerts, and find jobs. 

Tip: Maintain a spreadsheet with details such as – date of application, link to the job ad, email address of the recruiter, etc. Also make note of the passwords and email addresses that you are using to log in. 

You can find the following types of jobs online

  • Permanent full time jobs: These positions are full time roles with 36.5 to 40 hours per week. 
    • They can be hourly positions or salaried. 
    • They are also permanent, meaning there is no end date. However each job may have a 90 day probationary period
  • Temporary jobs: These jobs will have an end date to the employment contact. 
    • They can be hourly or salaried
    • Most temporary positions will have no probationary period. They could end sooner than the contract date, depending on operations, and workload
  • Contract jobs: Another temporary job profile, meant to support operations like project completion, leave coverage, etc
    • They can be hourly or salaried
    • Most temporary positions will have no probationary period. They could end sooner than the contract date, depending on operations, and workload
  • Casual jobs: These jobs are common during the busy holiday season. 
    • Hours vary, contracts may or may not have an end date
    • Organizations usually involve third party recruitment agencies to hire casual workers 

Understating the job ad

Understanding the job ad is the MOST important step in securing employment. There are 3 things that you must keep in mind, 

  • Eligibility: Read the job ad carefully to understand if you actually qualify
  • Make note of essential details: Closing date (check time zones Canada has 6), who to send it to, what is required for the application (resume only, resume & cover letter, certificates, etc) 
  • Job Profile: Use the cues in the job ad to craft your resume. You should customize your resume for each job that you apply

A typical job ad will have the title, name of the organization, opening and closing dates, location, and sometimes salary information. Make note of these essential details (add them to your spreadsheet). 

Ensure you send the application on time, and to the right person. Closing dates are super important, check the time zones. Canada has 6 time zones, and many of the organizations have recruiting offices in Toronto, Ontario, and they could be hiring from all across the country.

Each job ad spells out the qualifications that are looking for in a candidate. This is the number of years of experience, educational qualification (degrees) or any professional designations. 

Go beyond these numbers, and pay close attention to the soft skills they are looking for – ‘ability to manage a team, ‘good customer service skills’, ‘presentation skills’ etc. Use these cues and customize your resume with examples that highlight these skill sets. 

Crafting your resume for the job

Your resume is the single most significant document that you will be using in your job search. Many organizations may require you to send in both the resume and cover letter, but a CV or resume is always a must. 

Crafting your resume

Tips for creating a resume:

  • Create a resume of no more than 2 pages long
  • Include your name, email address, phone number (home address is optional)
  • Add 1-3 lines highlighting your career (or school) achievements. Point out the skills as listed in the job ad
  • Add your previous jobs – title, years of service, employer name, and short profile – in descending order, starting with the latest job first. Include
    • Title/designation, name of the organization 
    • Years of service (month and year)
    • 3-5 lines highlighting your job profile. Don’t just list the duties, highlight your work experience and responsibilities (in a bullet point format). Examples – ‘led a team of 10’, ‘successfully completed store training, ‘sales record of XXXX amount’, ‘supervised marketing team’, etc. Use past tense
  • Include educational qualifications (year of graduation, course details, college/university name), soft skills

Here is a Google Docs resume and cover letter template that I use, feel free to make a copy and use it for a job application.

Note about ‘out of province phone numbers and addresses’: It is okay to not include your home address in your resume and cover letter. Just ensure your phone number and email are accurate because this is how recruiters will reach out to you!

If employed, you will be required to provide your full address for payroll and benefits purposes. But this is not required when you are applying for a job. It is optional.

It also doesn’t matter if you have an ‘out of province’ phone number when you are applying for jobs. I kept my Toronto local number for a very long time, and applied for jobs in Saskatchewan and Alberta, without any issues.

With Canada-wide calling from most cell phone providers, recruiters understand that your number has little to do with your job application, and they won’t weed you out. 

Lastly, do not falsify any information on your resume. Use the details from the job ad to perfect your resume – but that doesn’t mean you can copy exact sentences, and claim that you have performed those tasks – when you haven’t. 

The ad is meant to guide you, so that you highlight the skills that match the position you are applying for. 

Inaccurate details on the resume are a waste of time for you, the recruiter, and the organization. At the interview stage when the hiring panel cross-questions experience/tasks done, it will be embarrassing for you if the information is untrue.

Again, you might clear the interview, but get caught in the reference checks phase – so in short, please don’t do that 🙂 

Writing your cover letter

Many organizations will require you to submit a cover letter along with your resume. 

Preparing your cover letter

The cover letter summarizes your experience and qualifications. It gives you a platform to elaborate on your work, achievements, your goals, etc.

Use it to show your personality and soft skills – and how it ties into the role you are applying for.

  • You do not have to repeat your jobs/profiles in chronological order. Use it to connect your skills to the company’s needs, or core values alignment
  • Don’t send a generic letter when you apply for jobs
  • Use 1-2 page cover letters, ideally one and half sheet
  • Include the same name-phone-number- email address format like you did for your resume
  • Address the HR/hiring manager by name (no ‘to whom it may concern’ – no no)

Sending the job application

Once you are happy with your cover letter and resume, follow instructions to save, and upload the files to the website/s. 

Remember,

  • Save the file in the right format, as requested in the job ad. If no information is provided about file name, use this naming format: firstlastname_title_documenttype. Example: JohnDoe_AccountManager_Resume
  • Save your resume as a PDF unless directed otherwise
  • Upload the file, check all the details and hit apply. 

You will receive a system generated email response that your application is received. 

Tip: Maintaining a spreadsheet is crucial. Sometimes recruiters are running behind and they might contact you after a month of applying. The spreadsheet, your email sent folder, and your job profile account will have the details that you will need to prepare for your interview (when you get a call). 

Screening Stage 

After submitting your job application, it is time to wait patiently for a call from the hiring team. 

Most employers (someone from the HR team) will either give you a quick call to confirm your interest in the job application, and then schedule an in-person or virtual interview with you. 

Some organizations also send an email where you can click on a link to book/schedule your interview (instead of a phone call).

If you are not selected for an interview, you will receive a computer generated email stating that. Unfortunately not a lot of companies do that, so you will just have to wait, and/or follow up. 

Preparing for the interview

If you are selected for an interview – well, yay! Congratulations – you are one step closer to securing your employment. 

Ready for your interview

Here is how a typical job interview looks like,

  • In-person interviews are usually scheduled for 45 minutes to an hour. 
  • There will be 2-4 panel members who will interview you 

In an interview, each panel member takes turns to ask questions. Depending on the job profile, you will be asked scenario based questions.

Here are some common questions

  • Tell me about yourself (opening question: Prepare for this question prior to your scheduled interview and use it to showcase your skills and experience)
  • Tell me about your strengths
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Have you ever dealt with an unpleasant customer? Share a scenario (In such scenario-based questions you should share an incident, like a story almost – with a starting and ending. End the story with a lesson or win)
  • Have you had a disagreement with your manager? How did you go about it?
  • You are busy, and there are 5 things that need your attention, how will you prioritize? (Admin Assistant/ Office Manager) 
Get the job!

For your interview, remember to be on time. Take time to check the interview location prior to your visit. Wear formals, business casuals for your interview. 

  • When in doubt, stick to the basics – black formal shoes, black pump shoes
  • Formal shirt (checkered, monocolor)  full sleeves for men
  • Top or blouse for women, paired with a cardigan. Avoid sleeveless, or tank tops
  • Black, taupe-colored pants
  • Go easy on the perfume (scent sensitivity)
  • Light make up is a good idea
  • Carry a small purse, not a huge tote bag (no bigger than a laptop bag). Sometimes interviews rooms are small and carrying too many bags/jackets are just distracting 
  • Switch off your cellphone or put it on silent mode

When you walk into the interview room, smile. Interviewers might ask you about the traffic, weather outside, etc – engage in the small talk. Ease up, be comfortable. 

Answer slowly. You can always pause before answering, or ask them to repeat the question (and take that time to craft your answer :))

Reference Checks and CRC

After the interview, the HR professional will connect with you to inform you about the outcome. 

  • If it is negative, I highly recommend requesting feedback. Use this information to better your application next time
  • If it is good to go – Congratulations, you are almost there

To receive an offer of employment, you have to provide CRC or Criminal Record Check (done via local police station or by a third party agency. Your prospective employer will guide you). 

At the same time, you have to provide names of 2-3 individuals, preferably your past managers who can provide a reference. Reference or recommendation calls are 20 minutes long, and they are used to verify your past experiences, skills, and your personality (for an organizational fit). 

Once references are all clear, you will receive another call with an employment offer.

Employment offer, salary and benefits

YAY! This is the call you have been waiting for!

The HR executive will make an employment offer over the phone. This call details the position title, reports to, salary, benefits and confirms your start date. 

At this stage, you can negotiate salary or vacation hours, if you like. Many positions will have a set salary range, and depending on the organization the wiggle room is usually very small.

  • If it is an entry-level position, you won’t be able to negotiate. These positions start at a minimum wage $$
  • There is some room for negotiation for mid-level management positions, and upwards from there. When negotiating for a higher salary – be ready with your case (why more – what are you bringing in to the table, etc)
  • Confirm start time, and vacation hours (way easier to negotiate on flex hours, and start times than $$. Most employers will accommodate this request, so there is no harm in asking, unless if the position is time-bound or a bona fide occupational requirement to start at a certain time)
  • Confirm who you will meet on your first day, get details about parking, building access, swipe cards, etc. 

In Canada, a verbal job offer is legally binding. Which means that if the job was offered over the phone with XXX salary, the employment is yours. The letter of employment (in a PDF format) is sent to you after the call – once the salary, and start date is confirmed.

Go through the letter, understand all the terms of employment, and sign off!

Upgrading your skills: Continued learning in Canada

I am a big believer in lifelong learning. There are a lot of ways to upgrade your skills while you are at work.

Upgrading your skills, will keep you ahead of the game, and give you promotional opportunities

  • Join professional associations, volunteer your time, learn and connect
  • Enroll in part time courses (online), and upgrade your educational qualifications. Some employers will provide tuition reimbursements. 
  • Cross-train to different departments

A note about bridging programs

Bridging programs assist internationally trained professionals to find jobs and work in their fields in Canada. All you need is a license or certification to integrate into the Canadian workplace.

These programs include:

  • education and skills assessments
  • practical experience
  • language training

So that’s a wrap. I hope you found this post useful in your job search adventure in Canada.

Have questions? Let me know in the comments below. I will try my best to answer

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