Is Canadian experience really required for getting a job in my field in Canada? I am new to Canada and am looking for work in accounting. I have been interviewed several times, and the feedback is that I do not have enough Canadian experience. My Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks and other technical skills are top-notch. These are required for the jobs.
What is going on here?
Signed: No Canadian Experience Eh? (NCEE)
I have discussed this common complaint of our newcomer clients with my colleagues at JVS Toronto and some employers with whom I work. The general consensus from these conversations is that Canadian experience should not vital to getting a job in one’s field in Canada, other than a few cases in highly regulated fields such as engineering, medicine, law, chartered accounting and architecture.
Further, I have heard from countless hiring managers that they recognize and value international experience. First and foremost, it is critical that the client have the skills and qualifications required for the position. I can’t remember a time when I have seen job postings which require Canadian experience, although I know that fee-for-service recruiting firms in architecture and design fields sometimes do require that from their candidates.
Some employers have explained to me that the phrase “lack of Canadian experience” is often code from the interviewer that the candidate will not fit into the workplace or team culture. In addition, this feedback can also be code for “you do not have the technical or soft skills we are looking for.” Often this means that the candidate is not communicating (verbally and non-verbally) and not properly prepared to handle the interview questions, especially the behavioural interview. It is challenging to figure out the workplace culture. This applies to everyone looking for work in the job market. This is a subjective criteria for hiring a candidate, but research demonstrates that likeability is key when interviewers make hiring decisions.
Here are eight suggestions to deal with this obstacle to getting that job offer.
Make sure to do the best job possible in preparing your resume and cover letter, and getting ready for your in person and telephone interviews. Research the company, the job descriptions, and identify the employees who might be interviewing you. Learn the values, the workplace culture, and the nature of the business. Use social media resources such as LinkedIn and Twitter to do this. Prepare effective behavioural interview responses. Seek out employment services for newcomers such as those offered by JVS Toronto newcomers services. Look for sector-specific employment program for newcomers, job search workshops for new immigrants, as well as any opportunity to work with an employment counsellor and job developer who understand your profession.
Learn how to articulate your skills, experiences, projects and talents in a clear, concise and effective way for both networking and interviewing purposes. Expect to have to explain your work in clear, simple terms in the interview; pretend you are explaining your resume to someone who has never heard of your type of work.
You will need to learn the language used to express your work and why the firm should hire you. . Sometimes, words are lost in translation with some languages. Be specific. Again, it may be worth seeking out sector-specific employment programs for newcomers.
3. Look for Internship or Placements.
Some newcomer job seekers report that taking an opportunity to get Canadian experience, even if it’s nominally paid (or even unpaid) may be worth it. They able to acquire hands-on experience that is critical for their resume and LinkedIn profile, keep their skills fresh and updated, build a professional network and hopefully obtain references and sometimes even paid employment, eventually. One source of local placements for newcomers is provided by Career Edge in Toronto.
4. Secure a mentor.
Linking up with a professional in your target field can be a very effective way to make contacts and learn about the local labour market. You could seek out your own mentor, or access services through TRIEC Mentoring Partnership, in which JVS participates through our services for newcomers.
5. Consider evaluating your credentials and degrees.
Figuring out how your credentials are evaluated in Canada can help to boost your credibility and competitiveness. Information on this process can be found at Settlement.org. Once you know your equivalence, add it to your resume: “evaluated by…. as equivalent to a Canadian Masters…”
6. Build your professional network.
Since over 80 percent of the jobs in the labour market are hidden and can only be found through connections. It is critical that new immigrants (or any job seeker, for that matter) networks as much as possible through social media, associations, trade shows, conferences, career fairs and employer events, so to learn from and mingle with professionals in their field.
Contributing some free time in the community is a fantastic way to show that you give back and build your networks. The best thing you could do is volunteer in your own field to gain experience and a reference, but even if that is not possible, spend time in a meaningful environment and meet people who might be in a position to refer you to others or to jobs. Once you come to an interview with a recommendation, your lack of local experience is less likely to be an issue.
8. Seek out Canada’s best diversity employers.
In an article in the Globe & Mail’s Ask a Recruiter column Julie Labrie suggests that newcomers do research, to identify the companies that lead the way in hiring diversely, such as the Globe & Mail’s annual list of top 100 companies that do a good job with diversity. “See if companies in your field made those lists. Explore companies that market their services to the new-to-Canada segment, too. Many industries, including the financial and telecom sectors, are serving the immigrant population as a key part of their business strategy. Also consider applying for relevant government jobs related to your past experience,” she explains.
I hope this helps you understand this complex issue better and figure out some strategies for overcoming this barrier.