I’m an internationally trained professional who is new to Canada and looking to build my career as a Systems Administrator. I have over 10 years experience in my home country and for some strange reason, every time I go on an interview, with recruiters or with direct employers, the feedback is always the same – “You do not have Canadian experience” and this job “needs Canadian experience”. I interpret this as that I do not have the qualifications for the job. Needless to say, I do not get the job offer.
I was wondering what do I need to do to get Canadian experience in IT and as a systems administrator? Should I go back to a local university to achieve another degree in IT? Perhaps I should attend another school to be trained on PHP? Java?
Please could you advise me as to how to receive that job offer of my dreams?
Looking for my Dream Job in Canada (LDJC)
Great question! This is a common concern among many new immigrant job seekers as they go on interviews.
According to Mike van Doorn, Senior Manager, Staffing and Recruitment at Scotiabank, with a non-regulated profession like Information Technology (IT), feedback like this from the interviewer is code that the employer is concerned that the candidate will “fit in”, or it may mean that the employer is concerned that the interviewee does not have the technical skills required for the position.
If you are given the opportunity to follow-up, be specific and ask “Did I have the technical knowledge you were looking for, in terms of the technology I have used and/or experience in your industry?” Technological experience is often transferable but most industry experience is not (for example, the way technology is employed and the business logic around its development is vastly different in the mining industry than the financial industry). Mike suggests that this often means that the candidate is not communicating (verbally and non-verbally) and responding to the interview questions in the relevant and appropriate way for the job and workplace culture.
How to make sure that you “fit in” to the team is challenging and applies to everyone in the job market, not just newcomers. “Fitting in” is a subjective; but 90% of the hiring decision is made if the interviewer(s) like you and want you to be part of the team.
Here are some suggestions to deal with this obstacle to getting that job offer.
- Prepare and practice interview responses, for both the phone and face-to-face, especially for behavioural interview type questions. We have discussed interviewing skills in previous blog posts, both in terms of Introducing Yourself, as well as talking about story telling in interviews.
- Work with an employment counsellor and/or employment specialist who understands your sector, as well as the validity and credibility of your skills, experience and education from your home country and in the sector, especially the IT industry! You will need to learn how to express and articulate your skills, experience and education in a clear, concise manner which is relevant to the position. There are also specialized services aimed at immigrants in Ontario which may be of use.
- Use language in the job posting and from the company website. You can prepare for the interview by making sure your resume is clear, articulate and concise.
- Prolific writer, adult educator and WEA Canada VP, Anne McDonagh has some critical suggestions for the job seeker to overcome this employer feedback. She recommends the importance of using “small talk,” as an essential skill during the job search and in the workplace. Further, she stresses the need to understand and use non-verbal communication; for example, “during introductions, shake hands firmly but briefly; keep the correct personal space between yourself and others; maintain eye contact with people you are talking to”.
- Get your degrees evaluated; visit Settlement.Org for more information. I have learned from recruiters that for the IT sector it is your technical skills which will get your foot in the door, especially the skills where there are shortages like PHP, Web Development and related skills; and then, of course, it’s the interpersonal, communication skills which will seal the deal (assuming you pass the technical test!).
- Target employers who have been recognized for their efforts to hire immigrants. A list of such employers can be found in Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, published annually in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business.
- Consider volunteering to gain local experience, secure a reference, as well as to expand your network and practice English.
- Make sure to network, and work on expanding your network contacts; join your relevant professional organization, use Social Media (especially LinkedIn), and take any opportunity possible to meet potential employers.
- Consider taking sector-specific communication courses, (a great way to improve your communication skills in English, learn the language of your profession and meet employers).