Chapter 6: International Job Seekers & Job Seekers with Disabilities

Understanding the Differences in the Canadian Job Search Process

Across cultures, it is not unusual that there are considerable value-based differences with respect to an employer’s expectations. Without gaining a better understanding of these values, differing behaviours, and cultural norms, you may find it confusing when interacting with employers in the Canadian job market. Even different workplaces, like different countries, have differing cultural norms and can vary from job to job. Explore the following concepts and recognize how these will impact you through the Canadian job search process.

Career Planning

In cultures where a job is assigned to you, it is assumed that you will take it, there is less emphasis placed on identifying your career goals as your career is often decided for you. In Canadian culture, taking ownership of your own career decision-making, and demonstrating a high degree of self-awareness towards your short and long-term career ideas is expected.

Job Search

In other cultures, job searching may be more reliant on your school, government, or family to assist you in finding work. You may identify with this scenario from your past experiences and feel that the responsibility falls more heavily on the people who are assisting you. In Canadian culture, the job search process is very independent; you are responsible for your own efforts and successes in finding a job. As detailed in Chapter 3, an effective job search in Canada means that you need to use a diverse variety of methods to find employment, including but not limited to networking, online job boards, and accessing help through the Employment Support Centre.

Resume and Cover Letter

There are some significant differences in the information that is presented on resumes in Canada. Further to following the resume and cover letter templates provided in Chapter 2, here are some suggestions for you to consider when developing your resume:

  • Do not list personal information such as nationality, marital status, gender, date of birth, religion, social insurance number, visa status, or a photo of yourself.
  • Include your Canadian residence address (you do not need to list your international permanent address).
  • Personalize your resume to reflect soft skills and accomplishments from paid and unpaid experiences,
    do not just provide a chronological account of your work experience.
  • Include your international experience and education if it is related to the positions you are seeking.
  • Emphasize any other languages that you speak in addition to English.
  • Do not include primary-level education on your resume; secondary and post-secondary are appropriate depending on their relevance to the job.
  • Do not display your education in a chart format – write out the titles of your diploma and degrees.
  • Avoid copying a resume from the internet or a friend, or putting false information on a resume – employers will question you about your experiences so you need to be truthful.
  • Include a customized cover letter, even if it is not requested.
  • Have your documents triple-checked for syntax, grammar, and spelling errors.

Interview and Workplace Expectations

During the interview process, a hiring committee is evaluating you based on several different factors. These factors typically include body language, attitude, behaviours, communication skills, visual presentation, and the content and articulation of your answers. Embracing Canadian cultural values and developing intercultural skills will help you to better navigate the interview process and adapt to the Canadian workplace. Consider the following ideas as a way to manage your own expectations and prepare yourself for success:

  • Dress, scent, and hygiene: When preparing for an interview or starting a new job, it is imperative that you follow the appropriate dress code. Please refer to Chapter 4 to learn more about appropriate attire and don’t be afraid to ask about the dress code prior to starting a job. Many workplaces have instituted a scent-free policy, meaning that you should not wear perfumes or strong-smelling products in the workplace. In preparation for interacting in a professional environment, it is expected that you maintain your own personal hygiene, by regularly showering, wearing deodorant, grooming, wearing clean clothes, and having fresh breath.
  • Timeliness: Being on time is a sign of respect in many cultures, including Canadian culture. By arriving 5-15 minutes early you are showing an employer or individual that you understand that their time is valuable. Keep in mind, timeliness is more than just arriving early to work
    or to a meeting; it’s adapting to the pace at which you are expected to perform your tasks.
    This often varies by sector and organization and is something you will learn on the job.
  • Personal space, touch, and privacy: Personal space is important to Canadians and refers
    to the distance between you and another person when you are interacting. Keeping an arm’s length of space is seen as respectful; pay attention to what another person’s body language is telling you. In some cultures, it may be appropriate to touch another person’s arm or hold hands in a public space. Canadians may feel comfortable shaking hands at the onset of meeting, but don’t usually touch while speaking to one another, especially in a business setting. Typically, Canadians are more private and less likely to talk about personal matters like family, income, or religion until they get to know you. Furthermore, respecting privacy in the workplace means discussing problems or concerns behind closed doors.
  • Assertive communication: Many other cultures interpret eye contact and directness of responses with their superiors as disrespectful. In Canada, eye contact and directness typically translate into honesty, interest, and engagement and should be practised when interacting with all levels of individuals. At the end of the interview, the selection committee will expect that you have open-ended questions about the position and/or company. Where you may feel that this is imposing or rude, an employer will be impressed by well-thought-out questions and associate that with your interest in the company.
  • Self-marketing: In Canadian culture, it is expected that you take a more direct and confident approach to openly highlighting your own strengths and accomplishments. Although this approach may make you feel like you are being boastful or bragging, it’s actually seen as a needed strategy to sell your skills in a competitive job market. Similarly, it is expected that you take the initiative to follow up with an employer; you may feel that this is impolite, but it’s actually seen as being responsible and could set you apart from other candidates.
  • Informality: In other cultures, it may be considered inappropriate to sit with people who are considered to be of higher status than you. Questions or the informal exchange of information can be seen as disrespectful to the person’s position. In Canadian culture, talking openly in an interview environment is encouraged. In this type of setting, you are expected to interact with your interviewer and share information. In an initial meeting, you may address a supervisor or manager more formally by using Mr. or Ms. before their name. This is respectful; however, it is appropriate to address them by their first name once a relationship has been established. Avoid calling them by their title, as they want to be seen as working with their teams and not above them.
  • Equality, power, and curiosity: The Canadian workplace represents a wide degree of diversity as it stands; individual characteristics are not supposed to affect hiring processes or on-the-job treatment. Therefore, respect is shown across race, gender, age, and position within the company. Diversity in the workplace also stimulates curiosity amongst coworkers; respond patiently when people ask you about your culture, don’t assume they are ill-intentioned. Canadians are generally more accepting of differences and show interest in learning about another person’s culture.
  • References: It can be challenging if you don’t have any Canadian experience and, as a result, are lacking Canadian references. However, if you do have references you can provide from your experience in your home country, feel free to offer them as long as they can communicate in English and are available to be contacted. When references reside out of country, it may be helpful to provide email addresses as a more convenient way for them to be contacted. If you are looking to gain Canadian references quickly, consider volunteering.

Job Scams and Safety

Always be cautious. If a job is offered to you and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For more detail, refer to Chapter 3 to learn more about online job search safety. Most importantly, never give or accept money or provide anyone with personal information, such as your social insurance information before you start a job. Also note, it is not normal to be offered employment without going through an interview process first. If you have concerns about the offer you receive, contact the Employment Support Centre to discuss this in further detail.


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Be the Boss of Your Career: A Complete Guide for Students & Grads Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Bortot and Employment Support Centre, Algonquin College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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