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Why do so many skilled immigrants complain that they do not get jobs in Canada?


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Note: This question was originally posted on Quora and was answered by Connel Valentine, who has been living in Canada since 2015 till date.

2 days ago, I attended Gateway 2017 in Markham, Ontario. It was a free conference for newcomers to Canada who were struggling to find work, giving them an opportunity to express their concerns, ask questions and networking with CEOs and other Canadian professionals.

I got to see first hand the complaints of skilled immigrants who do not get jobs in Canada, and this is what I found.

#1 Misunderstanding what Canadian Experience means, and no one explaining what it really is

Almost everyone was talking about Canadian experience. They even had a panel discussion about it.

One woman from Nigeria came up to the mic and was angry at the Canadian system. You could hear it in her voice - “How can I get Canadian Experience if I don’t have a job? I have been looking for a job for 8 YEARS!”

After her rant about Canadian experience which went on for 10 minutes, I asked random people “Would you hire that person?” They all replied “No way in hell!”

A lot of people think that Canadian experience is about working in Canada. It is not! This is my personal definition of Canadian experience:

A hiring manager’s perception of your soft skills and knowledge of Canadian work culture.

Here is the strange part. A lot of people were saying they were getting calls for interviews, but it never converted to a job.

Think about it, if you got called for a job interview, the hiring manager already knows you have not worked in Canada from your resume. Why would he or she call you for the interview if it was a problem?

What most likely happened was that during the interview, you failed to demonstrate the soft skills that the job needs. Either your communication skills were bad, or you downplayed your accomplishments when asked to talk about your experience. One recruiter told me that some people she interviews don’t even make eye contact when they speak.

At this stage in the interview, either Canadians are too polite, or they fear a discriminatory law suit, so they just tell “You don't have Canadian experience” or “You are over qualified”, when what they really mean is “Your English is poor” or “My team will have a hard time understanding your accent” or “Based on your stories it doesn't sound like you accomplished alot”.

I was on a panel discussion myself talking about my experience as a newcomer. A gentleman at the back of the room told me that whenever he goes into an interview, he is always told that he is “overqualified”.

I gave him advice on how to tackle an “overqualified” problem, but when he spoke to me I knew straight away what his problem was, but I was too embarrassed to tell him in front of the whole room.

Unfortunately, he did not privately speak to me after the talk, else I would have told him “Canadian recruiters are telling you’re overqualified because they are hesitant to tell you the real reason - it’s your English”. His English was so bad, I wonder how he ever managed to pass his IELTS.

I’m not saying this is the fault of the candidate. This behavior stems not from your experience but from the culture of the country you came from. Maybe English is not your first language, maybe in your culture you’re not allowed to talk highly of yourself and give all the glory to your bosses. Maybe it’s in your culture to remain silent and not make eye contact out of respect.

The bottom line is, you need to understand how Canadians think and what hiring managers and recruiters expectations are to get past the Canadian experience problem.

Unless you do the research, or ask the right people who aren't afraid to give you an honest answer, and most importantly upgrade your English language skills, skilled immigrants will continue to complain about not getting jobs.

#2 Not taking an active approach to your job search

This is how I personally had success in Canada, securing three job offers in two weeks.

If you just machine gun your generic resume to online jobs and rely on technology to do the rest you will be job searching for a long time.

Machines don't hire you. Humans do. So you have to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you are willing to work hard and think outside the box.

This is why I customize my resume and personalize my cover letter for every job application, and created my own personal website ( to stand out.

I used the same tactics when I applied for a mangers job within my company and I got the job again, so I'm confident it works.

As long as you're aware of the process, the expectations of the hiring manager and skills in resume and cover letter writing you can increase the chances of landing that job 10 fold.

#3 Not using publically available services

If it's free it's probably not worth it right? Not in Canada! If you want to see the Canadian tax dollars at work, make use of the public services that are available to you.

New immigrants do not use these services either because they are too proud or they do not feel it's worth it.

From this conference that I attended, where these companies that host these services were present, you will see the quality in what they provide.

They may not get you the perfect job, but will fit you into a well established company and then it's up to you to work your way up.

My cousin used Costi when she was trying to get back into finance and they placed her with a logistics company doing account receivables where she is now a full time employee after proving her worth and working hard.

I have personally hired and trust candidates from Npower Canada.

This conference that I attended, Gateway 2017, hosted by the York Region is an example of what Canada is prepared to do for it’s new immigrants - for FREE! It was held at Hilton hotel, hosted by a Canadian TV host, attended by the mayor of Markham and CEOs of companies in the York region.

Canada takes it’s free services very seriously.

#4 Not Canadianizing your resume

Someone at the conference mentioned that their resume was 6 pages long!

People think they can throw all their experiences up on a word document and mail blast it to every Canadian job board.

It's guaranteed failure.

People should seek professional help and to take it a step further, they should learn the methodology of Canadianizing your resume to suit the managers needs. A big part of this is knowing how to market your job experience in a way that pleases a Canadian hiring manager and recruiter.

One of my favorite tools for doing a quality check on the resume is jobscan. This tool allows you to compare your uploaded resume to the copy pasted job description side by side and score it for compliance.

#5 Not using bridging services

During one of the breaks at the conference I walked up to table where three strangers were sat. I introduced myself and they turned out to be a nurse, a physician and a dentist.

To my relief, they were all already enrolled in a bridging program at York Univeristy, one of the most popular hosts of bridging programs.

But in most cases, I find that a lot of people don't utilize these services. I hear them say “I have over twenty years of experience, why should I go back to learning something I have been doing ?”

Look, I understand it's not easy to feel like you're going back to paying your dues in your career. But you are getting a fresh start in a new country.

It takes courage to leave your family and friends behind to move to a new country in hopes of a better life.

Well guess what - it takes courage to choose to take a step back in your career too.

When I applied for a job, I applied for a position that was two levels below the job I had in Dubai. But because I took an active approach to it, that job application revealed a hidden job that was one level higher and unadvertised, that the recruiter thought I was better suited for.

And two years later, after working my ass off on that job even though it was a lower position from before, and using the smarts and the experience and the work ethics I developed from my 12 year career prior to landing in Canada, I got a promotion back to my managers position.

If you have the humility to learn and the courage to temporarily refresh your career and the vision to get back the career you left behind, you will eventually start to see the hopes become reality.

An expert I follow say that it may take anywhere from 6–12 years in average for a Canadian newcomer to get back the quality of life you left behind. I'm on year 3.

Don't let pride delay the process.

To sum up…

Canada welcomes diversity in the workplace. That is what the Gateway 2017 conference was all about.

But what they did not mention, and this is my personal insight, is that one place where diversity is not accepted is the norms of business conduct.

Your diversity will be accepted from your fresh ideas, creative innovation and dynamic insights.

But when you communicate, when you lead teams, when you make presentations, when you attend meetings, when you make a sales pitch, when you care for patients, when you ask for a raise, when you work with your boss and every other aspect of business conduct you can think of, it's done one way - the Canadian way.