The idea of moving to another country without a job lined up is, well, terrifying. Canadian immigration programs require that you either have a job offer, money to support yourself, or a pledge of financial support.
It is possible to find a job in Canada before you arrive, but first you need to do some research. Here’s what you need to know about finding a job in Canada.
Getting a job in a different country can be incredibly challenging, especially if you require a LMIA. Even if you don’t get a valid job offer, these steps will help set you up to find a job quickly once you arrive.
The Canadian economy
Canada is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. It also has a high level of economic freedom. Canada’s economy is closely linked to that of the US, as the US is Canada’s top export and import partner.
The majority of jobs in Canada are in the cities, like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Waterloo.
Economy & industry
- 3 in 4 Canadians work in the service industry.
- International trade is a large part of the economy. Canada has free trade agreements with much of Europe and Central/South America.
- Canada is one of the global leaders in the software industry.
- Logging and oil are major industries.
- Canada is a major exporter of wheat and other grains.
- Canada’s fishing industry is 8th largest in the world.
- Film, television, and entertainment industries is growing.
- Tourism is increasing, with most visitors coming from the US.
Treemap of Canada’s goods exports in 2014 by The Atlas of Economic Complexity via Wikimedia.
- Toronto is the financial centre of Canada.
- Jobs in Quebec will often require French proficiency.
- Many companies provide bilingual services, so speaking French is an asset at work.
- There is a large manufacturing sector in central Canada, led by the automobile and aircraft industries.
Jobs in Canada
In Canada it’s rare to work for a single company for your entire career. The three most common types of employment are permanent employment, part-time employment, and freelance employment.
The most common type of job is permanent employment. This typically includes a base salary, supplemental insurance, and any other perks that come along with your job like paid time off. Generally, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Income Tax, Union Dues (if applicable), and the cost of supplemental insurance (if applicable) will be taken directly out of your paycheck. If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you’ll be eligible for Employment Insurance payments.
Part-time employment works the same as permanent employment, although it’s common to be paid hourly and not receive additional benefits.
You can also be a contract or freelance worker. This means you’re paid a fixed amount (generally per hour or per project) with no additional benefits. Because income tax deductions are not made automatically, these must be paid at the end of the year. In some instances, you may qualify for Employment Insurance. Contributions to Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan are optional. As a freelancer, you need to get a GST number from Revenue Canada.
Finding a job before you come
Finding a job in Canada before you arrive can be difficult, especially if you require a work permit. However, it’s not impossible. Your chances differ dramatically depending on your industry, experience, and personal connections. Arranging for a work permit adds a layer of expense and complexity for employers. Even if you don’t require a work permit, employers may prefer local candidates who they can meet with multiple times.
One of the best ways to find a job in Canada before you actually move is to apply to jobs from abroad and schedule interviews during visits to Canada. Obviously, that may not be realistic. If you have friends in Canada, list their address on your resume, or simply list the city you’ll be moving to. You can get a VOIP number so you can list a local phone number and have it ring to your cell phone anywhere in the world.
You can easily begin the job search before you move to Canada. Even if you don’t find a job before you arrive, you’ll be in a better position to find work right away.
Finding a job through the Express Entry Job Bank
If you’re applying to become a permanent resident through Express Entry, you’re required to sign up for the Job Match. You can’t register with the Job Match until you create your Express Entry profile. A Job Bank account is not the same thing.
Once you create your Express Entry profile, you’ll get a message saying your profile is accepted and directing you to the Job Bank. The message will contain a PDF with your Job Bank Validation Code. You need this code to create your Job Match account.
Job Match will connect potential employees with companies that have job openings with LMIAs. After going through the regular interview process, employers will provide candidates with information to include in their Express Entry profile. This will award you additional CSR points and boost your chances of getting an Invitation to Apply.
Getting your credentials recognized
Bridging programs are designed to help people with international training get set up in their field in Canada. These programs are organized by your local immigrant-serving organization. You can also look into related jobs so you can get a job in your field while you wait to get your credentials assessed or re-licensed in Canada.
Job Hunting in Canada
Finding a job requires a multi-pronged approach. Use your personal network, apply to job postings, and reach out to companies you’re particularly interested in. While you shouldn’t expect an employment agency to find you a job, it’s still helpful to register with them and follow up to keep yourself at top of mind. Many cities have job fairs, where you can meet hiring managers, practice your interview skills, and see what sort of skills are in demand.
Don’t overwhelm and discourage yourself by applying to 50 jobs in one day. Aim to spend a few hours each week sending out actual applications, but make sure to get out to meet your new neighbors and rebuild your professional network.
Many job vacancies are never advertised. This hidden job market consists of jobs that haven’t been advertised yet and jobs that would be created if the right person comes along. In order to find out about these jobs, you need to know the right people.
Former coworkers, friends, family members, and acquaintances can be great sources for job leads. Hiring managers feel more comfortable interviewing candidates who come through a referral, since presumably you wouldn’t have been referred if you weren’t worth interviewing.
Even if you don’t know anyone in Canada, your family, friends, and coworkers do. Let people know you’re moving and will be looking for a job. Use your university alumni network. Use Facebook and LinkedIn to see who’s in Canada who you can be introduced to. People you know who work for international companies may be able to get you in touch with Canadian hiring managers.
Once you’re in Canada, or even if you’re here to check things out before you move, get out and meet people. As you rebuild your social network, you’ll inevitably meet people who will help you in your job search. Join professional organizations, social clubs, sports teams, religious organizations, or whatever’s interesting and relevant to you. Register with Meetup.com and go to professional events related to your career field. Volunteering is a great way to make connections and get used to life in Canada.
If there is a certain organization you’d like to work for, get connected. See if you know anyone who could make an introduction. Go to events where people from that company will be presenting and talk to them after the presentation or in a follow-up email. Interact with them on social media. Nothing is guaranteed, but if you’ve got your heart set on working for a certain company, it’s worth trying.
- A personal portfolio website
- Social media
Finding job openings
Many people find applying to job openings incredibly frustrating. Job postings often list off impossible qualifications or require creating an account and filling out dozens of fields. Some job postings will even ask that you complete a task before you’ve even come in for an interview.
While job listings don’t have the success rate that personal introductions do, they’re a necessary evil. Lots of people find jobs through job postings.
- The Job Bank aggregates general job postings from several sites around Canada
- Jobs.gc.ca lists federal public service jobs
- Charity Village lists nonprofit jobs
- LinkedIn lists jobs in all industries.
- Twitter can be used to search for job postings in your field and set up a list of companies and people you’d like to work for.
- Glassdoor lists jobs as well as reviews from current and previous employees so you can get an idea of what it’s like to work for specific companies
Employment agencies & executive search firms
Recruiters provide employers with a short list of pre-screened candidates. Remember that recruiters work for the employer, not you. Many employment firms specialize in a certain industry, which increases your odds that they’ll have multiple openings you’d be a good fit for. If you make the short list of the most qualified candidates you’ll move on to an interview with the company.
Volunteering while you look for a job can be a great experience. Direct benefits for your job search include:
- Get Canadian work experience
- Re-build your professional network and make friends
- Get someone who can serve as a reference for you
- Keeping your spirits up and keeping you busy during your search for work
You can find volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Canada or by reaching out to a nonprofit that seems interesting to you.
Your resume and cover letter
If you’ve never written a Canadian style resume and cover letter, or just want someone to help you proofread it, your local immigrant services organization can offer you help.
Writing a cover letter in Canada
Cover letters should be short and conversational. Write a generic cover letter and then customize it for each position you apply for. If you’re applying for several types of positions, write a generic cover letter for each one.
- Address it to a specific person whenever possible.
- What makes you uniquely qualified for this position.
- Why you want to work for this company or in this industry.
- Reference anyone you know in common, if you went to the same school or are from the same city, or any other connection to the company or hiring manager.
- Provide your contact information and suggest you set up a time to talk.
- Have someone else proof read it for you.
Resumes in Canada and the US are virtually indistinguishable. Settlement.org provides samples of chronological and functional resumes.
You do not need to include your work permit or residency status on your resume. Employers may ask if you’re legally authorized to work in Canada.
- Use keywords from the job posting in your position descriptions.
- Include any volunteer work, especially if it was in Canada.
- Include a summary of qualifications.
- Quantify outcomes and achievements whenever possible.
- Keep it to one page. Two is fine for an executive level position.
- Include only relevant work history, or simply list the dates, job title, and company for unrelated work.
- Use formatting to make it easy to skim.
- Don’t include a mission statement or “references available upon request.”
- Have someone else proof read it.
The interview process
The recruiting process varies considerably from one company — or even one department — from another. There’s no one set process that everyone follows.
Be prepared for common interview questions.
Topics that are taboo in job interviews include citizenship, race or ethnicity, physical appearance, affiliations, marital/family status, disability, age, religion, and arrest record.
When you have a phone interview scheduled, make sure you can be somewhere private and quiet at the appointed time.
- Look at the company website and social media accounts. Read any recent news coverage.
- Make notes with key points you want to make during the call.
- Have a copy of the job posting and your resume available for you to look at during the call.
- People find it helpful to stand and smile when they’re on the phone.
- Take notes and always send a thank you email to follow-up afterward. Even if you don’t want the job you interviewed for, there might be another position in the future that you’d be a better fit for.
It’s not unusual for companies to ask you to come in for multiple rounds of interviews before making an offer.
Some interviews can last all day. When scheduling an interview, be sure to ask how long you should expect it to last and if there’s anything you should bring.
- Research the company before you go. If you have the names of the interviewers ahead of time, find out their background and look for common ground.
- Find out the dress code. Look for photos of employees on their website or social media accounts. Ask people you know at the company or in the field. You want to dress one level above what you’d wear on a typical day in that position. Startups tend to have very casual dress, so you don’t want to show up in a suit.
- Make sure you’re on time. Aim to be in the area ahead of time so you have time to collect yourself, or in case there’s a transit disaster. Hang out in a coffee shop if need be and go into the office about 10-15 minutes ahead of time. Give yourself time for complicated security procedures.
- Ask questions. Show you’re interested and look for red flags by asking questions.
- Follow up. A thank you note is a great way to stand out and reiterate important points — or add in something you forgot to say.
Individual hiring managers have strong opinions on following up — and they vary widely. The best way to know what to expect for the timeline is to ask during the interview. If they tell you they’ll get back to you in 5 days and you don’t hear back, it’s good to wait a few days before following up.
If you don’t get the offer, it’s still a learning experience. If you felt you connected with an interviewer, go ahead and follow up to see how you could improve for next time. You may never hear back, but you may also get incredibly valuable feedback — or gain a mentor.
You can still use your references back home for a job in Canada. Be sure to let them know to expect a call or email. Brief them on what job you’re applying for and anything you’d specifically appreciate they could mention in terms of your strengths.
You can use old bosses, coworkers, clients, and professors as professional references. One way to get local references is to volunteer in Canada during your job search.
Be sure to follow up with your references. Thank them for their help and let them know if you got the job.
Many hiring managers won’t discuss salary until they’re ready to make an offer. Many job postings will ask for your current salary or your expected salary. As a newcomer with a salary in a different currency, it’s best to simply put your expected salary range.
Employers who won’t budge on base salary may be open to negotiating paid time off, paid training, business trips, bonuses, or other perks. Be sure these verbal agreements make it into your job contract.
Even if it seems like your dream job, don’t sell yourself short. It’s not going to be a dream job if you can’t pay your bills or if you feel undervalued.
Accepting an offer
When you get a verbal job offer, you don’t have to give an answer right away. It’s perfectly normal to spend a week or two negotiating details of the hiring contract, as well as getting some time to think about the offer. Thank them for the offer and find out when they need a final answer by. You’ll also need to agree upon a proposed start date.
If the offer doesn’t meet your needs or expectations, you can make a counter offer and negotiate details of the contract. If you decide to turn the offer down, be polite. The world is a small place, so it’s best to avoid insulting someone.
Be sure to see if there are any restrictions on what you can do after you work for the company. Post-employment restrictions and non-compete agreements are increasingly common. It’s also important to read and understand the termination clause.
After you’ve accepted the offer, either verbally or via email, you’ll need to sign the contract. Look it over carefully to make sure it includes all of the terms you agreed upon. If you have questions about benefits or details of the contract, you can ask to speak to a human resources representative.
Once you’re satisfied with the contract, you’ll need to sign it and return it. It’s usually at this point that you’ll fill out any required paperwork.
Working in Canada
Work culture in Canada is very similar to work culture in the US. Because Canada is so diverse, even if you feel at home in your Canadian office, you’ll likely still be working with people adapting to a new office culture.
- Watch how coworkers respond to how close you are when standing or talking, as the distance between two people talking that feels right varies considerably between cultures.
- Avoid interrupting, pointing, or waving.
- Being on time is important. If you’re running late, call to let people know.
- The ability to shift from teamwork to independent work is valued.
- Participation in group discussions and asking questions is important.
- Workplaces are casual but respectful. You’ll likely be on a first-name basis with your executives.
- It’s okay to say no to your boss, but do it politely and explain why.
- Avoid discussions of age, pay, religion, and politics when in the office.
- Sometimes it’s normal for coworkers to become close friends outside of work, sometimes it’s not.
- It’s generally considered unethical to date a coworker, client, or customer.
- Talk to your supervisor about your career goals.
- Misunderstandings can often be resolved or alleviated by having a private, non-confrontational conversation.
Workplace culture guides
- 9 soft skills no immigrant should be without
- Construction, manufacturing, service, and related sectors
- How to close communication, cultural and language gaps in the professional workplace
- Newcomers to British Columbia
- Canadian workplace culture v. US workplace culture
Your rights in Canada
You’ll want to become familiar with your rights in Canada and the laws that govern working in Canada.
- Overview of worker rights in Ontario
- Hours of work and overtime pay
- Health and safety rights
- Employment Protection for Foreign National Act
- Employment Standards Act
It’s illegal to treat employees unfairly due to sex, age, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. You have the right to join a union. Some jobs require that you join a union and union fees will be taken from your salary.
Resources and government programs
The Federal Internship for Newcomers Program provides eligible permanent residents with Canadian work experience and training.
There are various mentorship opportunities throughout Canada. These give free advice and career coaching. These include the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council, Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council, Immigrant Settlement & Integration Services, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, and the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.