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Getting a job in Canada - Where to start and what's the process?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Getting a job today seems like an impossible mission, regardless of where you are. When looking for a job, we often encounter these types of job postings that require at least 2 years of experience in a field for an entry-level position… but not only that! They also ask you to speak two or three languages, almost like a native. In addition, they want you to have great communication and interpersonal skills, slay a dragon only with your thumb, and be wearing some yellow underwear just because they felt like you needed to!

It's pretty exhausting, actually! 'Cause seeing all these postings that you are never the right fit for, makes you have serious doubts about yourself both as a professional and as a person. "Am I not prepared enough?" "Am I not smart enough?" "Why am I not getting any replies?". Many international students have had these kinds of questions on their minds. Still, it is important to know that, more often than not, the skepticism lying behind these questions is simply not true.

However, that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement on our end. Of course, there are things that we can work on. One of them often being… the way we "sell" our professional profile!

The way we do that varies from country to country. Although, the one almost universal thing is using a resume, to showcase who we are and what we have done. And obviously, what this document should contain varies as well (*please stop writing about how everything depends on the country where you are from, Thrivve, we got that concept already! Sincerely: your readers)

So, how can we look for a job in Canada, then? Where could we start?

Well, to answer this, we first need to let you know how the whole job hunting process works. Usually, a resume is not the only thing you need when looking for a job here, especially when looking for jobs not related to retail or customer service.

The process

Unless you are applying for a retail position, the whole hiring process in Canada tends to be fairly similar. From the moment your resume gets the attention of the hiring manager to the time you get that wonderful “Welcome to the team” email, this journey usually looks like this:

1st Step | Phone Interview

The first contact you will probably have from a company interested in your profile is a phone call. This could basically arrive out of nowhere, or, in most cases, they will send you an email asking about your availability. Some companies rather have this first interview over Zoom, although the basic idea of this first contact is the same: Assessing if your personality matches their company. (and the other way around, too 😉)

It's commonly a phone call that lasts no longer than 15 minutes, and there are no technical questions here. They will not ask that much about your experience, so you won't go in-depth about it; it's more about getting to know you, your goals, values, why you applied to the company, etc. Plus, they also take a few minutes to explain more about the company, the role and the next steps. This interview is usually conducted by an HR representative or the hiring manager.

*Note: this is the reason why it is so vital for you to get a Canadian phone number as soon as you arrive in Vancouver 😉 Otherwise, you will have a hard time hearing back from possible employers.

2nd Step | First Screening (interview)

You were selected as a viable candidate for continuing the process with a company, great job! Now it's the time for them to ask you more about your experience, for you to go more in-depth about it. It is also the time for them to explore what we call "behavioural questions". You know, they ask what you would do in certain situations or ask about a problem or challenge you had in the past and how you solved it.

In this step of the process, you will usually talk with the same person who did the phone interview.

3rd Step| Second Screening & Possible last interview

This is the part of the interview when it gets kind of tricky because this second screening is usually almost identical to the previous one. The difference in this interview is that you are being interviewed by who would likely be your future boss #panic #pleasehireme. Please don’t let the nervous factor play against you. You got this! You already know what to say, it’s just a matter of trusting in yourself. 😉

4th Step | Skills assessment/test

Now, getting to this 4th step is not as common. It is usually in the previous step that the decision-making happens. But, in some cases, especially in pretty technical careers such as web development or graphic design, another interview or evaluation step is required. More often than not, this translates to a requested task for you to do; a mockup design, a coding test, etc. Although, again, this totally depends on each company, the industry you are applying for and your career.

*Note: We once saw a 9 Step hiring process!!!! Can you imagine that!? That’s more complicated than applying for Canadian citizenship. 🤣

You now have a better sense of the steps to getting hired here. Cool...but how do we actually start this whole process?

We start by getting ready! In Canada, employers generally ask for the following 2 or 3 documents from their applicants: a resume or curriculum vitae, a cover letter and, if required, a portfolio. These are kind of the standard documents you need to be relevant in the marketplace; otherwise, you won’t be noticed.

  • Resume: Almost universally used, it is a document for candidates to let their potential employers know who they are and their expertise and experience. It is frequently a one-page or two-page document that includes: education, a short summary about yourself, your work experience and your skills.

  • Cover Letter: A one-page document that allows you to elaborate on your work experience, explain your goals and show your personality. Most of all, cover letters give you a chance to connect your skills to the company's needs.

  • Portfolio: A collection of visual examples and data to showcase your work. It is used mostly by careers that work really in visuals or even functionality; graphic designers, web developers, photographers, etc.

Now, don't worry. We'll eventually write an article on how you can build your own version of each one of these documents based on what Canadians are using nowadays. In the meantime, and just as a summary to help you have a clear understanding of the difference between all of these documents, we'll leave you with this:

A Resume serves to show what you do. A Cover Letter should answer the why you do it. (and why you are picking that company in particular)

And the Portfolio should showcase how you do it.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions about this or if you have any other suggestions 😉 We would love to hear from you!

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