Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: December 2014

Finding a Job

There are two possible routes towards getting a job in Canada. If you have at least a year’s experience in one of the current positions in demand in Canada, you can apply for the Federal Skilled Worker Scheme, or one of the other schemes that are available. If successful, you will be able to immigrate into Canada without finding a job first. Otherwise, you will normally need to have successfully obtained a job before you can immigrate into the country. For more information on immigration requirements, see Immigration – Working for Expats in Canada.

Although English is the main language in most of Canada, French speakers predominate in Quebec and parts of the nearby provinces. In New Brunswick and eastern Ontario (including the capital, Ottawa), you will only be considered for certain positions if you are bilingual. In most other parts of the country, being bilingual in English and French is regarded as a strong asset, especially with businesses operating nationwide.

Online job portals are a convenient job-searching tool, as they enable you to filter your search according to job function, industry, salary and location, or search for keywords. Some of the most popular portals are:

It is also worth checking the government's job search website, Job Bank, which is the largest in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is another government-run site that offers help and advice on how to go about finding work in Canada, including Immigrant Services, which can help with other immigrant matters as well.

Job-seekers can also turn to private recruitment agencies. If possible, before committing yourself, check that the agency is accredited and look at some online reviews. There is a comprehensive list of Canadian recruitment agencies here. There are further useful job search tips on the Moving 2 Canada site. Finally, make sure to look at ‘Vacancies’ sections on websites of organisations that interest you.



In French-speaking Canada, the terms ‘curriculum vitae’, ‘CV’ and ‘résumé’ are used interchangeably. However, in anglophone regions there is a difference: a CV is more specialist and much more detailed than a résumé. Hence the latter term shall be used on this page. As your résumé is an introduction to a potential employer, it is essential to make it strong, highlighting your academic qualifications and professional experience. You should write the résumé in English or French, according to which language was used in the job advertisement. Although there is no general template and different sectors have different preferences, some characteristics are common to all good résumés.

First, your résumé must be concise; you should tailor it to the job you are applying for and exclude any irrelevant information. A Canadian résumé should ideally be no longer than two pages (only the most recent four or five years’ jobs need be included). Full CVs in the academic sector can be longer since they include a list of publications and conferences attended.

Secondly, your résumé should be well structured. This is easily achieved by dividing the résumé into various sections and using subheadings. Typical sections include Personal Information, Employment History, Education and Training, Skills (including IT and languages), and Interests.

Generally, you should give your personal details first, with your name and surname on top and your contact details (address, telephone number and email) underneath. In Canada, you are not legally required to include your date of birth, nationality or marital status on the résumé, so leave them out. You can add a personal statement below the contact details if you like. It is not common to include a photograph unless specifically requested.

Arrange education and work experience sections in reverse chronological order, accounting for any gaps. When listing your academic qualifications, include dates attended, the name of the educational institution, study programme, degree obtained and your study focus. Work experience should include start and end dates, job title and name of the organisation you worked for. Include brief details of primary responsibilities in your recent jobs.

Commonly, Canadian résumés also include the sections Career Objectives, where you briefly present your short-term and long-term career goals, and References, where you list two to three referees (academic and/or professional) and their contact details.

Last but not least, your résumé should be positive in tone, emphasising strengths and achievements throughout. In this and all correspondence with your prospective employer, check that your spelling and grammar are correct, avoid using informal language and explain any abbreviations used.


Cover Letters

Employers typically require a cover letter, which should be one to two A4-pages long and drawn up as a formal business letter. In a cover letter, you can detail your motivation for applying for the position, how your skills and qualifications match the employer’s requirements and what you will bring to that particular role. When writing cover letters, pay attention to the requirements mentioned in the job advertisement and comment on how you fulfil these.



Job interviews in Canada vary from employer to employer. They differ in length, interviewing technique and the size of the panel. Usually they take place in person, though in recent years, telephone and Skype interviews have become more common, especially for candidates based abroad.

Generally, interviewers will first give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, present your motivation and argue why you are a good candidate for the position. After this, employers will ask questions about your previous employment and test how your skills match their requirements. Finally, you will have the opportunity to ask questions about your potential future role. In all cases, it is crucial to show that you understand how the organisation operates, what its objectives are, and how you could contribute to its success.

International companies based in Canada and large domestic companies often use recruitment assessment centres. Such assessments last a day or two and test your suitability for the position using tasks such as presentations, group activities and written tests. There is more information on interviewing techniques and sample interview questions on the Moving 2 Canada site.

Note that some large Canadian companies also use assessment centres as their recruitment technique. Such assessment centres last a day or two and include a range of tasks, such as presentations, group activities and written tests, to test your suitability for the position.



When attending a job interview, punctuality is key! Additionally, you should address the interviewers using their correct title and surname, unless you are specifically asked to do otherwise. Another important rule is to dress appropriately. Even if the organisation does not have a specific dress code, it is still advisable to opt for business wear in discreet colours; women should avoid wearing eye-catching jewellery, heavy make-up and short skirts. Throughout the interview, make sure to sit straight and make appropriate eye contact with the interviewers. Show that you are professional and do not forget that a smile can take you a long way!




Moving to Canada

If you are considering moving to Canada or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Canadian section including; details of immigration and visas, Canadian forums, Canadian event listings and service providers in Canada.


Living in Canada

From your safety to shoppingliving in Canada can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Canada with relevant news and up-to-date information.


Working in Canada

Working in Canada can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in Canada, and general Canadian culture of the labour market.



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