The elusive Canadian work experience for new immigrants

“Canadian employers value Canadian experience”. As newcomers to Canada, this is something that we hear a lot during our initial job search and it can be very disheartening. This does not mean, however, that your international employment experience is not valuable. Here are some tips on how to best present this to potential employers.

Make it easy for them

Your résumé, as a marketing document, should make it easy for the reader to understand. You will know if your previous employer was the largest firm in the city with accounts for major industry players, but will someone who has never been to that country necessarily know this?  Probably not. Your priority, as an efficient job seeker, is to make it easy for the reader and this can include adding a short, one or two-line description of the organization you used to work for. Don’t simply include the link to the company website as this looks lazy.

Canadianize your résumé

Resume styles vary throughout the world, and you need to make sure that the format you use does not scream “newcomer!”  Doing this is vital as you do not want to risk a potential employer presuming that you do not understand the business norms in Canada. Canadian résumés are concise (usually a maximum of 2 pages) and focus on skills and achievements, rather than duties. Personal details (i.e. your birth date and marital status) and photographs need to be removed before you send your résumé out to any employers.

Maximize your cover letter

A well-written cover letter can boost your application by showcasing your personality and attitude. Rather than being a repeat of your resume, or simply stating “here is my résumé”, use this opportunity to explain to the employer how you have the relevant skills.  Write a concise story, or example, that describes your behaviour as an employee. For example, a time that you went above and beyond for a customer or successfully managed a project that looked likely to fail. Don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm for this particular opportunity at this specific organization. Make them feel special by explaining why you want to work particularly for them.

Adopt the right tone

Starting a cover letter with “Dear Respected Sirs” is not the way to do business in Canada. Similarly to having a photograph on your résumé, it screams “new immigrant” and will make employers doubt if you have the know-how to be a successful employee. Business correspondence in Canada is professional but friendly. Letters should ideally address the individual by name (i.e. Ms. Keenan or Mr. Singh), never assume that the recipient will be male and don’t marry-off female Hiring Managers, always use Ms. rather than Mrs. Or Miss.


If you have recently arrived in Canada, you have probably noticed that Canadians love to volunteer with approximately 70% giving time and skills back to their communities. Volunteering is not only a way to feel good about yourself, it is an excellent way to make network connections, showcase your skills and gain Canadian experience. Ideally, you want to try and gain experience within your industry, or at least where you are using skills that are transferable to your industry. Remember, you should only be doing unpaid volunteer work for not-for-profit organizations and the average number of hours per week for volunteering is four.

Don’t only rely on your résumé

Developing your network is one of the best things that you can do for your job search, and this is even more essential for newcomers to Canada. It is unlikely that you will have an extensive network when you first arrive here, so you need to get out there and meet people. Networking is successful as people want to hire people that they like, and it is very difficult to get a feel of someone’s personality from a résumé. Get involved in the local professional associations, attend industry networking events and check out local meet up events. Job search is not a time to be shy, let people know what you are looking for: you never know who might know your next employer.

Photo by Tim van der Kuip on Unsplash