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Tips & Training

International job search: Canada and the rest of the world

In 2019, I was a Senior Recruiter in a multinational company located in Lebanon. Following an economic crash, I decided to re-create myself and transitioned to become an independent career practitioner who serves senior professionals.  Early on, I was able to support international jobseekers; my first few clients came from different countries such as Canada, Australia, France, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, just to name a few. Curious by nature, I started to see commonalities as well as differences with Canadian practices. Let me tell you more by sharing some of my observations after working with more than 100 clients.

Commonalities:
  • Career documents: The Canadian-style resume works extremely well in different parts of the world because it’s accomplishment-based and includes quantifiable achievements. This style is becoming a major differentiator when making a big decision such as whom to call for an interview and offer a potential relocation opportunity. In other countries, most companies skip the cover letter but all of them look at candidates’ LinkedIn profiles.
  • Legal aspects: This is one of the most common barriers. Each country has laws and regulations when it comes to foreign labour. In Canada, obtaining a work visa may require an employer to fill out a Labour Market Impact Assessment In Europe, some countries have a combination of degrees, years of experience and field requirements, depending on the country. In the Middle East and the gulf, also depending on the country, laws differ. But all of them look at market demand and supply to assess critical shortages while protecting their residents’ employment prospects. Some restrict certain professions to local nationals only while others have a quota on expats.
  • Networking: I have not yet experienced a case where there was no referral involved in a successful recruitment process. The more senior the job, the more crucial familiarity with hiring managers and decision makers becomes. Networking is paramount for professionals everywhere.
  • Mental health: International experience may have a lot of benefits but many jobseekers are also leaving family behind for economic reasons and face different mental health issues, and may find themselves unsupported when living in a new country. In response, I noticed HR and career professionals united to deliver a job search strategy webinar and fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association earlier this year.
  • Communication: It takes time, patience and education to overcome language barriers and cultural differences. In a recent webinar by ACCES Employment, Accent Coach Nat Ruden explained how people speaking one language such as English had different tonalities and pitches, and stressed different parts of the same words based on culture. In addition, many companies relocate the foreign worker and proceed with business as usual, expecting the person to figure out both work and whole new country all by themselves. PhD candidate Alicia Piechowiak and Professor Saul Carliner presented their research topic about “Onboarding Immigrant Employees in Gateway and Non-Gateway Locations” during CERIC’s Cannexus22 conference, to provide Canadian employers with tools to make the onboarding for international jobseekers a less stressful experience. I found this very insightful.
  • Discrimination: It’s everywhere! Although some countries are more welcoming of diversity, we can’t deny the fact that discrimination in recruitment still exists. Whether it’s about religion, nationality, gender, race, etc., candidates see their options reduced.
Differences:
  • Job titles and industries: Titles may be different for a similar role. When it comes to career exploration and guidance, it’s important to understand the local distinctions; research is key when it comes to looking at options. For example, a Graphic Designer in one location may only be responsible for graphic design but in another, an employer may ask them to take on social media, customer service and other administrative tasks. (I recently saw a job post where the hiring manager expected the Graphic Designer to troubleshoot IT issues!) Note that some titles and industries that exist in Canada may not appear in other countries.
  • Agreements between countries: Canada has created a wide number of streams to welcome skilled workers. Sometimes, mentioning the nationality will make a difference in the hiring decision as it affects the difficulty in obtaining a work permit based on bilateral agreements between different countries. To illustrate, it’s easier for a French company to hire a European national than someone from outside Europe.
  • Regulated professions: In my experience, it seems that Canada has a higher number of regulated professions and greater entry barriers for certain roles. For example, a teacher with American curriculum experience in Lebanon can teach in Saudi Arabia in a school that offers the same curriculum but not in Canada.
  • Local experience: Canada is known to avoid recruiting candidates that do not have “Canadian experience,” whereas requirements for local experience tend to be lower in other countries, particularly during times of labour shortage. This deters many skilled workers from looking at Canada as an option for work.
  • Time frames: The time frames for recruitment decisions and work permit issuance in Canada are much longer than in other countries. While companies in other countries can fill in their positions in a couple of weeks, Canada takes several months. This is due to variables related to the company itself, the regulatory timeline to respond requests, backlogs and current government priorities.
  • Additional benefits: Contracts in some countries also include housing allowance, a company car and yearly return tickets to visit family back home, just to name a few. I observed that in Canada these are usually out of pocket.
Final reflections

I would like to start with a disclaimer by saying that commonalities and differences are not exhaustive, but based on my personal experience with my clients. International mobility and job search pose numerous challenges and barriers to overcome. What I would like to stress is that serving international clients has changed my perspectives in many ways, as it allowed me to understand various experiences in different geographical areas. This macro-perspective is very enriching. Many ask me about the best country to work in, however, in my opinion, the answer can’t fit all. Each international jobseeker has their own career story, education, situation and many variables that we need to assess to provide useful supports.

Rita Kamel Author
Rita Kamel, CDP, CCS, CES, CRS, CIS, CWS is a Career Consultant, an award-winning Resume & Interview Strategist, and the founder of DossierPro. Her mission is to empower professionals with actionable tools to lead their international career move. Rita is a proud member and volunteer of Career Professionals of Canada, holds a master’s degree in marketing and has extensive experience in recruitment.
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Rita Kamel Author
Rita Kamel, CDP, CCS, CES, CRS, CIS, CWS is a Career Consultant, an award-winning Resume & Interview Strategist, and the founder of DossierPro. Her mission is to empower professionals with actionable tools to lead their international career move. Rita is a proud member and volunteer of Career Professionals of Canada, holds a master’s degree in marketing and has extensive experience in recruitment.
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