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Q: Should I start applying for jobs before I arrive?

A: Here is the fact – employers want people who can start working within a short period of time. In Canada the notice period is two weeks so that gives you some idea of how quickly employers want employees to start work. Even if you did qualify for a job, employers will not hire you as you have not yet arrived in Canada and you will take time to settle into the country as well. Lastly is the fact that you will not be using the Canadian style of resume so you may not even get to the interview stage. Most times I advise against it as I have yet to see someone actually getting a job before arriving!

Q: I am a bit nervous about interviews in Canada as my English is not very good. Could you please provide information on how I can prepare for this?

A: Interviews are stressful no matter where you live and you may be a bit apprehensive about going for interviews. This is a real good reason for you to access the settlement agency services where you live. As mentioned earlier, they will help you upgrade your English language skills and help with preparing you for interviews by doing mock interviews. Since you recognize that your language skills are weak, this is the best time for you to go attend language classes in your home country so that you are better prepared.

Q: On my visit to Canada, I came to know that most employers emphasize a lot on soft skills which may be different from our knowledge & experience. If true then, how do we deal with such short comings?

A: Yes you are quite right soft skills are critical to your success in Canada. On our website you can download a free booklet on soft skills that will help you understand the subject a bit more.

Q: If I worked in multinational Canadian company outside of Canada will this count as Canadian work experience?

Previous experience with a Canadian company may help as it is much easier to get references but that experience cannot count as ‘Canadian experience’ as it was in another country! Some multinational companies may even offer you a job in Canada based on your previous history.This is rare but you may just get lucky!

Q: If I don’t find a job in my profession what should I do to earn money to support my family?

A: Unfortunately, not everyone gets a job in their profession especially if you are part of the regulated professions as getting your credentials can take time. Start by looking at your transferable skills and match them with allied jobs.

In my case (Nick Noorani), I moved from advertising to publishing and was fortunate enough to earn a decent wage. Unless you have a job waiting for you in Canada many immigrants have to take up survival jobs to make ends meet. I came from Dubai and headed medium size ad agencies, but my first three months was as a telemarketer selling newspaper subscriptions! Again, do your research and be prepared so that you can hit the ground running! Hopefully with adequate preparation you may not have to do survival jobs!

Q: What can I do in advance to prepare myself for a job interview in Canada?

A: While you are in your home country, do brush up on your language skills. All research shows that lack of language skills is the number one barrier that immigrants face in getting a job.

Also, in Canada, most employers put a great deal of emphasis on soft skills. There is a lot of information on this on the internet. Do some research and start brushing up and reading on these soft skills.

Q: I am in the process of looking for work and understand I have to apply for a SIN card. What is it and how do I go about getting it?

A: A SIN card is your social insurance number card and one of the most important pieces of identification you can have. Applying for your SIN should be one of your first steps in the process of getting set up in Canada. Without a SIN, you cannot get a job or apply for any government assistance or credit.

One of the first things your new employer will ask you for is your SIN number. Although you will eventually receive a wallet-sized card with this number on it, it is a good idea to memorize it as you will use it frequently.

Every tax dollar you pay, every pension plan you contribute to and every employment insurance premium you pay is tracked through your SIN number. It is also one of the most vital forms of identification used throughout the country.

Applications for a SIN card can be made through a Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) office. You will need to show your original Record of Landing (IMM 1000), as well as identification such as a passport, and any documents showing a change of name, such as a marriage certificate, divorce papers or adoption papers.

While you can make an application for a SIN card by mail, HRSDC prefers that you visit one of its Service Canada offices in person with all your identification in hand. Find the nearest Service Canada office at www.servicecanada.gc.ca.

Q: I recently applied for a job and now have an interview. What kind of questions will I have to answer at the interview?

A: If you make it to the interview stage, you’re doing well. Keep in mind that every interview, even those that don’t result in a job offer, provides an opportunity to practise your interview skills. In fact, it is a good idea to conduct mock job interviews with a friend before you launch your job search.

Prior to any interview, review the job description as advertised so you know precisely what they are looking for. Practise a number of different brief presentations outlining your experience, education, training and skills, and how they will contribute to the job and the company.

Give specific examples of how your experience in, say, public relations can help you in the position of personnel director. Tell the interviewer everything about yourself that relates to the job: your volunteer experience; your hobbies; your travel; the books you read; the clubs or associations you belong to. But, again, keep your comments focused and to the point.

Find out as much about the company ahead of time as possible: its products, services, size, location of offices, departments, etc. Research the company on the Internet. Before the interview, ask the receptionist for brochures, company literature or even for a copy of the annual report if it is a public company. Prepare some questions ahead of time about the company.

You should also prepare some answers for questions the employer may potentially ask you. The following questions are fairly standard in most interviewing situations, so you should prepare some answers for them:

“Why did you leave your last job?” No matter how you feel about your last employer or your last position, never speak poorly about the company or anyone in it. Talk about your desire to expand your horizons or a career change.

“Tell me about yourself.” Provide a review of your experience in this field, your achievements, your education and related training.

“What do you feel you have to offer to the job?”
Talk about your experience, abilities and aptitudes that will be of direct benefit to the job.

“Why do you want to work for our company?”
You must show that you are particularly interested in this company’s success in the marketplace, its innovative plans for the future or opportunity for advancement.

“What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? If you have great organizational abilities or leadership strengths, this is the place to recite them. As for weaknesses, you obviously don’t want to recite a list here … but perhaps you might mention some thing like “one of my weaknesses is I always like to complete my assignments for the day, which makes me a bit of a perfectionist. So I guess I need to lighten up a bit!”

“What starting salary do you expect?” A good response I have used is “What does this position pay?” You can then tell them what you hope to earn. Leave the bottom end open so you have some flexibility. You might want to add that you would be willing to start at a lower salary if a salary review could be guaranteed in three or six months.

“Do you have any questions for us?” Your questions, while designed to provide you with answers, will also provide the interviewer with some valuable information about you: how much homework you’ve done on the company; how well you understand the company and the position; how well developed your oral communication skills are; how comfortable you are thinking and communicating in a stressful situation; and how curious or interested you are overall.

Remember, however, that any questions you do ask should sound natural and sincere. And make sure you don’t ask a question that has already been answered. You may want to ask what plans the company has for expanding or where the company ranks against its major competitors. You might inquire how the recent tax changes, trade pacts or company merger will affect the company and its market. It is also important that you know what not to ask. Never ask when you will get a raise; if you have to work weekends or evenings; how long lunch breaks are; if you can smoke on the job … you can’t; and don’t ask about vacations.