By Lucy Slavianska
When he moved to Canada in 2006, Vikram Kewalramani did not face the tough struggle most immigrants face in searching for a job. His experience in living and working in the United States, his research on the Canadian job market and his in-demand profession helped him find a job quickly.
After completing a bachelor’s in electrical engineering in his hometown of Mumbai, India, he did a master’s at the University of Southern California and an MBA at Ohio State University. Although he was working in his field in the United States, he decided to move to Canada. “Canada has one of the most immigrant-friendly policies,” Kewalramani explains his choice, “and it is a very welcoming place. It’s also one of the top economies in the world.Torontois a cosmopolitan city that has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities and lifestyle, so I felt this was the right move for me to advance my career and eventually call it [Canada] home.”
After obtaining his permanent resident status, Kewalramani started looking for jobs in the software industry as a product manager. In software development, employers understand that skills can be easily translated, says Kewalramani, so he didn’t need to go through a credential assessment.
“My job search was a bit different from others,” he says. “I did it the relatively old-fashioned way. I looked for companies with a strong Canadian presence where there was a possibility of a good fit for my skillset. I contacted some headhunters and just applied online on the companies’ websites. So I was fortunate enough that a company got my resume and they decided to interview me. One thing led to another and I was able to get a job here in Canada. I got hired by Research In Motion as a product manager.”
Applying online, however, might not have been that successful if Kewalramani hadn’t drafted his resume properly. “Because I had worked in the U.S. and lived there,” he explains, “my resume was tailored for North America — where a resume is basically one page and just focuses on the highlights that might be relevant to a company’s job requirements, as opposed to telling people everything that you know. So I just applied those principles, looked for best practices, searched career websites, spoke to headhunters and found out what the best way for marketing myself was. “
Now Kewalramani works for Kijiji, leading a team to manage their core product.
Part of his responsibilities is hiring people for his team. Now on the other side, he sees the applications of many internationally trained professionals who try to write in their resumes everything they have done or know about a particular topic, hoping that it will impress hiring managers. “My advice is,” Kewalramani says, “focus on the top few things that you believe are most important for a job. Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring managers — they are going through so many resumes — do you think that they have the time to actually go through [a resume of] 4 or 5 pages?”
To find out what a particular job entails, Kewalramani recommends networking as an alternative to just reading on the Internet. “Even though we live in a digital age when you can find a lot of information online, sometimes the old-fashioned way of talking to people works better,” he says.
Although employment agencies recommend cold calls as an effective way to investigate job opportunities, Kewalramani has not received any cold calls from job seekers. “I don’t think it will work too well with me. I am more responsive via emails than phone calls,” he chuckles. For making connections and learning more about companies and positions, he recommends the social networking site LinkedIn.
As a hiring manager, Kewalramani doesn’t require Canadian experience from internationally trained applicants. “I have heard from my friends and acquaintances that employers are looking for Canadian experience. But I believe that if you’ve done a particular task in another part of the globe and if the skills can be translated easily, Canadian experience doesn’t matter that much. It matters more if the person has the right experience in the industry and for the opening we have,” he says.
“Also, it is important to have the right attitude — the passion for a particular job and the keenness to learn is even more important than what you have done before. So, when I am interviewing, I am certainly looking for someone who is keen, passionate about the job and fits into the culture of the company as well as in my team.”
When Kewalramani was applying for jobs himself, he recalls that he used to prepare for interviews by learning what was needed for a particular job, what the company was doing, what its strength and strategies were, and what its whole business model was. He now requires the same knowledge from the candidates he interviews. An effective way to find out if an applicant is right for the position is to ask at the end of an interview, “Do you have any questions for me, and what would you like to learn more about the company?”
“The questions candidates ask show a lot about how engaged they are in the process and if they truly understand what the job is about and what we are trying to do,” says Kewalramani.