Alex, a native of London, England, was a Civil Engineer in Kuwait before immigrating to Canada in 2012. A year after his migration, he found that he still was not working in his chosen profession. Instead, he worked a job as a Store Manager in a retail business. Through the year that he’d moved to Canada, Alex had been interviewing for a Civil Engineering job but was never presented any offers. So he gave up and relinquished his dreams of continuing his career in Canada.
Alex is not alone. Research suggests that 60 per cent of skilled immigrants work at a lower occupational level than they did before moving to this country.
As a career coach with many clients new to the Canadian market, I can tell you that Alex not being offered a job in his field was not related to his experience. It was related to his preparedness for a Canadian-style interview.
If you’re in the same boat as Alex, here are some tips to prepare for a Canadian-style interview:
Be familiar with Canadian life and culture
How people are greeted, who shakes hands with whom, who stands up when they are introduced and holding doors, are just some of the everyday behaviours that may vary from culture to culture. Most Canadians value direct eye contact during conversations. It’s viewed as a sign of respect and interest in what the person speaking is saying.
These things may seem unimportant to you. But most people judge each other in the very first moments when they first meet. There is no substitute for being out in various social situations for learning the differences.
Alex felt he did not need to familiarize himself with the Canadian life and culture since he was originally from England. However, having lived in Kuwait for 5 years, he had adopted the culture without even recognizing the fact and it was hurting him in Canadian interviews!
Prepare Stories That Demonstrate Your Accomplishments
A good way to convince an employer of your abilities is to give them some memorable stories about how you accomplished something. The stories should be brief, outlining the situation or problem, the action you took and the outcome. Practice these stories and be prepared with a few of them for different situations. Here’s an example of a story you can tell to convince the employer that you can help solve their problem:
Banyina was living in Cameroon and immigrated to Canada in 2011. She graduated from Communications and Film Studies at Carlton University. She worked several years at Starbucks before finding a job in her chosen career as Communications Specialist at the coveted Toronto International Film Festival.
During her interview she was asked ‘Tell me about a time when you worked on a team to accomplish a difficult task’. She told the story of having been given a very limited time and a team of 3 other students to achieve the difficult task of sourcing information about other potential French speaking movie markets. The result was that their report was chosen the most informative and best researched report in class, earning each of them an A! Stories that demonstrate the challenge of the job that you’ll be stepping into and how well you did with those challenges will convince interviewers that there’s indeed a fit!
Turn the Question Back to the Interviewer
The best questions to ask are the same as what you’re being asked. For example, if the interviewer asks ‘tell me about a time you handled conflict’, you give them your answer and TURN IT BACK ON THEM and say ‘would that be a style that would fit into the culture here?’
Don’t go in with a list of questions and wait until the end. Make the interview process a mutual fact-finding mission.
In addition, if you’re going to be asking an information-related question about the position, make sure the answer cannot be found on the Company’s website. A question like this shows you didn’t do your research.
When you prepare for an interview, make sure you understand the Canadian culture in order to adjust your style and culture accordingly. You increase your chances to get hired when you are seen as being part of the tribe.