Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How Language and Communication Skills Matter in Canada’s Job Market


By Sergey Kalnish
Lannick Group

Finding your first job in a new country is not easy. As a new immigrant myself, I can appreciate the challenges that a newcomer may face when starting their career. I moved to Canada in January of 2011, and began looking for work immediately after I arrived. One of the distinct advantages I had during my job search was that I had spent the past eight years studying and working in the US. I had worked as a business development and marketing professional, so communication skills were one of my strongest assets.


You might be wondering: Just how important are communication or language skills in hiring decisions? How do they affect your outlook for a successful job search in Canada? In this article, I will give you a very high-level overview of why communication skills are important in the Canadian workplace, give you tips and advice on where you can get additional support, and provide personal insights that will hopefully help improve your chances of getting a good job in Canada.

Why Should You Listen to My Advice?
Fast forward almost six years since I first arrived in Canada: I am now the Manager of Recruitment Services at Lannick Technology, a division of the Lannick Group of Companies. We are the premier recruitment and staffing firm in the Greater Toronto Area, specializing in finance, accounting, and technology roles.

Our company places more than 1,000 professionals annually in permanent, contract, and temporary roles at Canada’s top companies. As someone who has personally managed hundreds of recruitment projects, I can confidently say that communication or language skills are one of the most important elements of a successful job search, especially for a new immigrant in Canada.

What I have learned over the last three years working in professional recruitment is that hiring someone is more of an art than a science. There is no magic formula for what hiring managers and human resources (HR) managers are looking for when filling an open position. It is usually a very delicate combination of job-specific skills and experiences, combined with what is widely known as a candidate’s “culture fit.” Culture fit describes how well a new employee will fit in with their potential co-workers from a personality perspective.

From a salary perspective, having strong communication skills can have a big impact on your bank account. We routinely see this in the recruiting world, where people who can speak and write effectively end up getting better and higher-paying job offers. They also get promoted more quickly within their respective careers. The Canadian workplace is a very dynamic and collaborative one, so you will be a lot more valuable if you can work effectively with other people.

Over the course of your career, this can mean the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, communication skills are definitely something you should put a lot of time and effort into improving!

How Do Communication Skills Fit into the Hiring Process?
The hiring process for companies in Canada usually consists of a series of phone and in-person interviews involving HR, recruitment professionals, and supervisors of the positions that they are recruiting for. As a candidate, you will have to navigate through that process successfully. Your language and communications skills will be crucial in making sure you succeed.

The first thing you have to do is make sure you have a résumé which clearly communicates your skills and experience as they relate to the jobs that you are applying to. Many companies also require cover letters to further explain why you are interested in working for the specific company, and why you are a great candidate for consideration.

Depending on where you’re immigrating from, standards and expectations for these two critical documents may vary greatly compared to Canada. I would strongly encourage any newcomer to seek help when preparing their résumé and cover letter for the Canadian job market.

Once you have your résumé and cover letter templates ready, you can now start researching and applying for jobs that you are interested in. When you find a position that looks promising, you need to customize and tailor your résumé and cover letter to fit the job requirements and express your strengths and skills most effectively. Understanding how to do this right will take a lot of trial and error, but stay patient and don’t get discouraged. You will get better at this with practice.

Sooner or Later You Will Get an Interview
This is when your communication skills really make a difference. The interview process mainly boils down to two things: 
  • Do the people interviewing you think you can help them and the company?
  • Do they like you as a person?
Remember these two things when you are being interviewed. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, try to show some of your personality. When you are answering questions, try to give as many specific examples as you can of how you have contributed to the success of your previous employers and the people you worked with.

Don’t be nervous, even though this is easier said than done. Just remember that you will most likely have to go to many interviews before you actually get a job. Take every interview as an opportunity to practice, learn, and get better. Make sure you ask your interviewers for their business card, and send them thank-you e-mails after the interviews. Thank-you emails are also a good way to reiterate your strengths and mention any key details that you felt weren’t covered in the actual interview. That alone will set you apart from the majority of people that they interviewed. With proper preparation and the right strategy, you will receive an offer for a position that fits well with your skills and interests.

Navigating and Negotiating the Job Offer
There it is, your first job offer in Canada. Congratulations! You will understandably be excited at this point, but don’t just accept the first offer you get without first understanding what you are being offered. This is one of the most complicated parts of the interview process, and I encourage you to do a lot of research. You can start by watching some of Ramit Sethi’s videos on salary negotiation. I find them very useful.

From my personal experience, you can safely negotiate your salary up anywhere from 5–10 percent of the initial offer without the risk of upsetting the employer and losing the job offer. Depending on how in-demand your skills are in Canada (you can go to websites like Payscale.com to learn more about this), you may be capable of negotiating harder; perhaps not with your first job in Canada, but certainly once you’ve gained some Canadian experience.

Where to Get Help
Canada is a great country for immigrants and offers a lot of support to newcomers. A great place to start would be the Government of Canada website. It’s a great resource for all new immigrants and has a lot of helpful information. You may want to jump right into the section on Improving your English and French to start.

I would also strongly encourage you to create a LinkedIn profile as soon as possible. Become familiar with this tool as it is one of the most powerful tools that a job seeker can use. Here’s a good slideshow about using LinkedIn for your job search.

Lastly, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter @sergeykalnish and ask any career-related questions you have. I will try to respond to as many questions as possible.

Good luck!

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Sergey Kalnish
Sergey Kalnish is Manager of Recruitment Services at the Lannick Group.

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