Sorry, but you don't have Canadian experience...

Uncategorized Aug 26, 2020

As a new immigrant, this is the most common rejection you receive when looking for a job here in Canada.

At first, this question doesn’t make sense because: I just landed in Canada, how can I have Canadian experience? And if you don’t give me a chance to work, how can I earn Canadian experience?

It’s kind of like a Chicken & Egg problem, which one comes first?

As a career coach who has worked with hundred of new immigrants, I’d like to share with you a little secret:

Don’t take this rejection literally.

First of all, they need to deal with hundred of applicants, they don’t have time to craft a personal message to really tell you what goes wrong with your specific application. Thus, if you are rejected, a software (not even a human being) will just send a general message to inform that you are not selected, that’s it.

Secondly, this rejection doesn't really mean “We can’t hire you because you have not worked in Canada”. So what does it mean exactly?

It means due to difference in culture, working style, language, potential employers "feel” quite a huge gap between you and the job and the company. That’s why they don’t think you are the best "fit” for the company.

But wait, you might say you don’t feel the gap because you get all the required technical skills, designations (CA, ACCA, CFA, CPA...etc) and years of work experience. You are also a quick learner. A common argument looks similar to this comment posted on my LinkedIn post:

"Is there any special going on in Canada?

In my opinion, nothing special.

We all accountant working on the same standard, rules and procedures globally. There are some minor changes country by country according to every local by laws. Which anyone can learn quickly."

He is only 20% right. Here is the remaining 80%:

With some self reflection of my own job-hunting journey years ago and coaching experience, I’ve also spoken to many HR professionals to get to the bottom of “Canadian Experience” and “A Great Fit”, what do they mean exactly?

These are 2 key points to get you the "Canadian Experience" that you lack of:

Soft Skills prevails Technical Skills

Here in Canada, for most entry-level finance/accounting jobs, potential employers emphasize greatly on “soft skills” which include communication skill and interpersonal skill (emotional intelligence). Technical skills are not on top of their mind because they can and they will train you. They are more concerned with your ability to communicate and work with the team.

This is a huge difference comparing to Asian working style in which technical skills might play the key role in assessing a candidate.

How are your communication skill and interpersonal skill assessed?

The answer is pretty much everything from your resume to the way you talk and interact with them.

In term of Resume, you will be considered “Lack of Canadian experience” if:

  • Your resume includes your picture and personal information such as: PR status, date of birth, gender, ID, Driver License…etc
  • You have a 2+ page resume while you have had less than 10+ years experience across industries.
  • You believe the more information you present the better, rather than only present the most RELEVANT information. For example, is it necessary to spend almost 1 page to present one job with 10 key bullet points? Please keep in mind that HR has hundreds of resumes and emails to read everyday, make their life easier and they will call you for an interview.

These are just a few examples. It is just simply not how a professional resume should look like here in Canada. This is when they feel like you are not a great "fit".

The fact that you can’t present your experience in a logical and relevant style within 1 page can tell them something about your communication skill.

HR will ask “If he/she needs to write an email to a client, will he/she write an essay or just a few concise straight-to-the-point sentences?".

In term of interview both on the phone and in-person, you will be considered “Lack of Canadian experience” if:

  • You only answer “Yes or No” without really presenting a good story about how and why you want a certain job.
  • You approach the interview with the mindset of “I’ll tell them ALL experience that I have to show that I know a lot and I can do many things”, instead of trying to put the employer FIRST with the mindset of “How I can help?” to really prove that you are the best “fit” to solve their problems.

In an interview, nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

  • You under-dress when you attend an interview because you believe it is just an entry level job, no big deal.
  • You still think technical skills will help you differentiate from the crowd.
  • You are too shy to present (or brag a bit about) your achievements in the best possible light because that’s not how you should behave in an interview in your home country.
  • You don’t realize an interview is a sale meeting in which you are asking them to pay you $50,000+ and you are not the only one there for the job. Please work on your presentation, give them a compelling reason to pay you, not the other 7 candidates.

As you can see, small things here and there add up. That’s how potential employers assess your whole profile and that is how you show if you have some “Canadian experience”.

Thus, it is definitely not about you have to physically work in Canada to be recognized that “I have Canadian experience”.

It’s not about the physical Canadian experience, it is all about:

How to Present yourself to prove that you can work in a Canadian style.

Getting a job that is suitable with your background to build a career foundation in Canada is tough. It will take a while with many ups and downs.

The most important thing is you need to work toward the right direction. That is to spend time on sharpening your communication & interpersonal skill and really learn how to story-telling your work experience and your life and that is your "Canadian experience".

Good luck and Never ever give up!


Thank you for reading this article, which was written by Thanh Quach, the Founder of  Train & Get Hired. If you have any question regarding your job search, please send it to 



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