The culture of the Canadian Job Search: A guide for newcomers or newbies
Every country has its own way set of cultural values and expectations that are the norm when it comes to job search. In Asian and some European countries, for example, it is a requirement to attach your photograph to your resume, while in Canada a candidate can actually be rejected simply for including a photo. Employers often fear the legal ramifications of selecting an applicant based on their appearance.
Whether you are a New Canadian or just new to the job search, be aware of these job search norms and values:
1. Your attitude matters. You can be expert at your job technically, but if you are negative, never smile or disrespectful or unreliable, you probably won’t fit, and you won’t be able to keep a job for long.
2. When you meet someone, shake their hand firmly and briskly, 3-4 pumps maximum. If you do not shake hands tell the receiver you do not and why, “for religious reasons.” OR “I have a bad cough.” Shake hands at the beginning and the end of an interview. Women shake hands just as much as men do.
3. Look people in the eye, or you may be mistaken for being untrustworthy. Look at a person during the discourse, no eye darting for sure, or you could be considered rude. This applies to men and women.
4. Telephoning and emailing total strangers to arrange an informational meeting is perfectly acceptable. Present yourself in a very professional manner and know exactly what advice, ideas, suggestions and/or opinions you would like from that person so they are clear as to why they should meet with you for 30 minutes.
5. Learn about networking. Read books on it and practice it often. Taking the initiative to speak to strangers will force you out of your comfort zone.
6. When addressing a letter to a stranger or meeting someone for the first time address them by Mr. Dr. or Mrs. Use Ms if you don’t know if a woman is married. People will usually tell you their preference, and you should tell people how you prefer to be addressed as well. Canadians are fairly informal so first names are often the norm once you’ve gotten to know someone.
7. When you are asked how you are or how your weekend was, that is not prying. It is a polite and often meaningless way for people to greet each other when there has been an absence of any time. A simple, “I’m good thanks,” or “I went camping this weekend, what about you?” will suffice. You decide how chatty you want to be, and do ask back as to how they are or what they did as well.
8. Punctuality is highly valued in Canadian business. Even being 10 minutes late is considered very rude. Arrive early to prevent being disrespectful of other people’s time by being late.
9. Do not hug, kiss, caress or touch a co-worker. The workplace has very stringent rules about sexual harassment and a simple hug, without an established relationship and mutual understanding, can be seen as harassing behavior.
10. Off color, ethnic, sexual and religious jokes are not allowed, period. Even if you are Irish you aren’t to tell Irish jokes. Stick to, “Did you hear the one about the guy who went into the pet shop…”
11. Any comment, joke or action that puts down or embarrasses another person because of their race is racial harassment and is not tolerated and can be cause for dismissal, like sexual harassment.
12. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Being honest is one thing, insulting someone is something else again. State your own opinions and stoically listen to others’ opinions. There is no such thing as a wrong opinion.
13. Morals vary widely from culture to culture. Many morals are not religious based. Listen and ask and learn.
14. If you hear something you don’t like or agree with in an interview, you don’t have to agree, but don’t argue and unless asked for you opinion, keep quiet and smile.
15. Smile in an interview at appropriate moments.
16. Never cross your arms in front of your chest. Crossed arms relay distance, coldness and disagreement. Use your hands to gesture and for emphasis but not to the point of distraction or aggressiveness.
17. Concentrate on your posture. Sit up straight at all times, stand tall when standing. Cross your legs at the ankles or knees only, an ankle on a knee is too casual gentlemen.
18. Proper dress attire speaks volumes about who you are and how you do your job. Attend an interview dressed for a job you aspire to. Be clean, stylish, shoes polished, no scent and no food or smoke odors either. Bathe before an interview. Even on casual Fridays, dress in a suit if it is a professional environment. No hats unless required for religious purposes. No white socks guys! No noisy jeweler ladies!
19. You may be interviewed by someone decades younger than you. All the same rules apply. Ask a younger, high ranking person what they prefer to be called, Bob or Mr. Smith. Do not say, “Hello, Mr. Bob” or “Hello, Mr. Bob Smith.” Rank tops age, gender plays no favourites.
It is important that your own biases do not cause you to expect certain behaviours from people because of their ethnicity, religion, age, color or gender.
One hopes others do not classify you by such values as well. For further information on how to make a positive impression in the Canadian marketplace I recommend checking out Daisy Wright’s book, “No Canadian Experience, eh?”
Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It
Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group