Key takeaways:

  • Both the government and private lenders understand that the majority of students entering university and college will have little to no credit history.
  • Government student loan eligibility is based mainly on factors such as financial need, although students older than 22 will need to go through a credit check.
  • Private lenders will need to do a credit check and see your credit score when you apply for a private student line of credit or student credit card.
  • Once you start repaying your student loan, any missed or late payments can affect your credit score.
  • Practicing good financial habits when repaying your student loan will help you build your credit history.

If you're a newcomer ready to start a job search, you might feel overwhelmed about how to find work in Canada.

There's no reason to worry — Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of newcomers to the Canadian workforce every year.1 And, we're here to help.

To be successful in your job search, you'll need to understand how the job market works in Canada. From what Canadian resumes are like, what's involved in applying for jobs and how you can get a permit to work in Canada, this guide covers the basics you should know.

Job searches in Canada: The basics

There are many ways to get a job in Canada. But the process usually works like this:

  • A company or organization decides they need to hire new staff.
  • They either review candidates they know or post a job description asking for applications (or sometimes both).
  • They review resumes and cover letters and then create a list of people they want to interview.
  • They choose who they think will be the best person to hire, check their references and give them an offer of employment and paperwork to fill out.

The process may differ depending on the company or job. For instance, sometimes you may have to go through multiple job interviews, or you might have to pass a test to show you're qualified for a certain position.

There are also some professions, like accountants and nurses, that require a license or a certificate of qualification in order to work legally in Canada. (These are called regulated occupations.) Sometimes, if you're a skilled worker, but don't have the Canadian paperwork, an employer will help you get it as part of the hiring process.

Who is eligible to work in Canada?

There are three groups of people who can work in Canada:

  • Canadian citizens
  • Permanent residents, or people who have officially immigrated to Canada
  • People in Canada on a temporary basis

If you're a newcomer who falls into the third group, you'll need a work permit. (We explain more about work permits below.) If you're an international student, you can work up to 20 hours per week off campus as long as you meet certain conditions.2

In order to get a job, you'll also need a social insurance number (SIN). It's important to apply for a SIN as soon as you're able to — you can't legally work in Canada without one.

Is it difficult to get a job in Canada?

It can be difficult for skilled workers to get a job in Canada — but it can also be quite easy. A lot depends on:

  • Where you want to work
  • What profession you want to work in
  • Your past work experience
  • Your language skills

If you're not fluent in English (or French, in francophone communities), or if you speak a variety of English that's quite different from Canadian English, it's a good idea to study and practise language skills specifically targeted to your intended career. You can check out the Language Portal of Canada or find a local organization in your area that offers services for newcomers. Some have language classes and conversation groups that are specifically designed to help newcomers improve their English or French.

If you're a permanent resident, you can take language classes for free, thanks to funding from the Government of Canada.

What is the job market like in Canada?

In general, the job vacancy rate3 — or how many positions need to be filled in Canada — has been quite high in 2022 and 2023 compared to recent years.4 Vacancies are especially high in British Columbia and Quebec, but lower in Newfoundland and Labrador. 5

A few industries are particularly in need of workers6:

  • Health care
  • Retail
  • Accommodation and food services
As a result of the worker shortage, wages have been going up.7 Unfortunately, so has the cost of living. This means that it can still be challenging to earn enough money to live comfortably, especially in bigger cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

How resumes work in Canada

The first thing you need to do before you apply for jobs is write your resume. This document is usually one or two pages long and lists your skills, education and work experience.

Employers usually ask for a cover letter, too. You submit this letter with your resume when you apply for a job. It lets you introduce yourself and explain why you're a great fit for the position.

In general, a resume is more concise and fact-based, while a cover letter allows you to show your personality and creativity.

Resume-writing tips

You want your resume to convince an employer that you're qualified for a job so they'll call you in for an interview. Some tips to keep in mind when you're writing your resume:

  • Keep it brief! Include information relevant to the job you're applying for, but don't go into too much detail. Focus on your accomplishments rather than your past duties.
  • Unless you have very little work experience, don't include every job you've ever had. Tailor your resume for each job application.
  • Put your most recent experience at the top, as resumes in Canada are usually in reverse chronological order.
  • Use bullet points (lists, like the one you're reading now) rather than long paragraphs. Use a font that's easy to read.
  • Don't include a photo or biographical data, such as your age or gender. All you need at the top of your resume is your name and contact information so people know how to reach you.
  • You can include educational achievements and volunteer experience if they're relevant to the job.
  • Triple-check spelling and grammar. It can be helpful to have someone else read through your resume to catch any errors.

There may be an organization in your region that offers resume-writing clinics and other resources for newcomers looking for a job. You can also find resume templates online.

Tips on writing a cover letter

Your cover letter is the on-paper version of what you might say to a prospective employer when you meet them for the first time. Some tips for writing cover letters:

  • Be interesting but be concise — don't ramble.
  • Write a new cover letter for each job you apply for.
  • Focus on your skills and past accomplishments and how they relate to the job. How and why would you excel in this role?
  • Use specific examples from previous jobs to highlight your skills.
  • Triple-check spelling and grammar, and make sure to spell the company name right, as well as the names of any people you mention.

Tips on optimizing your LinkedIn profile

Many employers look at LinkedIn profiles when they're reviewing job candidates. This online platform is free to use, and your profile is simply a digital version of your resume — so you've already done the hard work!

To make sure your LinkedIn profile is polished and professional, you'll want to:

  • Use a professional-looking photo. If you upload a background image, that should be professional, too.
  • Complete your profile, and make sure all information is correct and up to date. (When you get a job, immediately add it to your profile.)
  • Ask for recommendations from people you've worked with — and give some to others, too.

Networking and why it matters

Jobs in Canada are often filled without a posting ever going up online. Sometimes, companies hire people directly, either because they know of them already or the right person showed up with a resume at the right time. And even when a job is posted, people with a personal connection to the company are more likely to get an interview.

Networking can sound intimidating, but it's an important skill to develop. To get started:

  • Contact people you know. Ask them for a coffee or a virtual meeting to chat about your career and employment goals.
  • After each meeting, send a thank-you note (can be an email) and ask if they can introduce you to another person to meet with.
  • Always be prepared so you don't waste your time or theirs. Do research before you meet and ask questions relevant to your industry and their experience.

The goal of networking is to build a network of people you're friendly with so you can occasionally ask them for advice and introductions. (And, perhaps, return the favour one day!)

Read more: Dos and don'ts of networking in Canada

Work permits to find a job in Canada

If you're not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can still work in Canada. However, you'll need to apply for a work permit.

The two main types of work permits are:

  • Employer-specific work permits, which allow you to work only for the employer named on the permit.
  • Open work permits, which allow you to work anywhere in Canada, with a few exceptions.

Make sure to check the list of requirements to see if you're eligible for a work permit. For instance, you'll need to show that you have no history of criminal activity, are in good health and have enough money to take care of yourself and any family members while you're in Canada.8

Where to find jobs in Canada

The first place to start looking for a job is on job posting websites. You'll be able to see what kinds of jobs are available and what you need to do to apply. Some job search websites let you upload your resume so companies can find you.

A few sites to try:

If you have a specific industry in mind for your job search, you can also check the careers web pages for companies you might want to work for.

Your job search is just the beginning

Newcomers are a very important part of the Canadian workforce. If you research the job market, create a strong resume and cover letter and practise your networking skills, you'll be well on your way to finding work — and taking the first step toward your new life in Canada.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today