Preparing for Your Canadian Job Interview

Last updated: 23 July 2023

Job Interview CV Page

CanadaVisa has built this guide to make it as easy as possible for newcomers like you to find your dream job as you settle in Canada. 

The country is open and welcoming, as it depends on global talent to support its economic and social prosperity. Finding a job in your field in Canada can be challenging. But many newcomers show that it is certainly possible – as long as you are prepared.

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The job interview is one of the last steps you will need to go through in the job search process—and so doing well is paramount to ensuring your success or failure. This page is a comprehensive guide to newcomers who are preparing for a job interview in Canada: find information on the kinds of job interviews, best practices for preparation, what cannot be asked in an interview and more.

For more information on finding and securing employment in Canada, you can visit our dedicated webpage here.

What kind of job interviews am I likely to encounter in Canada?

Apart from the standard one-on-one interview format, involving an interviewer and a prospective employee, there are other kinds of interviewers that newcomers may encounter when looking for a job in Canada, depending on their industry and role.

  • Panel Interview: A common type of interview involves 2 or more people who work for the company. Each person will ask you one question, typically about your experience and attitude. You will have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, and if there's a requirement for a short presentation, they will inform you beforehand.
  • Group Interview: The purpose of a group interview is for the employer to observe your natural role within a team. They want to see if you take on the role of a team leader, problem solver, or supportive team member. In this type of interview, you will usually be given a small project to complete with a group of other candidates, such as developing a proposal or building a tower from paper and sticky tape. The interview may involve 3 to 20 other participants, and it's important to be confident, be yourself, and avoid being too quiet or overly controlling during the group activity to create the right impression.
  • Phone or Video Interviews: Phone or Video interviews are often the first step before a face-to-face interview. These interviews can make ESL speakers nervous, but even native speakers can feel the same way. Since body language and facial expressions aren't visible, effective use of language skills is crucial. The employer may ask informal questions, resembling a conversation, so it's important to be prepared with information about your professional experience and goals for the position.
  • Competency/Technical/Skills-Based Interview: This type of interview involves completing a task within a short time limit. The specific task depends on the job you're applying for, such as role-playing with a challenging customer, completing a programming or marketing task, or inputting data into a client database. The purpose of this interview is to assess your attention to detail and creative problem-solving abilities. Additionally, the employer will ask about your experience and how you managed previous situations. Co-op diplomas provide real-world skills and up-to-date knowledge that can be valuable in this type of interview. Always remember to be prepared by researching the company and checking their LinkedIn profile to anticipate potential questions.

How many job interviews will I have to do before receiving an offer?

The number of interviews before you get to the job offer stage depends solely on the hiring practices of the company that you are applying at.

In general, it is common to do between 2-3 interviews at gradually increasing levels of detail surrounding the job description and responsibilities—however this can vary greatly.

In addition, it is not uncommon for some companies to mix different styles of interviews at different stages of the interview process, for example starting with a phone/video interview, before moving to a skills-based interview, and then finally ending with a panel interview.

As this is the case, it is not rude or uncommon to ask your interviewer at your first interview what the entirety of the process will look like. Seeing as every company will have their own hiring practices, interviewers are usually more than happy to be forthcoming about this information.

How can I prepare for a job interview in Canada?

Preparation is key to preforming well on your job interview. Below you can find a list of best practices that you can follow to ensure you arrive to your job interview well-prepared:

  • Analyse the job description: Read the job posting thoroughly to understand the responsibilities, qualifications, and desired skills. Align yourself with the employer's expectations and prepare responses that demonstrate your ability to learn and grow;
  • Do your research: Explore the company's website, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor pages to learn about their offerings, key executives, recent news, company culture, size, and market competition;
  • Build your elevator pitch: Craft a concise introduction (20-30 seconds) that highlights your education, work experience, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and poses a question to engage the interviewer;
  • Organise your portfolio or work samples: Compile relevant portfolios, work samples, or prepare a self-managed blog to showcase your domain knowledge and add value to the role and organisation;
  • Prepare to answer common interview questions: Familiarise yourself with common interview questions for your role and have a general idea of key points to convey. Respond naturally and conversationally rather than memorising answers;
  • Think about questions to ask the interviewer: Prepare questions based on your research and job posting to learn more about the position and organisation, clarify doubts, and demonstrate genuine interest and attentiveness;
  • Know your resume: Be well-versed in the information on your resume and be ready to elaborate on any points. Prepare specific case examples to support your work experience;
  • Pick your interview outfit: Choose a well-fitted, clean, and pressed outfit that aligns with business formals. Pay attention to appropriate accessories and shoes; and
  • Plan your journey: Arrive at least 15 minutes early for in-person interviews. Check traffic and weather conditions in advance, and if using public transit, stay aware of any delays. Be courteous to everyone you encounter in the building.

What is Canadian etiquette around attending job interviews?

While relatively straightforward and understanding, Canadian interview etiquette is important for newcomers to understand to maximise their chances in the labour market. Some important aspects of interview etiquette include:

  • The Interview First Impressions: Your first impression includes your smile, handshake, clothing, personal space, and scent. Avoid wearing strong perfume or cologne due to potential allergies or sensitivities. A daily shower is sufficient and welcomed;
  • What to Wear: Dress appropriately to make a good first impression. Canadian employers expect a clean, appropriate, and neat appearance. Follow the guidelines provided by Diversity Canada's "What Employers Say" tip sheet for more insights;
  • Fibbing/Lying: Be honest on your résumé and during the interview. Providing false information about work experience and educational credentials can lead to termination, loss of trust, and damaged self-esteem;
  • Table Manners: In case of lunch interviews, be mindful of your behaviour. Avoid ordering the most expensive item or consuming alcohol excessively. Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat, and refrain from commenting on the interviewer's eating habits;
  • Don't Receive Phone Calls: Keep your cell phone turned off during the interview. If it accidentally rings, apologise and switch it off. It is considered rude to answer a phone call during an interview;
  • Which Chair Do I Sit On?: Wait for an offered chair or ask where you should sit if it's not indicated. Avoid assuming and inadvertently taking the boss' chair, as it would be considered impolite;
  • Answering Interview Questions: Use the interview as an opportunity to sell yourself. Answer all questions directly and concisely. Pay attention to the interviewer's body language for feedback and cues;
  • Thank You For The Interview: After the interview, it is expected to send a short thank you note by mail or email. This is also a chance to include any additional information you may have forgotten during the interview;
  • Phone Messages: Have a professional voicemail message on your phone. When leaving messages for others, clearly state your name and phone number. Speak slowly to ensure the recipient can write down the details;
  • E-mail Names: Consider having separate email addresses for personal and professional use. Choose a standard email address with a variation of your name for your résumé, avoiding addresses that are inappropriate for a work setting; and
  • Eye Contact: Maintain eye contact during conversations as a sign of respect. If making direct eye contact is challenging, imagine an eye in the middle of the person's forehead to help focus your gaze.

What questions can my interviewer not ask me in Canada?

As a newcomer in Canada (whether a temporary foreign worker, student, or new permanent resident), you are protected by all the same labour rights as Canadian citizens. This means that there are certain questions that an interviewer is not allowed to ask you in the context of a job interview.

Sometimes, certain questions may arise casually during a job interview, as employers aim to ensure a good fit for the company. However, Canadian human rights law prohibits interviewers from asking questions related to:

  • Country/place of origin and citizenship status;
  • Religion, faith or creed;
  • Age;
  • Gender or sexual orientation;
  • Race or ethnicity;
  • Family structure, children, or marital status;
  • Mental or physical health and disability;
  • Appearance, height, and weight; and
  • Pardoned offences.

Unless under very limited exceptions, it is strictly forbidden to ask questions about any of these topics at any stage of the hiring process. Interview questions should focus solely on information relevant to the candidate's ability to perform the job they are applying for.

How should I handle a potentially illegal interview question?

During interviews, passing references to some of these topics may arise, such as mentioning personal situations or circumstances. For example, an interviewer might casually ask, "Sorry to delay, my kid is sick and was on the phone, you got kids?"

Unfortunately, there is also a possibility that an interviewer may blatantly ask inappropriate questions, like "We're looking for someone committed, do you plan on having children in the future?"

In such situations, it is up to you to decide how to handle the matter. Depending on the circumstances, you may choose not to halt the interview abruptly but instead deflect or directly respond to the question. Here are some options to consider:

  • "My [family status/country of origin, etc.] does not affect my ability to perform this job.";
  • "I would prefer not to answer this question unless it is directly relevant to the job."; and/or
  • "Can you please explain how this question is applicable to my job performance?".

Inappropriate questions, even if asked casually and without ill-intent, raise concerns about the role your answers played in the hiring process. It is important to be aware of your rights and navigate such situations with professionalism and confidence.

To learn more about your rights as a worker in Canada, you can visit our dedicated page here

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