New to Canada? What You Need to Know About Soft Skills

By Valentyna Kalandyrets, Employment Consultant, Thornhill Employment Hub

As a newcomer to Canada, you might find that you are having trouble finding a job, even if you have a high level of education, years of work experience, and great references from reputable companies. Do you ever wonder why that is?


To answer this question, it’s very important to understand what employers are really looking for. Many people think that having certain qualifications and technical skills (also called hard skills) is the most important thing when looking for work— and this is true for many countries around the world. However, in the Canadian workplace culture having soft skills is equally as important, and very often is the determining factor of whether you will find work or not.


So, what are soft skills?


Soft skills can also be called ‘people’ skills. This term refers to a combination of personal qualities, habits, and attitudes that would make someone a good employee and a compatible co-worker. Some examples include good communication skills, a strong work ethic, ability to work in a team, a positive attitude, ability to be a leader and show initiative, problem solving, conflict resolution, negotiation, time management, etc. among many others (refer to the full list at the bottom of this article). Although hard skills can help you get an interview, it’s your soft skills that will help you get and maintain the job.


Why are ‘soft skills’ an obstacle for immigrants?


Immigrants usually arrive to Canada with 90% hard skills and only 10% soft skills, without realizing that this is a big obstacle in their way to finding employment. Skilled immigrants often focus on improving only technical skills after coming to Canada, and they are shocked when they are told they lack the soft skills employers are looking for.


The need for soft skills in today’s workplace is becoming more vital because of business globalization, technology, and virtual offices. However, immigrants keep working on their hard skills by going back to school and getting Canadian degrees and certifications that can be indeed useful, but do not compensate for the lack of soft skills.


The real issue immigrants have in the Canadian labour market is gaining these soft skills that are needed to succeed.  As a new immigrant, it is important to learn and develop them, because not only will they help you get the job, they will also help you build and maintain great working relationships throughout your career.


Here is a list of soft skills that we believe are important for every employee to learn and develop, especially if you are a new immigrant:


·       Communication skills

·       Decision making

·       Team working skills

·       Presentation skills and small talk

·       Flexibility

·       Accepting constructive criticism

·       Conflict resolution and negotiation

·       Strong work ethic

·       Positive attitude

·       Time management abilities

·       Self-confidence

·       Leadership and initiative

·       Business etiquette

·       Working well under pressure


In conclusion, personality matters. Repeated surveys of HR professionals and hiring managers have shown that they make their final hiring decisions based on candidates’ interpersonal skills in the job interview. Newcomers – don’t give up! Always take ownership of the challenges that come your way and have a positive attitude. Remember, no matter which position you are applying for, it is the combination of hard and soft skills that will set you apart from the crowd.