The technical person’s guide to finding a great job, moving to Canada and building the life of your dreams

So you’re thinking of moving to Canada, eh? If you’re a skilled software engineer or developer looking for a new opportunity, it’s now easier than ever to find a job and move to the second best country in the world to live in.

But before making a big decision like that, it’s best to know what you’ll be getting yourself into before you invest a lot of time and energy. We think the most risk-free and efficient way of moving to Canada and landing a tech job is by getting your PR first — and here’s exactly how to do it:

Step 1: Is Canada Right for You?

Moving to a different country is a big decision, so the first thing you should do is learn about what it’s like to actually live in Canada. While there are plenty of resources and blogs that cover this online, here is some general insight:

  1. Depending on where in Canada you live, it can get cold. Some people love it, some not as much — either way, understand that a large part of Canada is snowy in the winter (November to March, depending on what city you’re in). If extreme cold isn’t for you, there are some warmer options like Vancouver — but either way, look into average temperatures of cities you are interested in if you have never experienced snow or long periods of cold weather.
  2. The standard of living is really good. Again, this will depend on what city you live in and where in the city you live (as almost every city will have a “bad area”), but overall Canada is a safe, clean country with promising work opportunities, good school systems for your children and healthcare for everyone. This is often the biggest convincing factor for foreign workers — for example, Rahil worked in Singapore and the United States before joining Influitive in Toronto. Recently, he co-founded UpFund.io and says he prefers Canada because “it’s a great culture to raise a family in, is a safe society in general and the education system is great.”
  3. The tech industry is on the rise. In fact, “[i]n 2015, the technology sector was directly responsible for $117 billion or 7.1 per cent of Canada’s economic output”. Especially in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Waterloo, Ottawa and Montreal, the country continues to gain traction in the tech industry and is at the forefront of certain sectors, like Artificial Intelligence, Ed-tech and more.
  4. The culture is extremely diverse. Canada is known to be very welcoming, but most don’t realize how diverse it is. To put it into perspective, “[i]mmigration has contributed more to the growth of Canada’s population than births since the mid-1990s”. I can attest to this as my public high school was a true mix of different religions, ethnicities and backgrounds — and it was truly a unique experience to grow up in such a diverse environment.

Step 2: Make The Decision

Once you’ve read about what it would be like to live and work in Canada, you should take some time to consider whether it would be the right choice for you and your family. Keep in mind that moving to a different country may be one of the biggest decisions you make, so you should consider things like:

  • Is this what I want?
  • Can I see myself living in Canada?
  • Will this be best in the long run?
  • What is my situation now? Will moving to Canada improve upon it?
  • Do I want to give my wife and kids a better life?
  • What opportunities might I miss out on if I stay or if I go?

If you will be moving with a spouse and/or kids, make sure to consult them and keep their best interests in mind. If you’ll be moving alone, talk to friends or family that may be able to give you extra advice. Also, talk to people who have already made the move and see what they say about it — this will likely be the most accurate information you can rely on.

For example, Andres decided to move to Canada from Venezuela 6 years ago and he’s now a Canadian citizen. The main reason he chose Canada was because of how much easier the immigration process was compared to other countries like the U.S. Also, Andres knew that his skills as an engineer would be in high demand in Canada so finding a job wouldn’t be difficult.

Step 3: Understand the Process and Timeline

If you want to move to Canada, you need to be aware of two processes: immigration and recruitment.

Immigration

If you’re serious about moving to Canada, have good work experience and can score well on the IELTS exam, Express Entry is the easiest and quickest way to get Canadian permanent residency (PR). For those who meet the requirements, the whole process can be done in 4–6 months (or less) and no job is required!

You can do the whole process online and there are plenty of resources available to get an idea of what it’s like and the first steps you should take. If you’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars, there’s also no shortage of lawyers or consultants who can handle the application for you — just make sure you’re going with a trusted source.

If you’re interested in learning more or want help through the process, consider Pursuit Prime, a service that walks you through the entire PR process, lines you up with great job opportunities in Canada once your PR is approved, and helps make your move as seamless as possible. You can find out more here (full disclosure: I’m part of the founding team at Pursuit).

Recruitment

The recruitment process will vary by company and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years depending on your experience, education and how well you interview. Most Canadian companies will review your application materials thoroughly before deciding to interview you, which will likely take place over the phone or by video chat if you’re not in Canada.

Keep in mind that without your Canadian PR, you will have a much harder time getting interviews and job offers because it means the Canadian company will have to sponsor you — something that most companies avoid except for exceptional candidates.

Either way, the recruitment timeline will vary from person to person. If you are very skilled, have good experience and do well in your interviews, it can take as little as 2–3 weeks. If not, the sky’s the limit! One tip: make sure you’ve set up and updated online profiles that showcase your best work: LinkedIn and code repositories like GitHub or GitLab, etc. are all important. Your future employers will Google you!

Step 4: Apply for PR

We recommend working on your PR application right away because it takes time and companies will be much more willing to hire you if you have it. The first thing to do is check if you’re eligible and see what your score might be, because without a high enough score it won’t be worth your time or money to apply.

To find out if you’re eligible for Express Entry, use the Come to Canada tool from the Immigration Canada website. And if you’re eligible, use their calculator to see what your score will be. Keep in mind you’ll need to enter an english test exam score, so if you haven’t taken one (like the IELTS exam), we recommend scores around 7–9 depending on how good your english skills are.

If you’re eligible and have a high enough score, the Express Entry process can be done online using the Immigration Canada resources and other online guides, or as mentioned, if you’re looking for more help along the way, Pursuit Prime helps you through the process and assists in the job search as well.

Either way, getting your PR application started should be your priority because it will a) allow you to move to Canada as soon as you’re approved, and b) make it much easier to land interviews and jobs. You may even be able to land a job before making the move itself!

Step 5: Do Your Job Research

Once you get your PR and before you apply for jobs, you’ll want to do some research and decide what kind of company you want to work for — how big of a company, which city it has offices in, whether there’s a particular industry you’re interested in, or any other considerations for your specific situation.

There are plenty of resources online to do some background research. For example, you can search for companies recruiting in specific industries or for certain experience levels on LinkedIn, you can filter jobs in almost any way on Indeed or look for startups with exciting opportunities on AngelList. Most of the companies will have their own websites where you can read more about them and try to understand what the work culture might be like.

Another way to get more info is to look up employees at certain companies and reach out. Some may be willing to share their experiences with you by email, on LinkedIn or over the phone.

Also, make note of the job descriptions and requirements. The technical side of job descriptions may seem generic, but look for the company expectations and tone of their messages — this can often give you a sense of what the company culture is like. For requirements, some companies might ask for a cover letter while some might not. You will need to keep this in mind for the next step!

Step 6: Update Your Documentation

In order to apply for almost any job in Canada, you’ll need to have your documentation up-to-date and looking its best. Remember that some companies get hundreds of applications so you don’t want your documents containing misspelled words, poor grammar or messy formatting.

The 3 most important things to have updated are your resumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile, because you’ll be required to include them in your application to most Canadian companies. Make sure they include all of your school/work experience and if they’re not in English, have them translated as accurately as possible.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how great of a developer you are if it isn’t accurately portrayed in your application, so make sure you include whatever is necessary!

Step 7: Touch Up Your Soft/Hard Skills

If a company is impressed by your application and offers you an interview, you’ll need to be prepared in a few other ways. The first is your soft skills that will help you on the phone or video call, such as how well you speak English, how good of a communicator you are in general, how well you answer their questions and what kind of vibe you give to the interviewer.

These are extremely important because if you aren’t good in your interview, it will be very hard to overcome. Most companies aren’t just looking for a great tech employee — they want someone who will fit well in their company for an extended period of time.

You will likely also be given an assignment to determine your hard skills, which is a test to determine how skilled you are in coding, problem solving, etc. To that end, you should brush up on any skills you have listed on your resumé to make sure they are as sharp as possible, and maybe review or practice in some areas that the job description focused on the most.

Making sure your soft and hard skills are as strong as possible will help you navigate the interview itself and hopefully give you a leg up on candidates that aren’t as skilled or practiced as you are.

Step 8: Apply!

Once you’ve done all the above and have your PR approved, it’s up to you to either apply from your home country or move to Canada first. We have heard of developers who have been successful either way, so figure out which you are most comfortable with.

Based on your research, pick the companies and jobs that appeal to you and give you a good chance of success. Include your updated documentation and make sure it’s clear that you have your Canadian PR (if you do) because this will give you a huge advantage in the process (unless you’ve already made the move to Canada).

And the rest is history! Hopefully this gives you a good idea about what to do if you’re interested in moving to Canada. Thanks for reading and if you’d like to get started yourself, head over to Pursuit to get your move to Canada started or shoot me a message on LinkedIn here!

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