What employers want from international students

By Charlotte Santry

There’s no doubt that Canada is courting international students, who have been branded “model immigrants” by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The government wants more foreign graduates of Canadian universities to settle here permanently, in the strong belief that they have the academic qualifications and language and soft skills to find successful employment and contribute to the economy.

But how should they go about securing that first graduate job? Nancy Karnaos, senior recruitment partner for specialized programs, at BMO Financial Group — one of Canada’s “big five” banks — says passion and preparation will go a long way. In this month’s “What Employers Want” instalment, Karnaos reveals how candidates can stand out from the crowd and discusses the common pitfalls that new graduates — international and otherwise — make in job interviews.


What qualities do you look for in graduates recruited straight from university?

If they can demonstrate a passion for delivering a great customer experience, that’s one area we look for. Their resumé needs to highlight transferrable skills gained from previous work experience and volunteer work, and demonstrate how that’s transferrable into the role they’re applying for. For example, anything that demonstrates teamwork. We look at academics, but also for well-rounded individuals.

And if they have a clear and concise resumé, that’s key in getting through the screening process. Most graduates have a good handle on how to prepare a resumé and most university career centres offer resumé writing workshops.

Are there any particular degree courses that you look for?

We have jobs across the bank in marketing, communications, operations, capital markets, risk management. There are areas where finance is needed, but in other areas we look for engineering or economics.

What about arts degrees?

Absolutely; using myself as an example, I studied English literature and sociology. It depends on the role. In some areas, in order to be successful, you’ll need to be able to walk in and demonstrate some technical knowledge. But soft skills are very important, too.

And if they’re lucky enough to land an interview, is there any advice you can offer?

Be prepared to ask questions. It’s the candidate’s time to find information that can solidify and make for more informed decisions. They should be prepared to provide sufficient examples that substantiate information in their resumé. I’d recommend having more than one example to hand.

A common pitfall for recent graduates is sometimes they might not be able to articulate an answer and get nervous and can’t recover from it. They can finish the interview strong if they’ve done their research and come prepared to ask some questions. The most successful ones who make it through the interview are confident. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to be nervous. If you have some friends around who can talk you through a series of questions that apply to the role you’re applying to, that can help withor the preparation.

Is there anything that international students in particular should bear in mind when applying for roles?

The majority of international students [applying for roles] have gone to a Canadian university. The university will normally prepare them well. But, in some countries, it’s normal for resumés to contain photos and personal information, for example their date of birth and marital status, which for Canada is completely unnecessary and we don’t recommend it.

Are there any qualities that make international students particularly attractive as potential hires?

International graduates bring a global mindset and a way of looking at business in a different way. It means you’re reflecting the customers you serve. If you have an extra language, it’s always an asset. Diversity is one of BMO’s key values and we promote diversity as a strategic business advantage.

Where do they sometimes fall down?

There can be language barriers — being able to articulate clearly [in English] in an interview can be a challenge. I’ve come across instances where students struggle. They should also make sure that they have someone else to look at their resumé, to proofread it and ensure it’s been checked for grammar and typos. Occasionally a resumé comes through that hasn’t been properly edited. Attention to detail is very important.

Any additional tips for students keen to work at a big company like BMO?

If you’ve done a summer internship, you’re adding experience to your resumé, building a network in the organization and an understanding of the organization’s culture, allowing you to make a better educated decision on whether it’s the right fit for you. It’s not just about the employer; it has to be for the candidate.


Article Source: http://canadianimmigrant.ca/work-and-education/tips-for-international-students-2

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