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Job Search in Quebec: The French Factor

By Daisy Wright

Although there's a heavy French influence in New Brunswick and some other areas of Atlantic Canada, Quebec is regarded as the heart of French Canada. As such, a job seeker who is fluent in English and French has a clear advantage in the province.

Experts say bilingualism is highly valued in the professional job market, and most employers prefer such candidates because it gives them (the employer) a competitive edge within the global market.

"Expect to be questioned about your level of French – spoken, understood, and written, and bilingualism (French and English) is really a major asset for most jobs, especially in the Montreal area," said Career Management Counsellor, Claire Savoie.

This explains why Quebec tends to attract people from countries like Belgium, France, Haiti, and a number of French-speaking African countries.

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Bilingual Speech Not Always Required

However, this mix of French comes with its own set of challenges. There are differences in accents, common vocabulary and expressions, and sometimes people from France tend to have difficulty understanding the French spoken in Quebec.

In terms of the job search, employment counsellor, Lita Pitruzzello, said, "Without French – immigrant or not – individuals seeking work in Quebec will encounter barriers and obstacles in finding work... more so than individuals who are fluent in French with little or no knowledge of English."

Although that is the case, job seekers who do not speak French should not become pessimistic. Instead, they should target academic institutions, hospitals, and some industries such as aeronautics and pharmaceutical companies that conduct business mainly in English.

Resumes in 2 Languages Aren't Necessarily Good

With respect to preparing job search documents, while an English resume is not a problem in the other provinces, in Quebec, the job seeker is at a disadvantage with such a resume.

It's easy to think that the solution is to create a French resume, but "creating a French resume does nothing for an English-speaking individual with no French. This could mislead a potential employer into thinking that the applicant speaks French. And there is nothing more frustrating for a French employer to discover during a telephone conversation that the applicant struggles to converse in French," Ms Pitruzzello continued.

Quebec Factors

Based on the foregoing, one might believe that it's almost impossible for Anglophones or unilingual job seekers to find employment in Quebec, but that's not necessarily true. The adage of aligning one's background and experience with the employer's needs, and highlighting one's value proposition remains true, and if a job seeker can do that, they stand a good chance of being hired.

Here are some additional facts to know when conducting a job search campaign in Quebec:

  • Hiring and promotion are generally based on skill, accomplishments, and individual performance, as well as one's ability to integrate within a work team.
  • The province offers good opportunities for self-employment.
  • Employers value employees who are punctual and respect deadlines.
  • Equal opportunity is highly valued, regardless of one's socioeconomic background or the prestigious college or university that one attended in one's country of origin.
  • Knowledge of a third language such as Spanish, is an asset.
  • While in English, everyone says "you," one should avoid the informal use of "tu" during a first encounter with a French-speaking person. "Vous" is preferred, unless specified by that person.
  • The cost of living is lower in Quebec, so expect lower wages than in Ontario and the western provinces.

Bottom Line

Although this article focuses on Quebec, it must be reiterated that English and French are Canada's two official languages, so whether one is searching for jobs in Quebec, New Brunswick, or any other province in Canada, fluency in both languages is definitely an asset. There are also certain positions, particularly with the different levels of government, where English/French bilingualism is a must.

* Ms Lita Pitruzzello and Ms Claire Savoie, two career management professionals in Quebec, served as resource persons for this article.


About this author...

A Certified Career Management Coach, Daisy Wright is Author of "No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Career Success Guide for New Immigrants."  She is also the founder of The Wright Career Solution, where she assists executives, managers, and other job-seeking professionals with their resumes, cover letters, social media profiles, and interview preparation. Daisy can be found blogging at Career Musings, hanging around in CareerTips2Go Cafe as the resident "Coach-on-Call," or tweeting as @CareerTips2Go and @NoCdnExperience.


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