How to Talk About Your Education in a Canadian Job Interview

If you are set in living in Canada you may be searching for a job to support yourself. Once you land a job interview, that can be where the stress sets in. You might begin to wonder what a Canadian job interview is like? Interviews can be stressful when you’re speaking your native language, but now you have to perform in English! Yikes! If you’ve completed a college or university degree you will probably need to talk about it this experience with your interviewer.

I’ve found that when I’m helping my students with interview preparation they are missing some pieces of the puzzle and not clearly expressing their educational background so it translates into a Canadian context. This means that they could be missing out on an excellent job that they are qualified for.

Canadian Post-Secondary Education System
There are three main types of schools in Canada for post-secondary education. They are trade schools, colleges, and universities.

A trade school is where students study for a technical career. This is the type of school where you would go and study to become a hairdresser or a carpenter. A college offers a wide range of programs from nursing, business and culinary arts. A university is where you can study different subjects to attain various academic degrees.

Types of Certifications

A college offers four different types of certification. A college certificate is achieved after one year of study. A college diploma can be earned after two or three years of study. You can also study for four years to earn an applied bachelor’s degree. Many colleges also offer postgraduate certifications that are one or two years in length. A college tends to be more career-oriented and offers hands-on practical training.

A university focuses on academic education and research. At a Canadian university, you can study for three or four to earn a bachelor’s degree. There are also masters programs and doctorate programs. It is a common trend in Canada for university graduates to attend a college after their study to complete a postgraduate certificate to gain some career training.

Let’s Look At Some Interview Examples

Interviewer: I see you went to Fanshawe College, can you tell me a little more about that?

Interviewee: Yes, I completed the three-year Business Marketing program at Fanshawe College and graduated in 2016. I completed a co-op as part of my degree. I worked at Goodlife Fitness where I was able to gain hands-on experience in digital marketing.

Here the interviewee uses some great vocabulary. Notice the verbs here: graduated and completed. They also give information about the college and the length of study. A co-op is a term used in Canada to describe a period of work experience linked to education. Co-op is short for cooperative education. It is similar to an internship in the US, we just use a different vocabulary in Canada. The interview says they have hands-on experience, this is a way to show the interviewer that they have real-life working experience.

If you studied abroad at a University outside of Canada you may need to become a little more specific about what you studied. The interviewer may not be familiar with the education system from your country.

Interviewer: I see you studied science at the University of São Paulo…

Interviewee: Yes I completed a four year Bachelor of Science at the University of São Paulo. It was an academic degree and my thesis topic was on…

Here the interviewee describes her education well. She first speaks about the length of her degree. She also states it was an academic degree so the interviewer knows she studies in an institution similar to a Canadian University. She talks about the subject she majored in, which also creates a comparison for the interviewer.

If your feeling stressed out about performing in an interview don’t worry! Practice makes perfect. Do these three simple things to help build your confidence.

Write out the questions you think you may be asked with the answers you would give.
Create a mock interview situation and practice with a friend.
Try and go on as many interviews as possible, with each one you’ll become more confident.

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