Hi Elizabeth, can you introduce yourself?
Hi there! I’m Elizabeth and I’m a Human Resources director in the hospitality and food service sector. I’ve been working with Ôrigine, a network of 40 hotels and inns all over Quebec, for about a year. I had previous HR experience in France but I was new to this specific industry.

In my twenties, my dad was working in Newfoundland and St. Pierre and Miquelon, and I travelled to Canada to see him. I thought this country was great. I wanted to live in Canada. I applied for permanent residence and “back in the day,” it took only four months to get approved. But then, I was only 28…

I landed in the summer but I travelled back to France for the holiday season and met the woman who would become my partner. We’ve been together for 24 years now and it took me 15 years to convince her to live in Canada! We eventually settled in Montreal in 2013 and now, we’ve been living in Quebec City for a year. 

I have a life, work conditions and a job I wouldn’t have been able to get in France, that’s for sure—that’s the magic of Canada.
It took you years to come back to Canada. How did you feel when you first came back to live here for good?
It was a bit unnerving. The first six months were very complicated—even though we had been together for a long time, we were out of our comfort zone, in a new environment, and we didn’t know anyone in Canada. We have kids so we also had to adapt to a new education system. I did a lot of research before coming to Canada but still, I had missed many details, and there was a lot we had yet to learn.

I mention all of the above when I hire immigrants. There’s the postcard version of Quebec and Canada, yes, it’s great, it’s beautiful, but you have to keep things in perspective. Life gets tough sometimes. And then, when you talk to other immigrants you meet through friends, at work or at school pickup time, you hear things like “oh, I went through that as well, maybe you could…”. Newcomers are a tight-knit group. Many couples who came to Canada before us offered support. There’s a “newcomer community” and that’s pretty awesome. 
What types of positions are you hiring for with Ôrigine?
In the food industry, we’re looking for back-of-house professionals—experienced cooks, line cooks, and sous chefs.

We’re also hiring front-of-house staff. It’s relatively easy for us to fill temp positions but finding waiters for year-long contracts is harder. We do need more professionals. 

In hospitality, we’re looking for full-time or part-time receptionists and housekeeping employees. And we’re having a really hard time finding technical services and maintenance professionals—this is not just an issue in hospitality, it’s just difficult to fill these positions regardless of the industry.

Highly technical jobs are in high demand at all organizations as a rule.
How many years of experience do your ideal candidates have?
It depends. Mathieu, for example, has no experience in hospitality. Originally, he had applied for a waiter position but it wasn’t a good fit so we found him something else.

For jobs like housekeeping, it’s a mix of people with experience and people without. It’s more a question of core competencies—are you organized, do you like things to be clean and tidy, are you structured, etc.

For hospitality jobs, it’s more about competencies and skills.

For example, I’m expecting two French Woking Holiday permit holders in October and in November. The first one has previous experience in the hospitality and food service industry. She applied for a job because she liked the hotel. The second candidate has experience in administration and customer service—the latter is a transferable skill and we will train her.

In maintenance, I’m more likely to hire a candidate with previous construction experience or maybe someone with proven DIY projects, that sort of thing.

In the food industry, especially for back-of-house staff, I need people with experience or specific degrees, diplomas or certifications.

directrice ressources humaines quebec

Would you rather hire someone with a Working Holiday permit or a Young Professionals permit?
I’m happy to hire candidates with either type of work permit. For example, I don’t mind hiring a cook with a Working Holiday permit because we always need back-of-house staff. And I would still consider a Working Holiday permit holder who tells me right away that they probably won’t work in a kitchen for a year or two—we have seasonal positions, and sometimes we hire for specific events, so it’s alright.

On the other hand, a short-term commitment for receptionist positions may be an issue. It takes at least a month to train employees on the computer system, so I want people who will stay for a little while. There are exceptions during summer when we need temps because regular employees are taking time off.

Training new employees takes time and money. I’d recommend retail to anyone who wants short-term jobs because demand is high.

Much like in France or anywhere else in the world, Canadian companies need people who will commit to the job, and this commitment depends on activities and seasonal demand.

When prospective immigrants and candidates reach out to me, I always advise them to apply for a Working Holiday permit—even if they are eligible for a Young Professionals permit—because it gives them more flexibility. I’m just being honest here because as an HR professional, I would rather hire Young Professionals permit holders but I understand that flexibility is key for some people and I don’t want to take that away from them. Lately, we’ve hired four Working Holiday permit holders and four Young Professionals permit holders. We were actually going to hire them all as Young Professionals permit holders but their profile was drawn for a Working Holiday permit—fair enough!

If we’re looking to fill a long-term contract, I’d rather hire a Young Professionals permit holder. I’m looking for 10-12 cooks to restart after the pandemic.
What does the Ôrigine network offer to potential employees?
First, geographic mobility—a Working Holiday permit holder can start working in one of the network’s hotels in Charlevoix and then get another position in a hotel in Quebec City.

We are a tight-knit group with plenty of networking opportunities among HR professionals, managers, etc. Communication is great and we really want to grow together, bring people together and find solutions.

We offer many opportunities in all kinds of fields and we also give people the chance to switch to other occupations within our organization.

What I like about my company today is how close we are, how quickly we can come up with new ideas and how swiftly we can implement them. You are really involved in the decision-making process regardless of your seniority. We are currently reworking the company culture and there have been meetings with employees to get their opinions, for example.

There is also a great deal of flexibility. If you realize that you are going in the wrong direction, you can stop and easily get the managers together to readjust the decision made originally.

Our leaders acknowledge employees directly—they are close to the teams, and I think it’s great.

We’re not a big group, but we’re still well-established and renowned, and many changes are underway. We offer a much better work-family balance than in France—this is the rule in most companies in Quebec, but not all.

We really want staff members to be happy, to have personal and family time, so that they will enjoy coming to work. We still have a work-from-home option for eligible positions, we improved our vacation policy, we implemented travel bonuses, and there are activities for employees… We offer so many things that regardless of your age, you’ll find perks for you in our organization.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of going out for drinks with colleagues every night, but, on the other hand, some of my younger coworkers feel they are missing something if they don’t see each other once a week. And this is not mandatory fun, you’ll feel like part of the team whether you socialize outside work hours or not.

Many employees have roots somewhere else in the world, so we organize meetings with newcomers we’re hiring—it’s always comforting to know that you can talk to people from your home country who have been living in Canada for a few years. Everyone shares their experience, and they are all different. When you’re adopting a new country, it’s good to just dive into the culture, but it’s also useful to know whom you can turn to for questions on everyday life in Canada.

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Are English language skills mandatory to apply for positions?
I think that all French people can speak some English but they lack practice. For receptionist positions, yes, English language skills are required. In Quebec City, yes, and in Montreal it is non-negotiable. For other positions, it’s not mandatory.

Take Stella, for instance. I told her that many associations and coffee shops host informal meetings to improve English language skills in Quebec City and Montreal. Start by watching movies with English subtitles on Netflix. Most people can read English but have trouble understanding conversations. And many Europeans are taught British English, so American English may be confusing at first—it just takes practice to get used to it.

But there are jobs where English language skills are very important skills. As a receptionist, you have to understand customers calling and be very professional. What I find great here is that when a French person speaks English, everybody is going to hear your accent, but English speakers notice that you’re trying your best and they are patient. They respect the fact that you make the effort to communicate in their language. French people have to stop feeling embarrassed when speaking English. 
As an HR director, what do you expect from a candidate during an interview?
I’m not even focusing on skills during the initial meeting. First, I want to know how serious candidates are about immigrating to Canada—and yes, a Working Holiday permit is still an immigration project even if it’s temporary. We expect them to have a sound plan.

I ask people what they are leaving behind back home, if they are coming to Canada alone, if they are leaving their significant others behind—when the significant other is also coming, it feels like the project is further underway—if they know how they will deal with their house, mortgage, vehicle back home, etc.

People live their immigration project differently. Some will love the experience, and some will hate it. Feedback from other immigrants is always insightful but to each their own, your own experience will be unique. So it’s really important to put other people’s journeys in perspective because your immigration experience will be influenced by many factors—the moment you arrive, the people you meet along the way, your mindset, etc. 

I also encourage prospective immigrants and candidates to really consider the fact they are heading to a new continent. For instance, when I speak to French people, I stress the fact that locals in Quebec do speak French but their background is North American, not European. I’m also interested in what people expect from Canada. Are they expecting the red carpet treatment? If someone says “Well, I’m coming to Canada to have a good time and save money to go on vacation,” I’m okay with that—it’s a sound project after all, so why not? 

Finally, I remind candidates that once the work permit is issued, they have 12 months to come to Canada and that it’s best to wrap things up back home—no need to rush, no need to quit your job in a hurry.

directrice ressources humaines quebec

What kind of cultural differences do you think could a French person can face in a Canadian work environment?
French people are very vocal about certain work standards but the culture is very different in Quebec. They can’t expect a 35-hour workweek, it simply doesn’t exist in Quebec. Here, people work more because they want to make more. I have friends who work 60 hours a week because they have three jobs. Nobody is going to march in the street because it’s unacceptable, it’s their choice. 

Another cultural difference is what people expected from their job. French people like fulfilling jobs and people here don’t expect much, especially when it comes to side gigs. 

My kids started working at 16. Teenagers rarely work in France.

I find the relationship with employers different in Canada—companies need workers and they are more task-oriented, and performance-oriented.

The labour market is flexible—employers don’t have to give three months’ notice, like in France. The informal rule is to give two weeks’ notice to your employer when you want to leave, but you can quit overnight if you want and employers can also let you go without much notice.

Hierarchical relationships are not the same at all. As a French, I was told that I was very direct—I used to call a spade a space, and if something wasn’t done, I would say it. In Canada, I was asked to be more diplomatic. I didn’t understand why at first but now I understand it helps to see the person performing the task differently.

For instance, I had to adjust the way I communicate with one of my coworkers from Quebec. She thought I was cold because I was direct—I didn’t mean it this way so now I’ve learned to be more diplomatic. It’s an acquired skill, I changed a lot this way.

One of the big advantages here is that employees are acknowledged for their actual achievements—words and job titles on a business card don’t matter much.
Does Ôrigine offer long-term opportunities for Working Holiday permit holders?
The plan is to bring people in and support them in the long term, including Working Holiday permit holders. We welcome and train people, and we spend time with them. If they are happy with us and if they are a good fit, we’re not going to look any further. Our goal is to retain employees. This has a price but it’s one we’re happy to pay to build our teams.
Do you have any advice for future expatriates or anyone still wondering whether going abroad is the right move?
Think your project through. It has to align with what you really want to do.  Working Holiday permit holders will need to start with a seasonal job to get references and learn more about Canada.

If you ever want to stay on the long term, never leave an employer on bad terms because you will need a reference. Employers want to know how you did in your previous job even if it was only a one-week contract. Thinking through your project will make future plans easier.

directrice ressources humaines quebec


En PVT au Canada de novembre 2021 à 2023, je répondrai à vos questions avec plaisir. Pour le premier trimestre 2024, direction l'Amérique latine !

I moved from France to Canada on a WHV from November 2021 to 2023, followed then by spending the first quarter of 2024 in Latin America! Happy to answer all your questions.

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