The Value of Diverse Languages and Cultures

Some employers assume skilled immigrants may not have the communication skills necessary to work in their companies, while some immigrants believe that employers seek communication skills beyond what is essential for the position.

Accents may distract from a skilled immigrant’s excellent English or French language skills, and their lack of awareness of Canada-specific technical terms could place them at a disadvantage.

But employers who hire skilled immigrants who are able to communicate effectively in more than one language enhance their business edge within changing local markets and growing international markets.

Similarly, organizations can benefit from including a diversity of cultural perspectives in their workplaces.

Rather than assuming skilled immigrants lack an understanding of Canadian business norms, or simply don’t know the “Canadian way,” smart employers realize skilled immigrants can provide companies with a competitive edge by using their knowledge and experience to serve diverse local and international markets.

And there are local resources employers can access to help acclimatize immigrants to the Canadian workplace or improve their English.

[UPDATE] Communication Barriers: Accents Impact Hiring

While multi-lingual immigrants are an asset to businesses, research continues to demonstrate communication as a primary barrier for newcomers accessing the labour market. Particularly in the interview stage of the recruitment process, newcomers are being unfairly assessed as a result of cultural differences related to communication, and the presence of accents. Often, a foreign accent is perceived as an impairment to effectively communicate, but evidence to support this argument is scarce at best. Furthermore, candidates are disadvantaged when the hiring personnel misunderstand a response or the candidate’s demeanor based on differences of culture, not based on aptitude for the position.

Tips for Overcoming Communication Barriers:
When an individual is selected to be interviewed, it’s important as the interviewer, that you are properly prepared, so to not disadvantage a candidate unconsciously based on his/her accent, or demeanor in the interview. Communication styles differ across cultures, and greater awareness of these differences, coupled with keen preparation, can help you evaluate skilled immigrant candidates more objectively at the interview phase of recruitment.

Here are a few considerations and resources to help:

(1) Cross-cultural differences can lead inadvertently to false assessments of skilled immigrants in interview situations. Read our Cross-Cultural Interviewing Tips and Tools to learn practical tips for understanding cultural differences that may arise in the interview process.

(2) When arranging for an interview with a skilled immigrant by phone – or even conducting an interview with a skilled immigrant over the phone – there are even greater opportunities for cross-cultural differences to lead to misunderstanding. However, there are ways to maximize the value of phone conversations for both interviewers and skilled immigrant candidates:

  • Explain the format, expectations of the interview and any unique aspects of your interview process. Outline the selection process and provide an opportunity for the candidate to ask any questions prior to the start of the interview.
  • Provide all interview questions to the candidate prior to the interview to reduce or eliminate misunderstandings over the phone.

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.