Diverse recruitment: tips for inclusive recruitment & interviewing

Content for this article originally appeared in “Recruiting for Success: A Recruiting Firm’s Take on Diversity Recruiting” in JER HR Group August 2016 Newsletter

Establishing inclusive recruitment practices is an important step to reach the broadest talent pool.  Companies can rely too heavily on dated practices that unwittingly limit hiring access to just a segment of the talent pool. For example, hiring strategies that may be limiting the diversity of job candidates could include relying on traditional ways of sourcing talent, or using interviewing techniques that are not sensitive to diverse backgrounds including language backgrounds. Impacts of outdated strategies are felt at both at the sourcing and interviewing stages.

Below are some practical tips from JER HR Group, a human resources consulting firm servicing global clients with offices in New York and North Carolina.

Tips and recommendations from JER HR Group

Data-driven approach equips you with the right information

To recruit effectively know the facts and data about what works in your industry:

  • Strategically decide where to post jobs
  • Determine what content goes into the posting
  • Identify what criteria will attract a target group

Don’t re-invent the information wheel, leverage existing resources

Way to identify and plan how best to leverage existing sources:

  • Job boards
  • Universities
  • Networking groups and social media that are proven to drive influence and impact

Now that you have a plan on how to recruit diverse candidates, it’s time to implement

Focus on:

  • Examine & challenge your own biases before you begin an interview
  • Focus on the actual qualifications needed for the job
  • Evaluate a candidates’ qualification based on merit
  • Select an interview panel that is diverse and respectful of different cultures and characteristics. Diverse interviewers bring diverse viewpoints.

What constitutes a diverse and inclusive interview panel?

  • Interviewers understand and are respectful of different cultures and characteristics.
  • Interviewers understand diversity and cultural competencies for interviewing and hiring
  • Integrate diversity into the interview in a way that allows for valid and critical information to be gathered
  • When hiring, consider how each applicants’ similarities and difference might enhance diversity in the company.

Inclusive workplaces lead to thriving businesses, fostering an inclusive workplace starts with making inclusion a company-wide priority and value.

  • Ask employees how the company is doing in fostering an inclusive workplace.
  • Collect the data you have gathered and determine if there is an inclusivity problem- are employees not fitting in?
  • Develop a plan to address the inclusion issues.

Content for this article originally appeared in “Recruiting for Success: A Recruiting Firm’s Take on Diversity Recruiting” in JER HR Group August 2016 Newsletter

Additional Resources

Understand what it’s like to be an immigrant job seeker                                                              

 3M Managers Walk in the Shoes of Newcomers

Understand your blind spot – Tips from Harvard psychologist Dr. Mahzarin Banaji       “We’d like to believe we are open-minded, fair and without bias, but research shows otherwise. This is an important, even if uncomfortable, realization for most of us.”              Dr. Banaji

Look out for Hidden ‘Mediterranean’ Noses

Set diversity targets for the recruitment and hiring process                                                          

 A Page for Immigrant Diversity from the Gender Diversity Handbook? Lloyds Set           Diversity Rules for Top Job Shortlists

Widen the scope for recruitment and hiring to meet growing international and global market needs                                                                                                                                               

Using a Diversity Lens Helps Scotiabank Succeed

Take an active approach to building diverse teams at no additional cost                                     

Hack the hiring process to reap diversity’s bottom-line benefits

Post a simple job ad that highlights key qualifications and job requirements                                 

Writing a Barrier-Free Job Description

 

 

Hack the hiring process to reap diversity’s bottom-line benefits

By Ratna Omidvar, Executive Director, Global Diversity Exchange

For a long time, Google didn’t release data on employee diversity. Last year, it did, with the admission the company is “miles from where we want to be.” Google is now pursuing an aggressive corporate diversity program. Why?

The answer is in the numbers. Companies with racially and ethnically diverse employees are 35-per-cent more likely to financially outperform non-diverse companies, according to a recent study by management consultants McKinsey & Co. Diverse teams lead to better group performance, reputation, customer connections, market share and innovation.

The Googles of the world increasingly understand diversity is an asset with bottom-line impact. The shift in thinking is happening at a faster pace in cities with a high share of immigrants, such as Toronto, where more than 45 per cent of the population is foreign-born.

But while the evidence is in front of us, where we still get stuck as employers is finding immigrants to hire. We get the why, but not necessarily the how.

A new study conducted by market-research firm R.A. Malatest & Associates for Toronto-based Maytree, a charitable foundation that focuses on reducing poverty, found that, while half of the employers surveyed had some degree of difficulty finding suitable candidates of any background to fill positions, the majority of employers – nearly 70 per cent – reported that they do not actively seek out immigrants as a potential talent pool.

There’s also a mismatch in where and how employers and newcomers try to connect. Newcomers frequent job fairs and immigrant-serving agencies. Employers use sector and professional associations and, of course, rely on word of mouth.

Confirming what we know from other research, 72 per cent of immigrants say it’s very or somewhat challenging to find employment opportunities in their field. This costs. A 2011 Royal Bank of Canada study put the cost of immigrant underemployment to the Canadian economy at $30.7-billion.

It’s clear that companies don’t build diverse teams by accident. Instead, they need to be
deliberate about hiring immigrants, or at least about stripping bias from the process.

But there are creative ways to hack the hiring process, and some don’t cost a thing.

Search somewhere new

Some companies have trouble reaching diverse candidates. It’s not a problem of bias or barriers – there’s simply a lack of applicants from different backgrounds. For companies with a budget to advertise or send out recruiters, a solution lies in these tools. Think about where job posts are appearing, and who is likely to see them. If you’re unsure that diverse candidates will see a posting, that’s a sign that more can be done. Consider advertising in ethnic media, through professional immigrant networks and in diverse neighbourhoods.

The same goes for recruitment. Interviewing based on word-of-mouth referrals is easy and effective. Good contacts recommend good people. But we tend to trust people who look and think like we do, and that means the referred candidates might not be very diverse. Get recruiters back to places where they encounter strangers. Remember that immigrant job seekers rely on job fairs and immigrant-serving agencies more than employers do – to the benefit of employers who do target these venues.

Set an interview target

A commonly upheld practice to ensure women are in the applicant and interview pool is to set a target – a mental anchor. Why not extend this practice to immigrants and visible minorities? Targets are not quotas, but they do help us to stay accountable because what gets measured, gets done. The target that’s right for you will depend on demographics. What works in Montreal will not be realistic in Guelph. In Toronto, employers could set a target of 2/5. If five candidates are interviewed, two should be ethnically diverse.

Make CVs anonymous

Research by Phil Oreopoulos at the University of Toronto showed that Canadian employers are 40-per-cent less likely to hire Samir than Matthew, even if their skills are identical. In addition to being equally qualified, Samir could have perfect English, be born in Canada, even have a surname like Davidson or Crosbie, and still be cut at that critical first screening. All because of his first name.

The small German town of Celle piloted anonymous CVs for civil-service positions, precisely to solve hiring bias, and it greatly increased the diversity of new hires. A few decades earlier, the New York Philharmonic saw similar results when it stuck auditioning candidates behind a curtain and suddenly found itself hiring a lot more women. Why not make applications anonymous? Strip out personal information like a person’s name or place of education, and let the first screening hinge on skills and talents.

Use new language

What we hear anecdotally and in research is that “Canadian work experience” remains a significant barrier for immigrants. Human-rights legislation has moved the dial toward removing this criteria, but behaviour takes longer to change. Whether it’s official or unofficial criteria, Canadian experience is still more desirable than experience in India, Singapore or the Netherlands. In some industries, there is good reason for this. In others, international experience may well be equally or more competitive.

It might just take new language to change internal minds. I still hear immigrants described as having “foreign work experience” when we should be calling it “international work experience.” The latter sounds like an asset. This may seem like a small thing, but language can change workplace culture and signal to managers that international education and experience is an advantage.

This last example is especially good because it shows that solutions to immigrant hiring are not only embedded in structures, but in individual and personal change, too. This change can be incremental and still go a long way.

This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail, May 22, 2015

Enhancing Immigrants’ Essential ‘Soft’ Skills – a win-win solution

Virtually every job requires competencies in nine essential skills. Do you know what they are? Learn about the tools and resources available to employers to assess and support essential “soft skills” among employees, including new immigrants. 

By hire immigrants Ottawa

Finding and keeping workers with the knowledge and skills needed to get the job done is critical for today’s businesses. Learning more about the nine essential skills used in nearly every job can help you reap the benefits of effectively engaging immigrants at work.

Presentation by Shareef Korah and Lindsey McIntosh of the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills: Why Employers Should Care about Essential Skills.

Many employers recognize that immigrants have the technical skills required to complete workplace tasks, but often find that they lack the equally valued “soft skills”, such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork, to excel at work.

A pilot project led by Bow Valley College, Success in the Workplace: Essential Skills Training for Immigrant Professionalsfound that this “disconnect” between the skills workers thought they needed (technical) and those their employers wanted (soft skills) often faded once both learned about the importance of essential skills.

Essential skills offer employers a common language that can help both employers and employees identify skills gaps and support essential skills development to increase job potential.

Integrating essential skills into business practices does not have to be time consuming or complicated. For example:

  • The Vocabulary Building Workbook can be used with immigrant workers to boost their communication skills – both oral and written – through a variety of exercises that teach new words commonly used in the Canadian workplace.

Businesses that effectively attract, retain and engage skilled immigrants benefit from increased innovation, productivity and overall competitiveness. Boost your success by tapping into this vital source of talent – and use essential skills to get you started.

For more information on essential skills and to access helpful guides, checklists and worksheets, check out the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills’ website.

Shareef Korah
Policy Analyst at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Office of Literacy and Essentials Skills-OLES

Look out for Hidden ‘Mediterranean’ Noses

Dr.  Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University explains that we often underestimate the degree of influence our unconscious biases have on decision-making.

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

Can having a “Mediterranean” nose hinder your ability to land a seat at a university? Apparently it did at no less a place than Yale in the mid-twentieth century, says Dan A. Oren in his book Joining the Club – A History of Jews and Yale.

Such was the prejudice against Jews at this Ivy League institution that the admission panel came up with a “tactful” code to restrict their enrollment: finding fault with a candidate’s nose and making it reason enough to reject an application.

While such blatant discrimination is unimaginable today, the fact that diversity was unwanted in the club-like atmosphere of Yale in the 1940s has a lesson for all of us, said Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard University professor of social ethics, at an RBC Inclusive Leadership event on May 29, 2014.

“We must ask what it is that we are doing today that would look like the ‘Mediterranean nose’ 50 years from now,” said Dr. Banaji, who is also the co-author of the book Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People.

She said we underestimate the degree of influence our unconscious biases have. Most often strong expectations outweigh or push out the evidence. Put simply, our mindset is not as inclusive as we think it is.

It is a distressing claim, one that tends to surprise those who are confronted by evidence that shows their behaviour is out of sync with their intentions. But research conducted by Dr. Banaji and her colleagues reveals that the human brain is hard-wired to make quick decisions based on a variety of assumptions and experiences without us even knowing it is doing so.

“We’d like to believe we are open-minded, fair and without bias, but research shows otherwise. This is an important, even if uncomfortable, realization for most of us,” said Dr. Banaji.

Deadly Gender Bias

Pointing out the complete irrationality that can arise out of unconscious bias, she cited the case of people judging hurricane risks based on their names. More than six decades of death rates from US hurricanes show that feminine-named hurricanes caused significantly more deaths than those with masculine names. Research indicates that this is because feminine names lead to lower perceived risk and consequently less preparedness.

“While getting killed in hurricanes is an extreme consequence arising out of widely held gender stereotypes, its implications in everyday life are many,” said Dr. Banaji. Research on hidden bias reveals that in spite of the best intentions, most people harbour deep-seated resistance to the “different,” whether that difference is defined by such evident factors as race, gender, ethnicity, age or physical characteristics, or more subtle ones such as background, personality type or experiences.

Dr. Banaji drew on two news photo captions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katarina to illustrate how we unconsciously put into context things we perceive. The caption for the picture of a black woman carrying goods on her head through the flood waters said she had “looted” it. A similar picture of a white couple with backpacks had a caption that said they “found” the goods.

Outsmarting the Brain

As potent as hidden biases can be, the good news is that it is possible to overcome them. Although it requires a courageous approach to inclusiveness in everyday interactions, the solution isn’t complex or costly. Instead, all it takes is a concerted effort to outsmart our own brains through awareness, acknowledgment and consciousness.

The first step to defeat hidden biases is to be honest with ourselves about the blind spots we have. Having a bias is only human. The only shame is in making no effort to improve. “Human beings are an improving species — we have been improving ourselves in every way over millennia,” said Dr. Banaji.

“Comfort with diversity is an acquired taste, just like single malt Scotch,” she quipped. “But we already embrace and encourage it in a variety of spheres. Like for instance diversity in a financial portfolio, diversity in out nutrient intake and the conscious effort to keep the gene pool diverse by not marrying our cousins!”

Related Resources

Report: Outsmarting Our Brains: Overcoming Hidden Biases to Harness Diversity’s True Potential
This EY and RBC report discusses how business leaders need to overcome their hidden biases to be more competitive.

emergiTEL – 2013 RBC Immigrant Success Awards Winner

Telecommunications and IT recruitment agency works closely with candidates to position their skills so employers can clearly see how they meet their needs. 

By TRIEC

emergiTEL is a growing recruitment agency that is becoming the go-to source for hard-to-find skills in the telecommunications and IT industry.

emergiTEL supports its candidates, including many new immigrants, by managing their career paths. emergiTEL was the outcome of a tech worker’s realization that tech employers were hard pressed to find skills that they required. An immigrant herself, Aneela Zaib, emergiTEL’s founder and Vice President of sales and marketing, was aware that most of the skills sought by employers were available in Canada. Employers just needed
help finding them.

That’s where emergiTEL comes in. The recruitment agency works closely with its candidates to position their skills so employers can clearly see how they meet their needs. Founded on the belief that experience is valid no matter where it is from, supporting

immigrant employment is a core value for emergiTEL.

“I personally believe that immigrants have a lot to offer. What is missing is confidence and somebody to give them customized attention to help them present themselves in the best way,” says Zaib. “That’s what we do and it helps ensure our clients find the best talent to meet their needs.”

Instead of just trying to place a candidate, emergiTEL works with its candidates to manage their career lifecycle. This is what makes emergiTEL stand out from other recruitment agencies and in particular important for immigrants who may not understand how to position themselves in the Canadian marketplace or how to succeed in an interview with a Canadian employer.

One distinguishing feature of emergiTEL’s process is that its recruiters meet with all candidates to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and job-readiness. This helps emergiTEL not only to understand their technical skills but also their soft skills and identify areas where coaching may be required. The company then helps candidates build a strong resume that reflects their technical expertise, provides interview tips and supports soft skills development.

emergiTEL’s clients, including the telecom industries’ top employers expect a high caliber of talent and emergiTEL delivers. Nothing demonstrates this better than their clients’ continued business and an average revenue growth of 300% per year.

“Our clients recognize the value we bring in helping them find the right talent with the right experience no matter where it is from,” says Zaib. “In the end, that’s also helping generate awareness among employers of the value that immigrants bring.”

Find solutions to better integrate skilled immigrants into your workplace or contact TRIEC
for more details.

Related

Learn more about IS Awards

Learn more about  emergiTEl and their participation in the RBC Career Bridge Associate Host Program.

Outsmarting our Brains: A Report by RBC and Ernst and Young

Business leaders need to overcome their hidden biases to be more competitive.

By The Wave, ERIEC

We all have unconscious biases that influence our actions and decisions. These biases can be in favour of, or against, a range of attributes from obvious physical characteristics like race, gender, ethnicity and age, to more subtle ones like education, and work experiences.

Diversity and inclusion make a big difference when it comes to a company’s ability to innovate, attract clients and employees, and keep pace within its industry. As a result it’s important to raise our awareness and develop truly inclusive leadership behaviors.

A new report by RBC and EY (Ernst and Young) entitled “Outsmarting our brains: Overcoming Hidden Biases to Harness Diversity’s True Potential” was recently
released. This report highlights the impact of hidden biases in organizations and how leaders can help overcome them.

“The best leaders challenge the status quo and seek out the visionary thinking and broad perspectives that foster opportunity and growth. We have a responsibility to tackle the complex challenges that create barriers, limit creativity and blind us to the possibilities of our talent and our organizations. There has never been a better time to drive this change; never has it been so urgently necessary” (Gordon Nixon, President and Chief Executive Officer, RBC).

Access the report.

With diversity and inclusiveness issues top of mind for high performing businesses in Canada and around the world, there has never been a better time to improve our businesses, and our impact as leaders to others when it comes to diversity.

Link provided by Bob Mulligan Regional Vice President, RBC and Board of Directors, ERIEC.

Anonymous Job Applications Help Overcome Hiring Biases

Both employer and applicant win when using an anonymous job application process.

By Cities of Migration

Do hiring managers really need to know how old a job applicant is, or if she has children? What about where the applicant was born or what he looks like?

Anonymous job applications, which exclude personal information that is not related to an applicant’s qualifications or experience, are one way that leading employers are trying to focus on choosing the best person for the job.

Various forms of anonymous job application procedures have been tried in many places around the world, including in the public sector – for example, in the local governments of Helsinki (Finland) and Gothenburg (Sweden). Both Canada and Belgium prohibit the inclusion of personal information on applications for public sector jobs.  And it is a particularly welcome innovation in German cities.

In Germany, job applicants traditionally list a number of personal characteristics in their applications that are not related to their qualifications, such as place and date of birth, nationality, and marital status. In addition, it is common practice to attach a photo, which makes characteristics like race, gender and age quite obvious to potential employers.

In 2010-11, the city of Celle was one of eight public and private sector employers that took part in a pilot project initiated by the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination. The pilot project aimed to test how anonymous job application procedures could reduce biases in hiring.

Previous research conducted by the Office Against Discrimination indicated that bias in hiring was most likely to happen in the initial stages of the hiring process. Often, a brief glance at an applicant’s name, gender or age was enough for human resources staff to discard an application. In particular, these biases affected people with a migrant background, women with children, and older workers. This confirmed studies conducted in other countries showing that employers are influenced by these types of biases. The pilot therefore focused on the initial stage of hiring – the job application.

During the pilot, the participating employers tried a variety of methods to try to prevent these biases from influencing the review of applications – including blacking out personal details such as name, age, gender, and marital/family status, or using standardized application forms developed for the project. In the end, using standardized forms proved to be the most efficient method.

“The anonymous application process means that whether you will be invited for an interview depends only on your qualifications and not looks, gender, age or background,” says Christine Lüders, head of the federal government’s Office Against Discrimination.

Indeed, this pilot showed results similar to those conducted in other parts of the world – ethnic minorities and women are demonstrably more likely to be invited to an interview. “I was skeptical at first,” says Jockel Birkholz, the head of Celle’s human resources department. But he admits, “In the traditional process, I glanced at the photo, the CV, the marital status – there were biases despite all attempts at objectivity.”

Anonymous job application procedures are being credited with improving the hiring process. Mayor of Celle, Dirk-Ulrich Mende says, “We are now looking more at qualifications during the hiring process. This is the case for both leadership and apprenticeship positions. Many people who we’ve hired [with anonymous job applications] wouldn’t have been chosen before. And all of them have succeeded.”

It has been embraced by the human resources department, which finds the process more efficient. The standardized application forms make it easier for human resources staff to review the applications. “We can narrow down the candidates faster because we concentrate on a few important criteria,” explains Birkholz. This has become increasingly important as the city is often flooded with job applicants. Mayor Mende believes this is because the anonymous procedures have helped the city improve its reputation as a good employer.

The pilot was so successful that the city of Celle decided to continue using anonymous application procedures after the pilot ended. And this good idea has now spread to Göttingen, Hannover, Mainz, Mannheim, Offenbach and Nürnberg and to eight German states.

“The anonymous application process clearly leads to more transparency, objectivity, and equal chances during the decision-making phase and is an important building block towards a workplace without discrimination. We will continue with this process,” pledged Mayor Mende.

For further reading :

Canadian Work Experience Is Important And This Is Why

In this article Evelina Silveira examines Canadian work experience and provides practical advice to employers on how they can hire more effectively and useful tips to skilled immigrant candidates on how they can find work.

By Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc.   

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHC) paper “Policy on removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier” speaks to the challenges many New Canadians face when they are seeking employment. Citing careers in teaching, counselling, project management, medicine, customer service among others as those requiring Canadian experience.

Opponents of the requirements will argue that it is discriminatory. However, this is too simple of an explanation.

While there will be employers who use this as a reason to discount New Canadians others
may doing so for some very valid reasons.

Let’s take a look at both sides of this issue in a more balanced way.

When I have looked at a resume and see an individual who has spent 5 years in English as A Second Language (ESL) classes and has never worked in Canada or been involved in any community service, this is a red flag for me. I ask myself: How much does this applicant contribute to their community? How integrated are they if their only responsibility is to go to school? Venturing out of the sterility of ESL classes and getting a paid survival job or helping out in the community makes you a richer person and a better prepared future employee. It shows engagement, flexibility, resourcefulness, adaptability, commitment and most of all contribution. These opportunities lead to practicing newly found English speaking skills in a more realistic setting.
Canadian experience can be obtained in many ways. The reason why employers like to have it is because it is easier for employees to integrate into a Canadian workplace. It often means that New Canadians will have some understanding of the soft skills that are required to be successful.

Requiring Canadian experience is not racist. Consider this. If those of us who were born in Canada and were hired to do a job in China, Saudi Arabia, India or other countries how long would we survive? Chances are unless we have a designated employee or mentor helping us out, we wouldn’t understand the workplace culture well enough to last.

Canadian experience is a two-sided responsibility that the Ontario Human Rights Commission doesn’t understand. Both employers and applicants have responsibilities.

For the New Canadian:

  • If you cannot find work in your field, try to find any job. Believe it or not, you are learning and gaining new skills. When I think of all of the survival and student jobs I’ve done over the years, I learned a great deal of skills, some of which I use every day in my business. Listing a survival job on your resume is better than not having one at all. As I have mentioned to ESL students I have mentored in the past, use these opportunities to listen with both your ears and eyes. If you are observant there is much you can learn from any workplace experience. These days there are a lot of people working below their skill levels because of the high unemployment. Employers understand this and will look more positively on you than not working or volunteering at all.
  • Volunteer in your professional associations where you will gain more contacts and networks. You’ll also learn more about how work is delegated, how different issues are handled and the latest information to make you more competitive in your field. You will certainly grow to understand the Canadian workplace landscape better and enhance your soft skills.
  • Become part of your community. Backlash against immigrants is often related to the belief that immigrants are not integrating enough. There is so much need in your community and your skills are surely required. Research what causes interest you and get involved. While going to school each day to learn English is important, if you have been doing this for more than a couple of years you may need to ask yourself if you are hiding behind the security of school, fearing getting a paid or volunteer position? The longer you are away from working the sooner you will lose your skills. Depression can easily settle in. Getting out and having responsibilities outside your family will make you feel better especially when you see that you can help others out.
  • Ask for feedback and be willing to take it. Whether you are working in a survival job or volunteering ,make a point of asking for constructive criticism. This is a great opportunity to find out how you are doing and to learn new skills and understand Canadian culture better.

For employers:

  • Be more flexible when it comes to Canadian experience. Consider survival jobs and community service engagement.
  • List required soft skills instead of asking for Canadian experience. Some applicants will have similar experiences working in multinational organizations with policies and procedures that are similar to North American standards. Canadian experience is less of an issue.
  • Take responsibility for helping New Canadians get experience within your company. You can offer paid internships, unpaid work placement and more. Don’t over look the impact that a buddy system, coaching and mentoring can have on an enthusiastic employee. Be prepared to explain why things are done the way they are in your workplace and the beliefs behind them.  Understanding the “whys” help us to understand the culture better.

Connecting Talent to Opportunity

The Halifax Connector Program helps immigrants build a professional network and connects them with job opportunities to help in their settlement. The Program has now expanded across the country. (This piece was originally published in The Maytree Blog).

By Fred Morley, Executive Vice President and Chief Economist, The Greater Halifax Partnership 

Business needs talent and talent needs opportunity. Both need the Connector Program. As part of a mantra for connecting immigrant professionals to local industry professionals, the Halifax Connector Program has been running since 2010 and has already been replicated in over a dozen communities across Canada.

This spring we were fortunate to receive funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to lead a National Connector Program Secretariat. This project recruits, engages and supports new potential connector communities as well as build a Community of Interest among existing connector programs across Canada.

Our goal is to work with 13 new communities across Canada, coast to coast. Three of those programs will be industry specific, such as our first new connector program under the national project, the CGA/CMA Connector Program launched this summer in Calgary, Alberta. A Connector Program Portal and Learning Exchange will contribute to building this national community of connectors and connectees.

The Connector Program is a simple yet highly effective free networking program that puts newcomers directly in touch with local business people, civil servants and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors – people who are in the habit of making introductions and connecting others to opportunities. Through one-on-one meetings with several connectors who work in their field, participants:

  • Learn about the local job market;
  • Enhance their networking skills;
  • Build a professional network; and
  • Improve their job search.

Business and community leaders who volunteer as Connectors benefit from:

  • Access to local talent;
  • Increased awareness about their organization and industry;
  • Knowing they are opening doors for people and helping them succeed in Halifax; and
  • Making their communities more welcoming and diverse.

If your community is interested in adopting a Connector program, please contact Fred Morley at the Greater Halifax Partnership at (902) 490-6000 or [email protected].

Related:

Train Employers to Hire and Work with Immigrants

On August 20, 2013, Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, spoke at the Queen’s International Institute on Social Policy conference on the topic, “Immigration and Skills.” This is the second in a series of excerpts from her remarks and was originally published in The Maytree blog.

By Ratna Omidvar

In a country where immigrants make up 20% of our population, projected to increase to 25-28% by 2031, focusing only on the deficits of immigrants is short sighted. Just as immigrants have training needs, so to do employers. They must learn to deal with a new demographic. I like to compare what is happening in today’s growing workforce to what happened immediately after the Second World War when large numbers of women entered the work force. As a result, employers and policy makers had to go “back to school.” Many years later we have a healthy range of policies ensuring that women are treated with fairness in the workforce – such as maternity leave policies, rules on what you can ask or not ask in job interviews, the adjustment of height and weight restrictions and so on. Today, employers are facing a similar kind of demographic train and their approaches to sourcing, hiring, on-boarding, assessing, and promoting need to be refreshed, reviewed and updated to meet the changing times.

With a little help, the best teachers for employers will be employers themselves. There is a small but growing community of employers who are learning that the nuances of culture and language of immigrant candidates may be different, but this should not get in the way of identifying and managing talent. Many years ago, we launched a website called hireimmigrants.ca that is dedicated to finding and describing these practices. In a way, this platform helps employers borrow proven ideas from their competition.

A few examples of strategies that employers are using:

  • Husky identifies top engineering universities from immigrant source countries to screen in candidates from these institutions.
  • 3M uses a five-minute language exercise for its hiring managers and supervisors that sensitizes them to the challenges that speakers of English as a second language face. Supervisors sit in a circle and are challenged to replace every verb with a synonym. So for instance if you want to say “I went to a movie yesterday,” you have to challenge yourself to replace the verb “went” with another verb.
  • And from as far away as Germany comes this idea that employers will agree to accept and assess resumes that are filed without names or place of education.

Each of these examples has the seed of a policy that could govern the way corporations and public institutions source and identify talent, or how they allocate precious training resources. By translating good practices into policy, we can ensure larger scale impact.

Read other excerpts from this speech
Read the full speech.

Anonymous Job Applications: The Next Step Towards Bias-Free Hiring

What can employers do to find the best talent while avoiding discrimination or bias in their hiring practices? This article looks at evidence of subconscious bias in hiring and what employers around the world are doing to circumvent these biases. 

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

Last month, the Ontario Human Rights Commission confirmed that requiring a job applicant to have “Canadian experience” is discriminatory. This has prompted a renewed discussion on discrimination in hiring, and what employers can do to find the best talent while respecting the rights of job applicants.

anon-jobs-postIt’s time to consider anonymous job applications.

Unconscious bias based on applicants’ names

2011 Canadian study (PDF) found that resumes with English-sounding names were 35% more likely to get call-backs from employers than resumes with Chinese- or Indian-sounding names, despite having identical qualifications and experience.

In the same study, when recruiters were interviewed about their choices, many pointed to concerns about the language and social skills of applicants with non-English names, even when a resume showed Canadian education and work experience. The study suggests that non-English names triggered the recruiters’ implicit or subconscious biases about “foreign” applicants. This led recruiters to overweigh their concerns without fully considering the applicants’ qualifications or information that would offset those concerns.

Anonymous job applications can help

The good news is that employers can reduce subconscious biases in their hiring processes by using anonymous application approaches. In this approach, applicants do not provide personal information on their job applications, or it is hidden from reviewers.

A Swedish study looked at the outcomes of an anonymous applications pilot program (PDF) at a large public sector employer. In this pilot program, the employer asked applicants to certain positions to complete an anonymous application form.

The form instructed the applicant to provide information on education, work experience and current employment, but not to include any information that would reveal their ethnic origin or their gender. The form specifically instructed applicants not to identify the university they attended, as this could indicate ethnic origin or immigrant status.

The study found that when the employer used these anonymous applications, ethnic minorities and women were substantially more likely to be selected for an interview.

Similarly, “blind” audition processes for orchestras – where the musician-applicant performs behind a screen – have been a boon for women. One study (PDF) found that since the widespread adoption of blind auditions in the 1970s and 1980s, the number of women in orchestras has increased significantly, and that the screen increases the chance that a woman will advance out of the preliminary audition rounds by 50%.

For online applications, it is easy to remove personal information such as names and street addresses and replace these with a number or other unique identifier for the first round(s) of screening. For “paper” or email applications, applicants could be asked to put personal information at the end of the resume, so that it will be the last, rather than the first, thing that the employer sees.

These practices aren’t perfect. Candidates will eventually meet the employer in person (or by video), at which point overt or subconscious biases can come into play. But getting past on-paper first impressions is a step in the right direction.

Focus on what matters

By helping employers focus on what matters most – the applicant’s ability to do the job – anonymous job applications can circumvent subconscious biases that can get in the way of good decision-making.

In some places in the world, applicants list their age, marital status, political affiliation and attach a photo with their resume. Canadian employers already recognize that this kind of personal information will not tell them anything meaningful about how the applicant will do the job.

Leading employers around the world are starting to test anonymous job applications, and diversity experts are calling for their use.

It’s time for Canadian employers to take the next step. Anonymous job application processes can help employers overcome subconscious bias to find the best, most qualified person for the job.

Related:

With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

Tips for Effective Cross-Cultural Interviewing

In this article Marianne Kayed provides advice on how to get the most out of a newcomer candidate during the interview process . (This article was originally published in the Ottawa Business Journal.)

By Marianne Kayed

Looking to hire? How do you avoid missing out on great talent?

Let’s look at this scenario… the pressure in the room is palpable – both parties are exchanging information and assessing their ‘fit’ for an employer-employee relationship.  The recruiter– we will call her Barbara , says, “Tell me about yourself.”

Across the table, Samir, an expert civil engineer and a newcomer to Canada begins his response with “Sure… well… I am the youngest of six children, married and have two young children.  I was raised in the outskirts of Tehran…”

After learning the details of Samir’s ancestry and family life, a discouraged Barbara glances down at the interview guide in front of her.  She has written nothing on her paper.  The interview concludes shortly thereafter, and Samir doesn’t receive a call back.

Everyone involved in a job interview strives to get it perfect. As an employer you obviously want to hire the right person for the job. Current demographic trends indicate that immigration is increasingly accounting for net growth in the Canadian labour force. This presents opportunities for employers but at the same requires that employers review their recruitment processes and tools in other that they do not miss out on great talent.

As an employer/recruiter it is important to recognize that:

  • Some newcomer job-seekers have never been in a job interview before.

A job interview can be daunting for even the most experienced job seeker, but for many new immigrants, responding to interview questions is a brand new skill that has to be learned.

  •  Interviewing may be a language minefield for the interviewee.

Just think of the difficulties you might have trying to understand questions and ’sell’ yourself quickly in such a stressful environment using a language that is not your mother tongue.

  • Culture can have a strong influence on the way someone responds to an interview question.

Some of the information that interviewees are typically asked to provide may be considered inappropriate in certain cultures. For example, identifying personality traits or promoting oneself may be seen as impolite, even as bragging. Likewise, identifying a weakness could be seen as losing face.

Here are a few tips and resources that you can use:

  • Review your interview guides for unintended bias
  • Rephrasing interview questions can help unearth the potential of candidates
  • At the beginning of the interview, take time to provide thorough information about the scope of the interview
  • Avoid using jargon or acronyms
  • Note that nonverbal signals vary across cultures. For example, nodding in some cultures, signals disagreement (Greece, Iran, Turkey)
  • Eye contact patterns vary by culture and should not be used to assess truthfulness
  • The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has practical employer resources covering a wide range of topics including occupational language analyses (OLAs), cross-cultural interviewing, and more
  • Hire Immigrants Ottawa delivers employer-oriented Cross-Cultural Competency training sessions for employers, managers and human resources staff

So let’s consider an alternate ending to Samir’s interview…

After realizing that Samir hails from a culture that is collectivist, where family lineage, status, and composition weigh heavily in a candidate’s character assessment, Barbara revisits her interview questions and recalibrates… “How did you become interested in engineering?”

Samir responds with excitement, sharing how in his first year of university, he handily won a bridge design contest that he had entered on a whim, “My design was selected in first place, ahead of 300 other entries.  I have loved my work ever since.” Barbara smiles, struck by his passion, and notes the impressive accomplishment on the sheet in front of her and continues with the interview.

I invite you to visit www.language.ca/ and explore a world of employment-based resources that will help you to avoid missing out on great talent.

Marianne Kayed is a Senior Manager at the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks in Ottawa. She has experience in integration, professional regulation and second language acquisition of immigrants and helping build the supports to enable successful transitions.

Hire Immigrants Ottawa works with local employers to help them effectively hire and integrate skilled immigrants into their workplaces.

End the Call for ‘Canadian Experience’

Ontario Human Rights Commission makes right move in putting onus on employers to prove it’s a bona fide occupational requirement.

By Todd Humber, HR Reporter

If your job posting calls for “Canadian experience,” it may now be discriminatory — at least in Ontario.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) unveiled its new Policy on Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ Barrier on July 15, and it came out swinging against employers who may not be giving immigrants a fair shake at job opportunities.

“The OHRC’s position is that a strict requirement for ‘Canadian experience’ is prima facie discrimination (discrimination on its face) and can only be used in very limited circumstances,” it said in the 16-page policy. “The onus will be on employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement, based on the legal test this policy sets out.”

When I read the OHRC’s policy, I started with a cynical eye — can this really make a difference?

If an employer doesn’t want to hire a certain group of people — say, minorities — it doesn’t need to put “no minorities need apply” in the ad. It can just not hire minorities. It’s racist. It’s discriminatory. It’s illegal. But it’s hard to prove that in the absence of a smoking gun.

Same with asking for Canadian experience. You don’t need to put it in a job ad if you only want workers who have proven themselves in Canada — you can just skip the resumés that don’t have it, or perhaps even bring in a few token candidates who don’t fit your bill to help with the optics. That tactic is reminiscent of the National Football League’s Rooney rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and other senior positions and has led to complaints among some minority candidates that they’re being brought in and used only to satisfy the rule.

Plus, employers don’t seem to be calling for Canadian experience— at least not blatantly.

An unscientific search of job board Workopolis on the morning of July 15 revealed just 59 postings with the phrase “Canadian experience.”

Then my cynicism faded and I donned my “left alone people will do the right thing” blinders. Is this even necessary in modern Canada?

While nobody would suggest every employer understands the economic benefits of hiring immigrants, that tide has certainly turned.

It’s safe to say the majority get it — and we’ve covered our share of great stories highlighted at the annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards in Toronto, of which Canadian HR Reporter is a key sponsor and a strong believer.

But those blinders were quickly knocked off by a survey the OHRC did in 2012 on Canadian experience. It received more than 1,000 responses from jobseekers, regulatory body applicants, employers and others. It proved that newcomers face Canadian experience requirements from employers at the job search stage.

It also showed that professional regulatory bodies need to find a way to smooth the path to membership for new Canadians without Canadian experience — so there’s work for those bodies to do as well.

With all that in mind, there’s only one way to view this new OHRC policy: It’s laudable and it’s helpful to employers and jobseekers alike.

Any move that helps new Canadians find work in their fields can only be met with open arms. In nearly all cases, a call for Canadian work experience is arbitrary at its root. And in positions where it is absolutely critical, employers will still be able to call for it. They’ll just have to clear the bona fide occupational requirement hurdle, which was spelled out in the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Meiorin. Essentially, employers must prove the decision was:

•adopted for a purpose or goal that is rationally connected to the function being performed

•adopted in good faith, in the belief that it is needed to fulfill the purpose or goal

•reasonably necessary to accomplish its purpose or goal, because it is impossible to accommodate the candidate without undue hardship.

The Meiorin bar is a high one, so employers will need to ensure the position truly requires Canadian experience before making it a requirement.

While some may argue the real problem is a lack of jobs, not the wording chosen by employers in job postings, the fact remains that we need talented immigrants coming to Canada, en masse, in order to maintain our standard of living and grow the economy.

“If Canada is seen as a place where it is impossible to find a good job, a job in your field, or where, as an engineer or PhD graduate you are likely to end up driving a taxi, it will no longer be a desirable destination for many of the world’s most skilled immigrants,” the OHRC said in the policy. “They will simply choose to go elsewhere.”

The message from the OHRC is simple: Canada is an attractive destination for immigrants. But that shine can easily come off — and some may argue it’s already starting to fade and peel as statistics show new Canadians face higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.

We don’t want the world’s best and brightest going elsewhere. We want them here in Canada, swimming among our talent pool and the OHRC policy will help ensure the water looks inviting.

Other jurisdictions should follow suit.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. 


Best practices

In the policy, the OHRC included a list of best practices for employers.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should:

Examine their organizations as a whole to identify potential barriers for newcomers; address any barriers through organizational change initiatives, such as by forming new organizational structures, removing old practices or policies that give rise to human rights concerns, using more objective, transparent processes, and focusing on more inclusive styles of leadership and decision-making.

• Review job requirements and descriptions, recruitment/hiring practices and accreditation criteria to make sure they do not present barriers for newcomer applicants. Take a flexible and individualized approach to assessing an applicant’s qualifications and skills.

• Give an applicant the opportunity to prove his/her qualifications through paid internships, short contracts or positions with probationary periods.

• Provide newcomers with on-the-job training, supports and resources that will enable them to close “skill gaps” (i.e. acquire any skills or knowledge they may be lacking).

• Use competency-based methods to assess an applicant’s skill and ability to do the job.

• Consider all relevant work experience – regardless of where it was obtained.

• Frame job qualifications or criteria in terms of competencies and job-related knowledge and skills.

• Support initiatives designed to empower newcomers inside and outside of their organizations (for example, formal mentoring arrangements, internships, networking opportunities, other types of bridging programs, language training, etc.).

• Monitor the diversity ratios of new recruits to make sure they reflect the diversity of competent applicants overall.

• Implement special programs, corrective measures or outreach initiatives to address inequity or disadvantage affecting newcomers.

• Supply newcomers and social service agencies serving newcomers with information about workplace norms, and expectations and opportunities within the organization.

• Retain outside expertise to help eliminate barriers to newcomer applicants.

• Form partnerships with other similar institutions that can help identify additional best practices.

• Provide all staff with mandatory education and training on human rights and cultural competence.

Employers, representatives of employers and regulatory bodies should not:

• Require applicants to have prior work experience in Canada to be eligible for a particular job.

• Assume that an applicant will not succeed in a particular job because he or she lacks Canadian experience.

• Discount an applicant’s foreign work experience or assign it less weight than their Canadian work experience.

• Rely on subjective notions of “fit” when considering an applicant’s ability to succeed in the workplace.

• Include a requirement for prior Canadian work experience in the job posting or ad, or a requirement for qualifications that could only be obtained by working in Canada.

• Require applicants to disclose their country of origin or the location of their work experience on the job application form.

• Ask applicants questions that may directly or indirectly reveal where their work experience was obtained.

• Ask for local references only.

Removing the “Canadian Experience” Barrier

On July 15, Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, addressed the attendees at a launch event of the new policy, “Removing the ‘Canadian experience’ barrier,” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The policy addresses the issue of employers requiring “Canadian experience” which can create barriers for newcomers looking for jobs or professional accreditation.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The discussion over removing the “Canadian experience” barrier has an extremely personal context for me. When I arrived in Canada in the early 1980s, Canadian work experience was a much more openly articulated criteria. And, of course, as an immigrant you can’t buy it for love or money. It took me and my husband roughly eight years to find a location in the world of work, and I believe we lost some of the best years of our working lives.

Since that time, while much has changed, much has stayed the same. Canadian work experience is still a barrier – and even when employers don’t ask for it overtly, I think that covertly it is a consideration.

In the years that I have worked on this issue, I believe that employers use Canadian work experience as a proxy for mitigating risk – a sort of shorthand for figuring out whether someone will fit into the workplace.

Bigger employers though are recognizing that this proxy of Canadian work experience is impractical. It is unlikely to tell them what they really want to know, leading them to develop other forms of testing competency. They are therefore breaking down job requirements into specific competencies and striving to ask candidates to demonstrate their experience in these. This is part of the larger bias-free movement to assess skills and competencies. Others are no longer asking for place of education at the onset of the hiring process and on online applications. Still others openly welcome international experience by considering this facet in salary considerations.

The truth is, of course, that while there are enlightened employers, they are still few and far between. Part of the solution must be to grow the tent of enlightened employers and make the case that if corporation A can do this, so can corporation B. Maytree has taken on this challenge and regularly engages with close to 150 employers nationally through best practice, tips and tools and webinars through our work with ALLIES and hirimmigrants.ca. Slowly but surely, we are building a community of practice. And much as we think that Canada is the leader in all things immigration-related, the truth is that we can learn from other jurisdictions. In Germany, a campaign has been launched to encourage recruiters and candidates to accept anonymous job applications – so dealing directly with the bias around names, credentials, etc.

However, an essential part of the solution is policy. The power of policy is enormous. It can change attitudes, approaches and behaviours. Federal employment equity policies changed radically who got to work for nationally-regulated employers. Federal bilingual policies changed the face of the public service. Demographics too play a role. The massive entry into the workforce by women had a profound effect on gender neutral hiring systems and policies.

Today there is another demographic train bearing down on us. Good practice by a few employers or institutions is encouraging, because it can show what success looks like. But for large-scale change one needs to consider the translation of some of these efforts into policy.

When we think of policy, we usually think only of governmental policy – be it federal, provincial or municipal. And because of the regulating authority of governments, government policy can have enormous reach. For instance, a policy coming out of the Ministry of Labour to formalize bias-free hiring processes for employers of a certain size is imaginable with a “comply or explain” mechanism. The difficulty may well arise in actually implementing and monitoring the policy. The OHRC policy proposal that we see before us today could result in a series of complaints that are resolved one way or another, and if there is enough scope and scale to these complaints, it is possible that a case can be made for the strong arm of government. However, I don’t think that there is either political or public will to take on more regulations at this time.

So while we build the public and political will at the governmental level, we must also remember that policy exists in every corner of our society, not just in the corridors of government. Just as we encourage progressive policy proposals at the governmental level which would deal with the Canadian work experience conundrum, we should also consider a range of proposals coming from industry and business themselves, or their industry associations to ensure that progress is made. These policy initiatives may well stick stronger because they will be industry-led and -owned. Many large employers are aggressive on diversity and have instituted new processes and approaches that can feed the policy imagination. For example, I can imagine a voluntary move by the financial services industry or the insurance industry or even the University Health Network to remove “place of education” from job applications or even accept anonymous job applications. Or I could see them move towards a self-regulated and self-monitoring approach towards bias-free hiring with systems developed by them for application for their members and member organizations.

I welcome this report as a catalyst towards larger policy improvements and greater policy imagination.

Related

With the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience barrier” Ratna Omidvar, President of Maytree, provides practical examples that employers can use to assess competencies of a potential candidate.

In the second part of Ratna Omidvar’s remarks on the new Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on removing the “Canadian experience” barrier she also talks about the larger role employers can play in ensuring bias free hiring practices.

York Region Ensures Effective Hiring with Foreign Credential Process Guide

The Regional Municipality of York was awarded the 2012 Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration as part of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s IS Awards. Read more on why they won the award with their innovative practice. This story was originally published by TRIEC.

The Regional Municipality of York wanted to be inclusive to all applicants, including skilled immigrants who possess foreign credentials and experience. Not able to find a tool elsewhere to help them, the Region developed one of its own – a foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources.

What:

  • A foreign credential process guide with a flowchart, scenarios, templates and other resources

By the numbers:

  • 27 per cent of the Region’s employees are born outside of Canada
  • The Region’s employees speak more than 60 languages
  • Employees list ‘support for diversity’ among the Region’s top five internal strengths

Why:

To promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and is inclusive of all candidates

What else:

The Region partners with a series of internship and bridge programs, such as the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program, to recruit and integrate skilled immigrants

Profile

A major barrier to employment for new immigrants is recognition of foreign credentials and experience. Wanting to diversify the workplace, The Regional Municipality of York developed an innovative tool to help its recruiters and hiring managers overcome this barrier.

“Many new immigrants are choosing to live in York Region. As the Regional government, we need to take the lead and develop a workforce that reflects the community we serve,” says York Region Human Resources Acting Director Beverley Cassidy-Moffatt. “To support this goal, we developed the foreign credential process guide to ensure consistency in our hiring practices among both Canadian and internationally trained candidates.”

The innovative foreign credential process guide was developed following research among other Toronto region municipalities that did not have anything similar. The guide consists of a flowchart for when and how to assess foreign credentials, scenarios, templates for assessment requests and other resources. Easy to use, the guide is designed to promote an effective hiring process that leads to hiring decisions based on merit and does not exclude diverse candidates. The process is working.

York Region is seeing an increasing number of skilled immigrants within its workforce but the foreign credential process guide is only one of its initiatives to facilitate this process. In particular, the Region has targeted new immigrants for some of the hard-to-fill positions through internship and bridge programs with partner organizations. For example, the Region is a leading employer partner with the Professional Access and Integration Enhancement (PAIE) program. Through this program, the Region has first provided internships to and subsequently hired internationally-trained engineers.

“At the Region, I’ve been able to transfer some of my skills and technical background from the Philippines,” says Leany Moreno, an industrial treatment engineer who first joined York Region through the PAIE program. “There is great opportunity here for me and I am always looking forward to coming to work because of the supportive environment.”

The Region’s efforts to diversify its workforce are starting to show results. A 2011 demographic census shows that 27 per cent of the workforce was not born in Canada. Speaking even more to the impact of the human resources initiative, in a 2011 survey, employees rated support for diversity as one of the Region’s strengths.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Region of York’s efforts to implement an effective hiring process that led to hiring decisions based on merit and inclusive to all candidates.

The Top Five Ways for an Employer to Leverage International Talent

The Waterloo Immigration Partnership provides useful tips on how you can maximize immigrant talent. Check out hireimmigrants.ca local resources section to do the same in your region.

1) Provide an internship opportunity to an internationally trained professional

Through the Immigrant Internship program employers are matched with job-ready, skilled, professional immigrants. Placements offer valuable Canadian work experience to a newcomer and all candidates have been screened and assessed for English usage. Employers benefit from multi-lingual professionals who bring global experience to your company and an opportunity for increasing intercultural awareness. Placement opportunities are a minimum of four months.

For more information contact Lil Premsukh at 519.748.5220.2387 or [email protected]

2) Mentor an internationally trained professional and encourage your staff to do the same

The Mentorship for Immigrant Employment Program brings together internationally trained individuals with local mentors in their field to gain a better understanding of the job market; establish networking contacts; and learn more about sector specific language and professional practice in Canada. The volunteer commitment of no more than a couple hours a month over a 4-6 month period is a valuable opportunity to increase intercultural awareness, learn about your field from an  international perspective and support a newcomer’s efforts to become professionally established in our community.

To become a mentor, or for more information, contact:  in K/W 519.579.9622 and in Cambridge 519.621.1621.

3) Integrate Skills International.ca into your company’s recruitment practices

SkillsInternational.ca is a one-of a-kind database for employers to search for, and find internationally trained professionals to fill their recruitment needs.  Candidates are work authorized, language-ready and pre-screened by organizations who work with immigrants in Waterloo region and across Ontario. Use of this no-cost resource in your recruitment strategy will build your competitive advantage in accessing a hidden talent pool of skilled and motivated professionals.

To get started contact Marlene Meechan at 519.664.3402, [email protected]   or visit www.SkillsInternational.ca

4) Conduct mock interviews and/or resume critiques for internationally trained professionals

Internationally trained professionals, while bringing valuable skills and experiences to Canadian employers, often face barriers in getting their foot in the door.  Professional resume development and interview practice are opportunities to better prepare newcomers by building confidence, understanding behavioural and situational interviewing techniques and ensuring their resume meets employer expectations.  While employment specialists in the community assist job seekers, meeting an employer face to face and gaining their perspective can be invaluable to assisting newcomers to become professionally established in our community.

If you are interested in offering your expertise please contact Lil Premsukh at 59.748.5220.2387 or [email protected]

5) Participate in organized networking and recruitment opportunities and in employer learning seminars

The Immigration Partnership provides opportunities for international talent and employers to connect by organizing and presenting networking and recruiting events. These events provide an opportunity for employers to have a complimentary exhibit space to meet immigrants, promote job opportunities and give an overview of their business. In addition, the Immigration Partnership also presents learning seminars for employers i.e.: business owners, human resource professional and hiring managers. Such seminars (usually a lunch and learn) would cover such topics as: how to offer an inclusive workplace, cross-cultural understanding, how to interview and hire immigrants and other topics which employers may indicate as a knowledge/information.

For more information contact Nora Whittington at 519.575.4757.3173 or [email protected]

Check out the hireimmigrants  local resources section to find  immigrant talent and related programs.

Speed Career Networking: Ready, Set…Network!

Speed Career Networking builds relationships and provides informational opportunities for skilled immigrants, while at the same time Canadian professionals use their expertise to support global talent.

By ERIEC

The Speed Career Networking (SCN) event is divided into six, 15-minute sessions. Groups of two to three mentees (internationally trained professionals) are paired with a mentor (local professional) to ask questions and pick up job search and career tips. Every 15 minutes, the mentees move to a different mentor for another round of networking. An informal, open networking follows where participants continue with discussions started during the speed networking session.

The first SCN event for this fiscal year was planned for internationally trained Engineers and took place on May 16th in Matrix Hotel, Downtown Edmonton. There were 31 mentees attending the event and 14 mentors representing Enbridge, Worley Parsons, Stantec, Capital Power, Jacobs, City of Edmonton, Pentair Thermal Management and the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF).

Employers shared with the event organizers that they had “enjoyed the event not only as a networking opportunity but also as a learning experience”. One evaluation read: “The event was valuable to me as a mentor as I came to realize the expertise and potential of many people looking for work”.

One of the mentee participants wrote, ”Having helpful and nice persons like you makes Edmonton a nice place to live in. The inspiration and motivation, which you and all volunteers shined with, have reflected positively on all of us and have made Thursday one of the happiest days in my life in Canada”.

The second SCN event held this year was for internationally trained Science Professionals took place on May 23rd at the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada office building on 124th Street in Edmonton. Twelve internationally trained environmental professionals, microbiologists, chemists and geologists attended the event, and two mentors representing Paragon Soils and Environmental Consulting Inc. and The City of Edmonton participated in the event. Many of the mentors invited were not able to attend as spring is the busiest season for their staff, “everybody is out in the field” said one of the HR Managers. The event was still highly appreciated by mentees as participants had an opportunity to learn a lot about the real labour situation in their field of expertise.

These events are not intended to be a career fair or job recruitment opportunity. However, the practical information and career tips provided by professional insiders can help you build and develop your future career in Canada.

People with Jobs – Jobs with People

In this article, Ratna Omidvar, comments on how the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program presents an opportunity and a challenge for all stakeholders involved in immigrant employment.

By Ratna Omidvar, Maytree

The recent and relentless coverage of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has focused national attention on an issue that has silently crept up on us. The truth is that the program has grown at a rapid and exponential rate over the last few years without much public dialogue or consultation. At the same time as employers are looking overseas for talent that they believe they cannot find at home in Canada, we know that there are many thousands of immigrants, refugees and other Canadians who cannot find a job suitable to their skills and experience. As Rick Miner noted in his landmark 2010 study (PDF), it is the classic conundrum of “People Without Jobs; Jobs Without People.”

The changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program that the federal government announced on April 29 will make it more difficult and more expensive for Canadian employers to overlook talent on the ground.

This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the ALLIES community.

The opportunity

It calls on us, employers, community agencies, government, and post-secondary institutions, to strengthen our relationships. It calls on us to understand employers’ hiring needs and realities, to identify local talent and showcase it to employers in different ways. Minister Kenney urged employers to “triple” their efforts to find local talent. Let’s make sure we triple our own efforts in serving and connecting our local communities of employers and immigrants.

The challenge

Some habits are hard to break. The affinity for the easy route of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may have become just such a habit. But the larger community of trainers, educators, NGOs and immigrant-serving agencies may also have fallen into some bad habits by failing to correctly identify the skills, competencies and attributes that today’s labour market demands, or to appropriately prepare, train and coach our job seekers to demonstrate these to employers. Here, too, we must triple our efforts to bridge whatever gaps exist.

Are we up to the challenge? I believe we are. ALLIES’ partners in cities across Canada have their ears to the ground and are connected with both local employers and with immigrant talent. These excellent relationships have brought us solutions such as the Internationally Educated Engineers Qualification program in Winnipeg, along with many other successful bridging programs.

Employers, too, have taken great strides in immigrant employment. Some of these leading employers have been recognized with RISE Awards in Edmonton, Immigrant Success Awards in Toronto, Employer Excellence Awards in Ottawa, and the Best Employers for New Canadiansaward among others. In addition, the hireimmigrants.ca website highlights promising practices from employers across the country.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to turn the situation around to “People with Jobs; Jobswith People.” If we continue to open the lines of communication and develop trust between us, ultimately, we will reap the results.

The Canada Job Grant: Challenges and Opportunities for Immigrant Employment

The Canada Job Grant was recently announced in the 2013 federal budget. As a new initiative, it presents both challenges and opportunities for the immigrant employment sector.

By Bonnie Mah, Maytree

The Canada Job Grant is a new initiative that the federal government announced in its 2013 Budget. It has piqued a lot of interest in the immigrant employment sector, and for good reason. The Canada Job Grant could present both challenges and opportunities for our sector. At this time, it exists as an announcement only; however, a few details in the announcement give some indications of how the program might be implemented.

The grant will provide up to $15,000 to individuals for short-term occupational training.

Employers can apply for the grant to train unemployed or underemployed workers. The maximum federal contribution of funds will be $5,000, which must be matched by $5,000 in provincial/territorial funds, and $5,000 from the employer.

The government funds will come from the federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs). The federal government plans to negotiate implementation with provinces and territories in 2014-15, and fully implement the program by 2017-18.

Challenges

Eligibility requirements, shifts in funding, and a shift in approach to training could present challenges for immigrant employment programs and services.

We do not yet know many details about the individuals or employers who will be able to use the grant, nor about the kinds of training and organizations that will be considered eligible. The Budget document indicates that eligible training institutions will include “community colleges, career colleges and trade union training centres,” but we do not know whether programs delivered by community organizations will be eligible. If they are not, this might drive skilled immigrants and employers to programs offered by “approved” institutions.

Further, the Canada Job Grant will be funded through federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMAs), which fund programs and services for people who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). When fully implemented, 60% of LMA funding will go towards the Canada Job Grant, leaving only 40% for everything else that is currently funded through LMAs. This could leave proven programs – such as mentoring for skilled immigrants – vulnerable to funding cuts.

The grant also represents a shift in approach to skills training. It relies on the participation and, by extension, the direction of the employer. Some argue that employers are likely to focus on training for immediate needs, which means that broad-based training that might bring longer-term benefits to workers and the labour market could suffer. In addition, employers might tend to rely on training and institutions that they are already familiar with, which might not be targeted at the specific needs of skilled immigrants.

Others question whether employers will be willing to pay $5,000 for training a new worker in the first place, or in the case of small businesses, whether they will have the resources to do so. If employers are allowed to apply for the Canada Job Grant for training programs that they are already running, then this grant might not actually impact how employers hire or encourage them to consider under-employed workers, such as skilled immigrants.

Opportunities

Since we don’t have many details on how the Canada Job Grant will be implemented, we might have opportunities to share our ideas on how to make it most effective. The federal government has indicated that it will consult with stakeholders such as employer associations, educational institutions and labour organizations. In fact, the first consultation was held on April 19 in Brantford, Ontario. It might be possible to encourage federal and provincial/territorial governments to consider the work that we do with skilled immigrants. Perhaps this is a time to consider whether fees for community-based programs are appropriate, if individuals and employers can use the grant to pay them.

If implemented in a way that makes sense for employers, the Canada Job Grant could encourage employers to take risks on candidates who they wouldn’t normally hire. This could benefit many workers, including skilled immigrants. Targeted outreach about the grant and how it could help them hire skilled immigrant talent could nudge employers in that direction.

It is important for those of us working with skilled immigrants and employers to take part in this conversation. We must monitor and share information about the consultations and possible directions for implementation. We need to provide evidence of the success and potential of our work, and consider how to make the Canada Job Grant work for skilled immigrants and employers.

Related links

Skilled Immigrants Give Metro Labs A Competitive Advantage

Metro Testing Laboratories uses innovative recruiting and training techniques to grow their company.

By IEC-BC

You’re hiring. Of course, you want the best fit possible. So, ideally, as a BC-based company, you want candidates with Canadian experience and fluent English. Right?

Maybe not. Metro Testing Laboratories is one company that has taken a very different approach — which has paid off handsomely for them in terms of highly successful recruitment and retention.

Metro Testing Laboratories is a 205-employee firm that provides inspection and testing for all phases of construction as well as in-house supplemental testing. They work with local contractors, engineering and architectural firms and municipal and provincial government agencies.

Metro Testing Laboratories doesn’t make Canadian experience mandatory for new hires. “We prefer to train them ourselves into our way of doing things,” says Harry Watson, President, Metro Testing Laboratories. Metro Testing Laboratories also has other techniques for recruiting skilled immigrants. “In our advertising we ask to have a second language. This prompts skilled immigrants to apply,” Harry explains. “We put on free training courses for the type of work that we do, and we also send the applicants out to shadow some of our employees. Then we will often offer them a job.”

Harry notes that his approach of actively seeking out skilled immigrants for its workforce is unusual in his field, where he says most companies tend to be somewhat “tribal” in whom they hire. At Metro Labs, however, the “tribe” is global. “To date we have brought people from 15 different cultures into the group — no small thing for a small company,” says Harry.

Harry admits that it does take some accommodation: “Give the skilled immigrants an opportunity to show they can actually do the work, be patient with them, give them a little bit longer time to adopt the culture,” he suggests. But, he says, the pay-offs are enormous. “Skilled immigrants have definitely contributed to the success of Metro, and they really do feel like a part of the company. I think they feel proud of the company.”

“As BC employers face growing skill shortages, what constitutes the “right fit” is undergoing a transformation,” says Kelly Pollack, Executive Director of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia. “Employers like Harry, who have adjusted their hiring standards and recruitment techniques to include, rather than exclude, skilled immigrants from their talent pool, will have a significant competitive advantage.”

Harry was a presenter at the fall IEC-BC Leader’s’ Summit on Immigrant Employment. Click here to read the Summit Proceedings. Harry and his employee Ali Boromand are featured in an ad which ran in BC Business and in a video on the importance of integrating skilled immigrants into the BC labour force.

What Employers Want When They are Hiring

In the Canadian Immigrant series, “What employers want,” the publication speaks to the people who are instrumental in hiring talent for their companies — human resource managers, recruiters and senior managers who share their insight on what’s affecting the employment of newcomers. (This article was originally published in Canadian Immigrant, September 5, 2012)

By Baisakhi Roy

Much is said about having relevant Canadian experience when applying for a job in Canada. Newcomers also face additional challenges, namely being educated outside Canada, unfamiliarity with Canadian work culture and difficulty in communicating effectively with their colleagues and clients.

Our first interview is with Jason Winkler, chief talent officer, for Deloitte Canada, which provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services through more than 56 offices, and has been recognized for its work in incorporating diversity into its workplace. Winkler speaks candidly of the importance of recruiting immigrant talent, how taking initiative lands you a job and the great Canadian compromise!

CI: What skills should foreign-trained professionals focus on when they come to Canada?

JW: Be a specialist. In Deloitte we have multiple service businesses. So we are always looking for people with well-defined technical skills. People that come in with specific skills like SAP products should make sure that their skills are very well defined.

We are also a professional services firm so we serve clients in many different industries. Therefore, we are always looking for people who are very knowledgeable in a particular industry. We have people from overseas who really understand mining or telecom, so we would actually want their industry expertise. From the perspective of the cultural setup at Deloitte, what is important for us are the candidate’s interpersonal skills — the ability to work with a range of people both with clients on the outside and within the firm. One of our core values is collaboration: with each other and our clients. Regardless of whether they are coming from overseas or not, we look for this skill. A proven record to be collaborative is an important skill.

CI: What are your thoughts on Canadian experience?

JW: All the above skills I mentioned are more important than having Canadian experience with the exception in some areas where we need to understand specific Canadian regulatory or legal requirements; we need candidates to understand that quickly. We value global experience quite a bit. I can think of a number of people that I have hired who have had no Canadian experience, but have wide international experience. It’s not essential, but is it nice to have … people who understand Canada? Sure. But we want to bring global experiences to this marketplace.

CI: What advice can you give newcomers on learning the ropes quickly?

JW: Prepare before you come to Canada. In an area like audit or tax, there are Canadian rules and regulations to be known. It’s an advantage if you can attain that knowledge before you come to Canada. The other way obviously is to get that knowledge quickly when you are on the ground [in Canada] and connect to communities that can help you gain this knowledge. If you are an accountant from another jurisdiction, there are lots of groups and associations where you can start to network and begin to understand the system.

You can also engage in self-training. I’ve met people who have told me that they have actually read the Canadian standards on a particular area. You should know what the overlaps and the differences are. If any recertification is needed, you should know what that process is.

CI: What about the all-important workplace culture? What should immigrants know?

JW: There is the matter of how Canadians are nice and polite; the great Canadian compromise. Some cultures are very direct and for people coming from such backgrounds, it might be difficult to adapt initially. Then again, from the North American perspective, there are cultures that are more indirect and subtle. We are in the middle zone culturally. It is a difficult adjustment, but we try to maintain a balance.

In Canada, we are very diverse, which if utilized properly could be a great asset to the Canadian economy. Our company is more diverse now than it has been in the past 20 years. We see people coming from other countries quickly find their communities here, more easily now. We take that further and are prompt to assign “buddies” who are not your performance manager. He explains to you about how things work here, sort of helps you find your path. For new immigrants, this is important.

 CI: What specific challenges does Deloitte face when recruiting immigrant talent?

JW: Being able to do the due diligence to actually find out if they are a strong candidate is tough. Because we rely on not just what’s on the resumé, but also doing reference checks, getting hold of people can be tricky. When a candidate is from a different place and culture, how do you actually do the assessment fully? We like a new candidate to meet at least six or eight of us so that they get a chance to find out what our firm is like. We like to get a good sense of the candidate because there are multiple people involved in the hiring process. Also, we usually need people quickly so logistics and the immigration process is another issue that we are constantly working on.

CI: What do you think are the biggest barriers that newcomers face when applying for jobs?

JW: This is not specific to Deloitte, but from what I have heard and seen, the first barrier is language. It’s crucial how you communicate and interact in that first interaction. We observe that basic communication skills are fine, but there is a problem getting to the next level — conversing convincingly. There is still a level of bias out there amongst employers who want to hire people who are “like them.” So if they don’t understand your background and where you come from and you don’t look or sound like them, they would be hesitant in hiring you. I think we can still improve on this front.

There are organizations that take the easier route: they hire people whose name is familiar to them, whose education they are familiar with, etc. The way to counter this is that we must make more effort to familiarize ourselves with foreign education and educational institutions. One of my senior colleagues is from India, so he knows all the universities there and if we get a candidate who is educated there, we go over to him to cross check. And he tells us, ”Yes, that’s a top university or not many people get in there!” We are very lucky to be well networked within our organization and so we can always check up on candidates who are educated outside Canada.

CI: Do you believe diversity in the workplace is important?

JW: Our core culture is delivery to our clients. Our clients are diverse, so if we are not diverse, we won’t match up to their needs. We don’t want our clients to face our team and go, “You don’t look like us!” We actually believe that our workplace is fun, more interesting, more valuable because we are all so different from each other. We come up with better ideas from a diverse workforce. It’s actually sound business.

CI: What are your top tips for being considered for a job at Deloitte?

JW: Assuming that they have the tactical skills and are able to demonstrate them, the first thing would be that they should show that they are willing to invest in themselves in terms of language skills — what are they doing to improve their communication skills?

Also, all of us want to work on a certain type of project and a certain type of location, in a certain way. So the willingness to work at something that is not exactly what you are looking for on your first day is a great asset. A candidate should be able to say, “This is my ideal profile, but I am willing to participate and contribute to other tasks.” It gives us the ability to say that we can give them an opportunity. Then there’s collaboration. We are ready to help people and we expect people to ask for help. The lone wolves don’t do well. People need to be strong enough to realize when they need help. When they make it known that they need help, then their colleagues are incredibly supportive.

If you don’t ask for help, almost by definition, you will not be successful. Focus on these two things: how do you make your client successful and how do you make your colleague successful? Everything else is noise. If you let these two things guide your behaviour, you will be successful.

Promoting Diversity in the Office: Tips for Bias-free Hiring

While many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

By Tana Turner, Charity Village

With Canada’s increasing diversity, employers are becoming more conscious about their hiring practices and the need to reflect the population served. They are also aware of their obligations under the Human Rights Code to have non-discriminatory hiring practices.

However, women, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and racial minorities continue to experience disadvantage in the labour market, resulting in higher rates of unemployment and underemployment – even when they have comparable levels of education and work experience.

So, while many organizations may have the goal of creating diverse workplaces through bias-free hiring, they may not have implemented the many elements needed to achieve this goal.

The challenge for many is understanding the various types of bias in the hiring process. Some agencies may not have considered that their hiring process may be biased. Others may focus on one type of bias, but neglect the others.

Read more here

Online Tool Helps Employers Determine an Immigrant’s Eligibility to Work

A free online learning tool details the different immigrant categories and helps employers determine if they can legally hire a newcomer.

Employers sometimes wonder whether a job candidate’s immigration status allows them to work in Canada.

The answer is simple, according to a new online learning tool from LASI World Skills. If a newcomer has a Social Insurance Number (SIN), then he is eligible to work in Canada.

In fact, more than 90 per cent of Canada’s 1.1 million newcomers are eligible to work in Canada, according to the 2006 Census.

The free e-learning tool “This applicant is an immigrant. Would the person be eligible to work here?” explains the difference between permanent residence status and temporary work permits.

There is also a diagram that details the different categories of immigrants by permanent residence status (economic immigrants, family-class immigrants and refugees) and work permit status (live-in caregivers, temporary foreign workers, international students and inland refugee claimants).

When you click on the different immigrant classes, the diagram shows which different potential immigrants (such as university students or educated professionals) move through the class and how they can potentially achieve permanent resident status.

Go to the online learning tool.

Assessing Language Proficiency

Essential skills profiles and assessment tools can help hiring managers determine if a candidate has the appropriate level of communication skills for a specific position.

When considering skilled immigrants for job openings, many hiring managers worry about their communication and language skills.

However, it’s important to remember an accent or unfamiliar expression isn’t a reflection of poor language skills. Therefore you should focus on the content of what the candidate’s saying, rather than how he’s saying it, to properly assess his English proficiency.

There are several resources to help HR professionals and hiring managers ensure a candidate’s English-language skills are at the appropriate level for the position.

Communication Skills: Essential or Nice-to-Have?

First, you need to determine what level of language and communication skills are required for the job. Some highly skilled positions, such as those in information technology or science, don’t require a high level of language skills. In these cases, remember to hire the candidate with the right essential skills for the job and then offer additional training to improve communication skills as needed.

For other jobs, such as business services or public relations, where communications is an essential skill rather than a nice-to-have, candidates will need a higher level of English-language skills.

To help you determine the language skills needed for a specific job, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has developed essential skills profiles for all of the occupations on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) list. You can access the complete list of occupations or the searchable database. Even if the position you’re hiring for isn’t on the NOC list, you can find a comparable occupation to determine the level of language proficiency required.

The profiles detail the complexity level (from one to five) for each essential skill (including reading, writing and oral communication) required for each occupation. For example, the most important essential skills for an accounting clerk are numeracy, oral communication, problem solving and job task planning and organizing.

The profile states the complexity level for oral communication ranges from one to three and then gives examples of typical tasks (such as listening to simple messages on voicemail) and the corresponding complexity level (one).

Assessment Tools

The Readers’ Guide to Essential Skills Profiles can help you better use the profiles and there are free assessment toolsto help you evaluate a candidate’s proficiency.

The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has also developed national standards for measuring an individual’s English or French language proficiency. The benchmarks provide descriptions of twelve communicative proficiency levels in four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. The twelve levels are divided into three stages:

  • Basic Proficiency (Stage I – CLB Levels 1-4): Able to communicate in common and predictable settings to meet basic needs and to carry out everyday activities.
  • Intermediate Proficiency (Stage II – CLB Levels 5-8): Able to participate more fully in social, educational and work-related settings. The settings where English is used are less familiar and predictable and the individual is able to function more independently.
  • Advanced Proficiency (Stage III – CLB Levels 9-12): Able to communicate effectively, appropriately, accurately and fluently in most settings. Individuals communicate using language features such as appropriate style, register and formality.

Job candidates can have their language skills assessed at an assessment centre, which use CLB certified assessors. The CLB also sells a manual that provides organizations and HR professionals with a framework for assessing the language demands of a job and then developing a tool to assess candidates’ language abilities.

Building Language Skills

Keep in mind that a good candidate’s language skills can be improved through training or on-the-job experience and there are resources available to employers who want to provide additional English or communication training.

Many community agencies and schools provide free language courses for newcomers, especially through the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Citizenship and Immigration has a searchable database of services for newcomers, including language classes, as does the Settlement Road Map.

What You Can and Can’t Ask In an Interview

Country of origin is a protected characteristic under human rights legislation, which means employers can’t ask questions about a candidate’s nationality or immigration status during the recruitment process.

Under human rights laws in Canada, employers can’t discriminate against a job candidate based on a protected characteristic — such as race, sex, religion or, most importantly in the case of immigrant candidates, country of origin.

As such, certain questions in the hiring process — on applications and in interviews — are considered discriminatory and can’t be asked.

While human rights laws vary slightly from province to province (and for federally regulated employers), they are very similar when it comes to discrimination in employment.

Pre-Employment

Generally, you can ask a candidate, on an application or in an interview, if she is legally entitled to work in Canada. However, you cannot ask if she is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, has a work permit or ask to see her social insurance number. You also can’t ask about place of birth, refugee status or religion.

Other questions to avoid include inquiries about Canadian experience, mother tongue or the name and location of schools the candidate attended. At this stage, questions about education should be limited to information about the level of education, degree, diploma or professional credentials received.

Conditional Offer of Employment

Once you have made a conditional offer of employment, then you can ask for proof of eligibility to work in Canada, such as a social insurance number or a work permit. This is also when you can ask for copies of diplomas, degrees, certificates or professional credentials.

If the new employee’s social insurance number starts with the number nine, then she has a temporary work permit and you have an obligation to ensure the permit hasn’t expired. For more information, visit the Service Canada website.

At this stage you can also ask your new employee about her religion to determine when a leave of absence may be required for the observance of religious holidays (as required under human rights laws).

Exceptions

There can be exceptions to these general rules if there is a bona fide occupational requirement that the employee be a Canadian citizen.

A bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) is a standard or rule that is integral to carrying out the functions of a specific position, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. For a standard to be considered a BFOR, an employer has to establish that any accommodation or changes to the standard would create an undue hardship.

In Ontario, for example, there are three instances when citizenship is considered a BFOR and questions about citizenship can be asked during the interview process:

  1. A citizenship requirement is imposed or authorized by law for the particular job.
  2. A requirement of Canadian citizenship or permanent residence has been adopted to promote participation in cultural, educational, trade union or athletic activities to other citizens or permanent residents.
  3. Your organization has adopted a requirement that senior executives be Canadian citizens or live in Canada with the intention to get Canadian citizenship.

For more information on exceptions, you will need to review the human rights act that applies to your organization.

Additional Resources

Cross-Cultural Interviewing Tips and Tools

Skilled immigrants come from many different cultures and backgrounds. Some are more and less similar to Canadian cultural norms. Below are some common cultural behaviours that can lead to misunderstandings and how to address them.

  • Silence is not a sign of disrespect or lack of knowledge. Many immigrants speak English or French fluently but it may not be their first language. Silence may simply indicate they need a moment to process the question and formulate an answer in English. Interviewers must understand that when a candidate hears a question, he likely translates it into his own language, and then works to formulate a response in his second language. Should a moment of silence take place, allow the interviewee adequate time to formulate a response.
  • Eye contact may be minimal. Some candidates may avoid eye contact with figures of authority as it is considered disrespectful in their culture. Other examples include differences in perception and understanding of time and personal space.
  • Some immigrant candidates are modest. They can be humble about their accomplishments and are often uncomfortable talking about themselves. Rather than asking specifically for strengths or accomplishments, it may be best to ask candidates how they overcame obstacles or achieved results in previous jobs.

Below are some suggestions to ensure candidates’ talent is recognized during interviews:

  • Interviewers should be trained in cross cultural communication skills. A well-trained interviewer is culturally competent and sensitive to a candidate’s background.
  • Involve more than one interviewer in the process. A small panel of interviewers is preferable to a single interviewer because different people will be capable of assessing a candidate’s various qualities and competencies.

Additional Resources:

Recognizing the Value of International Credentials

Skilled immigrants may have international credentials that are not immediately recognizable to a Canadian employer. Recruiters may skim resumes seeking the names of recognized institutions or face challenges when they try to assess international credentials. Similarly, international experience is often devalued or considered irrelevant in Canada.

According to an analysis of the 2006 Census, only 24 per cent of employed foreign-educated, university-level immigrants were working in a regulated occupation that matched their field of study, compared to 62 per cent of their Canadian-born counterparts.

Of those university-level educated immigrants who weren’t working in their field of study, 77 per cent worked in jobs that don’t require a degree, compared to 57 per cent their Canadian-born counterparts.

Leading companies hire accredited, high-potential candidates. An organization that can recognize the transferability of a skilled immigrant’s training and education can gain a definite competitive advantage. By using Canadian credential assessment services, employers are able to increase their familiarity and comfort level with international credentials.

Providing an Equitable Offer

Due to socio-cultural differences, skilled immigrants are frequently less likely to express concerns about an offer package. Misaligned expectations between employers and skilled immigrants can lead to job dissatisfaction and employee turnover.

When making an offer, communicate the details of the offer package clearly, including expectations of the job and of the organization, as well as how the salary meets market value for the position, education and work experience.

Calculate Market Value

Aligning hiring offers with market value ensures fairness in the recruitment process and encourages employee retention.

The Working in Canada Tool, created by the federal government, provides wage information by occupation and location.

The PayScale Salary Calculator provides key salary data based on job title and location.

Base Salary Structures Provide a Framework for Pay Decisions

A recurring complaint among employers is high turnover or lack of retention among skilled immigrant employees. The impression is that a skilled immigrant is only interested in gaining Canadian work experience and will leave as soon as a better offer is available. However, in many instances, the failure to establish a fair and equitable compensation package leads to poor retention.

Establishing base salary structures based on prevailing market rates communicates to employees that the company strives for objectivity and equity in pay decisions. Having a base salary structure also supports employment equity legislation and decreases the likelihood that external factors, such as race or gender, influence pay levels.

Additional Resources

Reducing Bias

Personal biases can unwittingly creep into an interview but there are ways to reduce this risk.

Some tips include:

  • Ask all interview candidates the same questions and then score them against a scale.
  • Establish an interview team to reduce individual biases. Include other skilled immigrants, members of diverse communities or staff with a good understanding of cross-cultural issues to provide insight on socio-cultural responses that others on the panel may question.
  • Be aware of your own personal biases and prejudices to gain greater objectivity during the interview process.

Whether externally with candidates or internally with staff, avoid subjective terms in the recruitment process, such as “best cultural fit.” This can unwittingly exclude qualified candidates without gaining a deeper understanding of their potential contributions to your organization.

Additional Resources

Coordinating or Conducting Interviews by Phone

When arranging or conducting an interview with a skilled immigrant by 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.

Additional Resources

  • Telephone Pre-Screen Form: This form will help you minimize cross-cultural misunderstandings when conducting telephone interviews with skilled immigrant candidates.

Finding Substance in Every Resumé

It is debatable whether there is a “Canadian” way or template to writing a resumé. However, by and large, there is a common format with expected variability.

You can expect even greater variability with resumés from skilled immigrants. This is not a reflection of their ability to perform the job, but rather a reflection of cultural difference. For example, the norm in many cultures includes the addition of personal information.

You need to see past these types of cultural differences to find the essential information you need to make an informed screening decision. By increasing your openness to international resumés, you can reduce the chance of screening-out high potential candidates.

Competency and Credibility

An inclusive and bias-free hiring process should include assessing all candidates based on their competency and credibility.

Competency refers to training and accredited education from institutions in Canada or abroad. While some recruiters are wary of international qualifications, credential evaluation services, like World Education Services (WES), can help you evaluate degrees attained from international post-secondary institutions.

Employers should implement a policy that deliberately recognizes and values international experience, unless Canadian experience is a bona fide requirement.

Credibility refers to the demonstration of skills in real-world situations. A strong track record, even if that experience and success is gained in another country, will likely be repeated in Canada. Also, assessment and skills-specific tests can help you assess how a candidate will apply those skills in situations related to the job opening.

Additional Resources

  • Guide to Screening Resumés: This guide breaks down resumé screening into two steps to help you focus on the necessary skills you are seeking, while ensuring that you are not unintentionally eliminating candidates based on other factors.
  • Hummingbird: Read how the software company implemented a consistent hiring policy that ensures the resumé screening process is equitable for all candidates, including skilled immigrants.

Overcoming Cross-Cultural Barriers During Interviews

Cross-cultural differences can lead inadvertently to false assessments of skilled immigrants in interview situations.

For example, open-ended or self-reflective questions (such as, “Tell me about a personal career success” or “Describe a time when you disagreed with a supervisor or manager”) are difficult for many immigrants who come from cultures that value teamwork over personal achievements, or that do not question authority figures.

Therefore, responses from skilled immigrants may lead employers to assess them as non-assertive or lacking in initiative, which may not be true.

The Centre for Intercultural Learning’s Country Insights allows users to search by country and region to find information on different countries’ culture, history and politics.

The Immigration and Refugee Board also has national documentation packages, issue papers and country fact sheets that will provide you with some background information on different countries, which can help you improve your cross-cultural understanding  you don’t inadvertently screen-out skilled immigrants during interviews.

Wikipedia’s list of countries links to more detailed information about each country and its history and culture.

Also, this cultural differences worksheet will help you identify how certain verbal and non-verbal behaviours affect you. Gaining this awareness help you manage your reactions and help you look beyond the behavior to the candidate’s skills and abilities.

Over-emphasizing Communication Skills

Some highly skilled positions do not require equally proficient communication skills. In these cases, you may consider conducting the interview in another language (by tapping the services of a staff member who speaks the candidate’s language or by using a translator familiar with the profession).

You may also offer post-hire language support to bridge the language differences of your new employees until their communication skills are further developed.

Additional Resources

Make the Hiring Decision

When making the hiring decision, you need to focus on objective criteria, such as the candidate’s experience, qualifications and competencies. At this stage, it’s important to get feedback from other interviewers to provide a more objective picture of each candidate — and to eliminate subjective “gut feel” or “best fit” judgments.

If more than one candidate meets your hiring criteria, consider holding a second round of interviews or a workplace assessment, where the candidates can demonstrate their skills.

Workplace Assessment

To create a workplace assessment:

  • Identify the many ways that the job or task could be accomplished.
  • Determine whether the assessment questions or situation requires culture-specific knowledge or puts some cultural groups at a disadvantage. For example, subtle word meanings, idioms, colloquialisms or jokes may hold alternate or little meaning for skilled immigrants, leading to an unfair assessment of their skills.
  • Use a variety of assessment tools to ensure candidates have the chance to showcase their competencies in different ways. Plus, ensure the demands of the assessment tool don’t surpass the requirements of the position

Checking References

You should check references, regardless of where the candidate is from.

While a skilled immigrant’s reference may pose some time-zone challenges, this can be easily overcome by building in time in your recruitment process for time-zone differences when checking international references. Also build in time, and budget for language translation, if necessary. To save costs, check references by email.

If you sourced a candidate through a non-profit employment agency serving immigrants, it may help you check overseas references. You could also consider using an international reference checking service.

This guide to checking references has more tips on how to check a skilled immigrant’s references. This reference and criminal checks policy and this Reference Check Form can be adapted to suit your organization’s needs and use this form

If the Decision is No

Give clear, valid reasons to candidates wishing to learn why they were not hired. It’s alright to tell skilled immigrants concrete reasons why you did not hire them, whether poor communication skills, insufficient credentials or other reasons. This gives them an opportunity to fill these gaps.

You may be tempted to turn down a skilled immigrant who is over-qualified for the position. While these candidates often lack the Canadian experience to secure a position matching their level of experience, they may be highly motivated and could be considered for internal fast-tracking or leadership development programs.

Also, turning down a skilled immigrant for being over-qualified can be risky. One over-qualified immigrant, who was rejected for an entry-level position in his field, filed a petition with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Listen to the discussion on the ruling’s impact on HR practices.

Get Help With International Educational Credentials

Many employers cite the time spent on validating international credentials as a deterrent for considering skilled immigrant candidates for employment opportunities. Fortunately, there are several service providers ready to help and steps you can take.

You can work with organizations providing pre-screening and credential assessment services and have them evaluate candidates’ credentials.

You can also ask that applicants verify their international credentials before applying. To help them, link your organization’s careers webpage to credential assessment services such as World Education Services (WES). Doing this will remove this barrier and give you access to a wider pool of qualified talent.

At CIBC, for example, candidates who present an original WES evaluation report do not need to undergo additional international education verification checks through CIBC’s pre-employment screening process.

The Local Resources section has links to local services that can help you find credential evaluation services in your area. And the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials has a list of agencies and organizations that provide credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services.

Regulated Professions

In regulated professions where licensure is required, consider hiring skilled immigrants at an associate level until their licensure requirements are met and they can be employed fully at the appropriate level.

The Ontario government created career maps to describe the steps skilled immigrant employees can take to obtain license and certification. Licensure varies from province to province so if you are located outside of Ontario, the process and requirement may be different.