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 Impacts of outdated strategies are felt at both at the sourcing and interviewing stages.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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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.

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