June 23, 2011

Writing a Barrier-Free Job Description

“Canadian work experience.”

It’s a phrase that excludes many skilled immigrants from working in their chosen profession.

Although there are exceptions among some professions, “Canadian work experience” is hardly a strict requirement to perform most jobs successfully. The extensive education, skills and work experience that many skilled immigrants bring to Canada are readily transferable, making many of them job-ready. Often, “Canadian work experience” appears in a job description as a result of complacency and legacy rather than a conscious reflection of an employer’s actual and current needs.

Ensuring your job description is free of barriers to skilled immigrant applicants will ensure skilled immigrants are represented in the pool of qualified candidates you consider for the job.

Job descriptions serve as central documents expressing the employee’s responsibilities, both professional and technical, providing new employees with a solid understanding of expectations for the position. They also inform how job advertisements and interview questions are developed, while providing a foundation for performance management and compensation planning.

Barrier-free job descriptions will ensure that qualified candidates are not eliminated from your recruitment process. For instance, a job description that requests simply experience (instead of Canadian work experience) will greatly increase the pool of qualified applications — giving you greater access to top talent.

You may also include language for “equivalent” Canadian education, experience and skills, giving greater clarity to all applicants — Canadian- or foreign-born. Focus on objective criteria such as education, skills, competencies and experience without making value judgments on the quality of North American credentials versus international credentials.

Use clear and concise language that describes essential professional and educational qualifications for effective and efficient job performance.

Avoid phrases that may lead to subjective interpretation. For example, stating a requirement for “excellent communication skills” without a more objective description (“experience making sales presentations,” or “experience conducting internal and external training”) may encourage unqualified candidates to apply, resulting in more work on your part to assess each applicant.

Barrier-free job description

  • Focuses on what needs to be achieved
  • Lists only education and experience vital to successful job performance
  • Differentiates essential from non-essential qualifications
  • Reads in clear, concise language
  • Highlights interesting aspects of the position, work environment and organization to attract skilled immigrants to the position (for example, describing your organization as “welcoming 30 cultures, speaking 12 languages”).

Traditional job description

  • Focuses on how a deliverable should be achieved
  • May list education and experience not vital to successful job performance
  • May confuse candidates between must-have and nice-to-have qualifications
  • Communicates in exclusionary HR or organizational lingo, North-American or sector-specific terminology
  • Includes language that excludes skilled immigrants, such as “Canadian experience required”

Additional Resources

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