June 19, 2011

How to Recruit and Select Skilled Immigrants, the Business Owner Perspective

Your business is growing and you need to hire. You understand the value skilled immigrants can bring to your business but you don’t know how to go about recruiting and hiring them.

Often traditional recruitment strategies can unintentionally screen out these qualified candidates and when they are hired, poor onboarding processes can lead to them feeling dissatisfied and leaving your business.

Recruitment Strategy

When recruiting, your primary focus should be on finding candidates who have the skills needed to help you meet new and existing business goals, regardless of where those skills were developed.

In writing the job ad, clear, concise language that focuses on these essential skills will prevent you from excluding qualified skilled immigrants. And remember, Canadian experience is very rarely a requirement to do a job successfully, so don’t exclude immigrants by including that in the ad.

As a business owner, containing recruitment costs is always a priority. Professional immigrant networks, bridging programs and internships are all sources of skilled immigrant talent at little or no cost. And non-profit employment agencies that serve immigrants can also help you recruit and assess potential candidates — free of charge.

You should also consider ethnic media outlets and niche job boards targeted to immigrants.

Screening and Interviewing

You need to look past cultural differences in resumés, such as personal details, to find the essential information — the skills you know are needed to do the job and drive business results. Credential assessment services can help you evaluate international education and a strong track record, even if that experience and success is gained in another country, will likely be repeated in Canada.

As a business owner, you’re often the only one conducting interviews. Consider including other employees, especially someone who will be working with the new hire, to reduce bias and lighten your load. If the role is outward facing, consider involving an external client in the interviews — not only will this help you in making the hiring decision but it will boost client relations as it shows you value the client’s input.

To further reduce bias, ask all interview candidates the same questions and rate them using a scorecard. Also, be aware of culture-based communication differences.

For example, 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.

Communication Skills and Human Rights

Many business owners worry about skilled immigrants’ communication and language skills. But communication skills aren’t always an essential skill for a job, especially for some highly skilled positions, such as those in information technology or science. And a candidate’s accent doesn’t mean her language skills aren’t excellent.

It’s also important to remember it’s illegal to discriminate against a candidate based on race or country of origin. You could face a human rights complaint if you turn down an immigrant who is the most qualified for the job.


Once you’ve hired a skilled immigrant, or any employee for that matter, a thorough onboarding process will help boost employee retention. Setting expectations — from responsibilities, duties and office culture to performance monitoring and talent development — is the best way to begin your new employee relationship on the right foot.

For more information on how to recruit, hire and orient skilled immigrants, visit the Recruit and Select section of the website.

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