June 17, 2011

How to Recruit and Select Skilled Immigrants, the Non-Profit Sector Perspective

You understand the benefits skilled immigrants can bring to your non-profit organization but aren’t sure how to go about recruiting and hiring them.

Often traditional recruitment strategies can unintentionally screen out qualified skilled immigrants and when they are hired, poor onboarding processes can lead to a dissatisfied employee deciding to leave your organization.

More than one-half (54 per cent) of 347 non-profits surveyed by the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector in 2010 said they have had success in hiring and retaining new immigrants. These organizations identified several successful practices:

  • eliminating subtle biases in the hiring process
  • internships and mentoring programs
  • providing information and pre-employment training to candidates who are new immigrants and members of visible minorities

Recruitment Strategy

As part of an inclusive recruitment strategy, focus on finding candidates who have the skills your organization needs to meet new and existing goals, regardless of where those skills were developed.

Traditional job ads can exclude many qualified candidates, including skilled immigrants. To remove these barriers and increase the pool of qualified applicants, use clear, concise language that focuses on essential skills. And remember, Canadian experience is very rarely a requirement to do a job successfully, so don’t include it in the job ad.

For non-profit organizations, especially small ones, containing recruitment costs is 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.

Screening and Interviewing

You need to look past cultural differences in how resumés are written to find the essential information — the skills needed to do the job. While you might not be familiar with international education and experience, credential assessment services can help and a strong track record, even if that success is gained in another country, will likely be repeated in Canada.

When interviewing candidates, be aware of culture-based communication differences. And to further reduce bias, include other skilled immigrants, if possible, or employees from diverse communities on your hiring team. All candidates should be asked the same questions and scored them against a scale.

One of the biggest concerns non-profits have about recruiting skilled immigrants is around their language proficiency, according to the 2010 survey by the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector. However, not all jobs require the same level of communication proficiency. Once the skilled immigrant has been hired, providing specialized language training will enhance their skills and increase retention.


Once you’ve hired a skilled immigrant, it’s important to remember they’re not only new to Canada — they’re new to your organization and its unique culture. A proper orientation to your workplace will help all new employees succeed.

Setting expectations, from job responsibilities, duties and office culture to performance monitoring and talent development, is your best first 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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