Durham Region Playbook

Move beyond unintended bias when filling a vacancy
Welcome new employees, improve retention
Meaningfully prepare the workplace to include immigrant talent


Inclusive Job Descriptions

Clear and inclusive job descriptions are always important, but they are even more so when recruiting immigrant talent. They will help to ensure that good applicants aren’t inadvertently screened out, and make it more likely that the best person for the job can be identified.

  • Essential vs. Non-essential Duties

    Need to figure out your absolute must-haves and would-be-nice-to-haves for job descriptions? It’s important for job descriptions to be appropriately worded. Many often include many non-essential requirements for a role that could inadvertently screen out suitable candidates. For example, did you know that men, when determining whether to apply for a job, will apply when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, whereas women will apply only if they meet 100 percent1?

    When considering immigrant candidates, remain open to any additional skills and experiences that they may offer. Experience with international markets, additional languages, and connections to growing segments of the local market are all value-added qualities. Take time and make efforts to consider how their skills and experiences could benefit your organizational goals.

    This worksheet will help you define essential versus non-essential job duties. Developed by the Human Resource Management Association (now Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia & Yukon), this tool can help you create a more precise job description and rank each candidate’s skills and experience based on their résumé. This will allow you to screen résumés objectively — without bias — and identify the best candidates to interview. 

    This printable template scorecard may also be of use.

    1A Hewlett Packard internal report as cited in “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified,” Harvard Business Review, August 2014.

  • Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions

    Looking for suggestions on how to write more inclusive job descriptions? Check out these tips:

    • Avoid using technical terminology, jargon, acronyms and long, complex words or sentences.
    • Use culturally inclusive qualifications. For example, ask about the ability to execute a project on time, rather than requesting a specific project management credential.
    • Communicate the essential skills required clearly, while emphasizing that non-essential skills, though not required, are assets.
    • Post the salary range to fill roles more efficiently. 
    • Include potential career trajectory information to highlight professional growth.
    City of Oshawa’s Inclusive Language ManualThe City of Oshawa has developed an Inclusive Language Manual to help you use language that makes everyone feel welcome and included. The guide also offers suggestions on what words to avoid, words you can use instead and provides opportunities to expand understanding through self-led activities.www.oshawa.ca/en/DEI_Inclusive-Language-Manual-FINAL-Update-September-2019.pdf
    Women's Multicultural Resource and Counselling Centre of Durham (WMRCC)'s Challenge Racism AppExplore this app that addresses barriers to employment for women, racialized, ethnocultural, religious, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+ and equity-seeking groups.wmrcc.org/challenge-racism/challenge-racism-app
  • Assessing Language Requirements

    Need to assess language competencies for prospective hires? The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB) can help you assess the language proficiency of immigrants using national standards for both official languages. Consider using CCLB levels in job descriptions to ensure that the right candidates apply for the job.

    Language proficiency and communication skills are often a concern when evaluating immigrant candidates. Consider recommending language programs to international students and immigrant candidates.

    Durham District School BoardAdult English as a Second Languagewww.dce.ca/en/programs/english-learning.aspx#
    Durham Catholic District School BoardAdult English as a Second Languagewww.con-ed.ca/en/english-language-classes/adult-english-as-a-second-language-.aspx
    AchēvLanguage assessment is required for enrolling in ESL and LINC language training programs. Achev language assessment services provides assessments and referrals to eligible immigrants seeking language training in Durham region.achev.ca/services/language
    Ontario Tech University English Language CentreEnglish programs for students.elc.ontariotechu.ca/programs/index.php

Reaching Immigrant Talent

Gone are the days of want ads in the newspapers. And go-to job search websites such as Indeed or the Canada Job Bank don’t always effectively reach immigrant talent. Discover how organizations can recruit in creative new ways.

  • Advertising

    Are you looking to reach immigrant talent beyond traditional job search engines such as Indeed or the Canada Job Bank? Using these websites is often time-consuming, especially for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) with limited human resources personnel. And for immigrant job seekers, these sites don’t always allow their qualities and skills to be highlighted. Achieving a more diverse workforce begins with creating a more diverse candidate pool. Consider posting your job ad with the following:

    • Immigrant/community media sources and publications 
    • Associations for internationally trained professionals 
    • Language-training program websites and social media groups 
    • Local settlement or employment agencies
    • Local libraries and community organizations

    Developing relationships with these organizations is a great way to attract immigrant talent, as many of them offer job-readiness programs for immigrants and prepare them for jobs in in-demand sectors. Another effective strategy is to encourage your current immigrant employees to make referrals. This also lets your staff know that you are committed to expanding your immigrant talent pool.  

    And when advertising a role, be sure to include relevant health and safety policies so as not to deter potential applicants. Workplace safety is a top priority for most job seekers.

    Online Adaptation
    Most organizations have an online presence. Check out their websites and social media to access virtual audiences. And, if a job can be done remotely, consider broadening your search. Candidates living in other regions can provide unique perspectives and localized support for your customers.

    Networking with Durham Welcome Centres, School Boards, and other Newcomer organizations about our job opportunities, attending job expos, and doing presentations about the types of jobs we offer has increased our talent pool and allowed us to expand the awareness of our organization as a place to find a “work home.” Finding work is only part of the puzzle, finding a place to work where you can be your authentic self is important. That is our goal – ensuring our staff feel welcome, supported, and appreciated for what they do and who they are.
    Tracey Macaulay
    Manager, Talent Acquisition and Organization Development, Regional Municipality of Durham

    Durham Region Association of Black Professionals & Entrepreneurs (DRABPE)Durham region is home to diverse Black communities. DRABPE seeks to provide connections and support to such businesses by giving them access to its network of businesses and professionals.www.drabpe.org

    Tel: (406) 555-0120
    Email: [email protected]
    Canada Job Bank Ukraine PortalThis webpage has outlined federal and provincial resources that connect employers to Ukrainian job seekers.www.jobbank.gc.ca/findajob/resources/jobsforukraine?utm_source=canada.ca&utm_medium=Referral&utm_campaign=IndustryForUkrainePage&utm_content=May11_EN
    Durham Region Unemployed Help Centre (DRUHC)DRUHC is an Employment Ontario Service Provider and lead agency of the Pickering Welcome Centre. DRUHC offers a number of pre-employment programs for immigrant professionals who are seeking to reconnect with their field of work in Canada. The Hiring Immigrant Professional Talent program provides a forum for employers to meet with newcomer job seekers during sector-specific networking events.druhc.ca/programs
    ByBlacks.comRanked the #1 Black Canadian online magazine, ByBlacks.com hosts a dedicated job postings section.byblacks.com/jobpostings
  • Job Fairs

    Have you ever considered job fairs or networking events as a way to attract immigrant talent? In person or online, many employers find job fairs one of the most successful ways to recruit newcomers who are seeking employment. These events provide opportunities to connect directly with local agencies and share job openings. And, if your company is large enough, consider hosting your own event. Be sure to advertise the event on your company’s Facebook page as well as other relevant social media in the region.

  • International Recruitment

    If you have trouble hiring the right person from domestic candidates, then recruiting from overseas may be an option. The Government of Ontario and embassies have the resources to facilitate Canadian employers’ tapping into talent pools worldwide. If you seek help from a recruitment agency, make sure you work with licensed professionals who can navigate paperwork and procedures, as immigration consultancy is regulated in Canada.

    The Employers Roadmap to Hiring and Retaining Internationally Trained WorkersA handbook of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that showcases the rationales and best practices for international recruitment.www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/employer-roadmap-hiring-retaining-internationally-trained-workers.html
    GO Talent ProgramICTC's GO Talent Program has an e-Talent job portal that helps employers connect with Internationally Educated Professionals (IETs) with backgrounds in IT. Candidates can be recruited before they arrive in Canada as permanent residents, reducing screening time.www.etalentcanada.ca/employment-programs/go-talent
    Cultural Interpretation Services for Our Communities (CISOC)CISOC is a Social Enterprise dedicated to providing the highest quality cultural language services.www.cisoc.net/en

Screening in Immigrant Candidates

Sometimes we need help being objective when screening résumés. Learn how to screen out bias while screening in immigrant applicants.

  • Résumés

    Do you need help with your résumé screening process to ensure you’re not inadvertently screening out otherwise suitable immigrant candidates? For example, a recent Canadian study showed that the name on a résumé affects the candidate’s chance of receiving an interview. Despite having identical education and experience, applicants with Asian-sounding names were far less likely to receive an interview than those with Anglo-sounding names. 

    Read this downloadable PDF to learn how to screen out bias while screening in immigrant candidates.


Validating International Credentials

It can be challenging to determine if an applicant has the required credentials for a job, particularly if the individual holds international credentials. Sometimes professional help is needed.

  • Credential Evaluation Services

    Does your HR Department need help understanding the academic qualifications of job candidates educated abroad? A credential evaluation may help. Credential evaluation services, such as those provided by World Education Services (WES), can authenticate and evaluate international degrees and diplomas to determine their authenticity and Canadian equivalencies to mitigate hiring risk and streamline the hiring process.

    Did you know?
    WES provides international academic credential evaluation services to both job candidates and businesses. For candidates and businesses, WES has a free Degree Equivalency tool which instantly provides Canadian academic equivalents. Also, for employers, you can register with AccessWES, a secure online delivery platform that allows you to access credential evaluations when a job candidate has selected your office as a recipient.

Addressing Bias

Everyone has unconscious bias. The goal is to be aware of biases and take steps to mitigate them.

  • Exposing Unconscious Bias

    Did you know that most of us have unconscious biases? And that our experiences often influence our perceptions of an immigrant candidate? For example, studies show that if there’s only one visible minority or woman in an applicant pool, it makes the person stand out as different and activates an unconscious bias against them. But we can counteract this and support racial and gender equity by including multiple candidates of colour or women. This is called the “two in the pool” effect.

    To help you recognize unintended personal biases and move beyond cultural differences during the interview process, download this self-assessment tool.

    DRUHC’s Confronting Racism in DurhamDRUHC’s Confronting Racism in Durham project is funded by the Government of Canada, and seeks to raise awareness of the impact of overt, unconscious, and systemic racial discrimination in employment and career advancement opportunities within Durham. Click here to sign up for the project’s monthly newsletter.confrontingracism.ca/crd-about
    Challenge Racism: What-to-do StepsThe project aims to address barriers to employment for the members of the equity deserving groups, racialized, ethnocultural, religious and 2SLGBTQI+ groups in Durham Region.wmrcc.org/challenge-racism
    “It’s important to hire for coachability and attitude. Additionally, it is important to shift recruiting by painting a career path for candidates.”
    Jennifer Shannon
    Owner, The Shandex Group

Interview Considerations

When interviewing newcomers to Canada, there may be some cultural differences to take into consideration.

  • Interviewing Immigrant Candidates

    Need help formulating interview questions so they elicit the information needed to assess a candidate’s skills? When interviewing immigrant candidates, we must ensure that the questions are not inadvertently setting the candidate up to fail. 

    Consult this downloadable PDF on interviewing immigrant candidates.

  • Virtual Interviews

    With the rise of remote-first workplaces, virtual interviews are more common. This downloadable PDF on cross-cultural interviewing in a virtual environment offers useful insights.


Welcoming Immigrant Employees

It’s always important to welcome newcomers to a new workplace. However, there are specific considerations when those newcomers are also new to the country.

  • Orientation

    The successful retention of new employees begins at the onboarding phase. It’s important they feel welcome and effectively onboarded into the workplace. This is especially true for immigrant employees, who may need more guidance with expectations around work systems, culture, and the rules of the organization — both written and unwritten. This is easy to overlook when the workforce is made up primarily of individuals who share a cultural background. For example, expectations could include the etiquette of shared spaces, such as refilling the coffee pot when it’s empty, taking breaks on the honour system, what “open-door policy” means, or how best to contribute ideas.  

    Refer to this downloadable PDF on how to create a welcoming environment for new hires.

  • Online Considerations

    Onboarding new employees remotely can be a challenge to the forming of relationships built on trust. Communication is even more important in a remote environment, so be sure to share the ways your team communicates. For example, perhaps email is used for more formal requests, whereas instant messaging is used for more informal, discussion-based communication. 

    Here are some other ways to build employee relationships remotely: 

    • Share contact information for managers, IT support, and HR. 
    • Create a directory and organizational chart that includes photos, employee information, and fun facts.
    • Schedule virtual “water cooler” chats, and encourage staff to share their non-work-related interests such as recipes or book and film recommendations.
    • Schedule meetings to accommodate all team members. During meetings, provide equal focus to all attendees, both virtual and in person. Each person in the meeting should feel like they have equal opportunity to engage with the discussion and contribute their ideas. For example, on teams where all employees have a laptop, leaders can ask meeting attendees to join from their laptop—whether on-site or remote. This works for some teams since it prevents on-site employees from having side conversations and prevents remote attendees from feeling left out when they see teammates gathered without them.
  • People, Performance, and Paperwork

    During the orientation process, consider the “Three Ps”—people, performance, and paperwork:  

    • Who are the key people whom any new employee must meet, what will those meetings look like, and when should they occur? Examples include informal social events, group onboarding activities, assigning a buddy, meetings with senior leaders, team building, mentoring, and other key meetings. 
    • What is required to support any new employee in the performance of their role? Examples include job shadowing, setting expectations and providing feedback, HR check-ins, coaching, and other training. 
    • Lastly, what paperwork and processes must be reviewed, completed, and explained? Examples include company orientation, handbook or policies, resources, and forms.

    Adapted from the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia’s, Onboarding Newcomers: A Toolkit for BC Employers.

  • Beyond the First Week

    New immigrant hires need regular check-ins to clarify misconceptions, avoid future misunderstandings, and improve the orientation process. Consider asking new hires these questions:

    • What has surprised you about the way things work here?
    • What have you liked? What has frustrated you?
    • What information would have been helpful to have on your first day?
    Consider This
    To garner better feedback, replace yes-or no questions with open-ended questions:

    Yes or No QuestionsOpen-Ended Questions
    Do you understand?What other information can I give you?
    Does that make sense?What do you think?
    Is that clear?How do you think we should start?
    Do you have any questions?What other questions do you have?
    Durham Immigration PortalRelocating to a new place takes procedural preparation that demands more assistance than what an employer likely could offer. Recommend this web portal to immigrant new hires that showcases services available to help them settle in Durham region. The Durham Immigration Portal includes a map of settlement services, including Welcome Centre Immigrant Services, public libraries, ESL/LINC classes, Employment Ontario Offices, and Ontario Works social assistance.www.durhamimmigration.ca

The Buddy System

To help newcomers settle in more easily at work, some organizations make use of the buddy system.

  • Peer Buddies

    Connections in the workplace often form naturally, but sometimes, particularly with newcomers, they are slow to form. Providing a peer or onboarding buddy can help. Although it depends on the organization, peer buddy programs work best for SMEs and for new hires who are located in remote areas. It’s also important for employers to be intentional when considering a peer buddy, to take the immigrant employee’s needs and perspectives into consideration.

    For information on how to create a peer buddy program at your workplace, review this downloadable PDF.



Mentoring has proved to be a cost-effective approach to help integrate newcomers as well as build cross-cultural understanding.

  • Mentorship Programs

    address both, depending on the needs of your employees. As a bonus, mentors and employers often acquire a greater understanding of both the talents of many immigrants and the challenges they face.

    Internal Mentorship

    Internal mentorship is a cost-effective measure that supports the integration of immigrant hires, as well as cross-cultural understanding among existing staff. Research shows that when mentors are actively engaged with the people they mentor, the new hires form stronger emotional bonds with the workplace, report higher job satisfaction, and perceive greater support from the organization. 

    For new immigrant employees, mentoring also:

    • Fosters a sense of belonging, helping them to better adjust to their new environment
    • Allows them to learn the intangibles of what is needed to succeed in the workplace 
    • Provides the opportunity to learn more about their company and Canadian workplace norms
    • Offers a proven way to help immigrants transition to Canadian workplace culture

    However, employers need to be intentional about internal mentoring. Connections need to be meaningful and determined on a case-by-case basis due to cultural differences. Sometimes it’s best to let connections happen organically.  

    In addition, internal mentorships may not be feasible for most SMEs. These programs often work best with larger organizations, although it depends on the nature of the industry and the type of work. 

    If you want to learn how to create an internal mentorship program, this downloadable PDF offers useful guidance.

    External Mentorship Programs

    If the timing isn’t right for your organization to develop its own internal mentorship program, or if you don’t have the resources necessary, there are outside programs you may be able to make use of. 

    Joining an established mentorship program helps you:

    • Identify and develop potential new leaders
    • Address issues of talent shortages
    • Reduce recruiting and training costs
    • Create a culture of learning and information-sharing which can improve job satisfaction for all your employees
    Online Adaptation
    Evidence shows that mentoring via real-time videoconferencing yields outcomes equivalent to in-person mentoring. Email, chats, and text messaging allow flexibility in keeping the lines of communication open. 

    Consider these regional mentorship programs:

    • Halifax Partnership
      Halifax Partnership’s National Connector Program connects immigrants with local professionals across more than 30 communities Canada-wide. Participating members have been successful in retaining immigrant talent and creating more welcoming, inclusive communities.
    TRIEC Mentoring Partnership Program – Durham Welcome CentresEmployers can participate in the program as a Mentor andr stay connected as a means to access talent and provide newcomers with guidance, insights, and assistance to expand their network within their field in Pickering and the Durham region.welcomecentre.ca/job-employment-support

Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive workplaces start with inclusive leadership.

  • Creating Inclusive Workplaces

    The key to transforming an organization into a welcoming and inclusive work environment is leadership. For insights into how to create inclusive workplaces, refer to this downloadable PDF.

    WMRCC's Challenge Racism Project BookletThis booklet, created alongside WMRCC's app as part of a 2-year project to address barriers to employment for racialized groups in Durham, recommends key practices for employers in retaining members of ethnocultural, racialized, 2SLGBTQIA+, and BIPOC groups.wmrcc.org/challenge-racism-project-what-to-do-steps-booklet
    Durham Local Immigration Partnership (DLIP) Council Immigration and Inclusion Community Plan 2020-2024Review this resource to understand the work being done by multiple community partners and service providers to best serve newcomers to Durham region and build inclusive communities.www.durhamimmigration.ca/en/who-we-are/resources/Durham-Immigration-and-Inclusion-Community-Plan-2020-2024-FINAL.pdf
    “In this competitive job market, companies need to ask themselves, why would a candidate want to work with us? What’s the culture like? Putting out an equal opportunity or equity statement may not be sufficient. Employers can share other employee testimonials, examples of their corporate values, to show they are walking the talk of inclusion.”
    Sara Bibb
    CHRL| CEO & Founder MKS HR Consulting
  • Leadership Resources

    Want to retain your immigrant talent and also provide immigrant professionals the tools they need to lead? Consider partnering with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) for its free program: Career Advancement for Immigrant Professionals.

    Looking for more?

    Durham Workforce AuthorityThe leading source of labour market intelligence for Durham Region.durhamworkforceauthority.ca/
    Durham Local Immigration Partnership (DLIP)DLIP welcomes regional employers to join its network of over 100 community partners. Email [email protected] for information on joining.www.durhamimmigration.ca/en/who-we-are/working-groups-and-recruitment.aspx#Community-Partners-in-Diversity
  • Talent Retention

    Studies show that meaningful employment is cited as the No. 1 consideration in employee retention. Employees also look for professional development and career growth.

    Ontario Tech Univeristy - Continuous LearningOntario Tech University's Continuous Learning department is the hub for Professional programming at the university. Working closely with all faculties across campus, Continuous Learning develops and offers certificate programs and learning opportunities that support lifelong learning. Continuous Learning also works in partnership with employers and community organizations to provide custom training to employees.ontariotechu.ca/continuouslearning/
    Canada-Ontario Job GrantThe Canada-Ontario Job Grant provides direct financial support to individual employers or employer consortia who wish to purchase training for their employees. It is available to small, medium-size, and large businesses with a plan to deliver short-term training to existing and new employees.www.tcu.gov.on.ca/eng/eopg/cojg

Reflection From Regional Leadership

In the last few years, global events have resulted in significant cultural shifts for many communities including newcomers. This is an opportunity for employers to embrace the significant value that newcomers add to the workplace. This Playbook is intended to help employers assess and enhance their practices, to build inclusive and equitable workplaces where newcomers can feel they can contribute and belong within the fabric of the organization and in local communities. The Region of Durham would like to thank local Foundational Partners, employers and WES for their commitment to this initiative.
Allison Hector-Alexander
Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Regional Municipality of Durham


WES wishes to thank our partners for their collaboration on this initiative

Engage with WES

Have questions about the Employer Playbook or would like to share your feedback? Interested in learning more about our employer initiatives?