National 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 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. 

    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.

    Language proficiency and communication skills are often a hiring concern when employers are evaluating immigrant candidates. Consider all key communication skills that are essential to completing the duties required of the role. If you are unsure what language proficiencies are required, consult the Essential Skills Profiles developed for over 350 occupations. The profiles describe how workers in an occupation use the nine essential skills, including reading, document use, writing, and oral communication.

    This printable template scorecard may also be of use.

    Critical Consideration
    The above tool is a great starting point to better understand essential and non-essential duties, and to more objectively screen candidates. When considering immigrant candidates, it’s important to remain open to additional skills and experiences they may offer that can augment if not completely align with your identified performance measure. Experience with international markets, proficiency in additional languages, and connections to growing segments of the local market are all value-added qualities to consider.

    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 neutral 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.
  • Assessing Language Requirements

    Need to assess language requirements 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.

    Did you know?
    The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks (CCLB) is the national standard setting body for the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) and the Niveaux de Competence Linguistique Canadiens (NCLC). The CLB and NCLC are recognized as the official Canadian standards for describing, measuring, and recognizing the language proficiency of adult immigrants and prospective immigrants for living and working in Canada, in both English and French.

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

    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. 

    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.

    Critical Consideration
    Many organizations that have effectively onboarded immigrant candidates encourage these employees to make referrals to apply for job openings. This is a great additional strategy which communicates to staff your commitment to hire immigrant talent.
    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.
  • 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.

    Canada Job Expocanadajobexpo.comCanada Job Expo has established itself as the premier, most successful job fair in Canada. With 100+ quality in-person and virtual events to our credit and 10+ years in existence (a rare feat in this industry), Canada Job Expo has helped thousands of job seekers land their dream jobs and hundreds of organizations find their ideal employees. Without a doubt, Canada Job Expo is the top choice of employers looking to attract the best talent.
    Hire Canada Job Fair & Training Expowww.hirecanada.caStarted in 2008 in Toronto, ON, Canada, Hire Canada has become a leader in hosting multi-sector recruitment events. The Hire Canada Job Fair & Training Expo assist organizations that are looking to hire, recruit, and promote their brand. We connect applicants to recruiters, career counselors, and admissions staff, both in-person and virtually!
    Career Fair Canadacareerfaircanada.caCareer Fair Canada enables exhibitors to connect with potential candidates for employment. Exhibitors have a fully branded booth to interact with attendees of the event. Our events connect recruiters in one-on-one real-time conversations with motivated and qualified job seekers.
    Virtual Refugee Hiring Event (2022) Employment provides job search services free-of-charge to help newcomers and refugees find jobs in Canada.
  • International Recruitment

    If you have trouble hiring the right person from domestic candidates, then recruiting from overseas may be an option. The Government of Canada 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 Employer’s 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

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”.

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

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.
  • 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?

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

    Inclusion is more than a numbers game, and integration is a two-way street. Mentorship may help to 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:

    Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. (IEC-BC) MentorConnect program brings together skilled immigrants and established professionals (from our employer partners) in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. Skilled immigrants entering the program already possess the education, experience, and language skills they need to succeed in the Canadian labour market. The program provides up to 12 hours of mentoring over a two-month period. Mentors (from our employer partners) also introduce mentees to two or more professionals within their networks for informational interviews.
    Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) CRIEC develops and delivers occupation-specific mentoring programs and employer-engaged experiential learning strategies that enable immigrant professionals to secure career paths that align with their professional goals. We connect these professionals with mentors who are volunteer professionals from across a wide range of corporate, non-profit, research, and academic sectors in sessions and events that encourage authentic two-way learning. This exchange of knowledge and experience builds bridges as immigrants learn about workplace culture, start developing their personal and professional networks, consider career choices, and better appreciate employer expectations. Mentoring has been shown to enhance the ability of immigrant professionals to navigate their way in the labour market. In turn, mentors and employers gain a greater understanding of both the talents and the challenges many immigrants face on their career journey. All in all, a win-win for the regional economy.
    Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) The Career Mentorship Program is a collaborative effort between the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC), immigrant service providers, and corporate partners that brings together immigrant professionals (mentees) and established Canadian professionals (mentors) in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. The Career Mentorship Program provides an opportunity for immigrant professionals to develop an understanding of Canadian workplace culture, establish professional networks, and acquire knowledge about how to better integrate into the local labour market. Increasing access to mentoring improves employment opportunities for immigrant professionals, which in turn addresses labour market issues and results in greater value-added benefits to employers and the regional economy.
    Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) TRIEC Mentoring Partnership matches immigrants with a mentor in their professional field, with the mentor sharing insights into how their industry operates in Canada, as well as advice for breaking into the local job market. Employer partners can invest in high-potential team members by offering them the chance to become mentors and hone their leadership skills. In the process, they hire more capable, more diverse teams, find diverse sources of talent, and help change the lives of hundreds of new immigrants every year.
    Niagara Workforce Planning Workforce Planning Board is Niagara’s trusted community partner, providing data and insight in support of a diverse and talented workforce. Our Immigrant Mentorship program works to ensure that Niagara employers benefit from the untapped potential of immigrants and comprehend the advantages of inclusive hiring, and help immigrants understand and integrate into Niagara’s labour market.
    Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) has a network of immigrant-serving organization partners that deliver a variety of mentoring and connector programs—contact HIO for assistance in navigating these programs. HIO also holds Employer Coaching Events which operate as speed networking sessions. Employers provide brief career search advice to immigrant job seekers who are in a similar sector or occupation.
    Halifax Partnership works with an extensive network of public, private, and post-secondary investors and partners to accelerate business and economic growth in Halifax. Our signature programs, such as the SmartBusiness (business retention and expansion) Program, Connector Program, National Connector Program, the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, and, most recently, the African Nova Scotian Road to Economic Prosperity Action Plan, seek to identify and respond to immediate and long-term business and labour market needs and establish a more diverse and inclusive business community and economy. The National Connector Program—based in Halifax, Nova Scotia—provides communities and employers with a turnkey solution that increases immigrant talent retention through intentional networking. The Connector Program is a simple yet highly effective networking model that matches and connects immigrants with local businesspeople, civil servants, and community leaders. Currently based in more than 35 communities across Canada and growing, the National Connector Program is a successful model to help retain immigrant talent and create more welcoming, inclusive communities.

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.

  • 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?

    • To champion inclusion and lead by example, check out TRIEC’s Leadership courses. 
    • To increase cultural competencies in your workplace, register for this free, virtual Cross-Cultural Competency Training Program offered by Hire Immigrants Ottawa.
    • To effect meaningful change in your organization, consider TRIEC’s Certificate in Inclusive Leadership.
    • To benchmark your actions with what inclusive leaders practice, check this tip sheet by Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.
  • 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.

    Workforce Development Agreements programThe Government of Canada has established Workforce Development Agreements (WDAs) with provincial and territorial
    Immigrant Employment Council of BCIEC-BC has compiled tools and resources to help employers smoothly integrate immigrant talent and reduce
    Making Rural Immigration Work: Settlement Services in Small and Rural CommunitiesThis paper offers recommendations that help to attract and retain immigrant talent in small and rural communities in
    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

Engage with WES

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