Waterloo Region Playbook

Welcome to the new Waterloo Region Employer Playbook. We would like to thank the Foundational Partner group of the Immigration Partnership which joined our staff and World Education Services in launching this much-needed resource. The Waterloo Region Employer Playbook is a resource for employers seeking support in recruiting, hiring, and retaining immigrant and refugee talent. It is designed to support human resource planning.

Tracey Hare Connell

Chair, Immigration Partnership Council

Tara Bedard

Executive Director, Immigration Partnership – Waterloo Region of Waterloo

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 which 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 experience 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. 

    This printable template scorecard may also be of use.

    Employment Services
    Need Help Hiring?
    Here are just some of the ways that we can help with our no-cost services:
    • Information and resources for hiring new employees
    • Access to job posting services
    • Assistance with completing the Canada Ontario Job Grant
    • Office space and coordination of job fairs and candidate interviewing
    • Potential funding for On-the-Job Training
    • Creation of Customized Training Plans
    • On the Job Coaching

    Agilec Customer Care Centre Toll Free
    1 (800) 361-4642
    (519) 576-2681
    [email protected]
    LutherwoodFor more than 30 years, we have been supporting employers with their hiring and training needs. We understand how crucial it is to find, keep and train the right people for the job, and how costly and time-consuming the recruitment process can be. If you are an employer looking to hire, onboard or train staff, we can help.www.lutherwood.ca

    Employment Services

    Cambridge 519-623-9380

    Kitchener 519-743-2460

    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.
    Project READ Literacy Network
    Educational Essential Skills Assessment
    Help for Businesses & Non-Profits
    • Clear Writing services
    • Bridges out of Poverty training
    • Soft Skills Solutions certification training
    • Mental Health Practitioner Guide
    * All businesses & non-profit services are available for a fee. Contact us for an estimate.

    Assessment information
    (519) 570-3054
    or [email protected]
  • 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.

    St Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education CentresConsidering recommending language programs to international students and immigrant candidates. stlouis.wcdsb.ca

    [email protected]
    (519) 745-1201
    ESL—ext. 245 or ext. 540
    LINC—ext. 538 or ext. 224

    St. Louis—Cambridge St. Benedict Campus
    (until June 2022)
    • (ESL - Days)
    • 50 Saginaw Parkway (off Green Vista
    Drive, behind St. Benedict Catholic
    Secondary School)
    St. Louis—Kitchener Main Campus
    • (LINC ‒ Day only)
    • 80 Young Street (behind Kitchener City
    St. Louis—Kitchener St. Mary’s Campus
    • (ESL ‒ Day, Evening and Saturday)
    • 77 Young Street (across the street from
    80 Young Street)
    St. Louis—Kitchener St. Francis Campus
    • (LINC & ESL ‒ Day only)
    • 154 Gatewood Road (corner of Blueridge
    Road West & Queen’s Boulevard)
    Emmanuel United Church—Waterloo
    • (ESL ‒ Day only) remote learning only
    • 22 Bridgeport Road West (Uptown
    Highland Baptist Church—Kitchener
    • (LINC ‒ Day only)
    • 135 Highland Road W. (near St. Mary’s
    PLUS St. Louis ONLINE ESL classes

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 or 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. 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.
    Reception HouseThe Reception House is a welcome and settlement centre for government assisted refugees. They also offer employment services often connecting refugee talent with employers. They have also been involved in working with employers and job candidates to improve English language skills.[email protected]
    Region of WaterlooRegion of Waterloo provides employers with assistance in recruiting.Fill in the job posting form at:

    YMCA of Three Rivers

    Employment Services
    Services for Employers
    • Job matching, placements, incentives
    • Job posting, job fairs, employer panels
    • Recruiting, hiring, retention resources

    Cambridge—(519) 621-1621 ext. 6203

    Kitchener—(519) 579-9622 ext. 6147
    Cambridge Career Connections

    Employer Incentives
    By working with the Employment Ontario Employment Services you will have access to the following FREE job matching and placement services:
    • Post your positions on our job board, website and weekly “Now Hiring List”
    • Use our location to set up a job fair when hiring multiple employees
    • We will assist in all marketing efforts to promote your job fair or employment events 
    • Pre-screening of potential employees to best suit your position requirements
    • A subsidized work trial in order to determine the suitability of the participant on the job site
    • A training subsidy that can be negotiated up to a maximum of $6,000 per participant
    • Support provided to the employer and employee to work through any training concerns

    Phone: 519-622-0815
    Email: [email protected]
    Fax: 519-622-7043
    40 Ainslie Street South
    Cambridge, Ontario
    N1R 3K1
    The Working CentreMeeting your Hiring Needs: The Working Centre can help you find workers to suit your needs.

    Job Postings: Post open positions to our free job posting board accessed with 3,000 hits per week.

    58 Queen St. S.
    Kitchener, Ontario
    Canada N2G 1V6

    Phone: (519) 743-1151
    Fax: (519) 743-9452
    [email protected]
    Hire WaterlooAt HIRE|WATERLOO you have access to a unique talent pool with an expansive depth and breadth of skills and qualifications. From co-op, to regular, to graduating, to alumni, Waterloo students are available and equipped with the skills to meet your unique business requirements all year round.uwaterloo.ca/hire/

    (519) 888-4026
    +1 (877) 928-4473 (toll-free)
    [email protected]
    Career Development Centre – Wilfred Laurier UniversityThe Career Development Centre offers comprehensive recruiting services to employers and educational institutions:
    • Recruit at Laurier. 
    • Enhance your campus presence. 
    • Resources and best practices. 
    • Employer recruiting guidelines. 

    Career Development Centre: Lisa Favero, Manager, Employer Relations & Recruitment

    E: [email protected]
    T: 519.884.0710 x4136
    Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo (WFPB) Wellington DufferinIt is a job posting platform that is for Waterloo region and beyond. A great resource for employers to connect with and post jobs. The WFPB is also a great resource for employers in need of economic data, research findings, and other information.www.workforceplanningboard.com
    FindYourJob.caIt is a job aggregator platform that is for Waterloo region and beyond. Just post to one of the 30+ job boards attached to the platform and your job will be there for job seekers.
    The Job CentreWHAT IS IN IT FOR YOU?

    Absolutely no cost to an employer

    Wages can be subsidized (amount to be determined)

    On-site job coaching provided

    On-the-job training free of charge

    Interpreter services are fully funded if required

    Any needed assistive devices and accommodations are 100% paid for

    If any paperwork needs to be done we do it for you

    Using a personalized approach, we assist clients and employers to achieve employment goals
    “Employers experience different factors that influence their hiring and onboarding of international talents. At the Chamber, we welcome the idea of setting up a regional-specific Talent Hub, connecting employers directly with local immigrants for the efficiency and quality of hiring.”
    Ian McLean
    President & CEO | Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce
  • 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

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.

    “As an HR Professional, the inability to secure critical talent is proving to be a challenging and steadfast symptom of our current labour market and highlights the need for employers to develop creative and flexible solutions regarding talent acquisition and retention. Recruiting from within the immigrant and refugee communities has proven to be a great source of talent; often leading to ongoing referrals and building a community name as an employer of choice.”
    Janet Lehman, CHRL
    Human Resources Director, Ontario Drive & Gear Limited

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.

    “It is crucial that employers try to address interview blind spots. We found that providing interview questions in advance has yielded great results for Carizon, and we are now exploring accepting alternative job applications (videos, artworks). By promoting a diverse workforce, we ensure we can meet the needs of the families we serve.”
    Julie Newman
    Director of Talent, Engagement & Quality Management, Carizon
  • 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 that 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.

    “Employment is a critical component to the integration and inclusion of a new immigrant to a community; the same is true for refugees. While the benefits of employment to immigrants and refugees is well reported, the extensive value to business and its bottom line is constantly emerging. Learning how to access and onboard immigrant and refugee talent can make a significant difference for businesses in Waterloo region and H2R commits to sharing resources with our clients to find great talent.”
    H2R Business Solutions
  • 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 buddy or onboarding buddy can help. Although it depends on the organization, peer buddy programs work best for SMEs and for new hires 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.

    “We have seen how successful onboarding leads to greater job satisfaction and reduces attrition. We have instituted a Buddy system to provide new hires with training and support with workplace culture and overall experience. New immigrant employees may not have a Canadian driver’s license or the ability to buy a car. The company has arranged a carpooling opportunity for new immigrants as well as any employee without a means of transportation or licenses.”
    Sandi Young
    Vice-President, Human Resources, Clarion Medical Technologies Inc


Mentorship & Networking

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 & Networking 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:

    • Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre (KWMC)
      KWMC works with employers and job candidates to make connections. We share job postings with our clients, hold employer panels and networking events.The Waterloo Region Connectors Program is an effective way for employers to access international talent. It helps to stimulate our local economy by expanding the professional networks of highly qualified newcomers to Canada.

      For more information, please contact [email protected].

    • YMCA of Three Rivers Immigrant Services – Mentorship Program
      YMCA Immigrant Services offers settlement services, language assessments, school settlement services, and several group activities. The Mentorship Program, for Internationally Trained Professionals (ITP), has been in the community for over 15 years. It is a great source of talent for employers in Waterloo Region and Stratford-Perth County. Employers can participate in the program as a Mentor and stay connected as a means to access talent. Once matched, the Mentor will provide the ITP with guidance, insights, and assistance to expand their network within their field. The Youth Employment Specialists work alongside Settlement Workers in Schools to provide group and individual pre-employment and job readiness supports. For more information, please contact [email protected]. 

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.

    March of Dimes CanadaCompanies and organizations are held to high standards of transparency and accountability these days. We’re expected to use every dollar wisely, and account for that use. There is a growing need for effective, cost-efficient ways for organizations and small companies to meet their goals. Whether you’re looking to reduce expenses, improve customer service, or to become more inclusive, MODC’s Business and Training Services offer the expertise you need.Kitchener
    236 Victoria Street North, Unit 1B
    Kitchener, ON N2H 5C8
    Tel: 519-579-5530
    Fax: 519-579-5479 ​
    “Immigration will continue to play an integral role in not only addressing the labour shortages in our region but is also vital when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in our workplaces. The Chamber is a huge supporter of this, and we are encouraging all our members to engage with the various employment services in the community for supports when it comes to the recruitment, hiring and retention of immigrant and refugee talent.”
    Greg Durocher
    President & CEO at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce
  • 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?

    Hiring and training incentives for employersTake advantage of funding, programs and federal tax incentives to help hire and train employees for your business, not-for-profit, or public-sector organization.www.ontario.ca/page/hiring-incentives-employers
    “As a Waterloo Region employer, it is quite evident that there has been a talent shortage for years now. We know this is affecting almost every sector. Knowing this fact, it is extremely important to be prepared and to get connected to resources which have access to immigrant and refugee talent. The new Waterloo Region Employer Playbook is a useful tool that can assist with that.”
    Mehrzad (Merz) Salkhordeh
    CEO, dB Noise Reduction
  • 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.

    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

If you want to connect with the Immigration Partnership, please connect with Nora Whittington [email protected]


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?