What would happen if you took the phrase ‘Canadian experience’ out of every job posting you made from now on? The short answer is that you’d receive applications from foreign-born workers as well as Canadian candidates.

Some companies hesitate at the thought of openly courting immigrant applicants — the question is, why? Immigrants make up about a quarter of the population of sizable Canadian cities like Kitchener, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton — and in the Vancouver and Toronto metro areas, they represent roughly 41% and 46% of the population respectively. 

Hiring hesitancy sometimes comes down to unfamiliarity with international qualifications, or nervousness about language barriers. How can employers best assess foreign-born candidates, for instance? How well do migrant workers settle in?

The answer to the second question is easy: very well indeed. In fact, newcomers make loyal, hardworking employees — particularly if they receive comprehensive employer support and a decent salary. 

We’ll spend the rest of this article answering the first question in greater detail. By the time you reach the conclusion, you’ll know exactly how to appraise foreign-born candidates.

how to evaluate immigrant candidates

To evaluate immigrant candidates effectively, you need more than a questionnaire. You’ll need to do a little digging, and you might have to compensate for a language barrier — but if you push through those initial challenges, the long-term rewards are worth it. Companies that change their hiring practices to accommodate immigrant candidates tend to do better in the marketplace, and they often reduce staff turnover, too.

recognize transferable skills

First, recognize that many of the most important skills you’re looking for are transferable. Qualifications don’t diminish in value when people cross country borders. Nearly a quarter of registered nurses in Canada are foreign born, for instance. 

According to the 2016 Canadian Census, 40% of immigrants aged between 25 and 64 hold a bachelor’s degree. In contrast, only 25% of Canadians in the same age range have an equivalent educational status. In other words, if you’re not tapping into immigrant talent, you’re missing out.

compare qualifications online

Education systems vary from country to country: exams and credentials can be hard to track and compare. What’s the difference between an English GCSE and an International Baccalaureate, for instance? How does a Mexican vocational bachillerato compare to an American high school diploma?

If international qualifications leave you feeling confused, don’t worry. Organizations like the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials can help you assess applicants’ skills. One important note — foreign credential recognition is a must for newcomers who plan to work in regulated occupations.

investigate resumes

It’s okay not to be familiar with international companies or foreign universities. Don’t let that unfamiliarity put you off investigating applicant resumes, though. After all, prestigious educational institutions and reputable corporations exist in all countries. If your interviewee has a functional resume — experience and work skills instead of qualifications — ask them to elaborate.

If you need to call overseas, make sure you keep time differences in mind. Sometimes, it’s better to email foreign referees and former schools — especially if a conversational language barrier exists. 

value soft skills

Hard skills — measurable skills like certificates, qualifications or former jobs — are important. Some immigrants, particularly refugees and humanitarian migrants, don’t have as many tangible hard skills as Canadian-born applicants. 

As you go through applications, don’t dismiss people with fewer hard skills. Instead, evaluate soft skills — the person’s willingness to move to Canada, or to learn another language, for instance. It takes courage and tenacity to leave one country behind in search of a new life in another. 

connect with candidates

Communication is a two-way street. Before you interview a newcomer, think about ways you can reach out and bridge the gap. Can you bring a current foreign-born employee with a similar cultural background into the interview room, for instance? Can another member of your HR team translate?

Some accents take a little longer to get used to than others, so allow extra time to speak to your interviewee. If you make the newcomer in your office feel welcome, you’ll connect far more effectively.

work with an HR partner

If you haven’t intentionally hired newcomers before, or if you want to improve your immigrant-related HR tactics, consider working with an HR partner. Professional recruitment partners can help you find, hire and onboard foreign-born candidates quickly and efficiently. 

Some HR partners work directly with immigrants, while others mentor newcomers to help them succeed. Look for a recruitment partner with links to immigrant-facing organizations if you want to hire more than a few newcomers at once.

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We’d love to show you how talented immigrants can boost your business profile and make your company more successful in the marketplace. Read our guide on hiring international talent to learn more.

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