Assessing the Value of Immigrant Talent: New Resources Support Employers


By Javier Ojer

Are blind spots preventing you — and your organization — from employing BC’s top global talent?

A group of HR professionals were surprised to discover how their biases unknowingly prevented them from spotting quality candidates when they reviewed resumes from skilled immigrants in a recent workshop piloted by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC) and BC HMRA.

“It hit home how, as recruiters and prospective employers, by virtue of the limited time afforded to do resume screens, we make quick judgements on what and how information is presented with little, if any, understanding of the cultural forces in play,” one participant commented after the exercise.

The resume review exercise was part of a pilot workshop on “Sourcing and Recruiting Immigrant Talent”, developed by BC HMRA and IEC-BC.  A second workshop, “Onboarding and Retaining Immigrant Talent” workshop was also jointly produced along with an online resume screening tool used in the workshop called the “New Canadian Assessment Resource.” All three resources aim to enhance employers’ capacity to determine the value of skilled immigrant candidates and capitalize on their capabilities.

“When we conducted employer consultations across the province in 2011, we heard very clearly that employers are already convinced by the business case of hiring immigrant talent,” said IEC-BC Executive Director, Kelly Pollack. “Employers in general and HR practitioners know BC is facing an unprecedented skill shortage and recognize new Canadians as a pool of talent. One of the things employers told us though is they now need tools to help them assess the potential value of immigrant candidates for their companies.”

BC HRMA’s manager of professional development, Kyla Nicholson agrees. “That’s why we were so pleased to have the opportunity to work with IEC-BC to develop these employer resources. We know our membership is actively looking for this kind of material.”

Both workshops use real world examples and case studies from the BC market to support HR practitioners in understanding how to overcome common challenges in recruiting skilled immigrants and in finding the strategies that will work for their organization. Reviews of the initial workshops were enthusiastic.

“[We got]… convincing arguments/materials to take back to some of our resistant managers,” one respondent commented on the workshop evaluation. “I definitely have a broader understanding of how to bring landed immigrants into the company. The resources provided were invaluable.”

The third jointly-created product, the New Canadian Assessment Resource, is a go to online resource on how to assess new Canadian experience that can be accessed directly on the IEC-BC website here.

The online tool allows the employer to assess the candidate in four key areas: Language Proficiency, Academic Credentials, Professional Credentials, and Foreign Experience. Each section features, in a user friendly way, tips and practical solutions for overcoming common challenges.

Users of the resource can refer to resumes from new Canadians, including an executive resume (VP finance), two professional resumes (a civil engineer and a marketing manager), and two trade resumes (an electrician and a chef). For example, users can click on different sections of the resume to see questions someone reviewing the resume might have and refer to recommendations for assessing the candidate’s abilities.

“The Resume Review Centre content was easily understood and provided practical and easy to understand solutions to common areas of ambiguity, questions and challenges related to screening new Canadian resumes,” said Nicholson.

Given the positive response to the workshops, BC HMRA has added “Sourcing and Recruiting Immigrant Talent” workshop to their fall workshop series. It will be offered on Tuesday, October 30 in Victoria and Wednesday, November 21 in Burnaby. For more information or to register, please refer to BC HRMA’s online calendar

Together, these three innovative resources provide powerful ways for BC employers to overcome blind spots and make the most of immigrant talent for their business. For more information on these resources, or to add your feedback, please contact me at

Steps to Support Hiring and Assessing New Canadian Talent

Step 1:  Define Job Requirements

  • Focus on core job tasks (essential vs non-essential)
  • Consider performance/skill assessment vs. education/credentials

Step 2:  Consider Job Posting Locations

  • Is the posting and your website immigrant talent friendly?

Step 3:  Job Screening

  • Read between the lines of a resume. For example, a candidate may be working at several part-time jobs out of necessity.
  • Get beyond the “Canadian experience” barrier.
  • Consider cultural differences and ways of communicating. For example, including a photograph on a resume is a best practice in some countries,
  • Keep your focus on skills, knowledge and experience
  • Use the New Canadian Assessment Tool to help assess international experience and credentials.

Step 4:  Conducting Interviews

When conducting a behavioural interview with international trained workers, consideration should be given to the cultural context. This involves:

  • educating the interviewer on what makes a person successful in their country and how those characteristics will fit for the position and into your own organizational culture;
  • thinking through how to elicit the responses you need to make a determination. For example, if you know that to succeed in a position, the candidate must be a team player, discover ways to phrase questions that will prompt the candidate to speak about collaborative experiences;
  • analyzing the candidate’s answers with a colleague and with a wide lens.  Evaluate how the candidate’s characteristics translate across cultural and linguistic boundaries and how their behaviours would be perceived within our context.

Javier Ojer is a manager with the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C.

(PeopleTalk: Fall 2012)

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