• Recruitment

  June 9, 2016

Tips for When Hiring Newcomers to Canada

Skilled immigrants are not only new to Canada — they’re new to your organization. A well planned orientation that introduces them to your workplace culture and sets out expectations, helps increase employee retention and productivity.

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4 min read

Here are some tips that might help you assist newcomers to Canada be more successful in your workplace.


  • Avoid standardized testing (many standardized tests are culturally biased)
  • Limit hypothetical questions
  • Consciously put stereotypes or pre-conceived notions aside
  • Ask questions in clear language, avoiding idiomatic expressions, acronyms and slang
  • Listen beyond an accent — it is the message that is important
  • Always be consistent with the BC Human Rights Code – employers cannot discriminate against candidates on the basis of their race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, or religion (among others)
  • Welcome responses based on non-Canadian experience
  • Focus on job-related questions and transferable skills
  • Be aware that behavioural interview questions will be new to many candidates — you may need to dig for a complete response
  • Encourage candidates to talk about the roles, responsibilities and business accomplishments of their previous jobs, even if they were outside of Canada
  • Listen actively for the complete response — try not to become unfocused by a communication style that is less structured or direct than what you’re used to
  • Beware of the relative importance of hierarchy in different cultures and how that impacts answers in an interview situation. For instance, asking a candidate from a highly hierarchical culture to give an example of a time that he/she disagreed with a supervisor’s decision and had to present his/her case in order to change the supervisor’s mind is not likely to be met with a detailed response. Unlike many Western cultures where it can be appropriate to suggest alternate options to your supervisor, this is something that is just not done in highly hierarchical cultures — a superior’s word is law. Provide diversity training for hiring managers and recruiters


For many new employees, their first day experiences will be influencing their engagement and longevity with your organization. For you as the employer, the first day with a new employee provides the opportunity to welcome them and help them feel comfortable and a valuable member of the team.

  • Make orientation fun, interesting and simple
  • Don’t overload the employee with paper work
  • Create a friendly, comfortable and productive experience
  • Introduce your new hire to your team and help establish rapport
  • Give the employee a space they can call their own


Taking the time to properly orient your new employees will support them in being successful in their job. This could increase employee retention which saves your organization time and money in recruitment.

  • What are the standards on which performance is judged?
  • What are the rules and regulations?
  • How to get around the building or work site
  • What are the safety and security regulations? (some people come from countries where health and safety are not given the same priority)
  • What are the expectations for working with suppliers and customers?
  • What to wear to work
  • How to greet your co-workers on the first day and then on days that follow (some people think that they need to shake hands daily)
  • Do you observe a casual Friday? What is the office dress code?
  • Do you celebrate birthdays or other significant days in the office? How?


For the first while, someone should be given the responsibility of helping that individual navigate through the new position. Chose a colleague who represents your company in its best light. If there is someone from the same country working for your company, you might want to ask if he/she would prefer that person to be his/her mentor / buddy. Never assume that he/she would prefer that – always ask.

Encourage the internationally skilled employee to ask questions if he/she is unsure of anything.

  • Provide information on the standards for good performance
  • Give feedback on a regular basis – many people are used to regular feedback from their managers in their home country
  • Look for ways for your new employees to network with others in your industry. For instance, encourage them to join committees at work and community or industry associations
  • Offer communications training
  • Give managers extra support (such as diversity training)


We all see the world through our own cultural lenses. What may seem very obvious to us might be very unusual to someone else.

Example: Maria, a newly-arrived engineer from Mexico, was asked by her manager to take the minutes at the team meeting.

A week later, when the manager asked her for the minutes of the meeting, she said, “The meeting started at 9:15 and ended at 10:25.” Maria had truly “taken the minutes” of the meeting.

Here are some other examples involving language:

In English we have something called “tag questions.” For example:

“You can stay late tonight, can’t you?”

“You’ll get here early tomorrow, won’t you?”

“You’re going to finish the project by Friday, aren’t you?”

Tag questions do not exist in many languages.

When you say “You can stay late tonight, can’t you?” your employee who is new to Canada may hear “You can stay late tonight, you can’t.”

An answer of “yes” would mean “yes, I can’t.” You can imagine how confusing this could be!

Further, beware of acronyms – RSVP, TGIF, ASAP, LOL don’t translate for all people, regardless of their first language.


Be curious: ask your new employee about his/her experiences in his/her home country or other countries. Invite new employees in by involving them in conversations and by asking questions intended to enhance your understanding. Don’t give up on someone just because it takes more effort to communicate with him/her.


Providing ongoing training and opportunities for development is a good management practice, and for many employers, it can be done in-house.

Consider providing some diversity training for your managers and staff so that they have a better understanding of the ways in which culture impacts how we act and react in the workplace. Take some time at a scheduled staff meeting to share these tips with your employees. Perhaps even invite some of your employees who have lived or worked in other countries to share their experiences. By leveraging each person’s strengths and abilities, the team becomes stronger.

Adapted information from this article is based on a presentation made by Marni Johnson is President of Workplace Communication & Diversity Inc. She helps companies work more effectively with diverse employees. Marni can be contacted at: 1-905-403-9994 or mjwts@rogers.com

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