Assessing International Experience

Why assess international experience?

Reviewing a resume with international experience can seem daunting. You may not be familiar with the organizations listed, let alone their reputations, and the role titles may be confusing, but this shouldn’t lead you to screen out a candidate. Experience from other countries can be just as, and sometimes more valuable, than Canadian experience. To assess experience:

  • Review the essential (must have) and non-essential (nice to have) skills that you identified during the job description / posting process
  • Look for related work experience, instead of Canadian work experience, a certain number of years of experience, recent experience, or very specific experience.
  • Keep in mind that while hiring someone who has done a very similar job is great, there are also benefits to bringing in someone who can learn the job, and who has additional skills (such as international experience).

Assessing international experience

There certain tools that can support you to identify essential vs. non essential skills for specific roles.

Assessing skills with internal resources

  • Culturally Competent Screening Toolkit – You may have used this tool to help identify essential vs. non-essential skills during the job description process. If so, you can continue to use the tool to facilitate the resume review and interview processes
  • Tip – Human Resources & Skills Development Canada: Essential Skills Profiles – Profiles of hundreds of roles, from Bookkeepers to Carpenters to Dentists, and the essential skills required to perform the roles. Use this tool to support you to create a Culturally Competent Screening Tool for the role

Third party assessment

Hiring in a specific field? Some resources to assist you…

Consider some of the assessment criteria provided for specific industries / roles to help you to populate your resume screening tool, determine follow up interview questions, etc.

Overcoming common challenges

CHALLENGE: I’m unfamiliar with some of the job titles on the candidate’s resume, what should I do?

In reviewing the resume you are seeking to determine if the candidate meets the requirements set for the role. In terms of experience, those requirements are likely listed in terms of the experience described in relationship to a role. Use the descriptors of experience to determine rather than title for the role how well the candidate meets experience requirements.

CHALLENGE: How do I assess for skills and experience if the candidate did not describe what they did in their previous roles?

New Canadians may modify their resumes to fit advice that they have received in person or online (e.g., have you ever heard the advice “keep it to no more than a page). It may also be that candidates make assumptions about what you will know about their previous roles. Consider this before discounting the candidate.

If the role titles appear to match the position posted consider conducting phone screening interviews as a next step in the process. These interviews can help you to find out about more about candidates experience. The general interview structure and questions should be consistent across all candidates.

Suggested Phone Screening Questions:

  • In your most recent role, what were your core duties and responsibilities?
  • Tell me about your previous achievements in regard to (experience requirement)?

CHALLENGE: Based on the qualifications and experience noted on the resume, this candidate appears to be over qualified for the role. Should I screen them out of the process?

Many candidates who are new to Canada find it difficult to gain employment in their field. Often they anticipate that it will be easier to obtain employment, or are advised by others, to apply for roles at a lower level in order to gain access into an organization. Alternatively, the candidate’s experience may be translated onto the resume in a way that is not accurate. The only way to fully understand which is the case, is to do a phone screening interview.

Suggested Phone Screening Questions:

  • Tell me about what made you interested in this role?
  • Why do you think that you would be the right candidate for this position?
  • How would this role compare to other roles you’ve performed? What do you think you would find most rewarding? Most challenging?

If the candidate is seeking to “get their foot in the door”, consider screening this person in if you are:

  • Hiring for a temporary position
  • Hiring for a position which has growth / promotion opportunities

However, if the role for which you are hiring has limited growth or promotion prospects the employment relationship is not likely to be fulfilling for the candidate, which can result in challenges for both the candidate and the organization. The employee is likely to seek new opportunities n the market as soon as they have earned a certain level of job experience.

CHALLENGE: I am unfamiliar with the organizations that the candidate has worked for; how can I find out about the reputation of the organizations and / or the type of organizational culture that the candidate has worked in?

During the resume review process, your primary concern is ensuring that candidates meet the minimum experience requirements to move forward in the screening process. The focus is what has been done and achieved, rather than where.

That being said, information about the companies and company cultures that the candidate works well in can be valuable information to seek during the interview process. There are a number of ways to find out about the reputation / culture of an organization

Go to the company website and conduct research online (e.g., where has the company appeared in the news).

Contact the professional association for the occupation and see if they can provide some insight.

Ask fellow employees what they understand about the company.

Further, if the resume overall is a fit and the candidate moves to the next level of the screening process, ask questions in the interview to understand more about the organizations and their work environments, plus the desired work environment and culture for the candidate.