Tips on Hiring Immigrant Talent

Now that you’ve found your immigrant candidates, how do you easily assess their resumes? Interview them? Check their references? Offer them the job?

Download complete guides: BC HRMA Hiring and Retaining Skilled Immigrants Toolkit and/or the WorkBC Employer’s Tool Kit 4 Diversity at Work.

Here are tips and tools to help employers with the screening and selection process.

Assessing Resumes, Skills and Experience

Assess resumes to “screen in” top talent

The larger your pool of qualified candidates, the better chance you have of hiring someone outstanding. Use the following suggestions to “screen in” talented candidates you might otherwise miss.

Essential/Non-essential skills

Separate the “must have” and “nice to have” skills needed for the job. (You may already have done this in the job description stage.) Some candidates who don’t have your full wish list of “nice to have” skills may more than compensate for this with other skills, such as experience with international markets. Need help in determining what’s essential? Use this skill sorting tool.


Look for ability, or signs the candidate has the potential to do the job, as demonstrated through past achievements, including volunteer experience. For example, look for evidence the candidate can learn, interpret and apply a law, rather than evidence the candidate knows the law itself.


Look for related work experience, instead of Canadian work experience, a certain number of years of experience, recent experience, or very specific experience. 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.)


Look for the qualities or knowledge needed to perform the work effectively, rather than a specific credential (a degree, diploma, certificate or licence).


Look for the ability to carry out the specific communication tasks required, rather than generalized “effective communication skills.” Assess problems with readability, spelling or grammar problems in a resume carefully: a person whose first language is not English may make errors, but can still communicate at an acceptable level to do the job. Balance typos with other qualities and experience before disqualifying a candidate.

Cultural norms

Cultural norms vary widely. Immigrants may include religious greetings, mention of their families or other personal information Canadians do not generally put on resumes. Immigrants may also include information in their resumes about their universi­ty ranking because this achievement is highly prized in their country. (If your workplace already includes staff from the same cultural background, you may want to ask them for context if unusual information is included.) Culturally-competent hiring focuses on the immigrant’s skills, knowledge, and experience and doesn’t disqualify candidates because of cultural differences.

Time at previous jobs

When reviewing resumes, long tenure at a job can be interpreted as a sign of loyalty or a lack of ambition, while frequent job changes can be seen as a lack of commitment to employers. But immigrants may have many reasons for atypical employment histories. Ask for clarification before dismissing an otherwise excellent candidate.

Verify foreign credentials

Most employers are less concerned with credentials than with the ability to get the job done, which can be assessed through scenario-based, “how would you handle X…” questions in interviews.

However, if verifying credentials is a concern, ask candidates to provide an independent assessment and verification of their credentials, or commission an assessment yourself through an organization such as the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES) at BCIT.

Some professions are regulated in BC, and employees in these professions must be licensed. For more information about verifying the credentials of potential employees in these professions, contact the governing body of that profession. Information on regulated professions in BC.

The above content has been adapted from and BC HMRA Hiring and Retaining Skilled Immigrants Toolkit.

Checking References

Local references

If no local references are offered, probe for local character references, such as a volunteer coordinator if the candidate volunteers.

Pick up the phone

Many international references speak some English; call them to check references. Consider sending questions ahead of time by email so the reference can be better prepared. Clarify name pronunciation with the candidate.

Offering and/or Declining the Job

Offering them the job

Immigrants may not be familiar with common Canadian employment terms. Consider adding a plain English description to more technical phrases. For more information on plain language writing, visit the Center for Plain Language.

“A skilled immigrant was offered a job and told he was on the “graveyard shift”. Thinking it meant working in a graveyard, he did not accept the offer!” (BC HMRA focus group).

Declining the job strategically

If the candidate has skills you need, but is weak in key areas, suggest a course of study which would increase their chances next time. This is a quick and risk-free way of developing a pipeline of quality candidates.

More Tips

For more tips on hiring new immigrant talent, check out the Surrey Board of Trade’s Tip Sheet that reviews ideas, skills and resources required to hire immigrant talent.