Giving newcomers a chance

posted on August 5, 2015

By Brian Kreissl, Canadian HR Reporter | Link to Article

By Brian Kreissl, Canadian HR Reporter | Link to Article

We’ve all heard stories about the proverbial physicians, PhDs and engineers from other countries forced to drive taxis or work in coffee shops or fast food outlets. Many newcomers experience discrimination and challenges relating to their lack of Canadian experience and qualifications even where the evidence tends to suggest they should be highly employable in this country.

Rather than viewing skilled immigrants as a relatively untapped source of talent and a competitive advantage due to their knowledge of foreign markets, languages, cultures and business practices, a large proportion of employers turn away candidates who lack Canadian experience or those whose international educational and professional qualifications are different or unfamiliar to them.

According to some studies, newcomers are taking longer to settle and obtain suitable employment than was the case with previous generations of immigrants. This is in spite of the fact that immigrants on average tend to be better educated than those born in Canada.

The problem with refusing to consider candidates due to their lack of Canadian experience is it not only artificially narrows an organization’s talent pool but could also be illegal. In the absence of a valid and legally defensible bona fide occupational requirement, employers are prohibited from discriminating against candidates on the basis of race, religion, national or ethnic origin.

In many cases, this includes excluding candidates who lack Canadian experience. The Ontario Human Rights Commission even developed a policy around this.

While this does not mean employers can be forced to hire unqualified candidates, dispense with a valid job requirement for fluency in English or French or hire a candidate from abroad who doesn’t possess the credentials required to practice a licensed profession, organizations shouldn’t simply reject candidates without Canadian work experience or credentials out of hand. It’s also important not to reject newcomers simply because they’re overqualified because skilled immigrants may be required to take a job at a lower level than in their home country in order to obtain Canadian experience.

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