Recruiting and Hiring ITIs

Working Towards Achieving Equity in Recruiting and Hiring ITIs

Many employers across Canada are looking to meet their staffing needs by hiring Internationally Trained Individuals (ITIs). The successful hiring and retaining of personnel from this growing talent pool often means making adjustments to some of the processes and policies in the following areas:

  • how personnel are attracted, selected, and hired
  • how personnel are retained, integrated, and motivated

The starting point to planning for the above changes is to recognize the barriers that ITIs face in finding and maintaining employment in Canada. Recognizing these barriers will help determine the changes required to facilitate the employment of ITIs. This section discusses the most common barriers that ITIs face, some considerations for changes to help remove the barriers, and some effective practices for recruiting and hiring ITIs.

Common Barriers for ITIs to Finding Employment

International credentials

One of the foremost barriers that ITIs face is having their international credentials accepted by potential employers. This is mainly because employers are unsure of the standards of education in other countries. The following are some points to consider in order to help ease the impact of this barrier on ITIs:

  • Be informed about the process of checking international credentials. A popular credential recognition service in Alberta is International Qualification Assessment Service (
  • Have a clear list of required credentials for the position you want to hire.
  • Review the list to check how essential Canadian credentials are to the job. Consider other possible ways ITIs can prove their qualifications; for example, paid internships and short contracts.
  • Consider accepting local references from volunteer organizations and schools. International employment references can also be checked with the help of some companies such as First Advantage.
Once the above points have been considered and the appropriate actions taken, review and revise the job description and hiring process accordingly.


Language is another barrier for ITIs. The language skills of ITIs can vary depending on the level of education and on whether English was the medium of instruction in their country of origin. The following are some points to consider in order to help ease the impact of this barrier on ITIs:

  • Determine what level of language is actually required for the job and the language skills crucial to the job; for example, written communication, oral communication, and listening and reading comprehension.

    The Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks has a list of can-do statements that might help in articulating the language level.

    The following website can help with articulating the language skills required for a particular occupation. The site provides descriptions on how workers use essential skills in many occupations.
  • If the level of the language proficiency that is required for the position is not very high, consider matching a new employee with a “language buddy,” a person who speaks the same language and can act as a translator for the first few months of employment or until the new employee is more confident with his/her language skills. The language buddy system can also be an informal way for new employees with a low-language proficiency to become more fluent in English.
  • Determine how essential easily comprehensible pronunciation is to the job. Good pronunciation will be more important when the job requires a higher level of interaction with customers, clients, and coworkers.
  • Consider subsidizing language classes offered by the institutions in your area, or arrange for language classes to be conducted on site. The following are popular supports and resources offered by Bow Valley College:
    • Part-time Language Skills Courses
    • Full-time LINC and ELL programs
    • Regional English language learning
    • Regional LINC
    • LINC Home Study

    The following website has useful information for language training:

    Once the above points have been considered and the appropriate actions taken, review and revise the job description and hiring process accordingly.

Canadian work experience

Employers generally require Canadian work experience because they feel that a person with Canadian work experience will have a developed set of soft skills and an understanding of the Canadian workplace culture. However, this requirement makes it very difficult for ITIs to land their first job in their field and gain the necessary work experience.

If Canadian work experience is not a requirement from a regulatory body, there are some other viable methods that can help ease the impact of this barrier on ITIs.

Consider the following:

  • Have a clearly articulated list of competencies, knowledge, skills, and attributes required for the job that you are recruiting for.
  • Review the list to see if it can potentially exclude ITIs and revise it accordingly. For example, determine what transferrable skills are gained through work experience in your sector and ask for experience in the field instead of Canadian work experience.
  • Employ from institutions that offer bridging programs. Bridging programs are generally aimed at ITIs who have both education and experience in their fields but need help in developing some Canadian-specific knowledge and skills for their successful employment here.
  • Bridging programs offered in Alberta:
  • Have internship programs in place.
  • Provide short term contracts to see how people perform and hire on the basis of their performance.

Once the above points have been considered and the appropriate actions taken, review and revise the job description and hiring process accordingly.

Here are some more tips to help you:

Soft skills and an understanding of workplace culture

Employers prefer to hire a candidate who has the appropriate soft skills and is familiar with the general workplace culture in Canada. This is because they want to be sure the person will fit in and integrate into their organization more easily.

Soft skills are the interpersonal skills that are essential for the effective and competent execution of workplace interactions and duties in culturally and socially acceptable ways. Some examples of soft skills are time-management, team work, and self-direction. The ability to demonstrate both the soft skills that are valued in workplaces in Canada and the knowledge of the general workplace culture here is closely tied to work experience in this country. Therefore, it creates a barrier for ITIs to finding suitable employment.

Consider the following to help reduce this barrier:

  • Clearly articulate your organization’s culture and values, and make sure they are available in easily accessible guidelines and policies.
  • Determine both the general soft skills your organization values and the specific soft skills required for each job. An example of a general soft skill is making decisions, and an example of a more specific, related soft skill is assessing and managing risks.
  • Determine the kinds of support you need to have in place when somebody does not fully meet the criteria. Examples of support could be on-the-job training, in-house mentorship programs, and in-house online webinars. If in-house programs are not a viable option, explore other avenues. Many educational institutions also offer training. Some examples of such programs offered online by Bow Valley College are:
    • Workplace Communication for Rural Immigrants
    • Language for Work
    • Fit in Fast
    (Refer to the section on resources for more information.)

Effective Practices for Recruiting and Hiring ITIs

The following are some effective practices for attracting and selecting ITIs:

Attracting ITIs in employee search

  • Prepare a clear competency-based job description, which clearly states the knowledge, skills, and behaviour required for the job.
  • Review your current employee-search networks to maximize your chances of attracting ITIs. Apart from data banks and job fairs, also consider the following
    • Campus recruitment and co-op programs
    • Intern and practicum placements
    • Institutions that offer bridging programs
    • Local community organizations and immigrant serving agencies
    • Referrals from within your current internationally trained employees
    • Government sources and embassies
  • Provide your employee-search networks with clearly articulated workplace norms and expectations.
  • Develop special programs like paid or unpaid internships and work placements within your organization. Such programs help address inequity issues by helping ITIs overcome barriers such as the requirement of Canadian work experience.
  • Review your current recruitment process for any bias that might deter attracting ITIs.

Focus on Competencies

Job ads

  • Keep the language in your job ads plain and easy to understand.
  • Consider using community newspapers and publications and immigrant serving agencies to place your job ads.
  • Keep the criteria inclusive and unbiased. Consider the following:
    • List soft skills (e.g., taking initiative, identifying problems and solutions, teamwork) that are required for the job.
    • Have clear competency-based job descriptions that focus on the critical skills and competencies required for the job.
    • If job experience is essential, ask for it, but do not focus only on Canadian experience.
    • If references are required, consider accepting local references from volunteer work and attendance in school. State this in the job ad.
    • Clearly state that you welcome applicants with international qualifications and experience.
    • Clearly state the job duties and the experience, knowledge, and skills required.
    • If using international credential assessment services to assess international credentials, provide a link in the job ad.
    • Specify language requirements and specific language skills needed for the job.

Selection Best Practices


Review your current screening process to make it fair and unbiased.

  • Do not screen out applicants’ international credentials and experience.
  • Do not screen out applicants based on employment gaps; these may have occurred due to world events.
  • Consider having the person(s) who are in charge of screening to view only a number identifier instead of a name. Research has shown that unfamiliar and ethnic names are often screened out.
  • Have clear evaluation criteria for screening based on the job description.


Review your interview process and techniques for bias.

  • Inform candidates about the interview process and techniques prior to the interview. Do not assume that they are familiar with the processes and techniques used in Canada. In your email notification for an interview, provide information on your interview process and online links to sample interviews that conform to the techniques you use.
  • People in many cultures are uncomfortable about promoting themselves and have a cultural preference for humility and modesty. Ask appropriate questions to elicit the information you need about their performance and duties.
  • Review your interview questions for culture and language bias. Reframe questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” to “Tell me about your professional experience.”
  • Be aware of areas of questioning that are inappropriate and do not conform to fair and equitable hiring practices.
  • Be aware that communication styles, eye contact, and gestures vary from culture to culture. Do not judge candidates on these. Stay focused on the competencies required for the job and do not judge candidates according to interview skills alone.
  • Whenever possible, provide hiring personnel with intercultural training to help them be more flexible and adaptable to different communication styles and to value differences and the transferability of skills.
  • Strive towards having an interview panel that is experienced and self-aware of their own prejudices and biases towards accents and stereotypes.
  • Strive towards educating and training interviewers to be self-aware of their own body language, to check assumptions, and to be open-minded and sensitive to cultural differences; for example, it is perfectly normal and acceptable in some cultures to have a longer processing and response time than Canadians are used to. Someone who is not trained in intercultural communication might misinterpret the silence to mean that the person is unable to answer the question. The way people organize their ideas while communicating also varies. In some cultures, the preferred communication style may be more indirect and circular or roundabout. If the interviewers are not aware of this, they might assume that the interviewee is being evasive because the preferred communication style in Canada is more direct and linear.
  • Many Canadians tend to judge others on the strength of a handshake. An important point to note is that not many cultures use the handshake as a greeting. As a consequence, people from some cultures may not necessarily be comfortable shaking hands and may not demonstrate a “good” handshake. Even in cultures where a handshake is a customary greeting, the firmness of a handshake may not be important, or it may only be a common practice among people of the same gender. Shaking hands with the people of the same gender may also be influenced by religious practices. Interviewers who are aware of these differences are generally less likely to discriminate on grounds such as a “weak” handshake or a hesitancy to shake hands.
  • When possible, arrange for face-to-face interviews. Even ITIs who are fluent in English may not be confident about talking on the phone, especially if they are new to Canada.