Several weeks ago Simon Fraser University released a comprehensive study on the discriminatory recruiting practices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The research project was conducted by the Metropolis British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Diversity, a diversity research agency that is funded by the federal government. The study concludes that employment recruiters tend to favour applicants with English names over applicants with Indian or Asian names. Recruiters tend to regard a new Canadian’s application as less qualified, even if their international experience and academic qualifications from high-ranking universities overseas match those of English applicants.
The three significant findings are that first, recruiters will first call back applicants with English sounding names. Second, Canadian work experienced is valued more highly than international experience. Third, education does not factor more highly with four to six years of experience, even if the degree is granted from a highly ranked foreign school. Montreal had the highest percentage of discrimination Vancouver had the lowest.
The researchers recommend that to decrease employer bias, they mask applicants’ names when considering skills and experience. A pragmatic solution is for employers to increase their recruiting strategies by sourcing qualified candidates from recognized community organizations whose mandate is to assist new Canadians with gaining employment – and Canadian experience. Government funded organizations such as S.U.C.C.E.S.S., DIVERSIcity, ISSof BC, MOSAIC, PICS can bridge the transition from foreign to Canadian experience for qualified applicants. For example, DIVERSIcity coordinates workshops for employers to provide recruiters with a toolkit on recruiting, hiring and new employee orientation for employees who are new Canadians.
Progressive organizations understand the financial rewards and cultural benefits of promoting workplace diversity, especially those that are in international trade and the global economy. For the past two years Vancity Credit Union is recognized as a leader and an employer of choice as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employer. . The Canadian Human Rights Commission publish a Guide to Screening and Selection that recommends how employers can target diverse population groups through advertisements in ethnic newspapers and publications that are read by cultural communities, women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal people and state that these target population groups are welcome to apply. Yet, many organizations fall short on recruiting; hiring and accommodation practices that assist in helping new Canadians feel welcome and safe in the workplace.
Satbir Thind is a bright, university educated young woman who has been employed as a Product Trainer with a small company that writes and publishes assessment tools for recruiters. Born and raised in Canada she began working part-time as a cashier for a large national retailer in Toronto. Upon completing their management training program she moved into a recruiter role. She states that she became aware of the number of applications from new Canadians that were overqualified for retail positions. “There were doctors applying for positions who just needed to make ends meet. They could be going to school at night.”
In 2005 she chose to return to BC and experienced discrimination first hand during her job search. In spite of her experience and education it was difficult to find employment in a similar position. For the first six months she worked as a temporary receptionist that paid $10.00 an hour. “I had to be pretty aggressive with the recruiter by insisting on a meeting. The recruiter managing her current position told her that she couldn’t her because she was going on vacation. Satbir states, “I told her that I’d be happy to meet with her before she left”. Unfortunately there isn’t really a happy ending.
The company employs less than 10 people. “I am the only non-white person in the company. They hired a few other non-Caucasians and they have all left.” For the past five years she has never been invited for lunch by her co-workers, nor does she socialize with them after work. She explains, “It’s the culture of the environment.”
An alternative job search strategy is that is quite effective are information interviews. An information interview is a proactive way of managing a job search that frequently by-passes recruiters. These interviews are always held with management whose primary objective is to find the most qualified applicant. Many companies provide a referral bonus for employees who provide qualified referrals as applicants. It is common knowledge in the career development industry that the hidden job market –those jobs not advertised – represents about 70-80% of all job. Advertised jobs make up about 20% in the local labour market. An information interview provides the employer and applicant to meet and learn about each other in a relaxed, nonthreatening discussion. The job seeker learns more about other organizations, the labour market and how to match their skills, knowledge and experience with the role that they are seeking. It is win-win opportunity for both the organization and the job seeker.