The tools and resources suggested can help create an environment where international candidates thrive and contribute their diverse skills and perspectives, ultimately enriching the organization's overall success.


When it comes to recruitment and selection, considerations and resources around interview questions, processes and practices, and work-integrated learning opportunities for international students and graduates could help mitigate potential gaps or perceived barriers.

Cultivating a diverse workforce is also an opportunity to acknowledge potential inequities in the workplace and how employers can actively contribute to positive change.

Interview questions for culturally diverse candidates

Consider the following.

Simplify language

Strive for simplicity and clear and straightforward language in your interview approach by avoiding acronyms, figures of speech, slang, jokes, abbreviations and idioms that may not easily translate across cultures.[1]

While many of us use humour and small talk to make candidates more comfortable during the interview if international candidates do not understand your jokes or appear to struggle with small talk, recognize that it is likely a sign of cultural differences and does not reflect their communication skills.

Culturally-Competent Communication for Interviews Interviewing Immigrant Candidates

Accents and informal communication proficiency

Accents and informal communication proficiency can impact the initial interview phase. Someone with a foreign accent to Canada should not be equated with a lower capability, intelligence or ability to connect with colleagues.

Existing societal norms may sometimes breed these misconceptions. Determine if strong communication skills are vital for safety-critical roles, communication-focused positions, or simply a preference. When assessing candidates, it’s important to reflect on whether their accent reflects language proficiency.

Consider implementing language equity practices such as competency-based testing that can assess a candidate’s communication abilities objectively, based on job requirements and qualifications for the role, allowing them to demonstrate skills through practical tasks or simulations rather than by describing them.[1]

Culturally-Competent Awareness of Body Language at Interviews Testing Performance and Skills on Key Job Criteria – Interview Stage Competency-Based Interviews Competency-Based Interviews Creating an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Research Environment: A Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Hiring and Retention Virtual Interviews (WES)

Revisit and reframe interview questions

Consider taking a fresh look at your interview questions through a lens of cultural sensitivity.

An employer shared that certain behavioural-based interview questions may not resonate well with individuals from diverse cultures, potentially hindering effective information gathering.

For instance, a question like “Tell us about a time when you doubted your abilities” may be challenging for candidates from cultures that discourage vulnerability or view it as unacceptable.

Appreciating the potential difficulties associated with such questions ensures a more inclusive and meaningful interview experience.

Rephrasing Interview Questions - For HR Professionals and Employers Interviewing candidates. Alberta Human Rights Commission Interviewing and making hiring decisions Ontario Human Rights Commission Canadian human rights commission – Your Guide to Understanding the Canadian Human Rights Act National Playbook – World Education Services (WES)

Revisit Canadian experience requirements

Question whether Canadian experience is actually integral to the skills and performance needed in the role. If not, remove it.[2] 

Basing hiring and accreditation decisions solely on Canadian experience as a measure of skills and abilities does not determine one’s competency or potential for success.[3] 

Of unemployed recent immigrants, 40% highlighted the lack of Canadian work experience as a significant obstacle.[4]

Rethinking Assumptions: Unpacking Canadian Work Experience Employer Resource Toolkit Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier – A guide for employers and regulatory bodies Creating an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Research Environment: A Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Hiring and Retention

Provide work-integrated learning opportunities

Take advantage of opportunities for applicants to demonstrate their qualifications through internships, practicums, co-ops, short-term contracts or positions that include probationary periods.[5]

Did you know?

You can hire a practicum/co-op student or submit a project for one of our many capstone courses!

To learn more about SAIT’s work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities and how you can connect with our students in the classroom, contact our work-integrated learning liaison at

In this toolkit

1. Why international talent matters 2. Navigating barriers to recruitment 3. Hiring international students and graduates 4. Creating inclusive company culture
A man laughing. He is on the cover of the international talent toolkit.

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[1] Timmins Employer Council. Defining Employer Barriers: Employer Recruitment and Retention Strategies Report & Toolkit
[2] The Conference Board of Canada (2022). The “Canadian Experience” Disconnect. Immigrant Selection, Economic Settlement, and Hiring. Impact Paper
[3] Ontario Human Rights Commission. Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier – A guide for employers and regulatory bodies.
[4] Agopsowicz, A., & Billy-Ochieng, R. (2019). Untapped Potential: Canada needs to close its immigrant wage gap. RBC Economics.
[5] Ontario Human Rights Commission. Removing the “Canadian experience” barrier – A guide for employers and regulatory bodies.