Dear Jasmar: “My manager told me not to hire recent immigrants”
Updated: Feb 27, 2020
We are hiring for a new role. When we posted the job online, my manager told me not to hire anyone who recently immigrated to Canada. What should I do?
Thank you for sharing.
First of all, you're right to be concerned. We would never be okay with a manager saying to avoid all women or not to hire anyone from Denmark. Whether your manager is discriminating against applicants from protected groups or against applicants for their hair colour, this hurts applicants and the company. Only qualities directly relevant to the job should be used as hiring criteria.
But, you know this. The problem is that your manager can get away with this behaviour in the context of your company’s hiring process. And, unless you’ve got a psychologically safe team environment, the power dynamics between you and your manager could make it challenging to address this directly with them.
There are a few things you can do if your manager asks you to screen out a whole group of new Canadians when hiring:
Understand your managers’ concerns
Tell your manager that you want to understand why they set this screening rule.
Your manager might think that new immigrants are simply harder to hire and manage. They wouldn’t be alone. When interviewed, hiring managers said that foreign-sounding names led them to question whether the applicant:
speaks fluent English,
is eligible to work in Canada,
observes different holidays that require time off, and
takes more vacation to visit distant family or friends.
Or, they may be worried about “cultural fit”. Will the person fit into their team culture? Despite your company’s policy to hire for diversity of thinking, managing diversity is harder. When we are trying to get the job done as soon as possible, leveraging the culture add of team members who think differently feels too hard.
Once you know why your manager is concerned about new Canadians, you can address their worries.
Dispel unfounded assumptions with real applicant information
Design the recruitment process to gather information from the applicant pool directly. Then, use these facts to refute your managers’ assumptions about new Canadians. For example:
Administer a short English-language test to screen all applicants on communication skills,
Require and then verify work eligibility with a 5-second screening question,
Be clear and transparent about benefits in the job description, including vacation time and policies for religious holidays
Design the selection and interview process to interrupt manager bias
If you add small nudges to the hiring process with behavioural design, hiring managers can focus on skills instead of applicants’ immigrant status. These are some techniques to remove bias in hiring:
Anonymize the applicant files you share with your manager. Let them pick or confirm the top applicants to advance without seeing the school they went to, their name, their address, or any cues about their cultural background. EY used this to diversify their workforce.
Use structured interviews, where interviewees receive the same questions in the same order. Structured interviews reduce bias and make panel interviews more reliable, but they don’t need to be robotic or inhuman.
Remind your manager that leaders of the future are inclusive
Your manager cannot succeed as a future leader unless they build the skills to lead everyone – so what will motivate them to try? One strong motivator is what managers might lose if they don’t hire the most qualified person for the job. Maybe a trusted peer can remind your manager of what their company will lose, in money and performance, if their hiring process is not fair – and what they will miss out in in terms of missed leadership opportunities. Yes, managing diverse teams can be harder, but innovation comes from diverse-thinking groups who are comfortable sharing ideas. If your manager can build a team like that, imagine the positive impact, for everyone.
These conversations are never easy, but I know you can do it.
We’re rooting for you,
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The Jasmar Group is a behaviour change consultancy that helps organizations build team belonging, culture, and performance.