How to Conduct Culturally-Savvy Interviews


Use immigrant-friendly language and allow for differences in communication styles. English isn’t a first — or even second — language for many immigrants, and Canadian workplace culture is new for all immigrants. During interviews, immigrants are working much harder than non-immigrant applicants. Expect miscommunication and awkwardness (small talk can be particularly uncomfortable).

To improve communication, avoid slang, jargon and unnecessarily technical language. See Culturally-Competent Communication for Interviews for more suggestions.

You may also want to rephrase common interview questions

Because of communication challenges, telephone screening may not be effective for immigrants, although interviewers can be trained to work past the different communication styles to get an accurate picture of the candidate’s ability.

Interview Strategies

Use scenario-based questions to assess how the candidate would perform on the job. Ask for examples and specifics or enable the candidate to demonstrate their skills. If language is a barrier to accurate assessment, use practice- based ways of determining a candidate’s ability (a very valuable approach for all candidates.)

Body Language

Ideas of “personal space” and appropriate body language differ between cultures. What seems rude, forward or reticent may have a different meaning entirely for your interviewee.

See Tool 3: Culturally-Competent Awareness of Body Language at Interviews.

Experience vs Canadian Experience

Ask what experience the interviewee has that is relevant and valuable in Canada, instead of asking about “Canadian experience”.

Cross Cultural Interviewing

Tip Sheet 3: How to Conduct a Culturally-Sensitive Job Interview

The above content was adapted from IEC-BC.

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