The Hiring Practices pillar promotes fair recruitment and hiring practices by identifying and removing barriers that prevent diverse people from applying for and being successful in job competitions.



In This Section



Understand Bias


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bias as: an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment: prejudice. 

bi-as: an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice

Biases can come in two forms: Personal and Organizational. Both types of biases can have a negative impact on building diverse and welcoming workplaces. 


Personal Bias

Personal bias is a person’s belief about a particular group of people, positive or negative. It can cause us to make incorrect assumptions about others based on our expectations about behaviour rather than on actual behaviour.  

Biases often happen as a result of differences between people.  For instance:

  • Body language is expressed differently in different cultures. For example, in Canada eye contact is associated with honest communication however in some Latin and Asian countries averted eyes are a sign of respect. Similarly, people from some cultures do not feel comfortable shaking hands. Some people may view this as lack of respect or ignorance.
  • In many cultures, religion is a more dominate part of life than it is in Canadian culture.  Workers from some cultures may also have different religious beliefs and follow certain customs.
  • Grooming, food preferences, cooking and attire vary from country to country and culture to culture.  For example, some people wear a headdress as part of their custom and to remain true to their beliefs may want to wear it in their workplace.

These differences need to be respected, where possible, and certainly not ignored.


How to Combat Personal Bias

The best way to start is to become aware of potential biases and make concerted efforts to understand and change them.  Remember, bias can apply to any difference (for example, individuals with a disability or who speak a different language, sex, age, religious beliefs etc.)  Here are some ideas to raise your awareness and help you combat personal bias:


6 Steps to Changing Personal Bias

  1. Reflect: Spend time reflecting on the biases that you might have. Think through how they might have been formed and if they are based on sound logic or reason.
  2. Confront: Consider why you might be holding onto a bias. Is it because of fear? A preventative measure based on a bad experience? Is it because of security? A crutch that helps you feel better about yourself?
  3. Engage: One of the best ways to eliminate bias is to prove it wrong through personal experience and engagement. Have a conversation with someone from a different culture or background. Take note of how getting to know them as an individual helped to dispel your bias.
  4. Commit: Commit to experiencing individuals. Remember that everyone is unique, not a stereotype of a group. Make your relationships about the individual, not about group membership.
  5. Maintain: Embrace each opportunity to meet new people of all kinds and appreciate the differences and unique elements that make that person who they are.
  6. Discuss: Talk about your experiences with biases and with overcoming them. Encourage others to talk about their experiences too. Use discussion to help point out lingering blind spots and how to build a bias-free workplace.


Organizational Bias

In an organization bias is expressed when certain individuals are favored over others in decision-making.  Biases can be found in the organization’s policies, processes and procedures and create barriers to people who do not fit into the dominant culture of the organization.  These barriers are usually unintentional and are often based on well-intentioned HR policies and practices. 


Discrimination in the Workplace

Organizational biases can result in two types of discrimination: Adverse Effect Discrimination and Systemic Discrimination. Both forms of discrimination are Human Rights issues. It is not acceptable from a human rights perspective for an organization to choose to remain unaware of systemic discrimination or to fail to act when a problem comes to its attention.


Adverse Effect Discrimination

Adverse effect discrimination is a result of a neutral employment rule, practice or policy that disadvantages an individual or a protected group. Some examples include:

    • A waitress at a restaurant is told she must wear the restaurant uniform. She is Muslim and wears a hijab (head scarf). Her employer says that she must dress like everyone else and remove her hijab.
    • Mike is a single father of a special needs child. His child has appointments with a specialist every Friday morning. Mike asks his boss if he can start and end work an hour later on Fridays. Mike’s boss insists that Mike work the same hours as everyone else.


Systemic Discrimination:

Systemic discrimination arises as result of the rules, policies or practices that prevent equal employment opportunities for all people: namely how the organization recruits, hires, develops and promotes their employees.  Organizations need to be aware that their “normal way of doing things” may be creating systemic discrimination.


For instance:

    • Recruitment methods have a strong influence on the pool of candidates available to the employer. Some policies and practices tend to inappropriately screen out some individuals making them seem unqualified for the job. Informal policies, practices and decision-making processes are particularly problematic as there is more room for subjective considerations and differing standards, allowing biases to come into play.
    • Certain training and development practices may exclude certain employees. Given that ability to engage in continuous learning is a significant factor for employee morale it is prudent for organizations to monitor that all employees are participating in training and development opportunities at the same rate.
    • Systems for promoting employees may also create obstacles for career progression for some individuals. As with all other decision-making, the use of informal guidelines rather than written or circulated policies are more likely create those obstacles. 


Identifying and Remedying Systemic Barriers in Your Organization.

To increase diversity in your organization systemic biases need to be identified and systems need to be put in place to ensure that they are eliminated.


A good way to determine if your organization has biases is to compare the demographics of your workforce against local demographics. Check out the demographics for your community here: Statistics Canada.


There are many tools and resources throughout this website that can help you identify systemic barriers in your organization and assist you to design new policies and practices that account for individual differences in people.  Start with the Organizational Bias Worksheet available to help you check your company for biases.


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Attracting Skill and Talent

Employees come and employees go even in the most successful businesses - that’s a fact of life.

For most employers it’s not easy to find new workers; competition for skill and talent is high.  Looking to non-traditional labour pools will enable you to tap into a larger pool of potential employees and give you the extra advantage in attracting workers. 

Building a workplace that respects and values the different backgrounds and perspectives of all your employees will also help attract new employees. Furthermore building diversity into the organization  will help build and maintain the strength of your workforce.  The strategies and tools you use to help you find workers can help or hinder your efforts to increase diversity in your workforce.  It’s important to establish clear processes and policies that do not inadvertently create barriers to otherwise qualified candidates. The following are some tips and practical guidelines that will help.


Writing the Job Ad

As a starting point, your job posting should be based on an accurate and up-to-date job description.  Download the job description template which will help you to draft the job description. 

Download the job ad template which will help you to draft your job ad. 

When drafting the job ad consider the following:

  • Use simple language and keep “industry speak” to a minimum. English may not be an applicant’s first language.
  • Lay aside preconceptions about what it takes to do a job and who you are looking for. 
  • Be careful not to inflate job requirements.  For example asking for a Master’s degree when a Bachelor's is all that is required. 
  • Use culturally neutral qualifications.  For example asking for the “ability to plan a project and complete it to required timelines”, rather than asking for a specific project management credentials. 
  • Consider transferable skills.  A person’s experience in an unpaid volunteer position may have given them the skills they need to do the job.
  • Be clear about which qualifications are ‘must haves’ and which ones are a bonus but not required.
  • Prior experience should be considered regardless of where it was obtained – limiting candidates to only those with “Canadian experience” can eliminate great candidates.
  • Specifying desired personality traits can screen out or discourage candidates.
  • Let people know that you are looking for applications from people in diverse groups. 
  • Highlight what’s interesting about the job.
  • Let people apply using a variety of formats including email, fax, in person, and standard mail.
  • Include a values statement that includes the principles of diversity in your organization.  See the Commitment Pillar for support in writing a values statement.

Go to the NS HR Toolkit to find more “do’s” and “do not’s” for writing job ads.


Advertising the Job

Job vacancies should be widely circulated so that they can readily come to the attention of all persons.  But remember, many of the people who have the skills and qualifications you are looking for may not check the places that you usually advertise.  Job ads and postings that clearly describe the position and qualifications should be widely circulated so that they can readily come to the attention of all persons.

These are the traditional channels for recruiting new employees:

  • Career websites such as the JobBank, Career Beacon, and Monster
  • The company website 
  • Local and regional newspapers and flyers
  • Trade journals
  • Personal networks: family, friends and colleagues. Referrals from employees
  • Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Job fairs

Here are some strategies for reaching potential employees:

  • Organizations that promote diversity such Immigration Settlement organizations and Newcomer networks
  • Organizations that specialize in placing workers from under-represented labour groups
  • Sector councils and membership organizations
  • Bulletin boards in community facilities and stores
  • Co-op education centres at local universities
  • International student associations at local universities
  • Notices sent out by community groups
  • Recruitment agencies 

Finally don’t forget to leverage the diverse thinking of your team.  They may be a source of all sorts of practical ideas and advice for reaching diverse groups. Ask for their opinions and involve them.  See the NS HR Toolkit Finding Workers pages for more information on traditional and non-traditional methods for recruiting employees.


Your organization’s culture can be your greatest asset

As in any community word travels fast about a good thing.  Building your reputation as an employer that values different backgrounds and talents and that respects and recognizes the different perspectives of all their employees will establish your organization as an employer of choice.  

If your workforce is multilingual or multicultural, diverse workers will likely feel more comfortable about applying. Writing a values statement that includes the principles of diversity, and highlighting it in all your recruitment strategies, will help you get noticed and attract more applicants.  See the Leadership Pillar for help in writing your Diversity Values Statement.

Let people inside and outside of your organization know about your workplace diversity strategy or about your diversity-friendly workplace culture.  Ideas for doing this can be found in the Communication page


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Screening Resumes

It is recommended that you use a two-step process to screen resumes. In the first screening, identify everyone who meets the “must have” qualifications outlined in your job posting. These typically include a minimum level of education and work experience.

On the second screening, you need to look more closely at a smaller number of applicants. The following are some criteria you might consider using to help you during this second round:

  • Does the candidate’s education or training match the job description?
  • Does the candidate’s experience match the experience a person needs in order to do the job?
  • Do the candidate’s skills and abilities match the job description?

Take Into Account Cultural Differences in Resume Styles

  • Diverse groups may format their resumes differently. Example: It is traditional in some cultures for a person to add personal information or their photo in a resume.
  • Candidates may have useful experience that comes from non-traditional or unconventional areas. Example: An applicant may have worked at a similar job as a volunteer.
  • Some people may have followed a non-traditional career path. Example: Women and people with disabilities may have taken time out of the workforce. New immigrants may take longer to earn a post-graduate degree as they may need time to adapt to their new country, or language.

You can find a template to help you screen resumes by Clicking Here.



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Structured Interviews

The best way to interview someone is to use a structured interview. In a structured interview you can be more objective as each applicant is asked the same questions and their answers are evaluated in the same way. This is particularly relevant for diverse workers who may have different mannerisms and different ways of answering interview questions.


How a Structured Interview Works

  • Interviewers ask all candidates the same interview questions.
  • Interview questions relate to the job description.
  • Interview questions focus on ways that applicants behave and examples of their experiences at work, not on their opinions or how they evaluate themselves. Have the applicants describe situations with examples.
  • Interviewers use a rating scale to rate each answer in the interview. The scale provides rates for different types of behaviours so that interviewers can rate all applicants consistently.
  • Interviewers score the interview by totaling the scores for each question
  • Interviewers take detailed notes of how the applicant responds to questions in the interview, not of their impressions of the applicant.
  • Interviewers invite applicants to ask questions at the END of the interview. Click here for an Interview Question Template and an Interview Rating Guide that will help you select interview questions and rate candidate responses.


What You Can and Can't Ask in the Interview

Human rights legislation protects employees and job applicants from discrimination. As an employer it is important for you to be familiar with human rights legislation in Canada. 


CLICK HERE! To see what questions you can and cannot ask during an interview.


Tips for Developing Interview Questions

  • Avoid language that is too informal as well as wording that is more complex than necessary.
  • Avoid questions that require a person to understand a specific culture.
  • Avoid questions that may mean nothing to a person: words with subtle meanings, colloquialisms, or jokes.
  • Make sure the interview questions are at the right level of comprehension for the job, not more complex.
  • Think about conducting the interview in an applicant’s first language if the person does not require good communication skills in a specific language to do the job.


Tips on How to Conduct Fair and Effective Interviews

Before the Interview

  • Review key documents (job descriptions, job postings, interview questions).
  • Develop interview rating scales and create booklets for note-taking.

During the Interview

  • If possible, have multiple people conduct the same interviews (a panel).
  • Use a standard introduction that is the same for each applicant: explain the format of the interview, the questions to expect, and how the panel will record responses.
  • Be aware of cultural differences when conducting interviews. For example, an applicant may not make eye contact as a sign of respect in his or her culture. Do not assume that the applicant is disinterested or disrespectful.
  • Use follow-up questions to get more detailed answers from the applicant.
  • Allow the applicant to ask questions.
  • Conclude the interview by thanking the applicant and providing information on the next steps in the process (e.g. when the applicant will hear back from your company).

 After the Interview

  • Have each interviewer review and score the responses on their own.
  • Once each interviewer has scored all candidates, compare the scores.
  • Combine these scores with the other information you have collected from the applicants, such as resumes, job applications, and reference checks to make a final score for each applicant.



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Reference Checks

The final step in the screening process is to check a person’s references. The best references come from a supervisor who has worked directly with the applicant. When you check a reference it is important to ask the right questions. Here are some questions to ask when you call:

• Ask about the most specific information from the job application.

• Ask about the applicant’s last job, using questions such as: “What types of customers did this person serve in their job?” “How much independence did this person have in their job?” “How complex was this person’s job?”

• Ask the person giving the reference to compare this applicant with other employees at their company performing the same job. Example: “If you gave your worst employee a rating of 1 and your best a rating of 10, what rating would you give this person?”

• Ask the person giving the reference to tell you about how the applicant behaved. Ask for specific information. Example: “Describe a situation in which this person performed exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly.”

• Ask specific questions about how the applicant behaved as they did their job.

• Ask if they would ever rehire the individual. If a reference says ‘no’ ask why?

Be mindful that contacting a current supervisor may place the applicant in a difficult position in their current job. Only contact a current supervisor if it is absolutely necessary, and ask the applicant for permission first.


A template has been created to help you develop questions for a reference. Click Here to view the template.



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Downloadable Resources