Friday, 10 March 2017 02:34

Looking Beyond the Name on a Resumé

Commentary by Vivian Li in Toronto

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare gave us the famous line “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While he was stating, with a noble intention, that it’s not the name of a person but their content and character that truly matters, we know that in 2017 our relationship with our own names and how they’re perceived by others isn’t so simple.

Names matter. For many people they’re a major reflection of our identities, origins, family histories, and the expectations and wishes of our parents symbolized onto us by the very word we use to not only personally identify with but also to introduce ourselves to the world.

When it comes to employment, recent research has shown that names definitely do have an impact on how people are perceived and unfortunately this can manifest in a negative way.

A newly released joint University of Toronto and Ryerson study shows discrimination and hiring bias are present when it comes to applicants with Asian (defined in the study as Indian, Pakistani or Chinese) names. In a study of data from a 2011 Canadian employment audit, researchers analyzed nearly 13,000 job applications for over 3000 job postings in Toronto and Montreal.

Even when all qualifications were equal and the individual was Canadian in origin, the study found that applicants with an Asian name were 28 per cent less likely to get called for an interview compared to applicants with a more traditional Anglo-based name. The callback rate for an interview deteriorates even further when the applicant’s education or work experience was from outside of Canada.

Small vs. Big organizations

The study also shows that smaller companies exhibit even worse discrimination than larger organizations, likely due to lack of resources and internal diversity awareness programs. In companies with fewer than 500 employees, the chance of an applicant with an Asian name and of Canadian origin getting a call for an interview was 42% less, and this drops to a staggering 68% less when the applicant’s education and work history was international.

Following the release of the study, RBC and Ryerson University co-sponsored a panel discussion event moderated by Ratna Omidvar, Senator and Visiting Professor, Global Diversity Exchange at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The goal was to explore the challenges discovered by the research and identify ways to eliminate these types of persisting hiring biases.

Hiring from the community

As an Asian Canadian and one of the RBCers who were invited to the event and discussion, my feelings were hopeful but also bittersweet. On the one hand, I continue to be very proud of working for a company like RBC where 33 per cent of our workforce is made up of visible minorities, surpassing the Canadians average of 25 per cent by a sizable margin.

In my role as Senior Manager, Inclusive Recruitment, I know from a wide range of personal experiences that hiring from the community to serve the community has always been one of our most effective and rewarding guiding principles. We’ve passionately built a suite of forward-thinking programs designed to help immigrants and new Canadians build their career at RBC, including ourCareer Edge internship and TRIEC mentoring programs, and RBC volunteers also actively participate in various speed-mentoring events with newcomers to help us look beyond a resume and meet the person behind the name.

Visible minorities are also highly represented in our own recruitment team, which helps us build the cultural competency needed to truly understand the nuanced needs of new Canadians and leads us to address unconscious bias when it comes to screening resumes.

On the other hand, if the study indicates that society in general still interprets minority status negatively then it unavoidably has a potentially negative impact in organizations all across Canada.

Hiring biases

Canada is an immigrant country and by 2035, almost 100 per cent of the Canadian population growth will depend on immigration. Hiring bias against minorities will hugely impact our ability to build competitive advantage both as a company and a country.

So what can we do differently?

We often talk about how diversity is the mix and inclusion is how we make the mix work well together. The bottom line is that in order to make the mix work well together, each one of us needs to look within and examine our own conscious or unconscious bias. It is human nature to favour people who are most like us and view people who are in our own groups as being more favourable than “the others.” A lot of the time, addressing unconscious is about asking ourselves uncomfortable questions (see graphic alongside).

With that in mind, my challenge to everyone is this: the next time you’re looking at a resume and decide to put it aside, pause for a moment and ask yourself why you are doing it… and then look at the name.

Vivian Li is a Senior Manager responsible for inclusive recruitment at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). Prior to her experience in RBC, Vivian worked as an HR professional with Bell Canada.

Published in Economy

by Danica Samuel in Toronto 

Focusing on developing immigrants’ soft skills may be one solution to increasing the hiring and retention of newcomers in the workplace. 

This was just one of several strategies to come out of discussions on the first day of the 18th National Metropolis Conference at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto this past week. 

“Twenty-two per cent of employers said soft skills is the reason that newcomers are not able to retain work,” explained Nadil Jamil, policy strategist for Peel Newcomer Strategy Group, during a workshop titled “Multi-Sectoral Collaboration: Towards Innovative Strategies for the Employment Retention of Newcomers”. “This was also the second highest reason we found in our research.” 

Jamil said the group’s 2015 employment survey found that even if newcomers are able to secure employment, job retention continues to be a problem due to a lack of soft skills. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he varying definitions [of soft skills] are where the problem ultimately lies.[/quote]

“What does ‘soft skills’ mean?” she asked audience members. Skills like the comprehension of hierarchy and simple workplace courtesy were some of the responses. Jamil concluded that the varying definitions are where the problem ultimately lies. 

She emphasized that it’s also very important to ask, “How can soft skills for newcomers be improved without imposing on specific cultural norms?” 

Who is the ‘right fit’? 

The workshop went on to explore the perceptions of newcomers and the cultural norms of employers. 

“Why aren’t immigrants considered integral when it comes to the hiring process?” asked Sangeeta Subramanian, senior manager in workplace development for British Columbia’s Immigration Employment Council (IEC). 

She addressed the idea of a ‘right-fit’ and described it through an employer’s lens, which often means hiring someone who reflects their own image.

She went on to say that sustaining collaborative partnerships with recruiters working with immigrants specifically can help attract, hire, and retain them in the labour markets. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][S]trategically challenging the language employers use when seeking new hires will lead them into changing their perspective.[/quote]

Workshop panellist, Rodel Imbarlina-Ramos, who is the manager of employer relations at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), agreed that strategically challenging the language employers use when seeking new hires will lead them into changing their perspective. 

Ramos said that it’s a matter of pitching new concepts to employers, without specifically mentioning words that may bring attention to race, diversity and newcomer inclusion. 

“All of a sudden we have changed the language by taking the cultural component out so it isn’t about whether someone is a student, a new grad or new to the workplace, nor is it about if an individual is new to Canada, it’s about trying to get the most out of people in the workplace.” 

Anita Sampson Binder, vice-president of ARES Staffing Solutions, calls this employer language tactic “soft educating.” 

“We don’t want to nail employers that we are trying to have on board. We want to encourage them to take the right steps forward in including immigrants and racialized people,” she explained during another workshop titled “Employer Strategies to Support Immigrant Employment”, which discussed the integration of immigrants in the workplace and employers’ perception of ‘foreign’ faces. 

Governments to play a role also 

Director of the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Office, Uzma Shakir, said getting employers and government officials to listen is the frustrating part. 

“Twenty-seven years later, and I’m still talking about this,” she stated. 

Shakir explained that government bodies, like the City of Toronto, are just as responsible as any other employer for the hiring of newcomers. 

Her four-step module is just a start in creating a better environment for immigrants, racialized groups, aboriginals and people with disabilities. 

It includes the implementation of an employment equity policy, the Accessibility Of Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA), a human rights and anti-harassment/discrimination policy and legislation to ‘expand’ protection to all residents with or without documentation and the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, which applies a newcomer lens to all activities. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We’re trying to steer away from blaming the newcomer and focus on how we can engage employers ..."[/quote]

Newcomers not to blame

Julia Ramirez, project coordinator of the Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) of Fredericton, introduced a strategy not only for employers and policy makers, but for immigrants and citizens as well. 

Her Newcomer Service Map is a new strategy that the LIP of Fredericton plans on using to integrate the community’s feedback and knowledge to facilitate immigration settlement. 

“The idea is to enhance the collaboration and partnership around community members.”  

Ramirez also suggested that there needs to be a change in the employers’ perception of skilled immigrant workers. 

“It’s not that [immigrants or newcomers don’t] want to do the work,” explained Ramirez. “It’s that the company doesn’t want to receive them.” 

“We’re trying to steer away from blaming the newcomer and focus on how we can engage employers in a way that solves this ongoing problem,” Jamil added. 

Results of Peel region’s soft skills research study will be released in May 2016 and the LIP of Fredericton’s Newcomer Service Map will launch later this month.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Economy

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