Navigating the Interview

The job interview is a high stakes interactional space where different expectations meet. Immigrant professionals bring their expertise, skills, education, and experiences with job search from their backgrounds as well as their culturally-informed expectations of how to demonstrate that they are the right candidate for the job. In Canada, HR professionals and hiring managers bring their expectations, explicit and implicit, of their desired candidate for the job. For example, some of the Canadian cultural norms that are found in the job interview interaction tend to include expectations the candidate has personal motivations to want the job (rather than family or community expectations of the candidate’s career choices) and is accustomed to speaking about their unique strengths and accomplishments (rather than centering their focus around teamwork and group successes). Even cultural patterns related to eye-contact and other non-verbal behaviors support judgments of an interview candidate’s suitability for the job. 

Based on research in Canada and the U.S., immigrants who fail to meet expectations in their responses to interview questions tend to be judged more negatively, as not a good fit with the workplace culture. The question related to having Canadian work experience can in part be asking, “Have you successfully fit into a Canadian workplace before?” Our Center’s work with Alberta employers suggests that both immigrants and HR professionals can be trained to notice these differences and to consider how they can adapt their response when they encounter unexpected communication behaviors within an interview. This project provides practical resources to enhance both hiring decisions for HR and job interview  communication skills and behavior for diverse candidates.

Lessons learned

Through comparison of video interviews by credible candidates from different cultural backgrounds, this project makes visible the invisible curriculum of diversity and inclusion in the Canadian job interview.  Newcomers engaging with the video and guide materials in workshop sessions identified greater confidence to describe what is expected from a job candidate for the position featured in the video and to explain what is valuable about the skills they bring to the interview. HR professionals engaging with the video and guide materials in workshop sessions identified greater confidence to describe what was expected from a job candidate in the interview as well as greater confidence to explain how cultural norms influence decisions to select a job candidate for a position. The videos supported all participants to better understand the perspectives influencing the interview as they related to small talk, questions about motivation, leadership, planning, conflict management and non-verbal communication. 


Navigating the Interview: A Guide for Candidates

Candidate Guide

Navigating the Interview: A Guide for Human Resources manual

Navigating the Interview: Assessment Activity


Read the transcripts of the interview videos

Other project information
Project time frame November 2013 – October 2014
Project team
  • Todd Odgers
  • Kerry Louw
  • Cheryl Whitelaw
Project sponsor Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour
Key project activities
  • Develop videos showing four job candidates from diverse backgrounds
  • Develop two guides to support HR professionals/employers to hire diverse job candidates and to support immigrant professionals to represent their expertise and experience within a Canadian job interview.
Target audience Human resource professionals, employers, immigrant professionals, immigrant-serving agencies.
Number of people involved in the project:

209 people including:

  • 5 project team members
  • 34 participants to create videos and guides
  • 170 participants in dissemination activities