RBC has a long history of supporting newcomers, and recruiting and fully integrating immigrants in their workplace. In fact, in 2019, RBC was one of three employers recognized by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for its outstanding work with newcomers. The bank and TRIEC have enjoyed a partnership for more than a decade to create diverse and inclusive workplaces in the GTA.

As part of the #ImmigrantsWork campaign, we want to gather and share tools, resources, and best practices from employers who make leveraging newcomer talent a strategic priority. As such, we recently spoke to Vivian Li, who is senior manager of inclusive recruitment at the bank. In her role, she designs and delivers inclusive recruitment strategies to help RBC build its competitive edge through attracting and attaining an inclusive workforce.

Below, she proudly shares one workshop she leads to internal and external parties called “Remove Hiring Bias”. The training teaches best ways of inclusive hiring to organizational leaders and hiring managers through raising awareness and removing their own hiring biases – conscious or unconscious – in the recruitment process.

Firstly, why are diverse and inclusive hiring practices a priority at RBC?

Vivian: At RBC, we grow as an organization by sharing unique perspectives. As individuals, we’re able to approach challenges differently and create more innovative solutions. This further helps us attract and retain the best talent, and better serve and meet the needs of our increasingly diverse client markets.

I’m passionate about the work I do as it creates innovative win-win solutions. As an immigrant myself, I understand the challenges newcomer job seekers face and am committed to paying it forward through my work supporting newcomers find employment opportunities. I’m proud to say that between 2017 to 2020, my team has supported over 4,000 newcomers in their job search through our events, workshops, trainings and webinars.

(Photo: Vivian Li, Sr, Manager, Inclusive Recruitment, RBC)

When and how did the ‘Remove Hiring Bias’ training come to existence?

Vivian: I developed the training three years ago as I could not find a training module that suited RBC’s inclusive hiring needs. There were a lot of trainings in the market focusing on unconscious bias for employers, but many of them were too generic for us. This training allows us to look into each recruitment stage (attracting, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, etc.) and go to a much deeper level at addressing hiring bias. It is designed for hiring managers and organizational leaders from all sectors.

What is the structure of the workshop?

Vivian: We first deep dive into the importance of developing and implementing an inclusive talent strategy to build a competitive edge. Organizations must understand why hiring newcomer talent is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. It’s simply good business. Immigrant professionals offer unique perspectives and experiences which help fill the skills and labour shortages that exist in a workplace.

We then go into the concept of bias, more specifically, unconscious bias. Recruiters and hiring managers have biases that they are not fully aware of and that is why we need to check our “blind spots”. “Blinds spots” prevent recruiters from truly tapping into the diverse talent pool of newcomers. And this is a shame. So the key here is to first recognize that we have unconscious biases and then identify what they are in each of us. It’s vital that employers are self-aware and check their biases at the door before starting the recruitment process. This is the first step.

Once we understand that there are biases that impact us in making the best hiring decisions, we look at common examples. For instance, even before the interview, are resume screeners predisposed to give favour to those with “Canadian experience”? This is an important one because too many newcomers still face the “no Canadian experience or education, no job” barrier when they try to re-launch their careers in Canada. Furthermore, do candidates with recognizable “Canadian names” like “John” or “Eric” unconsciously get preferential treatment than those with hard-to-pronounce foreign names?

During the actual interview process, a hiring manager may judge someone who has limited knowledge in subjects that make up Canadian culture such as hockey and politics, or is uncomfortable engaging in small talk (i.e. how wonderful and terrible the weather has been lately). Small talk may be an important skill to have in the Canadian workplace context, but it may be frowned upon or unnecessary in business contexts in other cultures. Once our blind spots are checked, the workshop works with each participant on how they can proactively ensure the whole recruitment process is inclusive and fair.

Finally, being self-aware of our blind spots is critical to ensuring the best talent is not only onboarded, but retained and promoted for the benefit of the organization. This kind of inclusive workplace culture often starts at the top and that’s why inclusive leadership is so important. The training touches on what it means to be an inclusive leader and why setting the right tone as a leader will trickle down to the rest of the organization.

On the matter of “checking your blind spots”, can you further give other examples of biases?

Vivian: There are so many unconscious biases that interviewers and hiring managers can be on the lookout for. Are they influenced by the candidate’s accent? Lack of (or too much) eye contact? The way they look or dress? Communication style? It really disservices recruiters and hiring managers if these blind spots are not addressed. Last year, I published a LinkedIn post on this subject.

How does unconscious bias hurt newcomer job seekers as much as the hiring organization?

A lot of times, employers’ conscious or unconscious bias during the recruitment process contributes to the challenges that newcomer communities face. As a result, newcomers are often underemployed in the Canadian labour market and the immigrant pay gap has sadly widened compared to 30 years ago. On the employer side, hiring bias prevents them from inviting the most capable and most experienced candidates to the organization which is a huge loss considering a large portion of the Canadian future workforce will depend on immigrant professionals. Effective inclusive recruitment practice is very important not only to job seekers but to the organization’s future workforce and business.


If you or your organization is interested in participating in the next “Remove Hiring Bias” training, contact Daniel Kim for more information.