You Worked Where? That’s Good Enough.

A proposed bill in Canada would ban requiring job candidates to have in-country work experience. What’s behind the change?

In the not-too-distant future, employers in one of North America’s biggest cities may ban requiring prospective candidates to have domestic work experience. If this does come to pass, experts and employers on both sides of the border are eager to see how the change plays out.

In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province—as well as the home of Toronto—the government introduced legislation this week prohibiting employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job postings or on application forms. It’s the latest in a series of moves proposed or enacted by governments and private organizations—in both the US and Canada—intended to overcome hiring biases within organizations and to match skilled workers with the right roles. “There are plenty of clients trying to move from evaluating what candidates have done before to what candidates can do,” says David Ellis, Korn Ferry vice president of global talent acquisition transformation.

Removing work requirements on postings aims, at least initially, to solve a particularly Canadian problem, says David Herrera, Korn Ferry’s Canada-based head of people and organization analytics. The government is relying on immigrants to fill roles and grow the economy. The Canadian work-experience requirement has been a significant barrier. “People are ready to join the workforce, but when they get here, they can’t find jobs aligned to their skills and expertise,” Herrera says. The move also could have a positive impact on diversity and inclusion within organizations, he adds.

The planned ban still has to be passed by the Ontario provincial government. So far, no other provinces or US states have introduced similar legislation. But there are plenty of ongoing public and private attempts to expand the job-candidate pool and remove bias.

On job postings, for example, companies have experimented with adding salary details, advertising flexible working arrangements, and dropping requirements for undergraduate degrees and GPA minimums. During résumé reviews, some organizations now remove a candidate’s name to minimize the effect of recruiters’ preconceived notions about background. Some of these moves have helped take bias out of the hiring process, says Dan Kaplan, a Korn Ferry senior client partner who recruits chief human resources officers.

To be sure, these moves aren’t foolproof. In Canada, companies can still require that candidates have certain licenses which cannot be acquired except via domestic employment. At the same time, even if organizations can’t require Canadian work experience, they’re not precluded from preferring candidates who have it, says Tanya van Biesen, managing partner for Korn Ferry’s Board & CEO Services practice in Canada. “That still exists in some corners,” she says.

Experts also say that requiring fewer qualifications may actually create more room for individual bias to creep in. “You could end up hiring more people who are exactly the same as the current workforce,’ Kaplan says.


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