November 24, 2022

In collaboration with SEASONOVA, we recently brought together 119 immigrant and racialized women and youth to hear their stories about entering the Canadian workforce. In this blog, we will explore these women’s stories about looking for a job while facing negative experiences, from the application process to the interview stage.

Even though the Canadian government takes in skilled immigrants to address labour shortages, most participants whom we consulted in a recent focus group discussion have expressed that not having “Canadian work experience” is a major barrier to being selected for interviews. For newcomer women, this is especially challenging. One participant shared:

“Being screened out because of a lack of Canadian experience is not fair. If nobody is given a chance, how do we get Canadian experience in the first place?!”

During the consultation, 91% of immigrant and racialized women shared that they’ve had negative experiences during the job application process.

Participants noted that even if they have extensive work experience, it is dismissed since it was not locally acquired. Some women expressed that this is a barrier and potentially a form of discrimination.

I had the experience of working for international organizations and working internationally but I was astonished because I kept sending my CV and applying for jobs but no answer because I had no Canadian experience…”

Only accepting the “Canadian experience” not only affects immigrant and racialized women but employers as well. Finding an alternative to this requirement, such as years of experience, education levels or recognizing international work experience, can address this and benefit employers by accessing a large pool of untapped talent.

Another emerging theme from the focus group discussion was the impact of misleading information and the lack of feedback from interviewers or hiring managers.

Participants shared various negative experiences during and after the interview process. Women recalled being told they were not hired due to being overqualified or that the position was already filled and interviews were arranged to follow protocol. Overwhelmingly, participants said they did not receive any further communications after being interviewed or any feedback despite attempts to reach the interviewer.

As the job search process involves being engaged in multiple hiring processes that take a significant amount of time, some participants felt disrespected after not hearing back after an interview or receiving no feedback. This is further worsened by microaggressions experienced by immigrant and racialized women during the hiring process.

Many of the participants expressed receiving culturally insensitive and inappropriate comments and questions about their accent, name, and skin colour, as exemplified by one participant:

I am always told I am very articulate and that my name is so exotic. This is subtle racism.

To address these barriers, immigrant and racialized women recommend employers expedite the recruitment process and provide updates so that applicants know the status of their applications. Research participants also stated that it is highly appreciated if employers provide feedback on interviews by outlining applicants’ strengths and areas of improvement regardless of the hiring outcome.

Furthermore, making sure interviewers have access to training opportunities to increase cultural competencies and EDI awareness can positively influence the experiences of immigrant and racialized women during the interview process.

Read more on our What We Heard report here to find out the main barriers encountered and how they can be addressed by employers and policy makers.

Let’s work together to welcome immigrant and racialized women into the Canadian workforce. Join us for our knowledge Exchange sessions in January and February 2023.

Join us in January 2023 to learn more about the stories and experiences of immigrant and racialized women joining the Canadian labour market and their recommendations to employers. We want to hear about your experiences as an employer in recruiting, hiring and retaining immigrant and racialized women in your workforce.

Register for our Knowledge Exchange sessions:

Advancing Equity for Women and Girls, funded by Women and Gender Equality (WAGE), supports a feminist response and recovery from the impact COVID-19 has had on the employment of immigrant and racialized women in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by contributing to systemic change to promote women’s economic prosperity and equality.

For any questions regarding the project, contact us:

Hodan Mohamed, Coordinator:

Mayela Lozano, Community Liaison:

Read more about our program here: Advancing Equity for Women and Girls – Employment Services – Achēv (

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