For Employees Hiring IEOTs

“There is increasing recognition worldwide of the value of diversity in human affairs. Just as biodiversity has a value in allowing ecosystems to deal with major change, so too does cultural diversity offer us a wider range of viewpoints and ways of doing things.” - David C. Tomas and Kerr Inkson (2003). Cultural Intelligence, San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler.

Other Resources

Internationally Educated Nurses: An Employer’s Guide contains tips that can be applied to other health professions.  Their resource centre provides links for both employers and internationally educated health professionals.

"Policy on Removing the 'Canadian Experience' Barrier" from the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Benefits of hiring an internationally educated occupational therapist (IEOT)

  • Employ skilled workers with diverse talents and international experience.
  • Broaden the cultural diversity of the health care team.
  • Diversity leads to innovation.  Innovation leads to competitiveness.
  • Meet ethnically diverse needs of clients.
  • Benefit from strong work ethic of staff determined to prove skills and succeed.
  • Enhance competitive bid process e.g. multilingual staff. 
  • Capitalize on existing skills and training.
  • Address political climate (Canada is a country of immigrants).
  • Meet projected health care shortages e.g. baby boomers exiting work force.

The following tips are based on recommendations from:

Laroche, L. & Rutherford, D. (2007). Recruiting, Retaining and Promoting Culturally Different Employees. Oxford: Elsevier.

Communication Strategies for native English speakers working with non-native English speaking colleagues and clients
  • Simplify the length of your sentences and your vocabulary.
  • Slow down your speaking speed.
  • Take time to listen and to confirm your message is understood.
  • Avoid raising your voice.
  • Try to ensure your clients and colleagues can see your face when you are speaking.
  • Avoid jargon or slang.
  • Ask questions that elicit a clear yes or no response. For example, avoid “isn’t it?” or “aren’t you” questions that may be answered with either yes or no and may result in miscommunication.
  • Share written information whenever possible and ideally in advance.
  • Use visual aids when speaking whenever possible.
  • Clearly enunciate.
  • Share important information in multiple ways to maximize the likelihood it is understood. For example, can you say it in a different way if you are not understood the first time?
  • Try to encourage your colleague or client to engage in conversation with you to be inclusive.
  • Provide rest opportunities in continuous meetings/conversations whenever possible.
  • Avoid scheduling important meetings at the end of the day when non-native English speakers may be tired.
  • Clarify meanings especially if you feel you are reacting strongly to your colleagues or your clients’ comments.
  • Be patient.
Strategies to Assist with Review of Resumes Submitted by Internationally Educated Occupational Therapists (IEOTs)
  • Include people of diverse backgrounds (not just occupational therapists) on the hiring committee. This may help to differentiate between key competencies and culturally determined behaviours.
  • Consider that frequent changes of position immediately before and after an OT immigrates may reflect circumstance rather than performance.
  • Look at a person’s experience and ability to progress in their work prior to arrival in Canada. This will provide clues to their ability to advance or be successful in Canadian work environments.
  • Consider that resumes from some international candidates may have greater focus on work responsibilities and roles. That doesn’t necessarily mean an individual is ill suited to the OT position.

 To attract IEOTs, employers should:

  • Explain in detail the recruiting process including the steps involved
  • Develop clear, specific job descriptions that clearly differentiate “must have” versus “preferred” skills
Strategies to Assist Employers to Successfully Interview Internationally Educated Occupational Therapists (IEOTs)
  • “Be prepared for surprises” and reserve judgment until the end of the interview.
  • Consider that it can be more challenging for IEOTs who are not native English speakers to participate in a telephone interview. Try to communicate face to face in the interview if possible.
  • If a telephone interview is necessary allow time for the IEOT to reflect on the question. Be sure to speak clearly and eliminate any background noise that may be distracting. Ensure you check in with the IEOT to confirm mutual understanding.
  • “Focus on transferable skills”.
  • Build in ways to offer “real scenarios” into the interview. Ask IEOTs what they would do in specific client situations.

Additional suggestions from local employers

Debbie Hebert, Corporate Professional Leader – OT, University Health Network (UHN)  UHN is an acute-care teaching organization with approximately 1000 beds. The Network is comprised of three hospitals located in downtown Toronto.

Some of the things that we do for new employees here that may be helpful for others include:

  1. Provide a checklist of competencies for working on the assigned unit.  These are part of a bigger program called the professional orientation program.  The new hire is to arrange for tutoring on skill sets that he or she feels would be helpful.
  2. Provision of a mentor / “go-to” person for the first 3 months.  It is important to have one person available with whom the IEOT can reliably connect. When possible, the IEOT chooses the mentor or other contact.
  3. Chart stimulated recall can assist IEOTs to get a sense of the practice. Case review is also helpful.
  4. Have the new hire shadow part of a colleague’s caseload.

Other thoughts:

  1. It is an expectation that the entire inter-professional team is part of the orientation.
  2. It is helpful to remind all team members of the importance of collaborating on mutual decisions even when a team member does not initiate collaboration. Newer members to the team do not always pick up on the norms of how things were done previously. 
  3.  It is also important to remind the team to be clear about how they want their new professional colleague to work with them in order to meet the needs of the client.

Jill Chesley of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council talks about the steps you can take to ensure a new employee will succeed in your organization.  (This article was first published in the Commerce News; The Voice of Business in Edmonton, in December of 2012, Vol. 34 No.11 and republished in ERIEC’s blog - The Wave.)

Integration and Retention Tips

A variety of resources have been used to shape the OTepp team’s thinking about successful integration and retention practices. For more in-depth reading on the subject, please see the references and links listed below.

A key objective for employers is to create an inclusive work environment that leads to enhanced productivity and employee satisfaction. It is vital to create a supportive environment during the initial integration phase and beyond.

“Diversity is about finding and hiring, while inclusion is about retention, loyalty and growth – getting it right means more growth, higher profits and better ideas” (Ratna Omidar, Maytree Foundation) from

Suggested strategies to promote success:

1.  Include a formal orientation that is welcoming, general in scope and includes an overview of the organization’s structure and values.

  • Clarify workplace policies, procedures and expectations
  • Explain work protocols and how teams work together. Include examples of specific behaviors that demonstrate the values and norms of the workplace e.g being “respectful” and “professional”.
  • Show an interest in understanding the employee’s culture.
  • Include a diversity calendar that identifies significant and meaningful celebrations/observances across cultures.
  • Introduce newcomers to key staff and managers.
  • Pair newcomers with an experienced staff member for initial support, perhaps from a similar cultural background.

2.  Provide newcomers with written explanation of the roles and responsibilities of the position.

  • Translate important instructions into the language of the worker to ensure safety.

 3.  Training:

  • Ensure all employees complete diversity training to build awareness and cross-cultural competence.
  • Provide language training resources, and opportunities for professional development and skills upgrading.
  • Use a variety of instructional media to reinforce messaging.

 4.  Establish formal mentoring programs.

 5.  Schedule work activities that provide opportunities for social interaction and professional development.

 6.  Evaluation:

  • Check-in regularly with newcomers. Ask specifically about their transition and challenges or culturally confusing situations that may have arisen. Ask if they need assistance with their settlement in the community.
  • Gather specific feedback on how the organization has helped or hindered their transition.
  • Complete formal performance evaluations and establish performance goals annually.
  • Report on your organization’s intranet about the organization’s workforce diversity goals.
  • Highlight the accomplishments and contributions of internationally trained staff.


Laroche, L., Rutherford, D., (2007). Recruiting, Retaining, and Promoting Culturally Different Employees. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, Inc.

Immigrant Friendly Businesses: Effective Practices for Attracting, Integrating, and Retaining Immigrants in Canadian Workplaces by The Conference Board of Canada(2009). Retrieved July 6, 2012, from

Internationally Trained Workers: A Strategy for the Integration of Internationally Trained Workers in Ottawa by The Internationally Trained Workers Partnership – Ottawa. Retrieved July 6, 2012, from

Moving Beyond Diversity to Inclusion (Guest Column) by Ratna Omidvar (2011). Retrieved July 17, 2012 from

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