Part 3 - The Inclusive Workplace


Look for any bias in your selection process by examining all its elements – the job description, the posting, the screening process and the interview questions. And don’t forget to have a statement about your commitment to diversity and inclusion on your job posting. 

Here’s a straightforward example:
“The xxxx gallery thanks all applicants in advance. Only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. The xxxx gallery is an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to inclusive, barrier-free recruitment and selection processes, and work environment in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). We will be happy to work with applicants requesting accommodation at any stage of the hiring process.”

Although you want to be clear about the job you are recruiting for, overly specific job descriptions can exclude many qualified people who may lack the exact certifications or experience you have described. 

Some things to keep in mind when you are reviewing job descriptions or writing the job posting:

  • Ask for related work experience rather than the exact same experience. Be open to transferable skills. Keep in mind that in different cultures and countries, job titles can mean different things.  For example: instead of “five years of experience in donor relations”, you could ask for “experience in managing client accounts, particularly in the non-profit sector”.  Avoid asking specifically for Canadian experience unless required by your industry.
  • Ask for ability wherever possible. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. Instead of “three years experience writing grants” you could ask for “ability to research grant opportunities and write clear proposals”. They can explain their skills or even demonstrate them in practical tests.
  • Focus on the knowledge and the skills needed – For example, look for a candidate who has “experience working in the arts sector or an arts administration degree.”
  • Make your communications requirements specific to the job.  Rather than seeking someone with “good communication skills”, you could ask for “ability to draft business correspondence.”
  • Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and especially acronyms which can be mystifying to those not ‘in the know’.



Are your screening practices working against you?

  • Don’t make assumptions about a candidate from information such as addresses, pronouns, name or title, educational institution on the resume format.
  • If you’re doing screening interviews by telephone, be conscious that for people for whom English is a second language, the playing field is not level.



The interview stage can be a mine-field for interviewers. Some useful tips:

  • It’s always helpful to have a colleague or co-interviewer with you to reduce individual bias. It can be especially valuable to have someone with a good understanding of cross-cultural issues to provide a different perspective.
  • Determine in advance if applicants have any accommodation needs when scheduling interviews; if so, ensure the interview site is accessible. You many need to make changes to the interview material, format, etc.  Be prepared to be flexible.
  • Be aware of holy days of different religions when scheduling interviews
  • Ask all interview candidates the same questions. All questions should relate to the job position only. It’s always helpful to explain the whole process to candidates to shape realistic expectations and reduce misunderstandings.
  • Ask questions that focus on ‘how’ applicants will apply skills or ‘how’ they would handle a particular situation. It reinforces the value of transferable skills.
  • Be conscious of your assumptions around body language and other non-verbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, long pauses, or humility regarding personal accomplishments. For example, some candidates avoid eye contact with a figure of authority as it is considered disrespectful in their culture. Some silence in an interview may indicate something different to various people from various cultures, it may show a need to process the question and form an answer, or it may be because English is not the first language.


Language issues

If otherwise qualified candidates have an issue with intelligibility (how comprehensible the person’s speech is), consider the possibility of providing language training when they are hired, or pairing them with mentors.

Remember - Candidates with languages other than English or French can act as a resource for interacting with other communities!



Arts and culture workplaces are often very small and sometimes there is not a lot of turnover. That could be seen as an impediment to recruiting.  But turn that around. Think of it as an opportunity!

Hiring additional or extra staff on contract or as freelancers can give new talent opportunities, introduce you to new networks, bring skills on and allow you to groom potential successors for your own organization or for other opportunities in the sector.


Dig Deeper

Hire Immigrants – This website is managed by the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX) at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.  Look at this page on barrier-free job descriptions plus interviewing and other hiring resources

HR Council – this Canadian based website has a section with further resources regarding recruitment of immigrants, Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities and older workers

Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council - provides assistance for skilled immigrants seeking Canadian experience and employers seeking assistance in hiring them.

Creating Authentic Spaces – An excellent gender identity and gender expression toolkit from The519, a Toronto-based agency with a model of service, space and tools to build welcoming and inclusive environments. The toolkit looks at issues around barriers, language, prejudice , responsibilities and allies, as well as space and policies

Benefits of Diverse Hiring Practices – An interview with the managing director of Daniels Spectrum, a cultural hub “rooted in Regent Park, open to the world.”