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Inclusiveness in Aboriginal hiring: Recognizing equivalencies

September 07, 2017
Tracey King
Taking an inclusive approach will lead to a comprehensive and fair, equitable and inclusive hiring process.

By: Tracey King, Aboriginal Human Resources Consultant

As a human resources professional, I’ve spent the majority of my professional life working in career counselling and program coordination for Aboriginal employment and training across Ontario. I often reflect on my experiences because many of the Aboriginal employment issues remain the same.

Western employers are still baffled as to why they are not able to recruit and hire many marginalized groups like Aboriginal peoples. At the same time, they remain heavily focused on credentials and industry-specific work experience without much attention paid to transferrable skills and experiences. In many cases, this inevitably limits your candidate pool. For example, how you compare a candidate with an undergraduate degree versus a candidate with a college diploma who also has additional training, work and volunteer experience impacts your selection. The reality is that often hiring managers select the most obvious credentialed candidate.

Looking at the big picture

This system is flawed in terms of the ways that decision-makers assess and hire, especially Aboriginal applicants. According to Statistics Canada (2016), Aboriginal peoples have a 10 percent post-secondary completion rate. Many Aboriginal peoples are still first generation students and professionals. When I was in university in 1988, the Aboriginal post-secondary completion rate was three percent. There are many reasons for this (historical, socio-economic issues, loss of culture and more); if we are truly committed to recruiting and hiring Aboriginal employees, we need to be open to challenging how we assess skills and experience.

How can we create an inclusive Aboriginal hiring process at Ryerson?

I have been working steadily in many ways to recruit Aboriginal peoples to apply at Ryerson but frequently the assessment of Aboriginal applicants to be invited to an interview has fallen short. Many in higher education work in a highly credentialized environment and have a hierarchal mindset. When assessing applications, unconscious and conscious biases are at play. All of these aspects negatively impact Aboriginal hiring at Ryerson.

It’s important that decision-makers take an inclusive approach:

  • Consider if the role requires a post-secondary education credential or industry-specific experience.
  • If you’re looking through resumés, broaden your review — look for diverse work and volunteer experiences, informal and formal education and lived experiences. Perhaps consider reviewing the applications twice to be sure.
  • Pay close attention to additional and ongoing training that candidates have received throughout their careers.

Ultimately, this will lead to a comprehensive and fair, equitable and inclusive hiring process. This will recognize equivalencies of diverse candidates who haven’t had the same access to educational and employment opportunities but who may have other highly relevant and equally valuable work and lived experiences and knowledge to bring to the Ryerson workplace.

This year, an HR Aboriginal Inclusion Steering Committee was formed to identify concrete initiatives that HR can take to address these kinds of barriers and promote the full inclusion of Aboriginal employees in the workplace. An important project for the committee in the next year is to develop a framework to recognize equivalencies.

For support recruiting and hiring Aboriginal employees

As the Aboriginal human resources consultant, I’m available to provide support to leaders sourcing Aboriginal candidates and during the hiring process. Learn more about Aboriginal Employee Services at Ryerson and contact me for assistance at or 416-979-5000, ext. 4705.