Hire Equitably

How to make your remote hiring and onboarding process more inclusive for refugee candidates

June 9, 2022

This article is a part of our Hire Equitably series, a content series aimed at sharing resources, interviews, and how-to guides on hiring displaced and refugee talent.


For companies who want to hire refugee talent, creating an inclusive interview and onboarding process is one of the most important considerations. 

Hiring norms and expectations often fail to consider the lived realities of candidates experiencing infrastructure challenges (poor internet, unreliable electricity), interviewing in their second or third language, or struggling with trauma from forced relocation due to conflict or instability in their home country. 

Hiring refugee talent creates opportunity and can positively impact the families and communities of these employees. But companies must also dedicate time and effort to modeling behaviors, processes, and practices that support fairness and inclusivity.  

Here’s how you can start creating a more inclusive hiring process for refugee talent. 

Acknowledge biases

Biases affect how we perceive other people—including in professional settings. They’re often unconscious or implicit, but can influence whether we view someone as “professional,” “skilled,” or “suited to a role.” 

Gender, racial, age, accent, and even religious bias can all inject unfairness into the hiring process. Consider educating and training hiring managers about these different types of biases. Head off questions that may tap into an interviewer's own biases by creating structured and standardized interview questions so that each candidate gets the same set of questions.

Remote hiring can also add an extra layer of bias when it comes to factors like a candidate’s Zoom background or living situation. When interviewing any candidate remotely, avoid making judgments about visual cues like lighting, location, ambient noise, or movement in the background. 

Be mindful of communication differences

“When it comes to the actual interview process [...] communication is so key,” explains Holly Simmons, Head of Growth at Niya, an inclusion platform that matches diverse talent with global employers. 

“When you’re chatting with someone in person, you start to consider body language and so many other elements. Whereas, the moment you’re messaging someone over email, suddenly the way in which they’re communicating can come across differently.” 

Consider that a refugee candidate may be communicating with you in their second or third language. Avoid reading too deeply into things like tone over written communication channels and instead focus on competency. 

Additionally, the UNHCR recommends making the job descriptions as clear as possible. “Make sure your job titles clearly express what the role is, and your job descriptions do not use jargon or abbreviations,” they advise.

Partner with the right talent platforms 

For companies who want to hire refugee talent specifically, it can be difficult to know where to start. One way to ensure you’re tapping into the refugee talent pool is by hiring through a talent partner like Niya

Niya offers skills training, nano degrees, and career coaching to refugee candidates in 32 countries. For employers, Niya matches candidates with relevant roles, checks language proficiency, and ensures a candidate’s right to work in the country where they live. 

Build flexibility into interviews and assessments

Many of us don’t even realize how inflexible the hiring process can be. Each call and interview is scheduled to the minute, tasks are often timed, and assessments are pre-determined with little room for maneuvering on the candidate’s end. Consider making this process more flexible to accommodate refugee candidates. 

Tent.org recommends offering a ‘choose your own adventure’ style process, giving “options for the format of testing to enable candidates to select the interview process that will let them shine.” That might look like offering different options for a live, asynchronous, or written assessment.

Incorporating asynchronous interviews and tasks removes the time pressure and gives candidates more control over their responses and final approach. Asynchronous exercises also account for time zone differences, enabling candidates to complete assessments during their own normal hours. 

Additionally, being flexible about turnaround times can be a big help for anyone experiencing internet instability or other factors that could delay the completion of an assignment.

Have a backup plan in case of technical issues

85% of the world’s refugees currently live in a developing country. That means issues like electricity or internet stability can often factor into a candidate’s interview or onboarding experience.

“This is something that I had to highlight to my company,” explains Farah Ali, a front-end developer based in Lebanon. Farah works remotely for a U.S.-based tech company and believes that the reality of these infrastructure challenges is something candidates can share with their potential new company. 

In her own case, Farah let her company know how her meeting attendance might be impacted on days when the internet was especially spotty, telling them, “Hey listen, I might have days where I won’t be able to join because of electricity maybe, or because of internet.”

“They were very understanding. They were also very supportive.” 

At the interview stage, consider alternatives like voice-only calls, which use less internet data. Additionally, it might be helpful to agree on a backup plan or an alternative phone number if the online meeting disconnects. 

Be open-minded about gaps in employment history

There are many reasons a refugee candidate might have an employment gap on their CV or resume. Time off from the labor market is sometimes unavoidable due to displacement, caregiving, skills training, education, trauma, waiting for work authorization, discrimination in their job search to date, and many other factors.

Be mindful of these potential challenges and understand how a candidate’s experiences might impact their ability to access stable or consistent employment.

The UNHCR recommends developing “a competency-based recruitment process that focuses on positive behaviors, attitudes, and aspirations rather than previous experience.” 

Avoid sensitive or distressing topics 

While you may be eager to learn about a candidate’s life experiences, avoid asking probing or intrusive questions about their specific circumstances. 

Everyone is different, and while some might volunteer details of their experience, others may find certain topics distressing or uncomfortable due to shyness or trauma. In an interview setting, be mindful of boundaries. Only ask questions related to the position and the candidate’s skills and competencies. 

Pair up new hires with an onboarding buddy or mentor 

Onboarding is one of the most important stages of the employee life cycle. An organized and thoughtful onboarding process can impact retention, engagement, and more. 87% of organizations that implement a buddy system during onboarding report improved new hire proficiency. 

At Oyster, every new hire is matched with an onboarding buddy and mentor. This contributes to a feeling of belonging early on as new hires have colleagues to connect with from day 1. 

Extra considerations in this regard might include thinking about a new joiner’s time zone. Having a buddy in a similar time zone means they have someone to speak with when they first log into work. Additionally, an internal mentoring program will also strengthen a new hire’s professional network and allow them to ask questions and receive feedback, advice, and informal coaching. 

Bridging the opportunity gap through inclusive hiring practices 

While creating these opportunities is commendable, companies should also engage meaningfully with their own limitations, biases, and behaviors.

Developing a compassionate and inclusive hiring process that factors in the experiences of refugee talent is one way employers can make opportunities more accessible to diverse candidates.

Looking to hire refugee talent? Visit our Oyster for Refugees page to get started.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop, and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. Oyster lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches and expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.

About the Author

Subscribe to Oyster Mail
Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.