Select People - Ottawa Employment Hub

Select People

Are you selecting the best candidate for your job opening and organization?

Making the wrong hire is costly to an organization, both financially, in terms of cost and time involved in filling a position and in terms of not adding the appropriate human capital to your organization.


Selecting the right employee:

  • Reduces employee turnover and increases productivity;
  • Is responsible for up to 15% of a firm’s relative profit;
  • Helps to establish employee trust; and
  • Improves the overall knowledge, skills and abilities of your staff, which helps you to increase motivation, morale, retains high quality employees.

You also want to ensure that you are not missing people who would have performed well in the position (false negatives) or ending up with an employee who does not fit the position or your organization (false positives).

Learn effective techniques

Many service providers in Ottawa provide services and programs that help employers effectively select people. You can also explore online resources that will help to guide you through the selection process.

Remember that having clear job descriptions (Develop HR Plan) and job ads in the right places (Find People) are important steps to set you up for an effective selection process. Using the resources and tools in this section will help you to take it from there!


Many employment service providers in Ottawa provide workshops for employers around the selection process – including pre-screening candidates and the provision of free space for job fairs, one-on-one interviews, and help in planning meet-and-greet events with job seekers. Explore the section on Getting Recruitment Support and see the links below to point you in the right direction to finding these programs and services.

You can also check learning events and workshop offerings from the local Chambers of Commerce, professional associations, and other business-focused organizations.  Please visit QUICK CLICKS on the home page to find out more about these sources of information.


It is important to document all your hiring decisions to protect yourself from any claims from unsuccessful candidates.  Having a written job offer and contract at the end of the process that is kept on file is also highly recommended.  If there are any issues down the road, being able to reference clear, written documents will help you make your case.


  • Employment Ontario Ottawa Network– Outlines the services available to employers through Ottawa’s nine Employment Ontario Centres and provides contact information for the centres.
  • Getting the Right People – Selection & Hiring– HR Council’s HR Toolkit offers information and tools to help organizations plan the selection process, prepare and conduct interviews, check references, make your decision, make the offer and do the paperwork, including samples.
  • Managing Your Human Assets – HIRING STRATEGIES– Explore the Hiring Strategies module of SaskNetWork’s HR Guide for information on Pre-screening Applicants, Conducting Effective Interviews, Making a Hiring Decision and Embracing Diversity.
  • Guide to Screening & Selection in Employment– A practical guide for employers on ensuring there is no discrimination in their interviewing and hiring practices whether choosing a new employee or promoting one from within the organization, prepared by Canadian Human Rights Commission.
  • Screening and Interviewing Job Applicants– Tips and guidelines for employers on the Job Bank website.
  • Finders and Keepers:  A Guide to Recruitment and Retention– Provides proven strategies and practical tools to help small- and medium-sized employers attract, recruit, select and retain employees, prepared by ALIS (Government of Alberta).
  • Tool for Calculating Turnover Costs– A form you can complete online and print to calculate turnover costs, included in ALIS’s Finders and Keepers guide.
  • Tool for Tracking Recruitment Results– A form you can complete online and print to track the results of your recruitment and selection activities, included in ALIS’s Finders and Keepers guide
  • Applicant Rating Guide– A form you can complete online and print to track the selection process and help you document your decisions, included in ALIS’s Finders and Keepers guide

Pre-screen applicants

Screening is the first step of the selection process and it involves identifying individuals from the applicant pool who have the minimum qualifications for the position; candidates “passing” this first hurdle of a résumé screening may be asked to participate in a telephone screening before any interviews take place. Obviously, how much screening you choose to do will be based, in part, on how many applicants there are and how specific the skills and knowledge are that you require.


Interviewing candidates is a time-consuming process, and proper screening will ensure that you have a manageable pool of candidates at the interview stage.

When you’re screening applicants, the main goal is finding the right candidate for the position offered. Through examining the person’s qualifications and past work experience, the employer must avoid the “just like me” trap. Candidates should not be selected based on similar educational backgrounds, age, gender, race, or similar hobbies. At the same time, it is important to ensure that you are avoiding any discriminatory practices or questions at this stage in the selection process.


Resumes often fall into two categories: chronological resume and functional resume

  • Chronological resumes list past jobs in order of dates
  • Functional resumes list important functions and achievements that the candidate has accomplished but often doesn’t connect them to the jobs listed on their resume. It can be hard to identify gaps in employment and detect the true nature and scope of the applicant’s experience.

Make sure that any gaps in work experiences are recognized, but are not an issue.


Using the job description and list of qualifications

  • Have your job description and a list of qualifications and KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that the candidate must have in front of you.
  • Look through all the resumes and eliminate the candidates that don’t show these qualifications.

Overall neatness and consistency

  • On each resume, look for overall neatness, spelling errors, proper formatting.
  • These qualities will show that candidate has put a certain level of professionalism into building their resume and characteristics that you want your employees to possess.
  • Remember to make clear notes on certain areas of their resume such as educational, skills, work experience, volunteer experiences of your applicants.
  • There should be consistency in the candidates’ resumes and if there are any inconsistencies or gaps between experiences you should prepare some questions to be inquired for the candidate.

Look for accomplishments

  • It would be important to look for resumes that show accomplishments instead of responsibilities.
  • An accomplishment indicates what the candidate has actually achieved, for example “increased company sales by 60%.” Responsibilities indicate what the candidate has done on the job, for example “prepared budgets and project plans.”
  • Applicants with resumes that emphasize accomplishments can demonstrate the person as an achiever and knows how day-to-day tasks affect the bottom-line.

Detecting a career path

  • Look for signs of the applicant’s career path while reviewing the resume.
  • Any promotions and advancement indicates a good focus and assured stability.
  • When looking for people starting out in their careers, it is good to look for extracurricular activities and how they are explained in their positions.

When there are a few gaps in the applicant’s resume, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be a good candidate. You should keep a list of the qualifications you are looking for in mind, and see how each resume demonstrates these skills as you narrow your search for a shortlist of candidates


If you have a large pool of candidates left after pre-screening the resumes, you can conduct telephone pre-screening interviews. Screening applicants by phone can help you identify a list of qualified candidates to move forward to face-to-face interviews. Pre-screen interviews allow you to check some facts with job candidates who applied for the position.

These phone conversations should take about 10-15 minutes and should be centered on a few basic questions that support the minimum job functions and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) listed in the job description. The questions are designed to obtain and confirm information about the candidates’ backgrounds, qualifications, and if they are still interested in the job. Remember that telephone pre-screen interviews should avoid any appearance of discrimination.

Consider the following script for the phone calls:

  • Introduce yourself and the reason for the phone call.
  • You may want to schedule phone screen interview sessions with applicants in advance or you can check if it is a good time to talk now when you call.
  • Briefly outline the job you are discussing.
  • Ask the applicant(s) job related questions and ensure that all applicants are asked the same questions. Answer any questions the applicant(s) may have.
  • Briefly explain next steps in the selection process.
  • Note what you have learned about the candidate’s skills, abilities and overall qualifications for the position and document their responses. Ensure that you are capturing similar information from all candidates called.


Conduct effective interviews

Interviews are a key component of evaluating a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities related to the position, and they can also help you determine the candidate’s “fit” with your organization.


  • First it is important to validate that a candidate does have the experience and credentials needed for the position being staffed.
  • Second, interviews provide a formal opportunity to obtain additional, high quality information about a candidate’s track record, character traits and strengths and weaknesses on the job.
  • Interviews can be linked to specific incidents noted in phone conversations and in covering letters and résumés. As well, they can provide a telling perspective on likely behaviours and actions in the workplace.
  • Finally, the time it takes to conduct interviews is nominal compared to the time, cost and consequences of hiring the wrong person for the job.


When you are ready to interview a candidate, there are a number of points to keep in mind. An interview should be an exchange of information between you and the candidate for a position.

Your objectives are to:

  • Gain information about the candidate;
  • Evaluate the suitability of the candidate for the position and the organization;
  • Communicate information about the organization and the job to the candidate; and
  • Determine whether further contact or discussion is required with respect to the job being offered.

As the manager, you must:

  • Be sure the candidate understands the position being offered and the purpose of the interview;
  • Prepare your questions carefully to ensure they are relevant to the position and document the responses fully;
  • Aim to discover whether, according to the responses given, the candidate has demonstrated that he or she can do the job, will do the job, and will fit into the organization; and
  • At the end of the interview, ask if the candidate has any further questions and clearly indicate when the candidate should expect to hear from you.



Be sure you review and understand the following:

  • The candidate’s background, experience and track record.
  • Gaps in employment history – periods where the candidate was not working full time.
  • Reasons for leaving/changing positions/organizations throughout career.
  • Why the candidate is considering the position with your organization at this time.
  • Areas to probe where you have outstanding questions regarding the candidate’s suitability, fit with culture, specific experience or technical competence.


While you want to ask questions that will allow the candidate to outline knowledge, skills and abilities, it is also important to include behaviour-based questions that will help you determine “fit” with your organization and broader skills around critical thinking, judgement, etc.

Behaviour-based interviews focus on gathering information/ views on specific events in the candidate’s past that were somehow critical moments indicative of key decisions and action.  Behavioural questions/”probes” often focus on HOW a person handles their extreme moments – their biggest challenge, most difficult problem to resolve, most stressful situation to deal with, most frustrating client situation, etc.

See the Tools and Resources below for sample questions and more information on behaviour-based interviews.


Please familiarize yourself with the following “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for conducting interviews.


  • Provide the candidate with a good understanding of the job requirements and a realistic view of the organization culture.
  • Give the candidate adequate time to consider each question and to think about his/her answers.  Be silent, do not interrupt with statements like “I see”, “That’s interesting”, etc.  Listen carefully and consider what obvious pauses in the conversation could indicate.
  • Follow up and probe where you need further details for a clear picture of the candidate or when you feel the person is reluctant to discuss certain factors. Many times a further explanation of why you’re “digging” will elicit the information you want. .
  • Watch for obvious pauses in answering when you ask questions. Often such pauses are a sign that further questions may bring more information that you might not otherwise receive.
  • Listen for inconsistencies and contradictions in the conversation.
  • Ask for specific examples. For example, if a candidate tells you that you that he/she has “superior communications skills” ask for specific situations where he/she has exercised these “superior” skills (oral, written, presentation, etc.).


  • Do not indicate or imply agreement or disagreement with any comments made by the candidate.  Remain neutral throughout the interview.
  • Avoid questions where you will likely receive only a Yes/No response.
  • Do not ask questions about age, family status, race, etc. Be aware that under the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Act, it is against the law for an employer to make unlawful distinctions based upon the following “prohibited grounds”:
    • Race, Colour, National/ethnic origin
    • Age, Family status, Marital status
    • Sex, Sexual orientation, Religion
    • Physical or mental disability
    • Conviction for which a pardon has been granted.


Below we suggest an overall structure for the interview, starting with general question, moving into position-specific questions, and then wrapping up the interview.  When using behaviour-based questions, ensure that you encourage the candidate to describe behaviour and real-life examples.


  • Why do you wish to work at …….?
  • What key factors do you take into account when looking for a job?
  • What are your career objectives?
  • How would you describe/define the role you are looking for at …..?
  • In general terms, could you tell me what you consider to be your key strengths? (Probe: What has contributed to your success in your current or past jobs?)


  • Please comment on your experience/abilities/performance with respect to the following:

Insert information in accordance with requirements for specific role.


  • In what areas could you improve, to become even more effective?
  • What was your biggest mistake in your current role? What did you learn from it?
  • How long do you think it would take you to make a meaningful contribution to …?


When you are summarizing the findings, you will note and assess the responses to each question.  You should also think about recurrent themes regarding the candidate’s strengths and development needs and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Overall, does there appear to be a good match between past experience and the requirements for the position you are staffing at this time?
  • Where are there still gaps in your assessment of the candidate?  How serious are these gaps and their potential impact?


Make the right hiring decision

Once you have completed the interview process, it is time to make your final decision regarding the successful candidate.  In terms of conducting reference checks, some organizations do so only for the final candidate selected, while others check with the top two or three candidates before making their final choice.  Below we present a process based on conducting several reference checks before selecting the “final” candidate.


Reference checks are critical. First, it is important to validate the candidate’s experience and credentials needed for the position. Second, reference checking provides a golden opportunity to obtain additional, high quality information about a candidate’s track record, character traits and strengths and weaknesses on the job. Building on information gained in candidate interviews, reference checks can be linked to specific incidents discussed in the interviews and can provide a telling perspective on roles and behaviours.

The time it takes to conduct reference interviews is nominal compared to the time, cost and consequences of hiring the wrong person for the job. Employers have a duty to protect employees and clients from harm.  In the worst-case scenario, an employer who fails to check references and hires a person with a history of abuse, etc. may be charged with negligent hiring.



  • How long have you known this candidate, and in what context?
  • What qualities, characteristics or abilities first come to mind when you think about this candidate? (Probe: What sets this person apart from others you work with?)
  • In general terms, could you tell me what you consider to be this person’s key strengths? (Probe: What makes him/her effective in their current or past jobs?)
  • Could you tell me in what areas he/she could improve? (Probe: Things he/she could change about his her personal style and behaviour to become even more effective?)


  • Please comment on his/her experience/abilities/performance with respect to the following:
    • Insert information in accordance with requirements for specific role.
  • Please provide your views on the specific incidents/behaviours noted below. These were highlighted by this person as examples of exemplary behaviour during their screening interviews. To what extent do you agree/disagree that these examples provide accurate/relevant evidence of this person’s skills, abilities and personal attributes?
    • Insert a few examples noted by candidate in selection interviews to probe only with the relevant reference.


  • Could you tell me in what areas he/she could improve, or things he/she could change about personal style and behaviour to become even more effective?
  • If you were to give this candidate one piece of advice or feedback to assist with his/her development what would it be?


  • Do you have any additional comments concerning her/his work that would help the organization with an assessment of this candidate?
  • Would you work with this candidate again? Referees may have already mentioned that they would gladly do so – most positive references say this at some point during the interview.
  • Candidates are not required to provide authorization for you to contact references, but checking references should be considered a very important part of the selection process and you should be very cautious about hiring a new employee who will not provide several references.
  • If a candidate provides references and then later asks you not to contact a specific person or current employer, please respect their request.


Now that you have completed the process of interviewing and reference checking, it’s time to make your final choice. You should ask yourself if you have enough information and if you know enough about each candidate to make the right decision. If your answer is no, then you should contact the candidate and request a follow-up interview, but if your answer is yes, then it’s time to decide on which candidate you will hire.

Go back to your requirements of the job posting.  The hiring criteria established in the job posting and what you have established from the beginning should guide you toward the decision.  Take into account the relative importance of the particular skill or attribute the candidates possess.

Intangible qualities count in evaluating the candidates. Qualities such as motivation, creativity, resourcefulness and ability to handle stress are very hard to gauge or quantify but are important components in your evaluation of candidates.

Beware of the ‘halo effect.’ Make sure to avoid favouring one applicant over another for the wrong reasons. Managers can have a tendency to be so impressed by one particular aspect of a candidate – the person’s credentials, interests and so on – that it colours their overall perception of the individual.  This is called the “halo effect” and it increases the risk that deficiencies in other key areas will go unnoticed.

Once you have conducted all your interviews and completed the references, you are almost done!  When the final selection is made, you will be ready to present a job offer and welcome the new employee to the organization.  An offer will be extended when consensus has been reached amongst all individuals involved in the interview process, including the candidate, and once references have been completed.


Make your written offer detailed and official and include all pertinent information -proposed start date, title, salary, benefits and any extras you and the candidate may have discussed. You should only make the offer when you are able to capture all of these details in writing. Ask the successful candidate to sign a duplicate copy of the acceptance letter. If the agreement is contingent on further reference checking or skills testing, make sure you include these conditions in the written offer.

You should keep all of your recruitment and selection materials on file for at least two years to document the process and your final decision.  Throughout the selection process, make sure you comply with provincial and federal laws and your organization’s hiring policies and ensure that you have the paperwork to back this up.


Embrace diversity

“Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.”


Embracing diversity is important because it helps your organization prevent discrimination and promote comprehensiveness. Having a diverse work force can increase staff retention and productivity. The four designated groups that are vital with embracing diversity are: Persons with Disability, Aboriginal People, Visible Minorities, and Women. This will enhance the company’s awareness of the diverse relationships with customers, increase the company’s ability to manage change, and develop the creativity of the organization. Diversity can contribute to the business goals and values.


The HR Council outlines three key components of building a foundation for diversity.   For change to take place, employers need to make a firm commitment and take action. This is how organizations can build a strong foundation for diversity.

  • The role of leadership
  • Publicizing the commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Commit with a policy


Building and sustaining a diverse workforce is a shared responsibility in an organization.  Management has to lead by example and make a certain commitment to diversity.

Managers need to have a good understanding of the different cultures represented on their team to eliminate any stereotypes or prejudices. Open communication helps team members better understand the unique aspects of various cultures, and encourage discussion as to how these qualities can be incorporated into the work environment.

Boards of directors and senior management teams need to set the tone and ensure that their own behaviour aligns with organizational values and missions. An organization’s ability to attract, retain and support diverse employees also reflects the way an organization is able to approach diversity more broadly – with volunteers, members and the larger community.

To get started, senior management can facilitate an initial investigation of current diversity strengths and challenges in the organization. A quick assessment can be made by asking the following questions:

  • What communities do we serve? Who are our clients?
  • What are the characteristics of the community we work in?
  • How has the community changed in recent years? How is it likely to change in the future?*
  • How do our organization’s employees reflect the communities we work in and work with?
  • Do we reflect the diversity of Canadian society more broadly?
  • How do we nurture inclusion to ensure all employees work in a safe and supportive environment?


Ensure the selection has a diverse talent. Any HR policies and practices should be reviewed carefully to identify barriers and opportunities for improvement. Working towards increased and enhanced workplace diversity is not difficult or complicated– it’s about having solid HR practices.

Reviewing HR policies and practices with attention to diversity highlights good recruitment and selection practices that help organizations focus on building a diverse workplace. The areas of attention include:

  • Broader recruitment efforts
  • Reduction of bias in the selection process
  • The recruitment of new Canadians

For examples of how to reduce bias in the selection process please click on the link Reduction of bias in the selection process.


  • Diversity at Work– Provides employers how they can promote an effective diversity in the workplace and maintain the diversity in the organization, from HR Council’s HR Toolkit.
  • Embracing Diversity– Explains why it is important to hire the four designated groups of Aboriginal People, Visible Minorities, People with Disabilities, and Women, as well as disabilities terms and tips, from SaskNetwork.

Orientation and onboarding

Once you have selected the “right” person, it is important to ensure that they are equipped with the information they need to be successful team members who can contribute to your organization. This involves understanding policies and processes, as well as understanding the organization’s culture. The hoped-for result is a balance between the expectations of the new employee and your organization.


Ryerson Unviersity provides the following definition to differentiate between orientation and onboarding:  “Orientation is an event; onboarding is a process.” 

  • Orientation is a structured event that focuses on the information the new employee needs to know to get started – an introduction to the organizational structure, policies, and procedures. It is once piece of the on-boarding process.
  • Onboarding can last anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on the responsibilities of the position and the amount of organizational understanding necessary to be successful in the role. The goal is to align new employees with the organization’s culture, mission, and values, and focuses on strengthening the employee’s connection to the organization and its people. It provides a more strategic plan for employee success than orientation alone.

Throughout this section and in many of the documents referenced, the term “orientation” also refers to the longer-term onboarding components.


Orientation is important because it gives new employees a sense of belonging, reduces turnover and increases employee understanding of the policies and procedures within the organization. New employees who are highly integrated into the work team feel a stronger sense of loyalty to both the work team and the organization.

HR Council highlights the role of good orientation in enabling new employees to be successful by:

  • Decreasing the anxiety of the employee
  • Sharing important organizational information and start a process of learning about the organization’s mission and work
  • Socializing the employee to the culture of the organization, including the values, behaviours, formal and informal practices, etc.
  • Building relationships between the new employee and colleagues, including managers or/and supervisors


There are several factors to keep in mind:

  • Align: Make sure your organization agrees on the need for a new team member and the description of the role you are filling.
  • Acquire: Identify, recruit, select and get people to join the team.
  • Accommodate: Give new team members the tools they need to do work.
  • Assimilate: Help them join with others so they can do work together.
  • Accelerate: Help them (and their team) deliver better results faster.

See’s article on Onboarding to read more about these factors and how to incorporate them into your orientation process.


HR Council outlines key basics for welcoming new employees:

  • Make introductions (new colleagues, a mentor or orientation ‘buddy’, managers, etc.)
  • Give a tour of the assigned workspace and the rest of the office/facility (washrooms, work location, location of office supplies, etc.)
  • Provide an organizational overview, including an organizational chart if available
  • Review new employee’s job duties and responsibilities including: (job description and expected outcomes, identify work to be completed in the first week, provide important reports and information needed for the job, explain how the job relates to other roles in the organization)
  • Review work expectations and schedule: (start and finish times, lunch and breaks, probationary period, appropriate safety procedures)
  • Review HR and administration procedures including: (Essential documents for pay and benefits, employee policies and procedures manual, sick days, leaves, vacations, etc., telephone and email protocol, internet use policy)
  • Review health, fire and safety procedures
  • Review the performance management system, learning and development plans
  • Explain the internal communication processes including staff meetings


In developing or reviewing your process ensure that you focus on the following:

  • First of all, make sure that you have an orientation process – this is one big mistake that organizations make. First impressions are key and you want to provide a good one!
  • Don’t just focus on HR paperwork and forms; also provide information on what the organization is really like, how things are organized and where their job fits in. Focus on the informal workplace practices and overall culture.
  • Provide written information that they can refer to as needed so that they are not overloaded on the first day. Instead of providing all of the information at once, ensure that they know where it is when they need it.
  • Ensure that they have a chance to meet colleagues and understand who does what in the organization; help them start to understand and build their network.
  • Remember that orientation and onboarding is a longer-term process and not a “one-off” event. Consider assigning a “buddy” to whom they can refer questions in their first few weeks.


Throughout this portal, we emphasize the importance of documenting employee information.  While it is not the main focus of orientation, it is essential you focus on the following as applicable to your organization:

  • Have new hire sign up for company’s benefit programs and payroll
  • Explain when, how and what they get paid
  • Review their salary, benefits and paydays
  • Make sure appropriate income tax and benefit forms are signed
  • Some companies also provide basic training (such as WHIMIS and safety procedures) at this time
  • If a union represents the new employee, provide an opportunity for a union representative to explain the requirements and benefits of union membership