Understanding the Selection Process
So, you've found an opportunity at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that you are interested in, perhaps on our Job Openings page, or through a search on the Public Service Commission's website. Now what?
This page is designed to help you understand how the selection process works at the CFIA, especially if you are not familiar with government selection processes and the www.jobs-emplois.gc.ca website.
Interpreting the Lingo
Some of the terminology used on job posters is technical and can be unfamiliar and confusing. To assist you, below you will find important definitions and descriptions to help you understand the job poster and the staffing process.
An indeterminate appointment is an appointment to a permanent position. A term appointment is employment for a specified period of time with a defined end date.
Official Languages Proficiency & Assessment
For every job available, the official language proficiency needed to perform the duties will be identified on the job poster. There are four categories possible:
- English essential – you must be proficient in English to perform the duties of the job;
- French essential – you must be proficient in French to perform the duties of the job;
- English or French essential – you can perform the duties of the job in either English or French, so you must be proficient in one of these languages;
- Bilingual – you must be proficient in both English and French to perform the duties of the job. The required level of proficiency can vary depending on the job requirements.
If more than one job is being staffed through the selection process and these jobs do not have the same official language proficiency requirements, more than one of these categories may be listed, or the official language proficiency may be described as "various."
For bilingual positions, the level of language proficiency required will be listed on the job poster. There are two proficiency levels used at the CFIA - B (lowest) and C (highest). A proficiency level is indicated for each of three areas of languages used – reading, writing and oral interaction (listening and speaking). The levels you attain on the Second Language Evaluation (SLE) tests become your language profile (e.g., BBB or CBC). You will see a 6-character code on the job poster, representing the second official language proficiency requirements of a bilingual position, for example:
Please note: Regardless of the language profile of the position, you have the right to choose if you want your assessment conducted in English, French or both.
For unilingual positions, (i.e., English Essential, French Essential), you must be assessed to determine if you are sufficiently proficient in the official language required for the position. Similarly, for positions that are English or French Essential, you must be assessed to determine if you are sufficiently proficient in the official language you have identified as your working language. The hiring manager is responsible for ensuring this assessment is completed.
The assessment of language proficiency may be conducted by means of assessment tools also used to assess other qualifications (e.g., written and oral communication). Alternatively, the manager may conduct a separate assessment for the sole purpose of determining your official language proficiency.
Bilingual positions are normally staffed on an imperative basis. An individual being considered for appointment must have valid language test results or be tested for language proficiency in reading, writing, and oral interaction in his or her second official language. In order to be appointed to a bilingual imperative position your language test results must meet or exceed the official language proficiency levels established for the position.
In exceptional circumstances, a bilingual position may also be staffed on a non-imperative basis. This means that, as long as you meet the language proficiency requirements in your first official language, you can be offered the job, as language training will be provided in your second official language. If you accept the job on this basis, you will be required to successfully complete second official language training within two years of your appointment.
* Your proficiency in your second official language will normally be assessed through a formal SLE test. Applicants that have valid SLE results that meet the requirements of the position may choose to use those results or they may take another SLE test. The most recent test results will apply.
- Before your test, be sure to practice using your second official language skills at work and in daily tasks whenever possible.
- Listen to the radio, read the newspaper, watch television or talk to friends and colleagues in your second official language.
- Read the tips and sample questions on the Public Service Commission's website.
Eligibility Lists versus Staffing Pools
A CFIA job poster will usually indicate whether the staffing process will be used to establish an eligibility list or a staffing pool.
An eligibility list is a list of the most highly qualified applicants. They are listed in order of rank, with the most highly qualified applicant first. Not all applicants who are qualified have to be placed on the eligibility list. The manager running the staffing process decides how many names to place on the list, based on the number of jobs available. Jobs are offered to the individuals on the eligibility list in the order of rank, so even if you are included on the eligibility list, if you are not the top-ranked applicant, you may not be offered a job.
A staffing pool is an unranked group of the applicants who meet the qualifications for entry into the pool. The most appropriate individual in the pool is identified for a job offer, based on one or more of the following criteria:
- further assessment of additional qualifications required for that position, if necessary; and/or
- criteria that do not include further assessment of qualifications, for example, but not limited to:
- Your willingness to meet the conditions of employment (e.g., shift work, travel, overtime);
- Your experience or qualifications in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of the work team;
- Your experience or qualifications in relation to the degree of relevance to the specific position being staffed; and
- Your employment equity (EE) group membership status in cases of appointment to positions where EE groups are under-represented.
Understanding the Sections of a Job Poster
The type of information that you can expect to see on a CFIA job poster found on the Public Service Commission website is summarized below. As you review this section, you may want to print out a CFIA job poster and follow along.
At the top of the poster you will find the following information:
The official title of the position.
Department or Agency Name(s)
The name of the public service organization (e.g., CFIA) to which the position belongs.
The geographic location of the position (e.g., Ottawa, Calgary, Montreal)
The occupational group and level to which the position has been classified. Occupational groups are identified on the Rates of Pay page.
The salary range for the position, based on the classification. This corresponds to the Rates of Pay.
The last date that applications will be accepted. Applications must be received by the date, time and at the address specified on the job poster. Applications received after the closing date will not be accepted.
This number is automatically generated by the Public Service Commission when creating a new job poster.
Please Note: Use the Selection Process Number and not the Reference Number for any correspondence with the CFIA
Selection Process Number
The identification number assigned to the selection process. This number must be included in your application and will be cited in further communication to you.
Please Note: Use the Selection Process Number for any correspondence with the CFIA
The duration of the appointment (i.e., indeterminate or term). Some posters will advertise multiple positions with different employment tenures.
The number of positions the manager running the selection process expects to staff.
The poster may also indicate, in this section or elsewhere, that the selection process may be used to staff additional, similar positions. This means that other managers may also staff jobs from this selection process.
The rest of the poster contains valuable information including:
- requirements needed to be screened into the selection process for further consideration (e.g., education, experience);
- the qualifications that will be assessed for those applicants who are screened in (e.g., knowledge, abilities, personal suitability); and
- other requirements that must be met in order to be considered for the position (e.g., security or medical clearance, willingness to work overtime, travel or shift work).
It is very important that you read the entire poster to ensure you are aware of all the requirements. The following definitions describe the remaining sections of the poster, although not all of the sections described below will be on every poster:
Who can Apply
Requirements that must be met in order for your application to be eligible for consideration.
CFIA considers applications from all individuals who have legal status to work in Canada and does not give preference to Canadian citizens. This will be indicated on the poster.
The job poster will specify the official languages proficiency required for the position, as explained above.
The minimum level of education required to be screened into the selection process. You must demonstrate that you have attained this level of education on your application and you should be prepared to show proof that you meet this requirement. Applicants submitting education credentials from a non-Canadian institution are responsible for obtaining certification that these credentials are the equivalent of the Canadian education level required for the position. This certification may be obtained from a recognized Canadian educational institution or through a credential evaluation service. The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials assists individuals who wish to obtain such a certification. Failure to submit the required certification as requested may result in the application being eliminated from further consideration.
Some posters may list an occupational certification requirement.
Experience, Other Merit Criteria and Conditions of Employment, and Statement of Merit Criteria
The additional requirements for appointment are listed under three headings: "Experience"; "Other Merit Criteria and Conditions of Employment"; and "Statement of Merit Criteria".
The "Statement of Merit Criteria" section of the poster usually includes all appointment requirements (including the information found in "Experience" and "Other Merit Criteria and Conditions of Employment"), and may include additional requirements, so be sure to read the Statement of Merit Criteria. It is often organized into:
Describes the work environment of the position at the CFIA.
A description of roles, responsibilities, duties and reporting relationship associated with the position(s).
Additional Requirements / Comments
Important information about the selection process, including whether or not assessment tests will be administered and whether the process will be used to establish an eligibility list or staffing pool is provided in this section. Also included are statements about employment equity and special needs.
Employment Equity: If you are a member of a designated group (women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, or persons with a disability), you may indicate this on your application.
Special Needs: An applicant's special needs are not used as a factor in a staffing decision but, rather, are accommodated to ensure that the individual is given adequate opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications for the position. It is the responsibility of the individual being considered in a selection process to advise the CFIA if accommodation is required. The CFIA will make reasonable efforts and take appropriate steps to accommodate any special needs an applicant might have when participating in a selection process. If contacted in relation to a job opportunity or testing, the applicant should inform the Agency official as soon as possible of any accommodation needs before a planned interview or before any testing is required. For example, if you require wheelchair access, and the building where your interview is to take place does not provide it, an alternative location may be chosen. Similarly, if you have a visual impairment, you may require a test in large print format to meet your needs. The accommodation will vary depending on the individual’s needs.
Information to be provided
This section indicates what must be included in your application. Please read it carefully and ensure that your application contains all of the information requested.
The main section of the job poster will sometimes be followed by Important Messages. Applicants should review this section as it may give additional information not found elsewhere on the poster, such as how to verify the application status and/or how applicants will be notified of any results issued.
Preparing your Application
If, after reading the poster, you believe that you meet the requirements for the position and you want to apply, you should read the following information to help you prepare your application.
Your application should clearly demonstrate how you meet all of the screening requirements in order to be considered further. Read the poster carefully and double-check your application before you submit it, to ensure that you have included all the relevant information.
Your Official Language Rights
Applications can be submitted in either official language. In addition, when participating in a selection process, you are entitled to have any examination or interview for the purpose of assessing your qualifications, other than language, in the official language of your choice. You can also choose to communicate and receive available services and information concerning the employment opportunity in either official language.
These rights apply to all selection processes, regardless of the location of the position or its official language proficiency requirements.
Tips on Preparing your Résumé and Cover Letter
- Address the specific qualifications outlined in the poster, particularly the screening requirements. The individuals screening your application must have evidence that you possess all of the qualifications required – they cannot make assumptions, for example from the job titles or previous employers listed in your resume.
- Include special assignments and/or projects that have enabled you to develop skills relevant to the position.
- Include involvement in outside work that show you've developed the required skills.
- Consider including courses taken, association memberships, awards, special skills, publications, a "career goals" statement, etc. (depending on the position).
- Don't exaggerate your skills or experiences.
- If you are listing references on your résumé, make sure these individuals can attest to your past work experience, particularly in the areas related to the personal suitability qualifications required for the position. Unless the job poster specifically requires it, you do not need to include a list of references with your application.
- Provide complete contact information, including mailing address, email address and telephone number(s). As email may be the only form of communication, please make sure to set your email and junk mail filters accordingly and check them regularly.
- Keep cover letters to one or two pages and resumes from one to three pages, if possible. Be sure to highlight how you meet the screening qualifications (i.e. education and experience) and identify the point(s) in your career where acquired the skill(s). These qualifications should also be reflected on your resume.
- Include start and end dates when listing your past positions.
- Use short, focussed sentences with action verbs and results to explain your previous achievements and/or responsibilities.
- Use an easy-to-read font type and size, in addition to bulleted lists.
- Proofread for typographical, spelling and grammatical errors.
The Screening Process
The first part of assessment is the initial screening process. Screening is a review of the applications to determine which applicants meet all of the screening requirements identified on the poster such as education and experience, the area of selection and time of application. All applications received on or before the closing date are screened against these requirements. Only the applications that clearly demonstrate that the individuals meet these screening requirements will be considered further.
Selected applicants who meet the screening requirements may be invited to participate in one or more assessments to evaluate the other qualifications required. Some common methods of assessment include written exams, oral interviews, situational exercises, role plays, and reference checks. Official language testing may also be required. In addition, accommodation in selection processes will be provided to those applicants who have any health or physical limitations, which may adversely affect their performance during any phase of the selection process. Depending on the number of applicants in the process, these steps may take some time.
Please note that in some cases travel may be required during this phase. Managers have the discretion to determine if that travel will be authorized as government business. This means that travel costs associated with assessment may or may not be paid by the hiring manager. Applicants may be responsible for paying their own travel costs. This is usually stated on the job poster. If travel is authorized by management, the National Joint Council Travel Directive will apply.
During the assessment phase, only the qualifications required for the job and selected by the manager, as outlined on the poster, will be assessed. Any other experience, knowledge, ability, etc., that you possess and feel may be relevant to the position will not be taken into consideration. This ensures that all applicants are treated fairly, as they are all assessed only against the qualifications established by the hiring manager.
Refer to the qualifications listed on the poster to help prepare for assessment.
The job poster may indicate if tests will be administered and may identify what type of test(s) will be used. The CFIA uses many different tests, including:
If the poster indicates a PPC test will be used, you may find information on the test, including sample questions and some practice tests, on the PPC website.
- Refer to the qualifications listed on the job poster that will be assessed through testing. Try to think of possible questions that could be included in a test. How would you answer them?
- If knowledge qualifications will be tested, consider researching relevant information, either on the CFIA website or elsewhere.
- Try practice tests, if they are available.
During an interview, you meet with a selection board which may be comprised of the hiring manager, a Human Resources Advisor and one or more board members who are familiar with the requirements for the position. You are asked a series of pre-set questions to assess your qualifications with respect to the knowledge, abilities and/or personal suitability requirements listed on the job poster. You might be asked questions on technical aspects of the work, basic knowledge essential to the job, hypothetical job situations where you describe what you would do in a given situation, examples of real situations from your past and how you handled them, role plays, etc.
Tips on Preparing for an Interview
- Re-read the job poster and Statement of Merit Criteria to understand the context of the job and the qualifications required. You will be assessed on only the qualifications outlined on the Statement of Merit Criteria.
- Consider how your knowledge and experience relates to the position and the qualifications required.
- Anticipate questions and practice possible answers.
- Familiarize yourself with the CFIA – its structure, mandate, services, etc. – by reviewing the Agency website.
Tips for During the Interview
- Answer the question that was asked. Do not provide additional information that you think may be relevant, but instead provide a direct response to the question. For instance, do not answer a question on how you would handle a particular situation or scenario by stating that you have three years of experience handling such issues. Instead, provide a detailed response as to what you would do in such a scenario or an example of what action you took when you were in such a situation.
- Avoid "yes" or "no" answers. Respond with an appropriate level of detail to each question.
- During the interview, speak clearly and with conviction and be sincere.
- Think before you answer. It is fine to pause before answering to organize your thoughts. If paper has been provided for you, take advantage of it and write down some key points to keep you on topic. Silence while you compose a response is acceptable.
- If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification. If you do not know the answer, be honest and say so. It may also be possible to return to a question later in the interview to answer the question or to include additional points.
- When the interview is finished, be sure to follow up promptly with anything asked of you (e.g. references). Do not be afraid to ask questions, such as when a decision may be made, when references will be contacted or what the next steps are in the selection process.
If you are applying for a position within the Executive Group at the CFIA, you will normally undergo an Executive Assessment. This is a tool used to supplement the selection process for entry into the Executive Group. It uses the Treasury Board's Key leadership competencies as evaluation criteria.
What Happens After the Selection Process?
If You Qualify
At the end of a selection process, an eligibility list or a staffing pool may be established by the hiring manager. However, being included on a list or in a pool does not automatically guarantee that you will be hired. Having your name on an eligibility list or a staffing pool means that you have been found qualified, not that you will be offered a job.
If you are included in a staffing pool, further assessment may be needed for some or all of the positions to be staffed. Other non-assessment criteria may also be applied to determine who is most appropriate for each position.
If You Are Offered an Appointment
If you receive an offer of employment, the manager may initially discuss this with you verbally to determine your level of interest and a proposed start date. To proceed with your appointment, the manager will then send you a letter of offer. It is wise not to take irreversible actions, like giving notice to your current job, until you have received the written offer and have read, understood and agreed to the conditions outlined within it.
A letter of offer outlines all of the details of the offer, including the occupational group and level, the salary range on appointment, the proposed effective date of your appointment, the end date (if the offer is for a term appointment or student placement), official language training requirements (if applicable), and any conditions of employment. The letter of offer will also inform you if your appointment will be subject to probation and, if so, the length of the probation period.
Delegated managers have the discretion to waive probation or reduce the duration of probation when it is in the best interest of the CFIA to do so and the delegated manager is confident of the competence of the individual and his/her suitability for continued employment at the CFIA. The waiving of probation or the reduction of the probation period must be reflected in the written offer of employment.
Delegated managers also have the discretion to reduce the duration of probation at any time after the initial offer of employment has been made. The delegated manager will advise the employee of this decision, in writing, indicating the date on which the probation period will end.
If accepting the offer would require you to relocate you should also review the Relocation Directive. Successful candidates from inside or outside the public service are entitled to relocation assistance in accordance with the Relocation Directive if they meet the 40 kilometre rule, as defined in the said directive. Please read the directive to determine exactly what the entitlements would be in your particular case.
The letter of offer is your employment contract, so review it carefully and follow the instructions in the letter with respect to accepting or rejecting the offer. If anything is unclear or you would like more information, the hiring manager or HR Advisor can provide you with answers.
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