Canada: Candidate Background Check Guidelines by Province

As we know, background screenings of job candidates are standard operating procedures (‘SOP’) of any employer’s recruitment process, helping to identify the best-qualified candidates, while managing potential risks related to a poor hiring decision.

There are many background checks that are commonly permissible in Canada, and the type of checks an employer may consider running depend on the nature of the position for which the candidate is being considered. The most widely used are those that relate to the academic, employment, criminal, and credit history of candidates.

Employers are of course eager to learn as much about a candidate as is possible, however, they must tread most cautiously. An improperly conducted background check – or a properly conducted one where data obtained is improperly used or even disclosed – will expose an employer to liability. This liability may cost an employer an inordinate amount in terms of both cost and professional reputation for such carelessness.

It is therefore crucial, that any background check is conducted in accordance with applicable provincial laws. Federally regulated employers must guarantee compliance with federal law. Both privacy and human rights legislation, in relevance to provincial law, exists at the federal level as well.

Human rights legislation exists in each of the Canadian jurisdictions we are addressing, and to the extent that an employer obtaining information related to ‘protected grounds’, cannot consider this information to be a factor in the ultimate hiring decision.

What must be kept in mind here is that privacy statutes and obligations differ among Canadian provinces when it involves personal employee information. Both impose important and necessary limitations on background checking with respect to what checks are conducted, and how the information collected may be legally used.

Fortunately for us, Blake Cassels and Mondaq have kindly provided this handy interactive map revealing the notable features in each province regarding privacy and human rights as they relate to this article.

For your convenience, I have provided the notable features information for ‘British Columbia’ as follows:

An employer may, without a candidate’s consent, collect personal information, IF the collection is for the “purposes of establishing an employment relationship.” However, before doing so, the employer must notify the candidate. Human rights legislation prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a candidate on the grounds that he or she was convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence if that offence is “unrelated” to the employment.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Mondaq, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP


Remember to ‘Market Your Soft Skills’ in Your Job Search (Part 2 of 2)

In this last section of ‘Remember to ‘Market your Soft Skills,’ I am going to assume that you have taken some time to consider your soft skills seriously, and what you have to offer your current or next employer, in concert with your professional credentials.

As I mentioned previously, more import is placed on a candidate’s soft skills of late, and this is true for both potential employers directly and Staffing Agencies. In some cases, a candidate with less experience will get the position based on his or her personality, presentation, and effective communications demonstrated during the interview(s).

The downside of this situation is of course remuneration, as it would be adjusted due to the difference in the educational and professional requirements specified for the role. However, the fact is that when a job candidate does land a role, he or she will learn how to be effective, moving forward when the opportune time arrives or is proactively sought out.

I have certainly witnessed the hiring of staff based on personality, where others have had more experience to offer, and I am confident that my readers can also relate to this scenario.

Now, let’s get to the core of this article, and review potential ‘transferable skills’, which could look like:

  • Good time & project management skills;
  • Ability to influence others;
  • Team player attitude;
  • Excellent listening skills;
  • Easily builds strong relationships; and
  • Strong organizational skills.

For example, let’s say a Home Depot salesperson desperately wants to get into the hospitality industry but has no prior experience to offer. The skills of a successful salesperson would of course easily transfer over to the hospitality industry for obvious reasons, and therefore, I say go for it!

I realize this is a very basic and elementary example, but I am sure you get my point. I believe that it comes down to ‘how you present’ in an interview, as I have stated in my previous articles. Your ’unique personal skills and attributes’ may look like:

  • Goes above and beyond;
  • Has a positive attitude;
  • Strong work ethic;
  • Quick study; and
  • Creative & Self-directed.

Of course, we all have something different to bring to the table, as it were. How we communicate our given skills is what matters, and what makes the difference when under pressure in situations such as job interviews and performance reviews.

Remember to ‘Market Your Soft Skills’ in Your Job Search (Part 1 of 2)

When conducting a job search, whether internally or externally, it is natural to be anxious about our ‘hard’ skills such as computer programs knowledge; graphics programs, advanced Excel formulas, the Net, firm portals, and confidence with using social media/networking tools, etc. All of these skills are a requirement of any job within the corporate world today and are valuable skills to have.

In our current job markets, employers do not seem to be solely probing for appropriate levels of education, certification, and technical skills, but rather ‘soft skills’ which will immediately engage the person interviewing you, as well as the various groups you will be working with once on board.

Companies that are presently advertising positions are requesting much more than pre-recession, as they have deep considerations around employee retention, economic conditions, and the apprehensive anticipation of losing valuable employees, once the economy is on a better footing, and has stabilized.

It is a logical assumption that some firms could lose staff as the economy improves, as opportunities from competitors present themselves, and offers of higher compensation and benefits hold an obvious attraction, most definitely if the employee is feeling ‘disengaged’ from their current employer.

Putting aside your hard skills and academic background, for now, consider the soft skills you have to bring to the table. Target what you recognize as your ‘transferable’ and ‘unique personal soft skills’, which will work to your advantage as you continue on your job search journey.

Are these skills highlighted within the body of your Cap Profile and Resume, and noted in all of your cover letters? If not, make sure they are going forward, as it will stimulate positive outcomes for you.

I would urge you to speak with your professional references to learn if they are including your distinctive and valued soft skills in their referral communications. Where appropriate, ask them to please include these details on a go forward basis.


Please continue reading Part 2 of 2 here, Thank You!

Canada: Employers Right to Rescind Job Offers



Employment law in the Alberta region, as well as other areas of Canada, is large in scope. However, in any legal field, there are areas that may be a bit hazy.

While the law clearly states what employers can and cannot do in terms of employment, the time leading up to employment can be one of these hazy, gray areas.

Once an employer extends a job offer, the potential new employee has to take certain actions, such as preparing a notice of resignation to his or her current employer. He or she may also make more extravagant purchases than normal to celebrate the new role, and the anticipation of earning more money. If the job offer is then rescinded, this potential new employee may discover that he or she is in much hot water.

Even though this area of employment law may not be 100% clear, there are a couple of situations in which the employer can withdraw a job offer.

The first is with conditional job offers. For example, an employer offers you a job but tells you that the job hinges on positive reference checks or background checks. In such a case, if the employer receives a bad reference, or spots a problem during a background check, he or she can move to rescind the offer.

The second situation may arise if the potential employer discovers an applicant has not been truthful during his or her recruitment. For example, if an applicant misrepresents his or her education credentials or work history, the employer can legally choose to rescind the offer.

If you believe an employer has illegally rescinded a job offer, you should seek legal advice from an employment lawyer. This can help you determine if the job offer was rescinded in compliance with Alberta’s Employment Standards Code and Regulation.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Ridout Barron, HRM Canada, Mondaq







Testing Your Personality ~ 11 Interesting Interview Questions (Part II of II)

hired interview

(Continued from Part I of II)

As promised, below is the balance of my article on this interesting topic on Personality Test Questions during the course of a job interview.


7.  What types of hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

Just like learning about what drives someone in their personal life, discovering how someone spends their time outside of work, and what specific activities they enjoy and invest in, will provide an interesting look into their personality, Fleischman explains.

In addition, hobbies can translate into specific soft and hard skills, which can be applicable to several jobs, and employers are often interested in learning what a candidate has to offer outside of their résumé’ “skills” section.

8.  Can you walk me through a particularly stressful scenario at work, and how you handled it?

This question shows not only the candidate’s ability to think on their feet but also their mastery of ‘tact and diplomacy’, he says.

For example, if the stressful situation was owing to somebody else’s error, was the candidate able to speak about it in a skilled, tactful way? On the other hand, if the stressful situation was ‘admittedly’ due to their own error, it would show a great deal about the candidate’ character by following up with an open, transparent, and ‘accountable’ explanation.

9.  What drives you in your personal life?

Similarly, this question aims to delve into a candidate’s personality and better assess their cultural fit. “By developing a better understanding of a job seeker’s life outside of work, and by learning what drives them personally, an employer can get a much better grasp of the type of personality they would be bringing to the company,” he says.

In addition, painting an image of a candidate’s personal goals can help an employer better understand how motivated they are in general.

10.  If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be, and why?

Many people admire certain celebrities and public figures. Learning about who a candidate would be most excited to meet offers another interesting view into their personality and their values — 2 important and necessary elements of a great cultural fit.

11.  Have you ever played on a sports team?

The answer to this question can reveal personality traits that are important to certain companies, depending on the nature of their business. “For example, a former athlete could be a great team player or, depending on the sport and position they played, may thrive best working on their own,” Fleischman explains.

Sometimes, athletes (current and/or former) possess a competitive nature, which may be a positive trait in some lines of business, and a negative one in others.


Supporting Article Research Sources: Business Insider, The Execu|Search Group





Testing Your Personality ~ 11 Interesting Interview Questions (Part I of II)

These days’ employers are not simply looking for candidates with the right technical skill sets and years of expertise under their belts. They want to hire those who also have something distinctive to offer — such as a great personality, and/or a strong set of soft skills.

“In fact, if they find a candidate who has less experience than their competition, however, have stronger growth potential and appears to be a better cultural fit, the employer might feel encouraged to hire that candidate”, says Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu|Search Group, a full-service recruitment, temporary staffing, and workforce management solutions firm.

In an effort to seek out new hires who are terrific cultural fits, employers are putting more emphasis on soft skills, or intangible qualities “that are not always clear on a piece of paper,” he says.

“Though the specific personality traits and temperament that employers are looking for are subjective to the role, as well as the organization, some qualities that are good indicators of success in a role include excellent organizational and communication skills, a team player attitude, strong leadership skills, and an ability to think on your feet, combined with a strong drive, and demonstrated initiative.”

To figure out if a candidate possesses the desired soft skills, or is the right personality fit, employers will often raise the following eleven interview questions in one form or another:

  1. If your best friend was here, what would he/she say is the best part about being your friend?

The purpose of this question is to bring out a sense of honesty and candor in a candidate. “Learning about what makes an applicant a good friend allows employers to get a better feel for whether they would fit in with the company culture,” Fleischman says.

  1. If you could change one thing about the way you approach challenges, what would it be?

This question, which automatically puts candidates on the hot seat, permits hiring managers to evaluate a candidate’s self-awareness, and ability to admit there are some aspects of their professional life they would like to improve, Fleischman explains.

“Since humility is considered an important quality to most employers, a response to this question is something they will listen closely to.”

  1. If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?

This query is a favorite among hiring managers because it allows them to not solely evaluate how quickly someone can think on their feet, but it requires candidates to exercise creative thinking in a relatively short amount of time. These are two skills which would be applicable to solving nearly any business challenge.

  1. What has been the foremost satisfying moment in your life?

When employers raise this question, they are wanting to see what motivates a candidate and whether their values fit into the company culture, Fleischman says.

  1. How would your last supervisor describe you in 3 words?

“This inquiry provides the employer with a glimpse into how others view a candidate’s professional value,” he explains. Since this question is specific in the fact that it asks about the applicant’s last role, the response can facilitate the employer’s ability to see if these traits are applicable to their own organization.

  1. What drives you in your professional life?

Employers raise this question to gain insight into what motivates a candidate, both in their career and as a potential employee.

“As cultural fit becomes increasingly important to employers and their business as a whole, several seek out candidates whose goals align with theirs, and asking this question permits them to assess specifically what a candidate’s goals are,” Fleischman says.

……Part II will follow shortly!


Supporting Article Research Sources: Business Insider, The Execu|Search Group


Avoid these Interview Mistakes – Part II of II



Welcome back! Here is the balance of my Avoid these Interview Mistakes article. Your feedback is always appreciated and welcomed!

Ask ‘Smart’ Questions

Remember that an interview is a ‘2-way’ street, and is a ‘sales’ process for both parties. Given that you have conducted proper research on the firm, you should have no problem coming up with interesting, and well thought out questions for the interviewer.

Not having a list of solid questions to put forward indicates that you either lack interest in the firm or have not properly conducted your own due diligence. Either way, it is harmful to you!

Alluding to Competition

If you have or expect pending job offers, this is not the time to bring it up, so do not put that out there. If you are contacted with an Offer, you will have an opportunity to negotiate accordingly.

Bypassing the Thank You Letter

Do not forget the all important Thank You letter. Be sure it is clear, concise, and reflects your interview discussion and your keen interest in the position. For this reason, it is wise to prepare your Thank You letter as soon as possible after the interview, while what transpired is fresh in your mind.

Always ask to take notes during the interview. If you are not permitted to do so, which is unlikely, jot down the important points as soon as possible – even if that means using the washroom or elevator, or sitting down outside the building. Keep your notes and questions for each interview carefully separated to avoid any embarrassing moments.

In closing, interviewing is an emotionally draining process, particularly if you are attending more than two per day. Therefore, regardless of your memory retention, you are likely to forget what could turn out to be important points if you fail to take good notes, which should ‘mentally recreate the discussions’ for you. Remember to also practice excellence in your ‘listening’ skills.

Best of Luck to You!





Avoid these Interview Mistakes – Part I of II


Congratulations! You have finally landed an interview, which is no small feat in our tough job market, So, pat yourself on the back and make sure not to blow it. Also, keep in mind that your cover letter, resume, and references are the vehicles that created the interview opportunity for you in the first place – personify that person during the interview process.

Being ‘Informal’ is Inappropriate

Unbelievably, some candidates actually do get far too informal, offering hugs instead of handshakes after the interview. Others will even ask the interviewer to connect on social media sites. You want to connect with this person professionally, not on a personal level at this point. Keep it professional!

Do not come off as ‘Overly’ Confident

Having a superb resume and a terrific background loses its draw if a candidate is arrogant or overly confident during the interviewing process. This will also send up a red flag in terms of dealing with your co-workers and your potential to ‘fit in’ with the firm culture.

Overwhelming the Interviewer – Information Overload

There is a fine line between being thoroughly prepared, and information overload. Keep in mind your resume and references have already been read and checked.

This is especially relevant for mature, more experienced workers who may be applying for lower level positions in our current markets, or meeting with decision makers who are junior to them.

Be sure to do your homework; know everything you can about the position, company, industry, whom the largest competitors are, etc. Always allow the interviewer to lead the meeting, and follow his or her agenda.

Criticizing Former Employers/Co-Workers

Never speak negatively about former employers, bosses, or co-workers – this is a huge mistake! Do not allow yourself to be trapped into answering leading questions in this area, and redirect the discussion swiftly.

Unable/Unwilling to Respond to Questions on Background & Future

When asked what you have done since losing your previous job, answer honestly, not simply stating job searching. Perhaps you went back to school, took an online course, volunteered your time, studied a particular new computer program, etc.

A more challenging question would be the ‘three-five-year plan’ query that inevitably comes up. Respond according to your career path, and the field you are currently pursuing with the firm. This could look like training in-house, independent training, and other actions that would lead to advancement with the firm.

Do Not Emote ‘Desperation’

A skilled interviewer can get you to let your hair down and reveal information that you should not be discussing fairly quickly, such as family matters, finances, etc. Keep your personal information private!

Be Conscious of Others

Everyone you encounter from the time you enter the building may in some way be related to the hiring process, so acknowledge the presence of others, particularly in the elevator and the firm Receptionist of course, and treat everyone with respect.

Assume that you are on camera (which is likely the case) from the moment you enter the lobby, up to and including your departure from the building.

Please continue reading at Avoid these Interview Mistakes – Part II of II




Career Marketing Materials ~ Your Professional ‘Portfolio’




‘Hard Copy’ Professional Portfolio



Q.  First of all, why do you think you need to create a professional portfolio?

A.  Because this empowering tool will allow you to market your capabilities in job interviews and upcoming promotions, as well as other scenarios; such as your performance reviews and your firm’ Learning & Growth (‘L&G’) efforts.

Creating your own portfolio might sound like a daunting task initially, but trust me; it can be terribly gratifying and a very satisfying experience. Allow me to elaborate on precisely what I mean by Portfolio’.

If you review a number of project works that you have created, you will no doubt come across terrific charts created with Excel, excellent PowerPoint presentations, general marketing materials, perhaps report writing, and different styles of documentation created and/or authored by yourself.

Where are these documents stored? I suspect that they are not enjoying space within a nice binder or casing with page protectors to keep them neat and clean. They are more likely to be on your personal computer or network where they lay dormant. This is not good news for you if you are wanting to market your particular talents.

This then begs the question, how are these dormant pieces of creativity serving you to prepare for future interviews or promotion within your firm – whether the interviews are a directive from your manager, or proactively sought out?

If you do not take action now, your creative pieces will remain virtually useless to your marketing and promotion efforts. This does not produce the desired results, which, in my experience, is building your self-confidence, and more importantly, giving yourself a significant edge.

Therefore, I would recommend that you take some time to peruse your projects, and strategically select the most appealing and complex pieces to begin building your hard copy professional Portfolio.

In my own career, I have used a portfolio for many years, and am invariably delighted at the response it prompts. I must admit, in hectic times, it is very easy to forget to incorporate a very good piece, and end up realizing that the opportunity has passed. I sincerely hope that you do not find yourself in a similar scenario.

Additionally, do not forget to include all your kudos for your great work, and going the extra mile when needed! I can guarantee you that your portfolio will prove to be an invaluable asset in your own career growth today, and well into the future.

IMPORTANT: Please also keep in mind that as unfortunate as it is, the reality is ‘layoffs happen frequently’ these days. Therefore, I suggest that you develop your portfolio while you have the chance, and still have easy access to your great works! Keep your Portfolio ‘up-to-date’, and be most selective with your pieces.

Good Luck & have fun with this, but GET ON IT NOW!