HR Toolkit

Getting the Right People

Selection & Hiring

Related HR Management Standard:

Standard 2.3

Criteria used to select the appropriate individual are established and documented.

Plan the selection process

Selection is the process of screening applicants to ensure that the most appropriate candidate is hired.

The first step in the selection process is to review the information (resume, application form) provided by all job applicants to determine which applicants meet the minimum qualifications as stated in the job posting. No further consideration will be given to those who do not meet the minimum qualifications. (In fact, it is a good idea to say in your advertisements that only those candidates who meet the job requirements will be considered.)  Those job applicants who meet or exceed the minimum job qualifications are then assessed to decide which ones will be short-listed for a job interview.

The most common methods of selection for all positions include an interview followed by a reference check.

Other selection techniques used during the interview phase are: work samples, written tests, in basket exercises, oral presentation, and personality or aptitude tests. After making a conditional offer, additional selection techniques can include: criminal records check, driver's records check. Written consent is required before requesting records checks.


Working with a selection panel

Engaging other people in a selection process can be very helpful. You may want to include a senior staff member, a board member and a potential co-worker, for example. When you invite panel members to participate, let them know how much time it will take and what their role will be. Their contribution can include:

  • Helping to develop selection criteria
  • Screening resumes
  • Preparing interview questions
  • Participating in interviews
  • Assessing each candidate against the selection criteria
  • Providing input about the final selection


Good Practice

When working with a selection panel:

  • Give panel members copies of the candidates' resumes and any other information the candidate provided
  • Prepare for interviews by clarifying which panel member will ask each question
  • Share all materials that relate to the hiring process (announcement and job description, selection criteria, template for assessing candidates, etc.)

Prepare for the interviews

Prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview (see the HR Toolkit's Sample Interview Questions). Develop key questions to explore past job performance, covering all essential functions. Also, prepare follow-up questions. Use a variety of approaches to get different kinds of information, tailoring questions to open up a topic for conversation or to confirm information.


Good Practice

When you call the job applicants on the short list to set up an interview, tell each person the salary range for the position, if this information was not part of the job posting. Then ask them if they would like to proceed to an interview given the salary you have to offer. This way, you should avoid interviewing people who later refuse a job offer on the basis of salary.

Conduct the interviews

Choose an appropriate environment for the interviews and ensure that you will not be interrupted. If you are interviewing internal candidates, consider doing it off-site.

Think of the interview as a business conversation. Make sure you use the same interview format and setting for every candidate, and that interview appointments are the same length.

Welcome the candidate and provide her/him with an overview or "road map" for the interview. Ask your questions, then sit back and listen. Ideally, you should talk no more than 20% of the time. Use follow-up questions to have the candidate expand on their answers. Comment on what the candidate says to let them know you are interested and to encourage discussion. You may want to consider using an Interview Rating Guide to evaluate the answers given by each person that you interview.

Conclude the interview by thanking the candidate and explaining the next steps. Ask for their permission to contact references.

Be aware of bias in the interview process

The following is a list of common biases that can occur when interviewing candidates:

Leniency/ Strictness Bias occurs given people differ in how they evaluate people; some interviews are very liberal and lenient, while others are critical and demanding. This bias tends to raise or lower the scores of people who are interviewed.

Halo Effect occurs when the interviewer lets one favoured qualification, trait, or experience influence all other factors, resulting in an unduly high overall performance rating.

Horns Effect, similar to the halo effect, allows one disfavoured qualification, trait, or experience take precedence and result in an unfairly low candidate rating.

Similarity Effect occurs when an evaluator rates a candidate based on characteristics the appraiser sees in themselves. Interviewers have an unconscious tendency to favor people who are physically and professionally similar to them.

Appraiser Biases occurs when an evaluation is based on individual demographic differences. Personal beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and preferences can lead to unfair evaluations of candidates.

Primacy Effect is associated with "the first impression,” interviewers' first impressions of a candidate can often play a powerful role in their subsequent assessment.

Contrast Effect occurs when one's individual ranking is based on one's position relative to others in the group. If the interview pool consists of a number of outstanding candidates, it is extremely difficult for an average candidate to be picked as number one, but in a substandard pool, the average candidate may inexplicably stand out.


Good Practice

All selection or screening methods must be based on the essential tasks and skills for the position (as outlined in the job description) and comply with human rights legislation.

Check the references of your final candidates

Checking references carefully and thoroughly is one way to avoid hiring the wrong person. It may seem easier to accept letters of recommendation that address a candidate's abilities and experience. However, talking to people will allow you to probe issues deeply enough to get a fuller sense of the candidate's values, nature, approach to work and how they interact with others. Telephone interviews are the best way to get more depth about the candidate's character and background.

Reference checks are a last opportunity to verify information the candidate has provided, validate their personal suitability and explore any areas of concern. Talk to references before you make an offer. Let the candidate know you will be doing this. Be sure to find out if there is anyone the candidate would prefer you not speak to - for example, a current boss or current colleagues.

Prepare a list of questions for references (see the HR Toolkit's sample questions for references (PDF 40KB). Ask about information on the candidate's resume and about topics discussed during the interview. Ask for insights into the candidate's character, examples of good work they have done and areas that need development. If you keep the conversation casual but professional, you are likely to get more information. Record the reference's responses. Remember that any notes that you take when talking to a reference must comply with human rights legislation.Potential candidates may have the right to see what references have said about them so keep accurate notes.

At the beginning of your conversation, explain to the reference the importance of the position you are hiring for and tell them you appreciate their honesty. At the end, thank them for the time they have spent talking to you and for their  help .


Links and Resources

A useful book about screening volunteers and employees in nonprofit organizations:

Graff, Linda. Beyond Police Checks. Linda Graff and Associates Inc., 1999
Available from:

Make your decision and review it

Evaluate final candidates against each other after you have rated them against the criteria to identify the best candidate based on skills, worker characteristics and organizational fit. Review all your notes and write up your decision.



Keep all of your recruitment and selection materials on file for at least two years.

Make sure your decision is nondiscriminatory, complies with provincial and federal laws and your hiring policies and is based on sound judgment.

Discuss the decision with colleagues or others who participated in the interviews and/or other stages of the hiring process.

Make the offer

Call the candidate to make an offer. Inform all other final candidates by phone of the outcome of the recruitment process. Offer to give them constructive feedback on the interview.

Do the paperwork

It is important that employers include a termination clause within the employment agreement. This clause creates contractual (agreed upon) terms that would otherwise be implied by law, such as the amount of reasonable notice, the employee’s entitlement to payment of benefits during the notice period, and the definition of “compensation” provided in lieu of notice (i.e. how variable pay will be addressed, such as bonuses and incentive pay). Therefore, a termination clause protects the employer from liabilities under common law (except within Quebec), which could increase termination costs significantly. It also provides certainty to employees and can be referred to at a later date in the event of a dispute.

Quebec’s legal system uses Civil Law rather than Common Law. In Quebec, an employer needs to have “good and sufficient cause” to terminate an employee with two or more years of uninterrupted employment. If the employee has less than two years of service an employer is able to terminate an employee with working notice or pay in lieu of notice. Please refer to the Quebec Labour Standards for additional information on terminations:


When determining the notice period and amount of severance pay, employees in Canada (excluding Quebec) who do not have a termination agreement in place, are entitled to common law rights. Employers therefore need to consider the implications of case law when determining a “reasonable” amount – rather than solely providing the minimum employment standards. For example, an employee’s age, length of service, nature and seniority of the position, extent of education, and/or the transferability of his/her skill set will affect the employee’s ease of re-employment and will therefore need to be considered when determining the amount of notice and severance pay.

Legal advice should be sought during terminations in order to ensure compliance with employment standards and common law or civil law.


Good Practice



Next Section: Hiring an Executive Director