Developing selection criteria

Once a vacancy has been identified and the job description has been reviewed and updated as necessary, you are ready to develop the selection criteria used to screen resumes and select the best candidate for the job. Selection criteria should come directly from the job description and must be measurable within the selection process.

Having clear and measurable selection criteria will help avoid bias so that interviewers can evaluate a candidate’s suitability for the job objectively.

Consider the following:

  • What knowledge, skills, qualifications, and experience are essential for a new employee to perform the duties of the position? Keep in mind that selection criteria must be Bona Fide Occupational Requirementsopens in new tab (BFOR) as per Canadian human rights legislation. This means job requirements must be rational, made in good faith, and absolutely necessary to perform the job.
  • Do any of your criteria exclude certain groups as prohibited under human rights legislation?opens in new tab Recruitment standards must meet legal requirements and cannot discriminate against any protected groups.
  • Are the criteria specific, measurable, and job-related? For example, if you are recruiting for a fundraiser, requiring candidates to have excellent written and verbal communications skills is reasonable since they will be engaging with potential and current donors and writing grant proposals on the job.

The duty to accommodate

Duty to accommodate refers to the legal obligation of an employer, service provider or union to take steps to eliminate disadvantages to employees, prospective employees or clients resulting from a rule, policy, practice, behaviour or physical barrier that has or may have an adverse impact on individuals or groups protected under the Canadian Human Rights Actopens in new tab or identified as a designated group under the Employment Equity Actopens in new tab. This includes the hiring process, as well as the accommodation of an individual once employed.

The duty to accommodate is most often applied for persons with physical or mental disability but also includes other grounds covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as:

  • Race
  • National or ethnic origin
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital or family status
  • Conviction for which a pardon has been granted

Different jurisdictions may have different interpretations for the duty to accommodate. It’s important to check with the Human Rights Commission relevant to your province/territoryopens in new tab. Also, recent legal changes have widened the applicability of accommodation.

Many accommodation options available to employers are low or no cost. While your organization may need to adapt workstations or purchase supportive devices, these can be very simple changes. The accommodated employee may be able to act as an important source of information about accommodation needs and could potentially identify sources of funding for adaptive tools and technologies.

The accommodation process is an ongoing one, as both employee needs and the work environment change. Therefore, it is important to have open communication with employees with disabilities and to regularly monitor their status.

Non-requested accommodation

Not every person will self-identify for accommodation. This may be due to fear of being passed over for promotion or from the embarrassment of the social stigma attached to some disabilities. Such employees should be approached confidentially and in a non-confrontational way to discuss possible accommodations. Affirmation that the employee will not be negatively affected by disclosure of disability information may be required.

Grounds for non-accommodation

The only grounds for not accommodating an applicant or employee with personal characteristics protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, is if the exclusion is based on a Bona Fide Occupational Requirement (BFOR). A BFOR is a standard or rule that is integral to carrying out the functions of a specific position.

For a standard to be considered a BFOR, an employer must establish that any accommodation or changes to the standard would create undue hardship. When a standard is a BFOR, an employer is not expected to change it to accommodate an employee.

Refer to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for more information on the duty to accommodateopens in new tab.

Hiring practices and employment equity

It's important to review your hiring and retention policies, practices, and procedures through an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and intersectional lens to identify potential gaps, areas for improvement, and areas of strength in recruiting and retaining underrepresented, equity-seeking groups — including women, racialized minorities, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities and members of LGBTQ2S+opens in new tab (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit, Plus) communities.

Equity, diversity and inclusion are assets to every organization. They’re critical to ensuring the ongoing emergence of new and creative approaches to the provision of care work and targeted community services. Further, the cooperation that takes place between staff in diverse organizations facilitates the exchange of lived knowledge and experience between people, fostering relationships that collectively shape the organization's culture and social impact.

It’s important to embrace differences, including those that extend beyond race, ethnicity, religion, culture, or newcomer status to include geography, language, politics, gender identity, gender expression, beliefs, sexual orientation, economic status, abilities, age, skills, and interests. Embracing diversity means being able to:

  • Address recruitment challenges and skills shortages
  • Improve employee satisfaction and retention
  • Uphold principles of non-discrimination, ensure compliance and manage or mitigate risk.
  • Provide better client service
  • Broaden community engagement
  • Foster innovation and problem-solving skills
  • Promote organizational values more fully

Two ways to help your organization understand and guide inclusive hiring practices are measuring employment equity in your organization and defining equity targets that reflect the demographics of those you serve and the labour market(s) you operate within.

Measuring employment equity in your organization

Queen’s University Equity Servicesopens in new tab provides the following ways to measure equity in the workplace:

  • Representation rates: Representation is measured in terms of percentage representation of all designated groups, organization-wide and by department
  • Occupational distribution: Occupational segregation can often be an indication of inequity in the workplace. Designated group members have been traditionally under-represented in certain fields/occupational areas.
  • Authority and decision making: This measure relates to the fact that designated group members are frequently less represented in positions of authority such as supervisory, management and executive positions
  • Job security and tenure: This measure addresses an employee's progress in obtaining and retaining permanent employment
  • Employment conditions: This relates to the measures put in place to support increases in representation and occupational movement of designated group members
  • Pay and benefits: Establishment of equitable benefit and pay provisions for members of designated groups is a goal of employment equity.

Conducting an employee self-identification questionnaire

A common method of assessing the makeup of an organization’s staffing body is to conduct an anonymous survey. Asking staff about their ethnicity, race, gender, and sexual orientation is a sensitive matter. When performing a survey or census:

  • Provide a definition of each designated group, including LGBTQ2+ identities, and then ask if the respondent self-identifies as a member of that group. Options should be inclusive (e.g., man, woman, gender-neutral, non-binary, trans man, trans woman, Two-Spirit), and each question should provide the option to not respond.
  • Explain the purposes of the questionnaire, how the data will be used, privacy considerations, and the importance of self-identification for an accurate understanding of equity representation.
  • Be respectful of the reasons why someone may choose not to self-identify; self-identification is a choice.
  • Explicitly state a privacy policy alongside the methods of protection and planned uses of any information collected.
  • Include information on rank and seniority level to collect data that would indicate if there are systemic barriers to members of underrepresented groups being promoted to senior positions.
  • Suppress data counts of less than five when sharing or publishing data. The ability for others to identify individuals is increased when the number of respondents is less than five.
  • Include non-identification rates when presenting the data, so the data's margin of error and reliability are transparent.

For more information on developing self-identification questionnaires, visit Creating an Equitable, Diverse and Inclusive Research Environment: A Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Hiring and Retentionopens in new tab.

Defining equity targets

The reality is that equity targets must exist, along with methods to reach them, to counteract systemic barriers that discriminate against equity-seeking groups. Determining your equity targets can be challenging, because there’s no specific number that will work for every organization — just as there’s no specific number that will be “equitable enough”. In practice, your organizational approach to defining equity targets must consider factors that are unique to:

  • The specific needs of the community(s) your organization serves.
  • The demographics of the community(s) your organization serves.
  • Labour market trends within the sector and occupations that are applicable to your organization. These trends and analysis can help your organization actively work against under-representation in certain sectors and occupations.
  • Structural and institutional barriers to employment and/or socioeconomic security, including intersecting factors of race, gender expression, economic status, accessibility, and citizenship status.
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