Recruiting to succeed

October 16, 2013

If you look at the ranks of Statistics Canada senior managers, a surprising number are 'lifers'. That is, they have spent the last 20, 25 or 30 years working at the agency. Many retire without working outside the confines of Tunney's Pasture—a former farm field, a short trip from Parliament Hill, where Statistics Canada has been housed since the 1950s.

Dennis Caravoulias, who leads recruitment efforts at Statistics Canada, tries to make sure that new recruits have a chance to meet some of these managers. "It says a lot about an agency when people stay for their entire career. And, their career paths provide a roadmap for those just joining the agency," he says.

The loyalty, says Mr. Caravoulias, also reflects StatCan's rigorous recruitment process and commitment to training. It helps that Statistics Canada is a good place to work, an employer that is typically included in the list of top 100 employers in Canada.

Recruiting

So how do you get your foot in the door?

The first step for most jobs is to apply and participate in a selection process. Through an assessment process, qualified candidates are placed in a pool.

Three separate recruitment processes just closed:

  • The social statistics, economics and statistical recruitment process (EC classification) draws university graduates in social sciences, statistics and economics to work as analysts. A second EC recruitment process also provides an entry into the Data Production and Dissemination and the Operations groups. For this process, the minimum requirement does not require a university degree.
  • Mathematical Statistics (MA classification) attracts mathematicians and statisticians who will take on the key role to provide methodological services for Statistics Canada surveys. Within a team, the mathematical statistician brings his or her expertise, experience and a critical, analytical mind to the area of statistical and survey methods.
  • Computer and Information Systems (CS classification) draws people with advanced computer skills to work as developers, network administrators, database architects and desktop support to keep the immense StatCan IT engine running smoothly.

StatCan recruiting is rigorous. Processes are advertised on the government website jobs.gc.ca and university billboards across Canada. As many as 2,000 applicants vie for 100 to 200 spots in the EC pool. In the MA classification, there could be 1,000 applicants for 10 or 20 positions.

The initial screening of candidates is generally followed by standardized testing, interviews and reference checks in a process that takes a few months to complete.

Casting a wide net conforms to the Government of Canada's policy to offer opportunities to all Canadians and to see regions well represented in the federal government. By making the selection process as wide and thorough as possible, Statistics Canada is well positioned to find candidates who will be the best fit for the agency.

Training

Once recruits are aboard, Statistics Canada inculcates them into StatCan culture. For the EC stream, each recruit undertakes a one-year rotation in different parts of the agency to get the flavour of StatCan. Mandatory training is included. A mentor is assigned to ensure that each recruit can rely on a seasoned professional for extra insight and guidance. Promotion comes as part of the package.

"The thoroughness of training and the clear vision of a career path is one reason that employees tend to stay", Mr. Caravoulias says. "We are basically grooming our future leaders. We are really building them for a career here. We invest a lot in the program and our employees."

At various stages, career development assignments are also available, he adds. These assignments allow an employee to transfer to another position to gain experience or a change of pace from regular tasks.

Environment

Life at Tunney's Pasture is not only rewarding intellectually. It can also be something of a picnic, with lunchtime walks or runs along the Ottawa River, or lunches at a nice selection of nearby restaurants. Other draws are an onsite daycare, a gym, fitness classes and good public transit. Employee assistance programs are available for those needing support or assistance for personal matters.

Statistics Canada has also established a StatCan Young Professionals Network that provides a forum to promote discussion and positive change in the workplace, fosters leadership and excellence among young professionals and creates networking opportunities to share knowledge and develop relationships among employees.

But, Mr. Caravoulias says, it really is the old-fashioned call of work that most attracts recruits. Most StatCan jobs require an attention to detail and a pursuit of quality and precision that appeals to many recruits. "I think the ones who really do well are those who begin their career at StatCan because they become acclimatized to StatCan culture as they work their way through the ranks."

We are confident that the next generation will find their niche and have as satisfying a stay at Statistics Canada as those who came before.

Next month: Labour Force Survey

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