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Large proportion of Canadian job-seekers are skeptical about hiring process

Forty per cent doubt that every applicant has a fair chance of landing a job in Canada, poll finds.
Online-job-ad-Abscent84-iStock-Getty Images Plus
More than half of Canadians believe it is useless to apply to jobs that advise that “internal candidates” will be considered, a new poll finds.
For some Canadians, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an internal debate about career choices.

We have learned that those who are labouring from home are happy with their current arrangement, and that many – particularly the country’s youngest adults – would gladly switch jobs if their new employer afforded them the same flexibility that they currently enjoy.

The hiring process has not been immune to the transformation that the pandemic has brought. Many job interviews are now being conducted virtually and some people have not had a chance to meet their bosses, or their direct reports, in person.

Research Co. and Glacier Media looked at the experiences of Canadians in the job market and found that, while a majority of adults express confidence in specific elements of the hiring process, a sizeable plurality looks at everything related to human resources with a suspicious eye.

The current state of affairs makes it easier than ever to seek a position. Some employers provide a chance to apply to specific openings on their websites, and social media platforms like LinkedIn also enable for the immediate posting of résumés and cover letters.

There are many ways in which prospective employers can write, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” at the bottom of their “Help Wanted” ads. Canadians are divided on whether fairness – one of the key elements of any hiring process – is achievable. While 47% of Canadians agree that all candidates who apply for a position in Canada are taken seriously, 44% disagree with this assessment.

We could conceivably be happy with the fact that most Canadians (55%) believe that every person has a fair chance of landing a job in Canada. Still, this leaves two in five (40%) who question whether this is actually true – a proportion that climbs to 45% among those aged 18 to 34.

Another aspect of the hunt that can be daunting for Canadians is the job interview, in case the résumé and cover letter were good enough to entice decision-makers. Canadians are also more likely to look at this part of the process with a bit of dismay, with 51% agreeing with the notion that doing well at a job interview is more important than knowing how to perform specific tasks.

Many Canadians are also upset at a thorny concept that has become a norm. We are sometimes exposed to advertisements for attractive positions, which carry a caveat related to the consideration of “internal candidates”. In some cases, the process is nothing short of a mockery, where résumés and cover letters are sought and gathered, leading prospective candidates to believe that they have a shot at the job, only to be informed that they have not been selected.

More than half of Canadians (53%) believe it is useless to apply to jobs that advise that “internal candidates” will be considered. Awareness of the futility of these applications is highest among those aged 18 to 34 (69%). In fact, more than one in five Canadians (22%) say they interviewed for a job that ultimately went to an “internal candidate,” a proportion that rises to 27% among those aged 18 to 34 and to 26% among those aged 35 to 54.

Across the country, 18% of Canadians say they experienced discrimination in a hiring process because of their age. This is an issue that affects both the supposedly inexperienced job hopefuls among the country’s youngest adults (24%) and the allegedly savvy and seasoned baby boomers (20%). Also, just over one in 10 Canadians believe a hiring process was unfair to them because of their gender (11%) and their ethnicity or national origin (also 11%).

The skepticism of Canadians about the way companies operate is not exclusive to how they decide whom to hire. While 52% of respondents to our survey say that performance and merits usually led people to be promoted in the companies where they have worked, one-third (33%) say people got ahead only because they knew how to deal with company politics. The presence of cynicism is not unexpected on questions related to corporate life, but it is disheartening to see a third of Canadian adults believing that promotions are not based on excellence.

Evidently, not every Canadian will land a job at the end of a hiring process. Still, the survey outlines a public that feels that the current way of doing things is not entirely impartial, favours the flashy interviewer over the noble worker, and is obsolete when a workplace is already telegraphing job seekers that they intend to promote a person from within.

Some companies have chosen to rely on a technique called “blind résumé” for hiring processes. In a “blind résumé,” personal details such as the applicant’s name, gender, age and ethnicity are not included. Two-thirds of Canadians (67%) believe companies in Canada should implement this technique, including 71% of women and 77% of those aged 18 to 34. Judging a prospective employee with established standards such as education and experience would be welcome by Canadians who feel that the current way of doing things is not always fair.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from October 4 to October 6, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.