Monthly Archives: March 2015

You Mean I Need To Pay For Assessments Too?

This week’s post was contributed by Aline Ayoub, of Aline Ayoub HR Consulting. 

So far, we’ve discussed assessments in a broad context.  However, Aline’s expertise is in psychometric assessments, which are more formal and what we typically consider assessments to be.  Aline’s post doesn’t dwell on the specific types of assessment tools used, but rather describes the reasons you should consider using assessments as part of the hiring process.

Getting it Right the First Time

Small Business owners usually have limited budgets. At the same time, they’re not able to devote a lot of resources into their hiring process. Since you don’t hire in large volume, you may not have extensive experience in screening and evaluating candidates.

You need an efficient way to ensure you select the right candidates at the right place and the right time, without requiring a huge investment. Employment assessments can make the process easier and more reliable.

There Is More

Employee assessments can give you consistent, in-depth, and objective information about the people you interview. This includes the candidate’s:

  • Fit with business culture
  • Knowledge, skills, job performance, and developmental needs
  • Preferred learning and communication style
  • Integrity, reliability and work ethic, and attitude towards substance abuse
  • Response to conflict, stress, and frustration

Information uncovered from assessments helps you rely less on gut instinct and make smarter people decisions.

Specific Benefits

  • Selecting people most likely to succeed in a job
  • Accelerating time for people to become fully productive in a new role
  • Improving alignment and communication between managers and employees
  • Reducing workforce conflict and improving employee satisfaction
  • Maximizing each employee’s contribution to the organization
  • Reducing employee absenteeism and turnover
  • Reducing frequency and cost of theft
  • Increasing sales performance and customer loyalty
  • Enabling strategic workforce management and succession planning
  • Increasing overall workforce capability, productivity, and agility

 The average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first year potential earnings. Also, bad hiring decisions account for 30% of employee turnover in small businesses.

Employment assessments are a solution to your hiring nightmares. Are you convinced?

About Aline Ayoub

Aline has made a lifetime career in HR and has worked for major brands such as Hudson’s Bay Company, Loblaw’s and Sears Canada and founder of Aline Ayoub HR Consulting.  She is an award winning coach and has been recognized by the Leadership Action Centre.

Aline is fully certified to administer Myers-Briggs personality style assessment tools and is a strategic business partner with Profile International, global employment assessment organization. She is an active member of Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). Aline is an expert in helping small businesses recruit and hire the right people through a unique hiring process she has developed. Aline is fully bilingual in English and French. 

You can contact her by email at or by phone at 416-368-0720


Best Practices for Checking Candidate References

Reference CheckingNearly everyone has been asked at one time or another for references when they’re applying for a job. It’s usually the last step in the hiring process before an offer is presented.

However, fewer people have experienced being asked to supply a reference for someone and even fewer know the proper technique to use to discover the referee’s true experience with the person.

The goals of reference checking are to:

  • verify the candidate’s experience and achievement
  • verify the candidate’s competences
  • assess whether the candidate can indeed do the job for which he/she is being interviewed.

A good reference checking process will be

  • Fair and unbiased
  • Behaviourally focussed.
  • Legally defensible


Usually, it is the candidate who selects the referees and, most often, the people given by candidates as referees tend to be people for whom the candidate has worked.  If the candidate is currently employed, he or she should look at past employers or co-workers  or outside the organization – to vendors or customers.

We prefer, whenever possible, to interview referees who were peers and subordinates in addition to supervisors.  Some people are very adept at “managing upward” so they always look good in their supervisor’s eyes, while their behaviour with peers and subordinates may be very different from what the supervisor knows.  Going with a 360° background check helps unearth any bad behaviours that may only be revealed to people at or below a candidate’s level in an organization.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on the last 10 years of the candidate’s career or their last 3 positions to get the best reading on their competencies.  Usually, the target number of referees given by a candidate is 3.  Going with 3 referees is fine if the scope is to interview only referees for whom the candidate reported to and provides an opportunity to see if there is consensus among the referees.   In the case of a 360° review, there can be as many as 6 or more.  


At HIRE GRAY MATTER, we use a standard form for asking questions during the reference checking process. Depending on the position being filled, the process of the reference checking interview with the referee can run from 15 to 45 minutes.

Some reference-checking firms will send the referee a copy of the questionnaire to help them prepare for the interview.  Others tend to only give the questions over the phone, thinking this will promote more candid responses.

The questions asked during a reference check should be standardized so all candidates receive the same process, which helps ensure there are no biases introduced into the process. You also can add more role-specific questions depending on the position being filled to explore thing like leadership, but all referees consulted in checking a candidate’s references must be given the same questions.

In developing role-specific questions, think of the competencies required to do the job and structure questions that explore these

There should be no questions about age, gender or national origin etc. that could potentially introduce discriminatory comments.

The questions should also be open-ended to require the referee to give more than just a yes or no response. The answers are in their terminology, not ours.

Throughout the process, take detailed notes, sometimes probing the referee if an answer is unclear or ambiguous.



The process begins by establishing the working relationship between the candidate and the referee.  Where they worked. How long they worked together. Job responsibilities.  These are non-controversial topics and help the referee become comfortable while establishing a flow to the process.

Then verify details from the candidate’s resume – education, language skills, work experience (including any employers the candidate may have worked for since leaving the referee).

The next stages of the interview involve assessment of the candidate’s competencies.

One area is overall job performance, to get a sense for the candidate’s competence in a job role.

Ask behavioural questions, much as you would encounter in a job interview. For example, “Can you describe a situation in which [the candidate] had to overcome a major setback” or “What made Candidate successful in this role?”

In this area, you can introduce behavioural questions that were answered by the candidate during the interview process to validate his/her response.

Ask the referee about what made the candidate successful in his/her role and what motivated the candidate’s performance.

You also should explore the candidate’s ability to manage change within an organization.  Since the executive level is principally responsible for driving change within an organization, it represents an opportunity to explore the candidate’s leadership skills and style.

Lastly, because it often is more sensitive, probe on interpersonal skills.

This is a way of getting a more intensive assessment of leadership skills.  Ask about how the candidate’s verbal and written communication skills, how he/she coped with conflict, delegation and listening skills.

To wrap up the process, work with the referee to assemble a profile of the candidate – his/her strengths and weaknesses, areas for development.  One question we like to ask is whether the referee would hire the candidate again for the same role.   This usually signals the level of commitment to and conviction about the candidate.

If you’d like to learn more about our reference-checking process at HIRE GRAY MATTER, please contact us at



Subsidize Your Workforce Training with Government Grants

Are you training your workforce? 

Subsidize it by 66% with Government Grants

TrainingIn a recent survey of over 800 businesses across Canada (CME Management Issues Survey 2014), 56% stated that they face immediate labour and/or skills shortages. 50% of respondents also noted that their workforce training budget will increase in the next three years. Although many businesses identify the value of workforce training, the financial investment required limits their ability to implement comprehensive training plans. This leads to inefficient workflows, lowered employee satisfaction levels, and increased turnover within businesses, furthering the labour and/or skills shortage issues.

The Canadian federal and provincial governments have partnered to tackle this issue through government funding support. The Canada Job Grant was created to subsidize workforce development training focused on skills development and/or career advancement, covering up to 2/3 of eligible third party training costs.

Is your training eligible for the Canada-Ontario Job Grant? 

Launched in 2014, the six-year Canada Job Grant program provides up to 66% of eligible training costs in grant funding to a maximum of $10,000 per trainee.  This is a scalable program that businesses can apply for throughout the year for any employees interested in training to support career advancement and skills development.  Eligible trainers include third party training programs within Canada provided by a product vendor (such as HIRE GRAY MATTER), university, public college, registered private career college, union based training centre, or school board. Eligible expenses include:

  • Tuition or other training fees;
  • Textbooks, software, and other required materials;
  • Mandatory student fees; and
  • Examination fees.

Is your business eligible for the Canada-Ontario Job Grant?

Businesses must apply on behalf of the trainees; trainees can’t apply directly for funding.  Eligible businesses must be incorporated and operate within Canada.  Owners are not eligible for training subsidies, however upper management without ownership are eligible to take part in training. 

Please note that businesses must be approved for the Canada Job Grant before they can commence their training project. Application turnaround time is approximately 1 month. P lease note that training being carried out by Canada Job Grant should lead to as many of the following impacts as possible:

  • Promotion of job title;
  • Promotion of job role;
  • Salary/wage improvements;
  • Job creation; and
  • Business impacts.

If you plan to train your employees this year with third party support, including training by Hire Gray Matter, please  register for the upcoming informational training grant webinar on February 24, 2015 from 11:00-11:45am. 

If you are unable to attend on that date, please be sure to check Mentor Works’ Business Funding Workshops and Webinars Page  regularly, as they add more time slots and funding topics. You can also contact a Mentor Works Government Funding Expert for more info on training grants or other business funding programs.

About the author

Chris Casemore, Mentor Works Ltd.

Chris is the Director of Client Management & Development at Mentor Works Ltd., specializing in strategic planning through customized funding approaches. Mentor Works has helped hundreds of businesses across Canada discover and leverage funding to optimize their growth plans.

Contact Chris by email at