Archived - Volume Management Guide

Document Status:
Draft: Working version
Effective Date:
September 2007
Related Documents:


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose of this document

Volume management consists of strategies and techniques that allow organizations to effectively and efficiently deal with the number of applicants in an appointment process. It is an integral step in any advertised appointment process. This guide is not intended to be prescriptive or to set rules. It provides some practical advice on managing the volume of applications in an appointment process. The guide will be updated as additional case studies and tools are identified.

1.2 Background

Although a high volume of applications is helpful in some cases, conducting a process that results in an applicant pool that is too large can be daunting and costly. However, processes that do not attract a sufficient number of applications are unproductive and can be an ineffective use of time and resources. Consequently, the goal of volume management is not only to reduce the volume of applications to a reasonable number but more importantly, it is also to yield a sufficient number of promising applicants and to hire the right person when and where they are needed.

1.3 Approach

Volume management in the context of staffing is not a new concept in the public service. Departments and agencies are used to relying on screening to generate a reasonable number of applicants by selecting applicants using relevant criteria. Recent external and internal pressures have necessitated a closer examination of effective volume management approaches. The expansion of the use of a national area of selection (NAOS) in external recruitment means access to a larger applicant base and enhanced access for Canadians to federal public service employment opportunities. The use of NAOS also poses the challenge of higher volumes of applications.

There are four basic elements for volume management. First, the best test for any approach is the Values test. This can be applied to the other elements and at all stages of a process. Second, HR Planning can help in developing effective approaches. Third, if large numbers of applications are anticipated an Electronic Recruiting System is essential. Fourth, Volume Management Strategies can be implemented to generate a reasonable applicant pool. Using all these elements can assist in achieving productive, cost effective, merit-based appointments.

2. Values test

In its preamble, the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) cites the core values of merit and non-partisanship and highlights the values of fairness, transparency, access and representativeness that guide appointments in the public service. Anchored in the core and guiding values, volume management approaches and tools can lead to a more efficient and affordable appointment process. There is no one right way to manage volumes, but the choice of approaches can be tested against the following core and guiding values.

2.1  Merit

Every person appointed meets the essential qualifications, including the official language proficiency established by the deputy head for the work to be done. The manager may take into consideration any current or future asset qualifications, operational requirements and organizational needs also identified by the deputy head.

2.2  Non-partisanship

Appointments and promotions to and within the public service are made free from political influence. Employees have the right to engage in political activities, while maintaining the principle of political impartiality in the public service. The political activity of employees must not impair, or be perceived as impairing, their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner. Political activity means any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party; any activity in support of or in opposition to a candidate; or seeking to be a candidate in an election.

2.3  Fairness

Decisions are made objectively and free from political influence or personal favouritism; policies and practices reflect the just treatment of persons. Persons have the right to be assessed in the official language of their choice in an appointment process.

2.4  Transparency

Information about strategies, decisions, policies and practices is communicated in an open and timely manner.

2.5  Access

Persons from across the country have a reasonable opportunity to apply, and to do so in the official language of their choice, and be considered for public service employment.

2.6  Representativeness

Appointment processes are conducted without bias and do not create systemic barriers to help achieve a public service that reflects the Canadian population it serves.

3. Human resources planning

The PSEA places an increased emphasis on human resources (HR) planning. HR planning is a process that identifies current and future human resources needed for an organization to achieve its goals. To fully realize the opportunities of the PSEA, managers and HR professionals work together to align strategic goals of the organization with human resources objectives in the HR plan. The PSEA allows managers to tailor their staffing approaches, which can help with volume management. Managers establish the criteria (i.e., essential and asset qualifications, operational requirements or organizations needs) and the sequence in which to apply them when making appointment decisions.

An organization's HR plan and an understanding of position and unit requirements provide the foundation for establishing merit criteria. A well-defined statement of merit criteria aids volume management by:

  • allowing interested individuals to make an informed decision on whether to apply, which could have the potential of enlarging or reducing the number of applicants; and
  • providing a basis for screening and assessment of merit criteria to generate a reasonable number of applicants.

4. Electronic recruitment systems

Advancement in technology has changed how the public service advertises its employment opportunities. The use of Web portals has provided federal organizations with an excellent source of previously untapped candidates. The use of the internet or intranet also helps to bring opportunities to the attention of those who are eligible to apply. Since using the internet typically results in a greater number of applicants, there is also a greater need to use strategies and techniques to effectively manage the increased volume of applications. Technology can assist organizations in managing applicant volume. An example in the public service is the Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS).

The PSRS is an automated, web-based external staffing tool. Managers in departments and agencies can use the tool to advertise job opportunities, receive applications, conduct pre-screening and searches and communicate with applicants. Most importantly, the PSRS significantly reduces some of the manual tasks in a recruitment process, offering time- and cost-savings advantages. The PSRS can be an effective means to manage high volumes of applications. When the system capabilities such as the questionnaire feature within the PSRS are maximized, the system serves as a screening tool and a data bank of applications.

The PSRS has been used as a volume management tool in external staffing since it was first introduced in 2003. The tool electronically screens and eliminates applicants who do not possess experience, as determined by the manager. Electronic screening of essential or asset qualifications such as experience, education, and professional accreditation can be done by using the questionnaire. The PSRS questionnaire is a component of the application process. A questionnaire is a series of experience statements selected from our on-line library which define, clarify and further describe the experience identified in the statement of merit criteria. For each experience statement, the manager selects the degree of experience and its importance and links the level of experience requested to the statement of merit criteria. The applicant responds using the level of experience scale and, if applicable, the scale on recency of experience. A manager may request that all applicants who report their level of experience as being equal to or greater than the pre-determined level be referred for further assessment. A manager may also ask the PSRS to rank this group of applicants based on their scores and to refer a certain number of applicants with the highest scores.

Organizations are not limited to the PSRS. The private sector offers other technological tools and recruitment services. These tools or services still need to respect the legislative framework and policies established by the PSC and the employer. For example, the Public Service Commission's (PSC) Policy on Advertising in the Appointment Process requires, at a minimum, that internal advertised processes regarding interdepartmental opportunities be available at and external advertised employment opportunities be posted at as well as Infotel or an alternative telephone service provider. Some departments such as Transport and Justice have their own application systems.

Accommodation is another important capacity in these systems. The Treasury Board and the PSC are committed to developing an inclusive, barrier-free work environment in which all persons have equal access to opportunities in the federal public service and appointments are based on merit. The Treasury Board/Public Service Commission Policy on the Duty to Accommodate Persons with Disabilities in the Federal Public Service makes it mandatory to provide accommodation. Accommodation is the right of anyone who is protected from discrimination on the grounds specified in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

5. Volume management strategies

A number of volume management strategies are available to hiring managers. The occupational group and level of the position, labour market availability, the projected number of vacancies and the cost and effectiveness of assessment tools influence the choice of volume management strategies. This section describes some specific strategies that can be used at different points in the process. No single strategy is best. Several strategies may be used in combination to complement and maximize their effectiveness. Applying the Values Test to your strategies can help you make good choices at all stages of the process.

Considerations within stages of the appointment process

5.1 Planning in the context of volume management

Planning is essential in managing applicant volumes. Volume management is most effective when it is an integral part of the planning stage of an appointment process rather than a reactive decision following the receipt of applications. Gathering data and facts facilitates choosing tools or strategies and the point within the appointment process at which to use them. The types of information that can help managers decide on the approach to managing the applicant volume include:

  • HR needs of the organization, as identified in the HR plan;
  • Demographics of the public service workforce;
  • Workforce availability;
  • Cost and benefits of assessment tools;
  • Technology available; and
  • Existing public service-wide pools and inventories.

Different types of processes may require different strategies. The approaches people are using seem to vary along two factors: specialization of skill sets and job level.

Accessible format

specialization of skill sets and job level

Such strategies can be seen in data from NAOS processes in the National Capital Region over 2006-2007. AS-1 and PM-1 processes use a minimum advertising period and maximum screening to decrease volumes. Senior Research Scientist positions (RES-5) are posted for an extended period (average of 43 days) with no electronic screening to increase volumes (0% PSRS experience questionnaire usage).

and Level
# of
Averge #
of Days Posted
% Usage
AS-1 105 1.6 68.6%
AS-2 42 2.9 52.4%
AS-3 30 2.2 43.3%
AS-4 8 4.1 25.0%
AS-5 16 5.4 25.0%
AS-6 17 5.2 23.5%
AS-7 8 6.3 0.0%
AS-8 1 13 0.0%
Total AS 227 2.8 51.5%
PM-1 9 1.6 77.8%
PM-2 13 1.8 30.8%
PM-3 7 1.4 28.6%
PM-4 28 5.6 64.3%
PM-5 33 4.7 39.4%
PM-6 12 6.3 25.0%
Total PM 102 4.2 46.1%
SE-RES-1 12 20.9 0.0%
SE-RES-2 13 17.6 0.0%
SE-RES-3 5 27.0 0.0%
SE-RES-4 3 38.7 0.0%
SE-RES-5 2 43.0 0.0%
Total SE-RES 35 23.3 0.0%

5.2 Process design

Collective staffing

Volume management begins with the type of process chosen and the source of applicants. Rather than conducting individual appointment processes to fill each position, a collective staffing process creates a pool of candidates that managers use to staff their positions. The pool may be used to make appointments for several positions and/or levels within or among one or more organizations. The pool can be essentially qualified or fully assessed and managers may apply merit criteria in any order. This provides the ability to tailor the process to specific positions.

Collective staffing processes are particularly useful when staffing actions are likely to attract a large number of applications. Pools offer a longer-term solution for staffing positions in those occupational groups and/or levels where turnover is frequent. Time- and cost-savings are achieved through the collaborative efforts of managers.

Inventories and pools

An inventory is a group of applicants that could be used to staff similar positions within one organization or within a number of organizations, but who have not been assessed. If found qualified following assessment against the merit criteria, these individuals can be appointed to positions. Inventories provide managers with more efficient access to applicants as staffing needs arise.

Pools differ from inventories in that individuals within pools have been assessed to some degree. In the case of a fully assessed pool, all merit criteria have been assessed, enabling organizations to fill vacancies quickly. For partially assessed pools, some merit criteria have been assessed, requiring that individuals be further assessed prior to being eligible for appointment. This also allows tailoring to specific requirements to ensure the right fit.

Inventories and pools can be created through individual or collective staffing processes and can be particularly useful in cases where there is a high volume of applications, positions for which there is a high-turnover of employees or positions for which there is a labour market shortage of necessary skills.

Inventories and pools can be expensive in terms of the initial set-up costs and time required to establish them. However, once established, they provide a means for organizations to decrease cost per hire and reduce staffing time.

Transparency and fairness can be increased by communicating early in the process the validity period of the inventory or pool and how applicants will be drawn from them. This includes information about the assessment methods and tools and how they will be administered, the anticipated number of vacancies and the responsibilities of the applicants with respect to being retained in the pool or inventory.


Public service-wide inventory
Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) offers a computerized national inventory of students seeking employment with the federal public service. This inventory is managed by the PSC. Managers wanting to hire students can request referrals from the FSWEP inventory.

Another public-service wide inventory is the Post-Secondary Recruitment Program (PSR). There are two components to PSR: advertised career choices and general inventory. This program seeks post-secondary graduates who have the qualifications needed to fill entry-level positions in federal government organizations.

Departmental inventory
Transport Canada provides applicants with the opportunity to register in more than 25 different electronic recruitment inventories for technical positions in various fields within their organization. The department advertises these opportunities through a notice on the PSC's Web site. Because there are continuous needs, the advertisement does not use a closing date.

5.3 Length of advertising period

The length of posting time of an advertisement has an impact on the resulting group of applicants. The length of time to advertise depends largely on the labour market for the position or positions being staffed. Knowing how to reach the target applicants and providing them with a reasonable opportunity to apply helps to attract the right applicants and create a sufficient number of applications. Although limiting the length of advertising period can reduce applicant volume, this strategy may have an impact on the value of access. Potential applicants in different time zones may not have the opportunity to apply if the duration is less than one day. Transparency, representativeness and fairness can also be affected as those requiring accommodations to access and apply on processes may be put at a disadvantage by short durations.

A similar approach to limiting the length of advertising period is limiting the number or establishing a quota of applications that will be accepted. This could have the same impact on values as too short an advertising period.

The length of the advertising period may also depend on:

  • The number of applications desired to provide a sufficient number of promising applicants;
  • The degree of urgency to fill the position;
  • The diverse practices across the country (e.g., where an organization has chosen to have an extended period of time to include persons on various work cycles);
  • The choice of media such as electronic or print used to communicate employment opportunities to potential candidates;
  • The method, such as mail, used to receive documents from persons applying for the employment opportunity; and
  • Weekends and civic and religious holidays falling within the advertising period.

5.4 Self-appraisals

Self-appraisal is a process by which potential applicants determine their suitability for a particular position or type of employment. Their decision may be based on perceived differences or similarities between personal and organization values, a clear understanding of the work environment and requirements of the position, salary and benefits and other factors. This information helps people to decide whether or not to pursue an employment opportunity.

Self-appraisal works best when the opportunities and demands of a job are clear. People can quickly judge if a job is of interest and matches their skills and experience. The resulting self-screening can save time and money and manage applicant expectations.

Managers using the questionnaire component in the PSRS can help potential applicants self-report on their qualifications. Applicants responding to the series of experience statements may get a sense of the type of work and whether there is a good match between their experience and the position being staffed.

Providing detailed information to applicants throughout the appointment process can also encourage self-appraisal. This sharing of information can take place in person or through other less expensive means such as advertisements. 


Information sessions
The PSC conducts Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaigns annually to fill entry-level positions in federal government organizations. In addition to providing detailed information on various opportunities on the PSC's Web site, several organizations give on-campus information sessions with presentations by current employees. This approach provides potential applicants with an opportunity to discuss jobs in detail and determine their suitability for a particular position or organization.

The Department of Veterans Affairs required medical officers and doctors but labour market availability was low. To attract potential applicants, they emphasized aspects of federal public service employment that may not be readily offered in other sectors of the labour market. For example, they highlighted the 37.5 hour work-week in a medical journal advertisement.

5.5 Screening

Screening is the process of narrowing down volumes of applicants to those possessing specific requirements of a position such as education, experience, operational requirements and organizational needs. It is the most commonly used volume management technique in the public service and is the first step in the assessment stage of an appointment process. Only applicants with sufficient or specific qualifications are retained, which reduces the volume of applicants prior to the administration of more costly and time consuming assessment processes and tools. The aim is to screen out unqualified applicants at the early stages of an appointment process using instruments that are cost-effective or can be automated to minimize costs and time expended.

The PSEA does not require that merit criteria be applied in a specific order. As long as they will be used in the appointment decisions, a manager may choose to apply asset qualifications, operational requirements or organizational needs in any order, even before assessing the essential qualifications. This allows more innovative and effective screening. Screening can be done on qualifications, other merit criteria and assessment results.

Screening on qualifications and other merit criteria
This approach to screening is based on the order of assessing merit criteria. Only applicants meeting specific merit criteria are retained for further testing, thereby reducing costs and time. Screening is usually based on information provided by the applicants on their application or résumé, such as education and work experience.

Screening on assessment results
The choice and sequence of assessment tools can be based on cost as well as effectiveness. Costs can be minimized by using the more expensive assessment methods and tools later in the appointment process, after having narrowed down the size of applicant base. See Annex Two for an example of how sequence can significantly affect costs.
Assessment tools can include:

  • Paper-and-pencil (or electronic) tests;
  • In-baskets / simulations;
  • Assessment centers;
  • Interviews, in person, by telephone or videoconference; and
  • Reference checks.

The use of technology within the appointment process, such as electronic screening and videoconferences, can also reduce costs. On-Line and Electronic testing (E-testing) can be powerful tools in managing volumes, costs, and time to staff.

The PSC is currently expanding its E-testing capacity. The expansion of E-testing means not only being better able to effectively and efficiently process and score increasing numbers of tests, but also provides a means to enhance test security.

Where paper and pencil testing and scoring requires additional resources to manage increases in test volumes, little additional time or resources are required to process requests for either 10 or 1,000 copies of a test. In the case of a security breach, it can be time consuming and costly to recall and replace paper copies of a test. With E-testing, the electronic master copy can be replaced relatively quickly with little to no administrative costs. Increasing demand for tests and scoring services can be electronically processed without requiring additional operational space. Automated shipping, receiving, scoring and billing are carried out with the same efficiency, regardless of test volumes. Finally, building E-testing capacity permits the seamless linking of electronic recruitment systems with electronic assessment, providing efficiencies with respect to the number of resources and the processing time required for staffing processes.

The Personnel Psychology Center has an inventory of such tools including the Second Language Evaluation written and reading tests, Situational Judgement Test, Written Communication Proficiency and the Graduate Recruitment Test. Additional tests, such as the General Competency Test - Level 2 and the Appointment Framework Knowledge Test will be available online in the summer and fall of 2007. Commercial E-tests are also available.


Asset qualification
A manager identifies graduation with a Bachelor's degree in social work as an essential qualification for a position and possession of a Master's degree in social work as being an asset qualification for this same position. The manager has received a significant number of applicants possessing the asset qualification. Because the possession of a Master's degree will be used to make the appointment decision, the manager decides to apply this requirement and focuses on applicants who possess a Master's degree. This reduced applicant base leads to a faster and more cost-effective selection of qualified applicants.

Organizational needs
An organization needs to increase the representation of individuals from the designated employment equity groups. These include Aboriginal peoples, persons with a disability, members of a visible minority group and women. The organization identifies employment equity objectives in its human resources or employment equity plan. The manager identifies this in the merit criteria and screens in applicants who self-identified as belonging to the targeted employment equity group or groups.

Operational requirements
Examples of operational requirements are the willingness and ability to travel, to work shifts and to work overtime on short-notice. A manager identifies travel as being necessary for a particular position or group of positions and considers only the applications of those who have indicated their willingness and ability to travel. This reduced volume of applications enables an efficient assessment process.

5.6 Ranking

Ranking establishes an order of relative standing of applicants. It can be based on a specific qualification using scores on individual assessment tools or on the overall standing of applicants at the end of the assessment process. This strategy can be useful when applicants have specialized skills sets and where assessment tools can provide meaningful distinctions between applicants. The Personnel Psychology Centre can provide further advice on appropriate assessment tools and methods. The PSC Policy on Assessment requires PSC's approval before using tests of personality, intelligence, aptitude or tests of like nature and adherence to the guidelines in Testing in the Public Service of Canada when developing and using standardized tests.

While there is no requirement under the current PSEA that a manager use relative merit to make a selection, there is nothing prohibiting a manager from ranking. A manager may choose to administer a test to assess an essential qualification and retain a certain number of applicants for further assessment, based on a top-down approach of the test scores. Ranking can provide a solid base to establish the right fit between applicants and jobs. When assessment results do not differentiate between candidates, random selection can be a valid option.

5.7 Random selection

Random selection in managing applicant volume identifies a sub-sample of applicants by applying the element of chance at some point during the appointment process. This method could be used to reduce the number of applicants for further assessment to select a person from a fully-qualified pool for appointment. Planning and rigorous methods for conducting the random selection support transparency and fairness in the process. Use of this strategy should be communicated to potential applicants.

Random selection may be suitable for managing a high volume of applicants in an appointment process under the following conditions:

  • There is high labour market availability of candidates;
  • There is a high ratio of promising candidates relative to the number of vacancies; or
  • The process will staff entry-level positions that do not require specialized skills or experience.

The Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) illustrates how random selection works effectively. Typically, there are 8,000 available jobs and over 70,000 applicants each year. Many of the available opportunities are developmental in nature and do not require specialized skills or a significant level of experience. The Federal Student Work Experience Program's computerized inventory is designed to search for and randomly select students who meet position requirements set by a hiring organization. This search focuses on applicants who meet requirements such as level of education, academic specialization, skills and the availability of the applicant. The search also includes a formula that ensures the short list of students is representative of the employment equity groups. Those on the short list are then contacted to determine their interest in a particular opportunity and for further assessment, where necessary.

Random selection can make sense when other strategies such as ranking will not increase the fit between applicant and job. This is usually when the qualifications require less specialized skill sets, the position is entry level, and the volumes quite large. Valid distinctions between applicants are difficult to make as many of them will have the same level of qualifications.

Transparency is supported if the advertisement communicates how random selection will be used in the appointment process. Random selection may be used in conjunction with other volume management strategies and applied at various points during an appointment process.

There are four broad types of random sampling, differing in the degree of assessment conducted and when they are usually applied. They can also vary in terms of risk to the appointment values, depending on the specific characteristics of a process. Using the Values Test can help to determine the right strategy to meet your needs.

A. Pure random sampling
A sub-sample of applicants is drawn randomly without examining the qualifications of the applicants based solely on chance. This group will be further assessed. This approach has also been referred to as a "lottery" approach. A risk with this strategy is that an applicant could apply several times, without being detected, to increase his or her chance of being selected since there is no prior screening of the applications. Another risk is that the resulting sample may not provide enough qualified applicants to fill vacancies since unqualified applicants have an equal chance of being retained for further assessment as qualified applicants.

This approach can be ineffective if the selected applicants do not have the required qualifications as this results in repeated sampling and assessment of unqualified candidates, which can be costly and extend the time to staff. In addition, this sub-strategy does not respect the requirement of considering all applicants. Therefore, the PSC does not support usage of this strategy in any context.

B. Random selection of applicants who have been partially assessed for further assessment
Applicants are screened and/or assessed on specific merit criteria. For example, screening could be based on membership in a particular employment equity group or on possessing a specific driver's license. Applicants are then randomly selected from the resulting group for further assessment on the other merit criteria. Randomly selecting partially assessed applicants for further assessment could be useful when there is a large number of promising applicants and a relatively small number of vacancies. This strategy may also be effective in cases where the assessment or screening conducted does not provide a meaningful distinction between the degree to which candidates evaluated possess the criteria or qualifications.

C. Random selection of applicants who meet all the essential qualifications for assessment of other merit criteria
Applicants are assessed on the basis of essential qualifications. A manager then randomly selects from those who meet the essential qualifications for further assessment of other merit criteria. This strategy can be useful in the context of collective staffing processes where the asset qualifications required differ from one manager to another. It can also be useful when individuals from a large qualified pool possess the essential qualifications to the same degree. There are no meaningful distinctions to determine which individuals should be selected for further assessment.

D. Random selection of applicants who meet all the merit criteria
Applicants are screened and then assessed to determine whether they meet the essential and asset qualifications, organizational needs and operational requirements. Individuals are then randomly drawn from this group of qualified applicants for appointments. This strategy can be especially useful in the case of a collective staffing process where participating managers require similar qualifications and assessing applicants on all the merit criteria is more effective. Random selection of qualified applicants may also be useful when staffing positions where there are few essential qualifications and few, if any, asset qualifications such as some general labourer positions.

6. Legislative and policy requirements

7. Other references

Information and resources on managing applicant volumes

Human resources planning

Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer (OCHRO) provides information on Human Resources Planning. Its site also includes a link to the Integrated planning handbook for deputy ministers and senior managers.

Demographics of the public service

Workforce availability information

Census (Statistics Canada)

Labour market information
(Employment and Social Development Canada)

Staffing and assessment services

The Public Service Commission's (PSC) Staffing and Assessment Services Branch offers a range of recruitment and assessment services in addition to advice and services for staffing executive positions. Offices are located in Halifax, Montreal, Gatineau and Toronto.

The PSC's Personnel Psychology Centre provides information on assessment products and services.

The PSC's  Public Service Resourcing System is an electronic recruitment tool which screens applicants, based on their responses to a customized on-line application form that includes an experience questionnaire.             

Available inventories and pools include:
Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaign
Federal Student Work Experience Program
Co-operative Education and Internship Program
Management Trainee Program

Additional information about recruiting and assessment is available here.

PSC Glossary

Annex One: Examples

The Public Service Commission (PSC) received the following comments as examples of successful volume management.

AS-1 – Compensation Advisor Position (Community Lead)

  • Volume management strategies used: Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS) screening on assets and collective staffing
  • 5,770 applications
  • 652 referred (11%)
  • 100 positions to fill
  • "The Community took the opportunity to "piggy-back" on the PSR Winter Campaign with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Citizenship and Immigration for the testing portion of this initiative in 50 different Canadian locations for a three (3) week period. There was a 73% volume reduction by screening on assets. The proportion of employment equity group members appears to be increasing at each stage of this process."

AS-1 – Administrative Assistant

  • Volume management strategy used: PSRS screening questions
  • 221 applications
  • 100 referred (45%)
  • 8 positions to fill
  • "Screening based on short explanation in writing of how they meet key merit criteria help limit the volume and identify candidates with right skills. Volume management strategy above was effective."

ES-3 – Program Analyst (DFO)

  • Volume management strategies used: videoconferencing; sequential application of merit criteria; pool
  • 346 applications (64% NCR, 37% other)
  • Approx. 6 positions
  • "We used video-conference which actually worked quite well. Sequential application of merit criteria was very effective for us in balancing access to a broad pool of candidates/experience and in keeping volumes at a manageable level. Both appointees came from Ontario but outside the National Capital Region. Very pleased with the candidates. National area of selection allowed us to create a pool with a good range of assets which will encourage future draws from it."


  • Volume management strategy used: PSRS screening on assets
  • 1970 applications
  • Approx. 50 positions
  • "We screened on the asset qualification of certified human resources professionals and immediately reduced the pool to 81 candidates."

Annex Two: Sequence of Assessment

The order in which assessment tools are applied can dramatically effect costs. Here is a scenario where the hiring manager has posted a process, and is reviewing the assessment options.

Qualifications Test Cost per applicant % who pass

Excellent interpersonal skills

Structured employment interview $250 30

A minimum of a 2 year diploma in office administration;

Online application form $1 40

Typing speed of 80 WPM;

Online typing test $5 60

Two years experience in a public sector environment

Online application form $1 30

Excellent learning ability

Online cognitive ability test $6 55


Live Simulation $150 30

Three different screening scenarios are being considered:

  1. All applicants get all tests;
  2. Applicants get screened on teamwork, then typing speed, then application form information, then cognitive ability, then interview; or
  3. Applicants get screened on application form, then typing test, then cognitive ability, then teamwork, and, finally, interview.

The number and cost of screening 1,000 applicants are presented for illustrative purposes. All costs and passing rates are hypothetical and do not represent actual costs of these procedures.

As can be seen in the following figures, the ordering of the screening criteria can have an enormous impact on the cost of the appointment process. In scenario 1, we see an unacceptably high cost of test administration of $413,000. In scenario 2 we see a better arrangement that saves over $258,000 simply by setting up a multiple hurdle approach, without much thought about the order of testing. Scenario 3 shows a savings of over $400,000 based on constructing multiple screening hurdles with inexpensive screening technologies, such as online application forms applied first.

Scenario 1 - All applicants take all tests

Scenario 1 - All applicants take all tests

The number and cost of screening 1,000 applicants are presented for illustrative purposes. All costs and passing rates are hypothetical and do not represent actual costs of these procedures.

Scenario 2 - Screening but poor order choices

Scenario 2 - Screening but poor order choices

The number and cost of screening 1,000 applicants are presented for illustrative purposes. All costs and passing rates are hypothetical and do not represent actual costs of these procedures.

Scenario 3 - Optimal screening order

Scenario 3 - Optimal screening order

The number and cost of screening 1,000 applicants are presented for illustrative purposes. All costs and passing rates are hypothetical and do not represent actual costs of these procedures.

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