Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency (HRFE) uses a merit based recruitment and selection process. This process includes aptitude testing, physical abilities testing, and a panel interview. The skills, abilities and competencies measured through each of these phases are in alignment with the requirements for the position of firefighter.
The process used in the 2017/18 career firefighter recruitment was designed to remove identified barriers, including eliminating the need for post-secondary certification and all costs previously incurred by candidates at various phases of the selection process, with the goal of developing a diverse Consideration for Hire pool reflective of the community we serve.
After the three phases of the 2017/18 recruitment process, a Consideration for Hire pool of 30 candidates was established. Of these candidates, 16.7% self-identified as a member of an employment equity group and approximately 37% were active HRFE volunteer firefighters.
Three key issues have been identified:
- There are not enough candidates in the Consideration for Hire pool to meet HRFE’s career firefighter recruit class needs from this process in 2019 and 2020.
- The composition of the current Consideration for Hire pool will not make it possible to create career firefighter recruit classes reflective of the community we serve.
- Creating and executing a full recruitment process is a significant investment of staff and budget resources.
In consideration of these issues, HRFE and Human Resources assessed the available options and have determined an interim approach to increase the total number of candidates in the Consideration for Hire pool and the percentage of employment equity candidates in the pool. An additional 50 candidates who achieved the required score of 70% or higher in the aptitude testing phase will be invited to take part in the physical abilities testing in fall 2018. These additional 50 candidates will consist of the ten next highest scoring candidates in each of the four employment equity groups - racially visible persons, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, and women in non-traditional roles - as well as the next ten highest scoring candidates who chose not to identify in their application. These additional 50 candidates include three HRFE volunteer firefighters.
Candidates who are successful at the physical abilities phase will proceed to the panel interview phase. Candidates who achieve a score of 70% or higher at the panel interview will enter the Consideration for Hire pool. This will allow for enough candidates in the pool to satisfy hiring requirements through 2020 and to have career firefighter recruit classes reflective of the community we serve.
In addition to this interim approach, as part of the organization’s commitment to continuous quality improvement as well as diversity and inclusion, HRFE will undertake a full review of the career firefighter recruitment process with key stakeholders prior to launching the next career firefighter recruitment.
What is the ‘Consideration for Hire’ pool?
Those in the Consideration for Hire pool are qualified to enter recruit training. Placement in the pool is not a guarantee of employment. Candidates must successfully complete security clearance (drivers abstract, child abuse registry, criminal records check, integrity interview) before being offered a position.
This interim approach doesn’t appear to be consistent with HRFE’s merit-based recruitment and selection process. How is this fair to those who have higher aptitude scores who will not be considered?
The Council-approved process used in the 2017/18 career firefighter recruitment was designed to remove identified barriers, including eliminating the need for post-secondary certification and all costs previously incurred by candidates at various phases of the selection process, with the goal of developing a diverse Consideration for Hire pool reflective of the community we serve.
While this process did result in 30 candidates in the Consideration for Hire pool, more candidates are needed to meet our hiring requirements and the proportion of employment equity candidates (approximately 17%) is still well below what's needed to ensure the recruit classes are better reflective of the community we serve.
The interim approach does not lower the qualifications that must be met by candidates. Our high standards remain unchanged. By drawing from qualified candidates from the employment equity groups we are upholding our high standards and making important progress in our goal to better reflect the community we serve.
This is about doing what's right - not only for HRFE but for our community.
Since some of the 50 candidates will not have the highest scores on the aptitude test, doesn't that mean we're getting lower quality candidates?
Aptitude testing is used as a first-level screening tool. Candidates that achieve a minimum score of 70% or higher demonstrate reasonable aptitude for firefighting. Therefore, 70% is considered a pass. This is stage one of a multi-stage hiring process, to ensure that candidates possess the other required attributes and competencies. Assessments are completed to confirm candidates have the physical ability and demonstrate behaviours, values and the emotional resiliency to be successful in the career firefighter recruit training stage. The hiring process, as a whole, is used to assess each candidate's ability to be a firefighter.
All 50 candidates have passed the aptitude test and will continue on through the remainder of the assessment process.
It's also important to note that there's a very small variance in aptitude scores between the candidates who passed the aptitude test. As an example, the person who finished 150th earned 85% on the aptitude test. The person who finished 527th earned just above 80%. Small variances in aptitude test scores by themselves do not suggest one candidate will be a better firefighter than another.
Is this interim approach consistent with employment policies and provincial legislation?
Yes. This has been discussed with the municipality's Legal Services, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, all of whom support this interim approach. The approach is within the parameters of the Halifax Regional Municipality's Employment Equity policy and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.
Will this interim approach ensure there are enough career firefighters hired though 2020?
Yes. This will allow for enough candidates in the pool to satisfy hiring requirements through 2020 and to have career firefighter recruit classes reflective of the community we serve.
Of the 50 candidates who enter the process, how many will be eligible for hire?
On average, about one-third of eligible candidates will successfully complete the process. This means of the 50 original candidates who met the requirements of the aptitude testing, approximately 15 will enter the Consideration for Hire pool after completing the physical abilities phase and panel interview phase. HRFE expects this will provide a sufficient number of candidates to meet its hiring requirements for the next two years.
Were other options considered to address the challenge of insufficient numbers in the 'consideration for hire' pool?
Yes. Several options were identified and assessed. The other options would either not be completed in time to hire additional career firefighters in 2019, or they weren't aligned with employment equity legislation. The interim approach is not only the most expedient and cost-effective way to meet the hiring requirements through 2020, it also aligns with employment equity legislation to ensure career firefighter recruit classes better reflect the community we serve
How many HRFE volunteer firefighters will be included in the additional group of 50 candidates?
There are presently 11 (37%) HRFE volunteers in the Consideration for Hire pool. Three HRFE volunteer firefighters are in the additional group of 50 candidates.
What steps will be taken in the longer term to address what the interim approach is doing in the short term?
In addition to this interim approach, as part of the organization's commitment to continuous quality improvement as well as diversity and inclusion, HRFE will undertake a full review of the career firefighter recruitment process with key stakeholders prior to launching the next career firefighter recruitment.