Job Seekers Q & A

Q & A


Do you have any questions that you'd like to ask an Employment Counsellor, but can't find one in your area?
Well, WORKink's Ask ECO (Employment Counsellor Online) may be just the solution that you need!

Ask ECO is primarily a referral service - being online, we can't offer case management, or run employment programs - however, we CAN research what is available to meet your needs in your local area, and let you know. Or, if you need help finding the right organization to support you in your search for work, or to help you keep you job, we can research and provide you with referrals.

So, ask away by sending an email to: workink@ccrw.org. Remember, we will need a valid return email address and your town or city to be able to best answer your question. We value your privacy, and any information that you give us will be fully confidential, however we do reserve the right to generalize your situation and use it in a non-identifying manner for case studies or other purpose.

I get no responses when I send my cover letter and resume to potential employers. What can I do to get some feedback on my application?

How nice it would be for employers to provide feedback to all who submit applications for job vacancies! Unfortunately, we seldom hear from them unless our application moves on to the interview stage. This is because they can receive hundreds of applications for one vacancy. The amount of time and revenue to respond to each applicant would make advertising job vacancies prohibitive. After all, receiving 100 resumes (or more) for one job opening is not unusual.

So what can we do? If you wish to learn the outcome of your job candidacy, you can contact the employer about ten days to two weeks after the competition closing. First, introduce yourself, and then state that you are following up on an application that you submitted earlier. Then give the position title, the file number (if any), and the competition closing date. Try to determine the status of the candidate selection process. You will probably be told that either the resumes are still being screened or that you were not selected for an interview.

In response to the former scenario, thank the representative and express your eagerness to hear from him/her soon. Mark the date, time, and name of the person that you spoke with in your files, then wait ten more days. If you do not hear from the company, make another call. If the company representative states that you were not selected for an interview, try to make an appointment for an application feedback interview. At this meeting, you should seek information on your application in terms of what areas your skills and experiences did not match the needs of the position that you applied for. Keep in mind, at this point you are no longer a candidate regardless of whether the position is filled or still vacant. You are at this meeting only to look for help in crafting future applications that have a greater chance of getting that invitation to a job interview. This is useful information, as perhaps more often than not, your application does not convince hiring managers that you are a person that they should investigate further, although you may have the skills for the advertised positions.

Word of warning: Many employers may resist setting up a feedback interview. They may prefer to handle this business on the telephone or to avoid this entirely. Often this is to save time, but sometimes they are afraid of legal action (e.g. human rights complaint) regardless of how honest their efforts are to conduct a fair hiring process. Whether you want to pursue resistant employers is an individual choice to make.

I have been an elementary school teacher for 6 years. My career has been very successful, but I am ready for a change. I am thinking about going into sales. Do you have any advice on making the switch?

So,  you are looking for a change in careers and you would like to get into sales. Since I don't know what your current work field is, I can only give you some food for thought.

First examine what it is that you want from your career and what needs are not being met in your current job. Can you make a few changes in your current job so that you could still do that and feel satisfied again? If not, and you have made up your mind to get into sales, then congratulations- you are entering a very exciting time! However, be prepared for challenges.

In order to get into a new field, you have to look at your transferable skills (skills you have gained in another area of work that you can take with you) and your personal management skills (things such as your attitude, flexibility, and so forth). Then you have to decide what skills are needed in sales, and that will determine what to put on your resume and what to talk about in job interviews. You need to start by doing research into the occupation as well as companies that you would like to work for. Then you can do information interviews where you talk to employers in the field and get information straight from the source. This is also a good way to start developing a network.

Finally, I would recommend checking out the YOUTHink section on resume writing, interview skills and job hunting. If you have a career development centre in your area, then I would recommend that you use their resources as well.

I have a learning disability, which is short-term memory and auditory problems. I currently work at a "dead-end job" and I've been informed that due to company setbacks, I will be laid off. Basically I have some computer skills, as well as customer service skills. I currently live on my own and have a lot of bills to pay. I don't want to be working a minimum wage job. I need training to obtain a skill where I can become more employable in the work force. I don't know what's out there. I need help. I am 23 and am considered to be a youth.

I understand your desire to make more than minimum wage and I certainly can empathize with your wanting to be more marketable in the workforce.

If you are in Toronto, one program that might be of interest to you is the Youth ARE Program. The difficulty, however, is that they specialize in obtaining UNPAID job placements for clients to gain experience. Given your current situation, this might not be feasible for you.

I will provide you with their contact information, and even if their program is not for you, they might still be able to refer you to other programs that are more suitable to your circumstances:

Youth ARE Program
672 Dupont St.Suite 106
Toronto, ON M6G 1Z6
Phone: (416) 531-3900
Fax: (416) 531-3907
E-mail: dmontavez@ywcator.org
Website
: http://www.ywcator.org

I realize that they are a Toronto-based organization, but you can still contact them via email and view their website. Their staff did research for me to see what programs were available in specific areas, and I'm sure they will do the same for you. Some websites that I have in my set of employment resources might be helpful. They provide information on schooling programs that provide training in your chosen field of discipline. Why don't you give them a try.

I understand that you might not have much money saved, based on your statement regarding the bills you have to pay. However, most careers require some type of schooling and there are ways to fund your education (ie. student loans, grants, scholarships, etc.): 

  •  http://www.schoolfinder.com - School Finder is an extensive search engine for Canadian Colleges, Career Colleges, Universities, Graduate Schools and online training. The site describes each institution in detail, including the programs it offers. 
  •  http://www.accc.ca/english - The Association of Canadian Community Colleges - Programs Database - Use this search engine to find any program offered by Canada's community colleges.
  • http://www.aucc.ca - The Association of Colleges and Universities of Canada - Programs Search Engine - This page features a search engine that is quite simple and yet very efficient. 
  •  http://campusprogram.com/canada - tells you where in Canada the program that interests you is offered; it is a quick and easy reference.

Schools are aware of equity issues, and you would definitely find campus help that would be accessible and provide the right accommodations for your disability. I hope this is helpful, and I look forward to hearing back from you regarding some of the questions I raised.

I am a person with a mental health disability. I am currently going to college, studying in the criminal legal field and would like to find part-time or full-time employment. I have been out of work for approximately 5 years, so I have some blank spots on my resume. How can I make sure that these gaps don't prejudice employers against me?
I am currently on disability and am trying to re-enter the workforce.

1. If I say I am a single parent would this work against me? Should I try to conceal this?

During the job interview process, you do not have to tell an employer about your marital status or the fact that you are a single parent. It is illegal in Canada to discriminate against people on the basis of:

* marital status
* physical or mental disability
* age
* sexual orientation
* sex/gender
* race or colour
* ethnic or national origin
* religion or creed

Exceptions apply in certain situations and often involve a safety factor. For example, the job of a pilot requires good eyesight.

During a job interview, you do not have to tell an employer that you are a single parent, and if you are asked any questions around your marital status, do not get upset. Remain calm, but be firm and simply say, "I don't wish to answer that question, as I feel the interview should focus on my skills." It would be discriminatory for an employer to dwell on your marital status and make assumptions based on the fact that you are a single mother. An employer does not need to know this information, as it is not relevant to your ability to do the job. The employer must instead focus on your skills.

2. Do you know if there is a clothing allowance from CPP or ODSP for this purpose?

In your E-mail, you do not indicate whether you are receiving benefits from either ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) or CPP (Canada Pension Plan). As you are probably aware, you cannot receive benefits from both as these programs serve two different client groups and so have different eligibility criteria.

If you are currently receiving benefits from ODSP or are qualified to receive benefits from ODSP (see the URL below to see if you qualify):

ODSP offers a clothing allowance to clients who have secured employment. You will have to find out from ODSP if this allowance is available to those who are currently seeking employment. If you are currently receiving benefits from ODSP, I suggest that you contact your ODSP counsellor to obtain more information on employment supports such as clothing allowances. If you are currently not registered but qualify for their services, I suggest you contact your nearest office to learn more about their employment/income supports. The ODSP Web site offers a wealth of information regarding their services, as well as a detailed listing of all their offices. Check out their Web site to locate the office nearest you:

http://www.cfcs.gov.on.ca/CFCS/en/programs/IES/OntarioDisabilitySupportProgram/default.htm

If you are a recipient of CPP benefits or qualify for their benefits (check the URL below to see if you qualify), the same steps can be taken with them as outlined above. To learn about benefits that are available to you, such as clothing allowances, contact your CPP counsellor or call 1 800 277-9914 (TTY: 1 800 255-4786) or check out the CPP Web site at:

http://www.sdc.gc.ca/en/isp/cpp/cpptoc.shtml

3. I have heard there is a wage subsidy available. Would this deter employers from hiring me, as they will know I am disabled? (mine is an invisible disability)

ODSP does offer temporary wage subsidies through its Employment Supports services as an additional incentive for employers to hire job seekers with disabilities who may lack work experience and need an opportunity to get that experience. Again, it would be better to contact ODSP or CPP directly to learn what benefits they offer to their qualified clients.

Employers cannot discriminate against you during the hiring process because of your disability. They must remain skills-focused and accommodate your disability during this process short of undue hardship. If your needs must be accommodated during this process, you may wish to disclose these accommodation needs either when you are contacted for an interview or during the interview itself to ensure that your needs will be met. For example, a person with low vision may request to have material elevated and in large print before taking a typing test. A disability is just one attribute of a person and is certainly not something to be ashamed of. Employers need to appreciate this fact and remain skills-focused.

Thank you, "Libia", for sharing your questions with me. I hope I have answered them sufficiently, and I wish you the best of luck in securing employment.

I get no responses when I send my cover letter and resume to potential employers. What can I do to get some feedback on my application?

How nice it would be for employers to provide feedback to all who submit applications for job vacancies. Unfortunately, we seldom hear from them unless our application moves on to the interview stage.

This is because they can receive hundreds of applications for one vacancy. The amount of time and revenue to respond to each applicant would make advertising job vacancies prohibitive. After all, receiving 100 resumes (or more) for one job opening is not unusual.

So what can we do?

If you wish to learn the outcome of your job candidacy, you can contact the employer about ten days to two weeks after the competition closing. First, introduce yourself, and then state that you are following up on an application that you submitted earlier. Then give the position title, the file number (if any), and the competition closing date. Try to determine the status of the candidate selection process. You will probably be told that either the resumes are still being screened or that you were not selected for an interview.

In response to the former scenario, thank the representative and express your eagerness to hear from him/her soon. Mark the date, time, and name of the person that you spoke with in your files, then wait ten more days. If you do not hear from the company, make another call.

If the company representative states that you were not selected for an interview, try to make an appointment for an application feedback interview. At this meeting, you should seek information on your application in terms of what areas your skills and experiences did not match the needs of the position that you applied for.

Keep in mind, at this point you are no longer a candidate regardless of whether the position is filled or still vacant. You are at this meeting only to look for help in crafting future applications that have a greater chance of getting that invitation to a job interview.

This is useful information, as perhaps more often than not, your application does not convince hiring managers that you are a person that they should investigate further, although you may have the skills for the advertised positions.

Word of warning: Many employers may resist setting up a feedback interview. They may prefer to handle this business on the telephone or to avoid this entirely. Often this is to save time, but sometimes they are afraid of legal action (e.g. human rights complaint) regardless of how honest their efforts are to conduct a fair hiring process. Whether you want to pursue resistant employers is an individual choice to make.
 

Why is it not appropriate to use the words "challenged with" or "suffers from" when referring to persons with disabilities? I have written a number of disability-related articles and was told that my references to persons with disabilities were inappropriate. Surely disabilities can be challenging, so could you please explain why my wording is inappropriate.

When writing about other people, it is important to be careful not to sound presumptuous or to draw conclusions about a certain group based on your own perspective. Perhaps the feedback you received was from someone who was questioning why you were assuming that disabilities make people suffer or feel challenged. It is important to remember that many persons with disabilities adapt and adjust well to their disability especially over a period of time. In fact, the disability often becomes "second nature" so to speak or a personal norm for a particular individual. This happens most frequently in cases where the disability stabilizes or progresses very slowly, giving the person time to adapt. Therefore, when referring to persons with disabilities, you should not assume that they are "suffering" or being "challenged". Instead, you should regard the disability in the same way you would any other attribute of a person. Just as you wouldn't say "persons 'suffering' with brown eyes", you shouldn't say "persons 'suffering' from a disability". While it is a fact that the person(s) has a disability, it is not necessarily a fact that the person is suffering or feeling challenged. A disability is just one attribute of a person rather than the totality of a person. Because people are multi-faceted, other attributes such as a positive attitude, resilience, and strong coping mechanisms or the ability to adapt can overtake the "challenge" or the "suffering".

Some people may argue that challenges are "character building" and so being challenged is a positive thing. While this may often be the case, it is still presumptuous to say that persons are challenged when they have a disability. Some people might be, and others might not. Also, when we link the word "challenged" to disability, we often don't think of this verb in positive terms. Often we think of it in terms of a negative struggle with no positive end result. This is another reason why we should avoid these verbs when referring to persons with disabilities.

For the above reasons, it is better to just say, "persons with a disability" or "persons who have a disability". While there is no doubt that they have a disability, they may not necessarily suffer or feel challenged.

What is the role and responsibility of the union with regards to securing equity for people with disabilities in the workplace? What should union representatives and employers keep in mind when negotiating employment accommodations?

The roles and the responsibilities of the union are shared with the employee with the disability and the employer . Union representatives should take an active role during the accommodation process to provide timely accommodations to the point of undue hardship . It would be beneficial for unions to develop policies addressing the needs of people with disabilities and inclusive workplace practices within collective agreements. Furthermore, unions should work toward developing or supporting timely accommodation policies with few bureaucratic barriers.

Union representatives should also take the initiative to support workplace accommodations in a similar manner utilized to protect non-disabled employees' rights in the workplace. For example, they could reach out to union members with disabilities and inform them of the collective agreement, as well as provide information about how the union can support employment matters surrounding disability issues. Furthermore, union members may consider recruiting employees with disabilities to participate on committees and training workshops.

When considering the individual needs of people with disabilities, it is important to keep in mind that supporting collective agreements, which infringe upon reasonable accommodations for the sake of the contractual negotiation, will be viewed as violating human rights legislation.

"A union may cause or contribute to discrimination by participating in formulating a work rule, e.g. a provision in the collective agreement that has a discriminatory effect. Unions and employers are jointly responsible for negotiating collective agreements that comply with human rights laws. They should build conceptions of equality into collective agreements." (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2000)

In the Larry S. Renaud (1992) Supreme Court of Canada case, the judge ruled in favour for the complaintent when the union failed to provide accommodations in order to protect the collective agreement. Renaud could not work on Friday or Saturday because of his religious beliefs; however, the collective agreement stated that employees must work Monday to Friday. The employer was willing to allow Renaud to work Sunday to Thursday; however, the union did not agree with this accommodation and requested that the employer cancel this accommodation suggestion. As a result, the employer fired Renaud because he did not show up for a Friday shift. It was established by the Supreme Court of Canada that the union failed to provide reasonable and timely accommodations.

"A union may become a party to discrimination in two ways. First, it may cause or contribute to the discrimination by participating in the formulation of the work rule that has the discriminatory effect on the complainant -- e.g., if the rule forms part of the collective agreement. Second, a union may be liable if it impedes the reasonable efforts of an employer to accommodate. If reasonable accommodation is only possible with the union's co-operation and the union blocks the employer's efforts to remove or alleviate the discriminatory effect, it becomes a party to the discrimination." (Supreme Court of Canada, 1992)

According to human rights legislation, "the employer must make the accommodation in spite of the collective agreement" (OHRC, 2000). Hence, in the Renaud case, the employer was also held accountable for not providing accommodations. (Supreme Court of Canada, 1992)

In a similar Supreme Court of Canada case, Theresa O'Malley versus Simpsons-Sears (1985), O'Malley could not work on Fridays or Saturdays for religious reasons. However, for sound economic reasons, the employer requested that full-time employees work Saturdays. It was established by the courts that although both parties had good reasons - business reasons versus religious reasons - conflicts between individuals must be negotiated to respect and uphold human rights.

"While no right can be regarded as absolute, a natural corollary to the recognition of a right must be the social acceptance of a general duty to respect and to act within reason to protect it. In any society, the rights of one will inevitably come into conflict with the rights of others. It is obvious then that all rights must be limited in the interest of preserving a social structure in which each right may receive protection without undue interference with others." (Supreme Court of Canada, 1985)

Therefore, regardless of the conflict - collective agreement or business reason - accommodating people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship is a right, which supports the view that all qualified individuals have the right to employment.

Although the above cases pertain to religious grounds, as opposed to disability, the roles and responsibilities of employees with disabilities, employers and union representatives are similar. All parties irrespective of their position must work together or they may be held liable for interfering with the accommodation process. In cases whereby employers create barriers for employees with disabilities, union representatives can work with the employee with the disability by filing a complaint with the commission once all internal strategies have been utilized. Therefore, it is very important for all parties to keep a record of the steps that they have taken during the accommodation process.

In closing, inclusive workplace practices that address disability issues are beneficial for all employees, not just employees and work seekers with disabilities. Creative job accommodation solutions such as job modification and flexibility to name examples, can be utilized to benefit injured workers, people with short-term disabilities, as well as non-disabled employees who require personal obligation days. When employees' individual needs are respected with dignity, employees feel valued and want to contribute by being productive members of the organization.

References

Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate
Extracts from sections "3.4 Duties and Responsibilities in the Accommodation Process" and "4.1.4 Collective Agreements or Contracts"

Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud. [1992] 2 S.C.R.

Ont. Human Rights Comm. v. Simpsons-Sears. [1985] 2 S.C.R. Ontario Human Rights Commission and Theresa O'Malley

Ontario Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Inquiries:
Local: (416) 326-9511
Toll Free (outside Toronto Area): 1-800-387-9080
TTY (Local): (416) 314-6526
TTY (Toll-Free): 1-800-308-5561
Head Office:
180 Dundas Street W., 8th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 2R9
Reception: (416) 314-4500
Reception (TTY): (416) 314-4493
Toll-Free (outside Toronto Area): 1-877-700-6200
Fax: (416) 314-4561
Email: info@ohrc.on.ca

Researched and complied by Terri Huellet