PERSONNEL SELECTION OFFICER
I’m Major Soo Sutherland from St. Thomas, Ontario. I’m a Personnel Selection Officer at Canadian Forces Training Development Centre in Borden.
And I’m Captain Rod Doucet from Clara, Nova Scotia. I’m a Personnel Selection Officer currently posted to Canadian Forces Base Kingston in Ontario.
DOUCET: As Personnel Selection Officers, we apply our knowledge of the behavioural sciences and our experiences with Forces members in the field to improve recruitment, placement and career satisfaction, as well as focusing on the human factors that contribute to effective units at home and can make or break a mission abroad.
On the simplest terms, it’s career advising to soldiers, sailors, airwomen, airmen. We don’t make decisions for them, but we tell them what their options are, what’s available, what the resources are, so that they can form their own plan and hopefully by doing that, they’re happy and there’s no second thoughts, regrets or anything like that.
We also deploy with our troops and sailors overseas, keeping a close watch on battalion morale and cohesion and counseling individual members because soldiers’ careers don’t stop just because they’re on deployment.
SUTHERLAND: Because it’s a large population that are deployed, they have the same issues of considering changing occupations, looking at education upgrading and we want to be able to provide that sort of service to them while they are in theatre.
DOUCET: And we’re posted to National Defence Headquarters where we conduct applied research, developing selection measures for assessment centres and other types of assessment protocols and the diagnostic tools for assessing unit and operational effectiveness.
DOUCET: In the Forces, everyone enrolls as an individual, but he or she works as part of a team. What’s interesting to me is how we are able to take a large unit, a ship’s crew for example, and break it down into the human dimensions of skills and knowledge and psychological strengths and weaknesses, then work with the unit leadership to make their team even more cohesive and effective.
We’ve got to make sure that every member of the Canadian Forces is equipped to perform his or her job in terms of their own skills and training and confidence.
I study how they work and with my colleagues in research, take this knowledge to figure out even better selection methods and job-specific testing for the next generation of soldiers, sailors and air men and women.
SUTHERLAND: What I see in Personnel Selection is being able to develop something that is effective and if it’s successful, then the operation is seamless. There is a high success rate, so with our efforts, it’s very quiet, but it’s something that needs to be done and it is very critical.
DOUCET: To serve as a Personnel Selection Officer, you’ll already need to have your Master’s degree in psychology, sociology or industrial relations or an Honours Undergraduate degree in the Social Sciences and an impressive resume of previous Human Resources experience.
SUTHERLAND: After you complete your Basic Officer Training course in St. Jean, Quebec, you’ll begin a six-week course in Borden, Ontario, followed by a year of on-the-job training at a base or wing to hone your skills and knowledge.
DOUCET: The focus is on interviewing, evaluating and counselling military members, to make sure they’re employed in the occupations they’re best suited for, or assessed later on, at their request, for possible transfer to another occupation or for certain types of employment like the Special Forces.
SUTHERLAND: Through this on-the-job training, they will go through the Personnel Selection Officer cycle of different occupational competitions, for transfer, for commissioning and also second career assistance.
SUTHERLAND: In the beginning of one’s career, you are more a practitioner. You apply the selection practices that are in place and that have been developed by the more senior members of the branch.
DOUCET: In terms of individual assessment, you really need to be able to read people. A lot of people get steered wrong at some point during their career or they hit a wall of stress, especially in combat, or they’ve matured and want to attain higher levels of education and responsibility.
SUTHERLAND: As you progress through the ranks, there’s a variety of different types of employment that change from recruiting to research to looking at the Canadian Forces as a strategic whole.
One of the biggest challenges will be determining what caused problems and how we can alleviate these in the future. For example, if there were a lot of course failures, was it a function of training? Were the standards too high? Was the occupational testing wrong? Was there some problem with the selection process? Did we put the wrong people in that job? Answering those kinds of questions is what we do.
SUTHERLAND: The variety of employment, the opportunity to travel, all of that was something that was so unique to Personnel Selection.
DOUCET: My greatest satisfaction comes from people who’ve gone through the transition issues and have come out as success stories because of the job that we have done in helping them prepare. And when I hear people come back and say “thank you very much for helping me, it really helped out”, that’s what makes my day and validates me in terms of being a PSO and saying, you know, I’ve made the right decision here.