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Army Air Force Navy

Personnel Selection Officer

OFFICER | Full Time, Part Time

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Personnel Selection Officers apply behavioural science knowledge and procedures to evaluate the factors that affect working relationships. They provide professional advice to military commanders, particularly in the areas of recruiting, selection, leadership, performance appraisal and other human resource issues.

The primary responsibilities of a Personnel Selection Officer are to:

  • Assess applicants to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and recommend training
  • Recommend CAF members for special training
  • Support professional development, accreditation and transition programs
  • Conduct applied and advanced behavioural research
  • Conduct occupational analyses
  • Teach military leadership, management and behavioural science courses
  • Train Military Career Counsellors in interviewing techniques, personnel assessments and counselling techniques
  • Write selection policy, design selection instruments, and develop selection assessment processes
  • Engage in strategic human resource concept design, planning and coordination

Work environment

Personnel Selection Officers work in a variety of settings, from an office environment in a headquarters or base, to operational tours abroad in support of CAF missions. Personnel Selection Officers initially work at the base level conducting interviews and aptitude tests, and compiling other sources of information to assess the suitability of individuals for commissioning programs, subsequent assignments, and appropriate military occupations.

Career Overview


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.

Related Civilian Occupations

  • Developmental Psychologist
  • Employment Counsellor
  • Personnel Officer
  • Human Resources Advisor


After enrolment, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following basic officer training, official second language training may be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Personnel Selection Officers attend the Canadian Forces Training Development Centre in Borden, Ontario. They learn how to conduct interviews, and how to evaluate and counsel individuals concerning military service, military occupational training and employment, special training and employment, resettlement, academic upgrading and orientation. They also learn to conduct Second Career Assistance Workshops and provide career counselling for military members transitioning to the civilian workforce.

Personnel Selection Officers are posted to a base to complete several months of on-the-job training, where they gain experience in the practice, theory, knowledge and skills required of this job under the supervision of a more senior member.

Personnel Selection Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Unit Personnel Selection
  • Organizational Consulting

As they progress in their career, Personnel Selection Officers who demonstrate the required ability and potential will be offered advanced training. Available courses include:

  • Advanced Personnel Selection
  • Graduate training in
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Industrial Relations
  • Sociology

Entry plans

The required education for this position is a Master’s degree in a social science, such as Psychology or Industrial Relations. Other graduate degrees may be considered based on related experience. Consideration will be given to applications who have an undergraduate degree in Psychology.

If you already have a graduate degree, the CAF will decide if your academic program matches the criteria for this job and may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.

Part time options

This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at an Air Force Wing in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they can volunteer to move to another base. They may also volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.

Personnel Selection Officers may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force. They provide professional advice to military commanders regarding recruiting, selection, leadership, performance appraisal and other human resource issues. When they are employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at CAF bases, wings, home ports and units at locations within Canada.


Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Following basic officer training, the home unit will arrange for specialized skills training. Personnel Selection Officers train for their qualification at the Canadian Forces Training Development Centre in Borden, Ontario.

Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 92.8% of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.