Quality of Job Candidates Slipping: Small Businesses

Employers love their workers, but offer advice for job-seekers

Toronto/Calgary – As new Statistics Canada data confirms that job vacancies remain stubbornly high despite persistent unemployment levels, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is releasing new data on what’s on the minds of small business owners when they look to hire.

The results show small businesses love their current group of workers, but struggle to find new candidates of the same quality and work ethic.

A full 65 per cent of small business owners surveyed said employees are the most important element to the success of their firm – more important than even their product or service.  However, nearly three-quarters say the work ethic of new hires has deteriorated in recent years, and more than two-thirds say the quality of applicants has declined.

“Canada’s small businesses will be the first to tell you that their employees are their greatest strength,” said Dan Kelly, president of CFIB.  “But they are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified applicants, especially workers prepared to consider entry-level jobs.”

While 90 per cent of small businesses say they can count on existing employees to get the job done, many employers report challenges when it comes to hiring new employees.  The biggest barrier to hiring was a lack of qualified applicants (88 per cent).  Half of small employers said wage expectations were too high; one-quarter reported that candidates did not even show up for scheduled interviews.

The survey results provide some sharp insight on employees’ behaviours from the perspective of a small business owner: on the positive side, 81 per cent said they’ve observed employees going the extra mile for a customer; on the negative, 61 per cent said employees spend too much time on personal phone calls, emails and texting during work hours.  Small business owners listed other drags on productivity, including: gossiping (55 per cent), personal web surfing while at work (41 per cent), and excessive lateness (40 per cent).

The study also collected close to 4,500 tips from small business owners for those looking for work.  Many emphasized the need to be clean and well-groomed in interviews, ensuring resumes were short and free of spelling or grammatical errors, and the importance of considering the value of experience, not just initial pay.  Other responses were surprises, such as ensuring candidates don’t let mom talk for them in interviews.

Read the full backgrounder, including tips for job seekers provided by employers.


CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.