read between the lines

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If you ask the right questions and read between the lines, a job application can tell you more about a candidate than you might think.


US-bound fleets need to collect a record of employment for the past 10 years and verify the last three, although domestic fleets could benefit from the same practice. Some fleets will even verify all 10.

“If (candidates) have had more than three positions in the last five years, we’ll flag that,” says Marlene Egeland, vice-president, people, development and culture at the ECL Group of Companies in Calgary.

Such an employment history doesn’t automatically discount a candidate, but recruiters should look for reasons such as seasonal layoffs or business mergers. After all, the best candidates are those that you’ll be able to retain.


Blank spaces on an application form can question an attention to detail, but they can also be an indication of something that a candidate is trying to hide. Missing or incomplete employment dates may suggest someone is trying to cover periods of unemployment, as can dates that don’t match those provided by references.

It’s also a good idea to have candidates fill out application forms on the spot. Those who struggle with literacy will often turn to family and friends to fill out related forms, and about 46% of truck drivers lack a high school education, according to Canada’s Driving Force, a recent study by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council.


In addition to confirming whether any accidents were considered preventable, you’ll want references to offer an indication of a candidate’s working habits. Notes should be taken on every comment, and include details about people who didn’t want to offer any information.

You should also research the names of the companies for which applicants worked, suggests Michael Noble, vice-president of human resources at Unique Personnel, a Toronto-based placement agency. A shorter tenure at a respectable company may be more valuable than several years spent with a fly-by-night carrier.

It’s also important to consider where they received any training. Since there are no national standards for driver training programs, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the specific courses.


US-bound fleets need to ask candidates to provide criminal background checks, since records can affect their ability to cross the border – and every candidate should provide a driver’s abstract that’s less than a month old.

Ed Ewanochko, a transportation consultant with Marsh Canada, suggests it’s also important to require original documents. “Guys will copy the top half of their driver’s abstract, and photocopy it on top of someone else’s,” he says.


Some questions are off limits because of laws protecting human rights and privacy. For example, you can’t ask an applicant if they use drugs, have a criminal record, or have a disability. Questions need to be specific to the demands of the job.

An application form can mention drug and alcohol screening is a condition of employment for those who travel to the US, and ask whether or not they submit to such tests. Equally, you can ask if they have ever been convicted of a criminal offence for which they haven’t received a pardon, or outline the specific physical requirements of a job and ask if they would require any assistance to complete the tasks.

The Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) is an incorporated non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors that is representative of stakeholders from the Canadian trucking industry. The mission of the Council is “to assist the Canadian trucking industry to recruit, train and retain the human resources needed to meet current and long-term requirements”. For more information, go to

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