‘Let’s go to the Ex’

Canadian National Exhibition hires 1,200 staff every year – here’s how they do it
By Evert Akkerman
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/15/2014

Each year, some 1,200 summer staff are hired for ‘the Ex’ — the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), which runs from mid-August to Labour Day in Toronto.

Traditionally, the vast majority of applicants are teens and young adults between the ages of 14 and 24. For many years, the CNE was part of Exhibition Place, which is spread across 192 acres on the city’s waterfront.

In 2013, the CNE became organizationally independent and, as such, responsible for its own hiring. From a synergy perspective, Exhibition Place continued to provide security and IT support to the CNE, while the CNE provided customer service training for Exhibition Place’s 600 summer staff.

As a result, the CNE needed a summer staffing team to recruit some 600 people and deliver customer service training to a combined 1,200 summer staff. I worked as an HR consultant to build the necessary structure and orchestrate the project.

The first step was hiring two students for the position of junior recruiter, whose role was to assist with the recruiting of seasonal staff and provide administrative support. Out of 178 applicants, a student from the University of Guelph and a student from Ryerson University were chosen. The three of us formed the Summer Staffing Office (SSO) and set up shop in the press building and food building.

The second step was putting structure in place by building an online portal to funnel thousands of applications. This portal was hosted by an external service provider and, for the applicants’ comfort, designed to closely resemble the CNE website.

It was easy to navigate and had five tabs: home, history, FAQs, tips and jobs. The tips tab offered information on resumé writing and how to prepare for interviews. The jobs tab gave access to 30 different positions, each with a job summary. In a few easy steps, applicants could create a profile, attach their resum