Employment Counsellors - What They Do

Employment counsellors provide assistance and information to job seeker clients on all aspects of employment search and career planning. They also provide advice and information to employer clients regarding employment issues and human resources. They are employed by human resource departments of establishments, employment service organizations, consulting firms, correctional facilities and by federal and provincial governments. Supervisors of employment counsellors are included in this unit group.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Interview clients to obtain employment history, educational background and career goals
  • Identify barriers to employment and assist clients with such matters as job readiness skills, job search strategies, writing résumés and preparing for job interviews
  • Assess need for assistance such as rehabilitation, financial aid or further training and refer clients to the appropriate services
  • Provide established workers with information and strategies for maintaining a job or moving within an organization, dealing with job dissatisfaction, making mid-career changes and adjusting to workplace transitions
  • Collect labour market information for clients regarding job openings, entry and skill requirements and other occupational information
  • Advise employers on human resource and other employment-related issues
  • Provide consulting services to community groups and agencies, businesses, industry and other organizations involved in providing community-based career planning support or resources
  • May administer and interpret tests designed to determine the interests, aptitudes and abilities of clients.

Job titles

  • career counsellor (except education)
  • employment counsellor
  • career development counsellor
  • outplacement counsellor
  • relocation counsellor
  • relocation consultant
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • A bachelor's degree or college diploma in employment counselling, career development or in a related field, such as human resources development, psychology, education or social services is required.
  • A master's degree in counselling psychology or a related field such as educational psychology, developmental psychology or social work may be required.
  • In Quebec, membership in a professional association is mandatory to use the title ''counsellor''.

Essential Skills


  • Read job descriptions, job postings and competency profiles. For example, career counsellors read competency profiles to understand the skills, academic qualifications and certifications required for various occupations. In order to make appropriate recommendations to clients, they scan job descriptions to learn about requirements for jobs. (2)
  • Read letters and e-mail messages from co-workers, colleagues, service providers and officials in government departments. For example, supervisors of employment services may read e-mail messages from employers about upcoming job postings and hiring fairs. Employment counsellors may read e-mail messages from colleagues at community service agencies in which they share information about clients and the services provided. (2)
  • Read résumés and cover letters to learn about clients' employment histories, educational backgrounds, skills and interests. In addition, they proofread clients' résumés and cover letters to ensure the information is complete, concise, free of spelling and grammatical errors and appropriate in style and format. (3)
  • Read policies and procedures. For example, employment case managers read procedures for accessing training funds and other services for clients. Placement counsellors read client organizations' policies and procedures concerning lay-off notifications and employment assistance programs. (3)
  • Read brochures. For example, employment counsellors read brochures from community services agencies and educational institutions to stay abreast of services and programs in their communities. (3)
  • May read 'Requests for Proposals' for the provision of employment counselling and labour market consulting services. For example, supervisors of employment services read requests for proposals for career counselling services to understand the scope, timelines, deliverables, insurance and financial arrangements for government contracts. They interpret details in the requests to ensure that their agencies meet contract requirements and that their proposals contain the necessary information. (4)
  • Read legislation and regulations. For example, employment counsellors learn about the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees by reading human rights legislation. (4)
  • Read lengthy reports and news articles to keep abreast of labour market news and research in employment and career development. For example, they read labour market reports to follow events and economic trends that may affect employment. Career counsellors may read newspaper and magazine articles about attitudes and skills valued by employers. (4)
  • Read textbooks and training manuals. For example, vocational counsellors read facilitation manuals to prepare workshops, training sessions and seminars. Career counsellors read textbooks on methodologies for counselling and assessment. (4)

Document use

  • Locate data on labels. For example, they locate names and codes of clients, employers and potential employers of their clients on file folder labels. (1)
  • Locate data in forms. For example, relocation counsellors locate personal information and employment data in questionnaires completed by clients. Employment counsellors locate details about jobs in job postings and job descriptions. Supervisors of employment services locate data such as costs, dates and descriptions of services and supplies in invoices. (2)
  • Complete entry forms. For example, employment counsellors complete action plans, intake and follow-up forms and client activity reports in order to track clients' activities and progress. Vocational counsellors complete weekly time sheets to record hours worked. They complete workshop summary reports to create records for program evaluations. Supervisors of employment services enter names, addresses, description of services and dollar amounts into invoice forms. (3)
  • Interpret flowcharts. Employment counsellors study flowcharts to gain an understanding of processes and structures such as those for funding eligibility, service delivery and career advancements. For example, they study career maps to identify steps for career advancements and to compare skills and competencies required for various occupations. (3)
  • Enter data into tables. For example, career development officers enter numbers of clients they served and workshops they conducted into monthly calendars. Employment counsellors enter clients' responses to aptitude and personality questions into answer templates. Employment specialists assist clients in creating budgets by entering financial data such as incomes and expenses into spreadsheets. (3)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, employment counsellors locate dates, locations and descriptions of courses, workshops and training sessions in calendars from colleges, universities and training organizations. They locate financial data such as incomes and expenses in clients' monthly budgets. Workforce adjustment counsellors locate data on job postings, employment growth and average wages in labour market summaries. Career development counsellors locate data such as clients' responses to aptitude and personality questions in summary tables. (3)


  • Write comments in notebooks to record details of discussions with clients, employers, colleagues, co-workers and program officers with federal and provincial governments. For example, employment counsellors write brief notes to summarize topics discussed with clients, items requiring follow-up and reminders about commitments and tasks to complete before future meetings. (1)
  • Write descriptions and explanations in entry forms such as referral, intake and client services forms. For example, relocation counsellors write comments in tracking forms to describe services clients have accessed, job referrals they have received and interviews, workshops and other activities they have completed. Employment counsellors write brief summaries in monthly activity forms to give their supervisors an overview of workshops, seminars and other services they have provided. (2)
  • Write e-mail messages and letters to clients, co-workers, colleagues and representatives from businesses and community organizations. For example, employment counsellors may write e-mail messages to potential employers of their clients to request additional details about job postings and upcoming career fairs. Outplacement counsellors may write letters to clients' caseworkers, shelter supervisors and parole officers to confirm arrangements for job search activities. (2)
  • Write résumés and cover letters for clients. They summarize clients' employment histories, educational achievements and job skills. (3)
  • Write reports, summaries, guidebooks and scripts for presentations. For example, employment counsellors write assessment reports to summarize clients' employment histories and to outline techniques used to assess their interests, skills and aptitudes. They describe clients' barriers to employment, list the support services they have recommended and outline the action plans they have proposed. Employment specialists may write instructional booklets for skills such as updating résumés and using smart job search strategies. They use vocabulary and writing style appropriate for particular audiences and clients. (3)
  • May write funding proposals. For example, supervisors of employment services write funding proposals which outline employment programs' goals and target groups, describe employment barriers faced by clients in the target groups and stress the benefits of funding programs. (4)


Money Math

  • Calculate expense claim amounts. They calculate reimbursement amounts for meals and use of personal vehicles at specified rates. (2)
  • May calculate invoice amounts. For example, supervisors of employment services and self-employed employment counsellors calculate professional fees using hourly and daily rates. They add costs for supplies and services, apply discounts and taxes and calculate totals and sub-totals. (3)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • May create and modify work schedules. For example, employment counsellors calculate the times needed to complete tasks so they achieve the deadlines for service provision, workshops and training sessions. (3)
  • May calculate unit prices, total prices and net prices to identify lowest costs for goods and services. For example, supervisors of employment services calculate the unit cost of products such as paper in different package sizes. They calculate total costs of photocopiers with delivery, set-up and after-sales service charges. They may determine and compare net prices of goods such as office chairs given usual corporate discounts. (3)
  • May create budgets. For example, supervisors of employment services and self-employed employment counsellors calculate operating costs for the provision of employment counselling and consulting services. They consider labour, supplies and other costs to determine total costs for projects and amounts to charge for services. Employment counsellors may create budgets for clients' household and personal finances. They consider incomes, pay schedules, living expenses and other costs such as car repairs and school supplies. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • May calculate the duration of jobs and lengths of time between jobs using data from clients' files and résumés and notes taken during interviews. (1)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare clients' persistence in jobs and lengths of time between jobs before and after their participation in employment counselling services. (1)
  • Analyze data on jobs, wages and employment in order to identify trends. For example, relocation counsellors analyze monthly data on business openings and closures, job postings, lay-offs and average wages to identify trends. They use these analyses to forecast employment and wage growth for various occupations and industries. (2)
  • Collect and analyze data to describe employment development and job placement programs and projects. They generate statistics to describe their organizations' activities and to identify changes, inconsistencies and trends in data on clients, employment and labour markets. They use the statistics they develop to forecast labour demands and to assess the success of program and project activities. For example, employment counsellors generate statistics to describe average job vacancies, wages and skill requirements for various occupations. After job maintenance workshops, employment counsellors may examine trends in full-time employment to determine the success of the workshops. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate distances and times for travel. For example, employment counsellors estimate times for commutes to jobs. They consider the effects of variations in driving routes, traffic volumes and times of day. (1)
  • Estimate times needed to complete tasks such as the development and delivery of training sessions and workshops. For example, when developing résumé writing workshops, career counsellors consider the needs and interests of target audiences. (2)

Oral communication

  • May discuss products, prices, delivery dates and other matters with suppliers and service providers. For example, supervisors of employment services discuss workshops and fees with employment and career development consultants. Employment counsellors check with printers to ensure that training booklets will be ready for training sessions. (2)
  • Discuss clients and ongoing work with co-workers and colleagues. For example, employment counsellors share confidential information about clients' with social workers and parole officers. They may persuade caseworkers to provide social assistance to clients who are working part-time. Employment specialists speak to program coordinators to learn about services and training opportunities which may be suitable for clients. (2)
  • May present employment, labour market, and human resources information to colleagues and to community, business and industry groups. For example, relocation consultants present findings from labour market research to colleagues from other community service organizations. Employment specialists lead career transition, job search and work-readiness workshops. They present information and give suggestions while guiding large and small groups through activities. (3)
  • Negotiate terms, conditions and prices for services with service providers. They negotiate terms and conditions for job placements with employers in their communities. For example, employment counsellors negotiate emergency housing and funding for training with social service providers. Employment specialists may negotiate modifications to job descriptions and work environments with potential employers of their clients. (3)
  • Facilitate meetings and counselling sessions with clients. They use a wide range of communication techniques to gather information, promote self-confidence, and motivate and assist clients toward solutions. For example, career counsellors engage clients in conversation to learn about their educational backgrounds, employment histories and career goals. They may explain personality, aptitude and ability tests to clients and provide directions for completing them. They may conduct mock interviews and feedback sessions with clients. Employment counsellors may interact with clients' in crisis to understand their problems, diffuse tension and facilitate solutions. (4)


Problem Solving

  • Encounter employers and employees with cultural, race, religious and sexual orientation biases. For example, employment specialists may encounter employers who hire exclusively from particular cultural groups. They discuss the observed behaviours and complaints with employers and suggest solutions such as cultural diversity training for employees. They may suggest no longer using employers for job placements if hiring practices and workplace environments fail to improve. (2)
  • Find that workshop participants do not have the prerequisite skills, goals and abilities. For example, employment counsellors find workshop participants are unable to complete activities because of language barriers and limited interpersonal skills. When possible, they adapt workshop activities for those individuals and reiterate participation expectations. They may recommend changes to intake procedures for future training events to ensure that participants are suitable. (3)
  • May experience lower than expected enrolment in training sessions and programs. For example, supervisors for employment services may experience declines in the numbers of requests for consulting services and employment programs and services. They review current outreach activities and training events and compare them to similar programs. They may change locations, times, materials and their communications in order to serve their clients better. (3)
  • Encounter clients who have unrealistic wage and career expectations. For example, employment counsellors may find immigrants who expect to work in jobs similar to those they held in their countries of origin. The counsellors review licensing, certification and language requirements to help clients modify their immediate expectations and develop long-term career plans. (3)

Decision Making

  • Choose assessment methods and tools. For example, employment specialists select assessment tests and questionnaires to determine clients' interests, aptitudes, skills and abilities. They consider clients' ages, work histories, career goals, education attainments and self-awareness. (2)
  • May choose suppliers and service providers. For example, career development counsellors may choose alternative locations for workshops and presentations when the customary facilities are unavailable. They consider costs, locations, features, and sizes of rooms. When choosing consultants, supervisors of employment services consider their fees, expertise, suitability and past performances. (3)
  • Choose training activities and counselling methods to meet the needs of clients. For example, employment counsellors modify career plans and employment strategies as clients meet their career goals. Vocational counsellors may choose to offer fewer services and interventions to clients with exceptional skills and more to those with less. They may share decision making with their supervisors, others who provide service to clients and the clients themselves. (3)
  • May decide to bid on and undertake projects, programs and speaking opportunities. For example, employment counsellors decide to accept requests to make presentations after considering their schedules, clients' expectations and payments offered for services. (3)
  • May select candidates for employment and counselling programs, courses and workshops. For example, supervisors of employment services accept clients into programs. They consider eligibility criteria, clients' barriers to employment and services provided by programs. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • Assess the effectiveness of workshops and employment programs. They review comments on workshop and program evaluation forms completed by participants and analyze statistics for job placements and job maintenance. They may observe clients' skill levels during mock interviews and other job readiness activities. They use these assessments to adjust training and other employment activities. (2)
  • Evaluate the suitability of job postings and career choices for their clients. For example, employment counsellors review statistics to assess opportunities and growth rates for occupations. They also consider the interests, skills and aptitudes, educational backgrounds, employment histories, retraining requirements and finances of clients. When evaluating the suitability of jobs, they compare clients' skills, abilities and education achievements to job requirements. (3)
  • May assess clients' readiness for employment. They observe clients' behaviour during interviews and counselling sessions. They read clients résumés to determine average lengths and types of employment held in the past. They administer and interpret tests to evaluate clients' academic and technical skill levels, aptitudes and interests. They interview them to learn about their personal situations. They use these evaluations to determine what assistance and services to recommend to clients. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Employment counsellors receive their work assignments from their supervisors but they are responsible for setting priorities and sequencing job tasks. They integrate their activities with co-workers and colleagues to streamline services and maximize the use of resources. Employment counsellors adjust their schedules when clients miss appointments and fail to show up for workshops.

Planning and Organizing for Others

Supervisors of employment services may provide input into the long-term planning of their organizations. They may plan and schedule job tasks for other employment counsellors.

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember the names and personal information of clients to build trust and enhance communications.
  • Remember the types of services offered and target groups served by various community and social service agencies and organizations.

Finding Information

  • Find information about programs and services in their communities by speaking to co-workers and colleagues, through reading program brochures and information packages and by conducting research. (2)
  • Find information on labour markets. They reading national and community newspapers, labour market and economic reports and industry trade publications. They monitor job postings in newspapers and at Internet sites. They discuss job opportunities and employment trends with colleagues, co-workers and employers. (2)
  • Find information about clients. They conduct interviews with clients, review their résumés, give them tests and assessments and observe them during workshops and job placements. They may speak to co-workers and other community and health providers involved with clients. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use graphics software. For example, career development counsellors use presentation software such as PowerPoint to prepare slide presentations. They require a general understanding of the software to import files and format text and graphics to set up the presentations. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they use database software such as Access to organize data on clients, employers and community services. For example, they may manage data and run queries to access details of clients' current employment and data on job referrals and interviews completed. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they exchange e-mail messages and attachments with clients, co-workers and colleagues. They may use calendars, notifications and other features in communication software such as Outlook. (2)
  • May use other computer and software applications. For example, employment counsellors may help clients to create résumés using WinWay Resume. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they search Internet sites for information about labour markets, job postings, community and social services, employment training and academic programs. They may use their organizations' Intranets to access policies, training documents, files and bulletins. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, employment counsellors use the text editing and formatting features of common word processing programs to complete assessment reports and prepare résumés. Supervisors of employment services use desktop publishing features of word processing software to prepare and format reports and funding proposals. They may import and place spreadsheets and graphics. (3)
  • May use spreadsheets. For example, supervisors of employment services and self-employed employment counsellors may create spreadsheets to collect data and prepare graphs of labour market data. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Employment counsellors complete most job tasks independently but they may coordinate their work with co-workers when it is necessary. They work independently when giving presentations, conducting research, meeting clients and creating action plans. They may coordinate job tasks with co-workers and other community and health service providers in order to share information about clients and organize services for them.

In community and social services organizations and other public institutions such as prisons and rehabilitation centres, they work as part of interdisciplinary teams. They coordinate their work to assess clients' needs, determine assistance and supports, and to organize training and other services for clients. (3)

Continuous Learning

Employment counsellors maintain current knowledge about labour market trends, employment opportunities and social services in their communities. They learn by reading newspapers, professional associations' newsletters, textbooks and training guides, conducting Internet research and speaking to co-workers and colleagues. They attend seminars, workshops and conferences hosted by professional associations such as the Life Skills Association and the Canadian Career Association. (3)