Simulation Exercise for Canadian Food Inspection Agency Inspectors


The purpose of this document is to provide information for candidates participating in the Simulation Exercise for Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspectors. This document describes the manner in which the assessment is conducted, the competencies being assessed and tips for candidates. The intent is to provide you with information to assist you in preparing for your assessment, thus ensuring that you are in the best possible position to demonstrate your competencies.

The Simulation Exercise for CFIA Inspectors, designed by the Personnel Psychology Centre (PPC) of the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Canada, provides a reliable measurement of many of the competencies required to effectively assume the duties of an inspection position at the EG-03 or EG-04 level.

Description of Simulation Exercise

In the Simulation Exercise, you will take on the role of an inspector working in a fictitious government agency. You will face problems and issues in areas such as regulation enforcement, time management and client relations.

The evaluation consists of four phases: Case Study, Question Period, Role-Play and Written Communication Exercise.

  1. The first phase is the Case Study. You will receive three envelopes:
    • Envelope A - Instructions and Background Information, which includes a description of the fictitious agency, inspector responsibilities, organisational charts, a summary report, excerpts from fictitious regulations and agendas.
    • Envelope B - Situations to be Addressed, which include problems in the form of e-mails, messages and other documents that the inspector must handle.
    • Envelope C - Answer booklet.

      You have three (3) hours to study the contents of envelopes A and B and to write a report describing your analysis, decisions, recommendations and approach.
  2. The second phase is the Question Period, during which you will meet the members of the selection board who will ask you additional questions for approximately 20 min.
  3. The third phase is the Role Play in which you will interact with a character from the case study for a maximum of 15 minutes.
  4. The fourth phase is the Written Communication Exercise: you will be asked to draft a brief report on the meeting you had during the Role Play.

After you leave, the members of the selection committee will combine all the information gathered and evaluate your performance against the competencies required.

Competencies Assessed

  1. Thinking and Judgement
    Systematically analyzes situations to identify key elements, reaches logical conclusions, makes well-founded judgment calls and appropriate decisions, and decides on judicious action plans.
  2. Planning and Organising one's own Work
    Identifies and prioritizes work to be performed, sets deadlines, draws up realistic plans to meet objectives and makes adjustments, as needed.
  3. Teamwork
    Work with others in a team-oriented environment, in order to achieve common objectives.
  4. Initiative
    Recognizes that something needs to be done and does it without being asked.
  5. Effective Interpersonal Relations
    Treats others with respect.
  6. Persuasiveness and Negotiation
    Convinces others of the need to correct a situation and co operates with them to identify corrective measures and solutions that are acceptable to both parties.
  7. Adaptability and Flexibility
    Adapts to meet the needs of changing work environments and situations.
  8. Communication
    1. Oral Communication: Properly communicates information and ideas (verbally) so that they are understood by others.
    2. Written Communication: Properly communicates information and ideas (in writing) so that they are understood by others.

Tips: Roles and responsibilities

  • Candidates

    Arrive mentally prepared and well rested for the Simulation Exercise, in order to function at your best. Be on time.

    You must analyse and identify problems, make decisions leading to possible solutions, explain how you will implement your decisions, explore alternate solutions and outline consequences. The actions and decisions you take in handling the problems presented in the simulation are assessed based on their effectiveness within the context of the organisation and the information provided in the documentation.

    It is up to you to communicate your ideas to the assessors and to write clearly. The evaluation is based on what you write, say and do. The assessors will not make inferences.

    You must also keep the simulation confidential. You may not discuss the materials, tools or events involved in this simulation with anyone.

  • Assessors

    The members of the selection board have received intensive training developed by a psychologist from the Personnel Psychology Centre, and have been certified to administer the Simulation Exercise in a fair and objective manner.

    The assessors will observe you to collect information on your behaviour in relation to the competencies they are looking for. They take detailed notes to accurately evaluate you on the basis of your decisions and your approach. The competencies are assessed on a scale of 1 to 6, where 1 indicates that performance is significantly below expectations, and 6, that it significantly exceeds expectations.

Tips: Case Study

  • Study the Background Information carefully. Look at the mandate, the roles and the key people in the fictitious agency, particularly in your work team. What is your role as an inspector? What are the relationships between key people? What are the objectives and challenges related to your work and to this agency?
  • Do not hesitate to highlight points and take notes while you are studying the Background Information. This will enable you to easily find the important information when you refer to the document during the exercise.
  • Quickly examine the Situations in combination with the Background Information. There is no reason not to look at the Situations before or while examining the Background Information in order to grasp the exercise as a whole. It is up to you to choose the approach you are most comfortable with to complete the exercise.
  • Plan your time well. You have three hours to read the documents and write a report. Take the time to analyse the documents in order to get a good understanding of the problems, but do not spend too much time reading the Background Information; you can always return to it later.
  • Know your organisation. Keep the organisation chart at hand for quick information about who is who. Note that correspondence usually includes a date, and information on the sender, the recipient(s) and the subject.
  • Keep the calendars at hand and do not hesitate to use them to help you get a feel for the time and plan your activities.
  • Go by what is said and not what you think is implied. Do not draw any unfounded conclusions or invent any facts. You do not need more information than what is provided to deal with the situations. However, you may ask people in the fictitious organisation for more information.
  • Answer as though you are actually the inspector in this agency. Read the situations carefully and handle them in a way that helps the agency fulfil its mission. Identify the problems and make specific decisions to solve them.
  • Plan your response. Be prepared to present your priorities and action plan, and to justify your decisions. Decide the order in which you will present the information to ensure consistency in your written response. Written communication is not assessed in the Case Study: writing in point form would be the most efficient option. However, be sure to give complete responses that will be easy to read and understand by the assessors.
  • Write legibly.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with the competencies assessed by the Simulation Exercise.

Tips: Question Period

  • State your answer clearly, concisely and fairly slowly so that the selection board is able to understand you clearly and take notes.
  • Ensure that your answer is precise and complete. Give justifications, if needed, and examples to support your information.
  • Take a few seconds to think before responding to a question if you would like.
  • If you do not understand a question, ask the board to repeat it or to give clarifications. You cannot give a good answer if you do not understand the question.

Tips: Role Play

The role-play provides a first-hand demonstration of competencies the assessors are looking for in a difficult interpersonal situation related to the work of an inspector.

  • This exercise was designed to be as realistic as possible: play the role of a real inspector working in the fictitious organisation. Act seriously, as though you are actually interacting with the person in front of you.
  • Do not forget that communication is very important, particularly in this exercise. Ensure that the other person receives and understands your message.
  • As an inspector, keep in mind what your role is.

Tips: Written Communication Exercise

This exercise is designed to specifically assess Written Communication competency.

  • Plan the structure of your response, write complete sentences and divide your ideas into different paragraphs in order to demonstrate your ability to write in a structured, logic and precise manner.
  • Revise your response and focus on proper syntax, vocabulary, grammar and spelling.
  • Use a written style, language and level of formality that are appropriate and adapted to the situation.
  • Write with a pencil. It will be easier for you to change it later and allow you to waste less time rewriting everything.
  • Write legibly.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Simulation Exercise for Inspectors (SEI)?

The SEI is an assessment tool developed for the CFIA by the Personnel Psychology Centre (PPC). It is based on the evaluation of certain personal skills and abilities (called "behavioural competencies") common to EG-03 and EG-04 positions in operations.

2. What is the retest period for the Simulation Exercise for Inspectors (SEI)?

The test can be rewritten 6 months after the most recent test date.

3. How long will the Simulation Exercise for Inspectors (SEI) results be valid?

The Personnel Psychology Centre of the Public Service Commission has determined that the results of the SEI will remain valid indefinitely or until the test is rewritten. However, if the test is taken again, only the most recent results will be kept on file, even if they are lower than previous results.

4. Who will administer the Simulation Exercise for Inspectors (SEI) of the CFIA?

The SEI was developed by the Personnel Psychology Centre (PPC) of the Public Service Commission (PSC). It will be administered by CFIA staff who have successfully completed the PPC developed training course specific to this simulation exercise.

5. How long will the assessment take?

The assessment will take up to 7.5 hours to complete (including a 1 hour lunch break).

6. How can one assessment cover qualifications for an EG-03 and/or an EG-04 position?

Candidates successful at the EG-03 level will have achieved a score of at least 3/6 in every competency assessed. Candidates successful at the EG-04 level will have attained a score of at least 4/6 in each of the Thinking/Judgement competency and the Communication competency. All those who qualify at the EG-04 level automatically qualify at the EG-03 level.

7. Will there be other qualification requirements for EG-03/04 positions?

The staffing manager will choose what qualifications are required for a specific position.

8. What happens to applicants who do not pass the SEI?

Applicants who do not meet the requirements of the SEI will have to wait a minimum of 180 days (6 months) before being evaluated again. A candidate must apply on a subsequent EG-03/EG-04 selection process to have an opportunity for re-assessment after the 6 month re-test period has elapsed.

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