Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Secret Language of Interviewers

You've finished the interview and now you're waiting for the employer to call.  You are beginning to wonder whether or not the interviewer liked you. Of course interviewers can't come out and tell you that you're a serious candidate for the job, but if you pay close attention, it is possible to read between the lines and get an idea of what the employer might be thinking.  Here are some comments that employers often make and the thought processes behind them:

 "In this job, you would be doing this and this..."

They said that YOU would being doing this and this.  Could that mean that they are already picturing you as the person doing the job?  Unfortunately, it is just a lot easier than saying "the incumbent would be doing this and this..." and there is a good chance that it means nothing at all. 

"We are interviewing a lot of people for this role.  We will contact you if we wish to meet you for a second interview." 

It is not a good sign if the employer seems to be emphasizing that there are a lot of candidates being interviewed.  They may be cushioning you for the blow of not being selected for a second interview.  Also, if they are clearly communicating that they will call you if you're selected, it could mean that they don't want to receive a lot of follow up calls.  However, don't let that stop you from following up once about a week or two after the interview.  

"I am concerned about..."

The employer may express the concerns that they have about you in a variety of ways.  They could ask a lot of questions around one particular issue, or they may directly tell you what worries them.  The reality is that if you don't adequately address their concerns, they will not hire you.  

"We think that you're an amazing candidate and we expect to be seeing you again."

While this is definitely positive feedback, it does not necessarily mean that you will get the job, or even a second interview.  A comment like this means that the employer is excited about you, but they aren't yet in the position to make a decision.  The interviewer may first have to consult with other people, or they could still have additional candidates to meetBy the time the employer is ready to hire, they may have met another applicant that is even more suited to the role.  Also, even if the interviewer wants to hire you, they could be blocked by somebody else that is weighing in on the decision.  The reality is, you don't have the job until you have a written offer in hand. 

"When would you be able to start?"  

This could be a question that the employer is asking every candidate or it could be an indication that they are serious about hiring you.  Pay attention to the way that the employer acts when you answer this question.  Did the interviewer seem interested in your answer or did he just write it down and move on?

Trying to read the interviewer's mind is tricky.  Since everyone communicates in their own way, two employers may make the same statement, but mean something completely different.  Try not to spend too much time analyzing the employer's words.  Instead, stay focused on your job search and you may end up finding an even better opportunity. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Michal Marcol)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why You Should Be Nice to Everyone

The Golden Rule says that you should treat others how you would like to be treated.  Unfortunately, some people don't apply it at work.  Since a large percentage of our waking hours are spent at work, it is just as important to be nice there as it is anywhere else.  Here are some reasons to uphold the Golden Rule while you're on the job:

It is the right thing to do.  You shouldn't need a reason to be nice to people.  Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.  It is your responsibility to be kind to others and it also makes you feel better about yourself.    

You may need their help one day.  The person who is making coffee today could be managing the department tomorrow.  Also, you never know when your coworker will be in the position to help you.  If you are consistently kind to your colleagues, they will be much more willing to give you their support when you need it. 

Other people will notice.  Make no mistake; your manager is aware of how you treat your coworkers.  It is your manager's job to pay attention to the way that employees communicate with each other.  If you demonstrate strong interpersonal, teamwork and leadership skills, it is more likely that you will be given the opportunity to move up in the organization.

Have you ever worked at a place where everyone was at each other's throats?  It is not a positive experience.  It is much more enjoyable to come into work when your coworkers are supportive and you are cooperating with each other.  By being nice to everyone at work, you are helping to build that type of environment.     

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are Young People Taken Seriously By Employers?

Have you ever felt that an employer wasn't taking you seriously simply because you were too young?  Some employers don't even consider hiring young people, while others rank them below more experienced candidates.  Here are some tips that will help you ensure that employers don't immediately discard your application because they feel that you are too immature for the job:

Dress Professionally.  If you want employers to see you as competent and responsible, you need to look the part.  Make sure that you dress appropriately for the industry and that you pay attention to the details.  For example, some employers believe that they can learn everything they need to know about a candidate by their shoes; make sure that yours are clean and polished!

Watch Your Written Communication.  Often employers will form their first impression of you from written communication, whether it be your resume, cover letter or an email.  Make sure that you come across well by carefully crafting every piece of correspondence that you send out.  Proofread everything and never use abbreviations when contacting an employer.   

Be Specific About Your Goals.  Some employers are under the impression that youth are unfocused.  Show them that you aren't by clearly articulating your goals and the steps that you will take to achieve them.  Make sure that you can tell them exactly how this position fits in with your career plan.   

Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles.  Most employers will do a social media scan before making the decision to hire you.  What do you think they will find?  Delete any embarrassing photos and comments. Use social media as a tool to showcase both your professionalism and your expertise.     

Show Enthusiasm for the Position.  Some young people are afraid to show the employer that they are excited about a position before it is offered to them.  As a result, the employer forms the mistaken impression that they are not interested in the job.  Don't make this mistake.  Employers are looking for candidates who will bring passion to the organization.  Sometimes it is your enthusiasm that makes you stand out above the other candidates. 

In this tight labour market, young people have to compete with more experienced applicants for entry-level positions.  Therefore, it is more important than ever to step up your game and prove to the employer that you are a serious candidate for the job. 
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Imagery Majestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Can You Change Your Job Title on Your Resume?

When your job title does not accurately represent what you do, it can be difficult to market your skills to potential employers.  While it may be tempting to edit your job title so that it provides a more accurate description of your experience, it is a bad idea.  Here's why:     

It makes you look dishonest.  Chances are that somebody is going to figure out that you got creative with your job title and when they do, they won't look at you in the same way.  Hiring managers are naturally suspicious of applicants, so don't give them any reason to distrust you.     

It gives the employer the right to terminate you later.  Lying on your resume is a cardinal sin.  It is considered to be so serious that even after you've been working with an employer for ten years, they still have the right to immediately terminate your employment if they discover your deception.  Although you may think that it's justified, altering your job title could be considered as lying.  Simply put, it's just not worth the risk.

If your job title does not accurately represent your skills and experience, here are some other ways that you can strengthen your resume: 

Outline all of your relevant skills in your career summary.  Customize your career summary to your target position.  This will immediately draw the employer's eyes to your related skills and show them that you are a good fit for the job.   

Summarize your true responsibilities in your cover letter.  Your cover letter gives you more room to expand on your experience.  Use this opportunity to clarify any potential misunderstandings about your job title.    

Include a descriptive job title in brackets after your official job title.  While most employers will understand that you are using the brackets to explain a vague or misleading job title, you need to be prepared to justify itYou may be asked to explain why you think that your descriptive job title is more accurate and persuade employers that you are not just attempting to make your experience look more impressive than it actually is.

Finding a new job is difficult, and it can be even more challenging when your job titles don't match your actual experience.  However, think carefully before you make the decision to alter your job title; it may not help you much and it could make your job search a lot more complicated. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by:  Ningmilo/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5 Statements You Should Never Make at a Job Interview

Employers carefully construct interview questions that will help them determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the job.  However, sometimes what you don't say can be just as important as what you do say.  Here are five statements that will immediately destroy your chances of getting the job.  If you find yourself about to say any of these things, shut your mouth!

"I can't work on Saturdays."  When you are trying to persuade an employer to hire you, it is important that you come across as flexible.  If you start making demands and setting limitations before you are even offered the job, the employer may determine that you're not worth the trouble. 

"This isn't my dream job, but it will give me some good experience."  If you are not totally excited about the role, then honesty may not be the best policy for you.  The employer does not want to hear that you are biding your time until a better offer comes along.  They want to hire someone who would bring passion to the position.  If you're not feeling enthusiastic about doing this interview, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who would love to take your place.

"I had some issues with my previous manager."  Finally, you've met someone who seems interested in hearing about how much of a jerk your previous manager was!  Don't take the bait!  The interviewer is just trying to determine if you would be a problem employee.  No matter how bad your manager or coworkers were, you will never win by speaking badly about them.  Remember, they are not on trial here; you are. 

"I don't have any weaknesses." The weakness question is tricky, but you still have to say something.  When you admit to a weakness, you demonstrate that you possess humility, self awareness and the willingness to improve yourself.  If you claim to be perfect, the employer will come to the conclusion that you are arrogant and unwilling to accept criticism. 

"Can you tell me exactly what your company does?"  You may think that this question expresses an interest in the company, but in reality it shows that you didn't take the time to do any research.  By the interview stage, you should have a strong understanding of the company's mission, values, and future plans.  Demonstrating that you have done extensive research on the company is a relatively easy way to impress the employer.

Many job seekers make the same mistakes over and over again.  If you've attended several interviews without receiving an offer, you could be doing something wrong.  Ask the employers for feedback and do practice interviews.  Sometimes, just eliminating one or two sentences from your repertoire can make a huge difference in your results.  

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Great Books For Job Seekers

Do you feel as if you are spinning your wheels in your attempts to find a job?  Perhaps all you need is a little inspiration.  These five books will give you some great ideas and will hopefully help you breathe some life back into your job search:

How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes.  The ability to effectively relate to people can help you in all stages of your career.  It sets you apart from other candidates and it allows you to quickly move up in any organization.  Unfortunately, interpersonal skills don't come naturally to everyone.  If you are a person who has to work a little harder at it, this book will help.  Lowndes provides techniques for making a good first impression, developing connections with people, and navigating your way through a networking event.  After you read this book, you will be in a good position to network your way to your dream job. 
The 2 Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster by Steve Dalton.  This book is a practical guide that teaches you how to get a job quickly.  Dalton outlines the steps that you can take to create an effective job search system using Excel, Google, and LinkedIn to target and contact employers. 

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success by Douglas HaiderPersonal branding is an effective way to stand out from the crowd.  In this book, Haider provides tips and tricks to help you use social media to create your own personal brand.  This book is particularly useful for young people who are just starting their career.     

I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What it Was by Barbara Smith and Barbara Sher.  It is difficult to reach your potential when you are lacking direction.  Having a clear career goal provides motivation and helps you to focus your energy.  In this book, Smith and Sher guide you in identifying your dream job and laying out your plan to attain it. 

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need by Harvey MacKay.  Networking is an effective job search strategy, but few people do it well.  In this book, MacKay teaches you to be organized in your networking efforts and systematic in how you keep in touch with your contacts.  Additionally, MacKay provides techniques that will help you to approach networking in a way that is reciprocal and gets results. 

Sometimes all you need to get on the right track is a fresh idea. After reading one of these books, you may find that you've been going about your job search all wrong.  Find a title that speaks to you, pick up a chai latte, and get ready for some inspiration. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Which Program is Right for You?

Choosing a post secondary program is stressful.  It is a significant investment of both your time and money, and the information provided to you is usually insufficient for such an important decision.  Here are some steps you can take to help you ensure that you make the right choice:

Interview previous students.  If you need to know the value of a particular program, the best person to advise you is someone who has already taken it.  You can usually find alumni through social media or the recruitment office.  Ask them if they would be willing to meet with you for fifteen minutes.  Make a list of all of your questions and see how they respond.  If possible, try to speak with a few students to give you a more balanced perspective. 

Set a goal.   How can you possibly determine which program is best if you don't know what you want to do with it?  Take the time to sit down and identify a career goal.  Once you have a goal in mind, you can clearly lay out the steps that you will take to achieve it.  If necessary, you can always change your goal at a later date, but just having one makes it easier to focus your energy. 

Do labour market research.  All of your planning should be based on extensive labour market research.  There is no purpose in selecting a particular job as your career goal if there is no demand for it.  Also, through your research you can determine the requirements for your target job and use them to guide your decision about post secondary education.   

Sit in on a class.  Some programs are very different from what you expect them to be.  Therefore, it's smart to get as much information as you can before making a decision.  Ask the recruitment office if it would be possible for you to sit in on a class.  This will give you a clearer picture of what it's like to be a student in this program, giving you a better idea of whether or not it would be a good match for your interests and learning style.

Look at student feedback.  There is a wide variety of rankings available which will give you the students' perspective of post secondary programs.  However just because one person had a negative experience with a particular program doesn't mean that you will too.  The key is to read all of the feedback and if several students are saying the same thing, it may be a good idea for you to pay attention. 

When you are deciding which post secondary program to pursue, you don't want to pick the wrong one.  However, from the outside there is only so much information that you can access.  If, after you've started school, you realize that you're in the wrong place, it is not too late to make a change.  Most schools will allow you to switch classes in the first few weeks of the semester and to change programs at any time (although you may not be able to transfer all of your credits over).  The key is to speak up, act quickly, and don't let someone else influence your decision. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)