Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Annoy Employers With Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is one of the most underused job search tools.  When used effectively, your cover letter can show the employer the person behind the resume, explain gaps or other problems, make a connection between your skills and the requirements of the position and convey passion for the job.  Unfortunately, most job seekers do the absolute minimum when constructing their cover letters.  Some cover letters are so bad, that they can actually damage your chances of getting the job.  Here are some ways that you can annoy potential employers with your cover letter.  Make sure that you avoid them:

Don't send one.  Even the strongest resume is ineffective on its own.  You always need to send a cover letter.  Your cover letter introduces your resume and helps the employer put it in context.  Also, employers will often review cover letters to see if they can get any hints as to what you are like as a person. 

Don't proofread it.  Sending a cover letter with spelling or grammatical errors is the height of sloppiness.  It makes you look lazy and incompetent.   

Don't customize it for each position.  Are you sending the same cover letter to twenty-five different employers?  Do you think that you're getting away with it.  You're not.  When you don't customize your cover letter, you end up including details that are irrelevant to the employer and you may miss points that are important.  You lose the opportunity to show the employer how you are uniquely skilled for their particular position.  Most employers will give mass cover letters the attention that they deserve.

Make it really long.  Nobody has the time or the inclination to read rambling cover letters.  Keep them brief, (three paragraphs max.) and provide a quick outline of your skills as they relate to the job. 

Don't follow the employer's directions.  Employers find it incredibly aggravating when applicants fail to follow simple instructions.  Pay attention to what is written in the job advertisement and always apply according to the employer's specifications.

Since employers are always looking for ways to screen through the hundreds of resumes that they receive for each available position, you never want to be the annoying applicant.  When you are looking for a job, it is always a good idea to consider everything that you do from the employer's perspective.  If you were the manager, would you hire yourself?   

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo Courtesy of Stock Images/

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why You're Not Getting Any Interviews

You apply for job after job.  You feel like all you're doing is sending in applications, but for some reason nobody is calling you back.  What are you doing wrong?  Here are some reasons that employers might be casting your application aside and strategies that you can use to get their attention. 

You are Targeting the Wrong Jobs.  Regardless of how qualified you are, if there aren't many jobs available, it is going to be difficult for you to get an interview.  Pay attention to the labour market and talk to people in your network to determine what types of jobs are in demand.  By slightly shifting your focus, you could make a significant difference in how many interview calls you receive. 

You Don't Have the Right Skills.  If employers don't seem particularly enthusiastic about your resume, it could be because you aren't standing out.  Study the job advertisements to see if there is anything that you might be lacking.  Ask people who work in the industry if there are any skills or training that would make you a more competitive candidate. 

Your Resume or Cover Letter is Poorly Written.  The most common reason for job seekers to be ignored by employers is that there is a problem with their resume or cover letter.  If they are too vague, have proofreading errors, are not customized to the position, or do not include the correct keywords, the screeners will be quick to discard them.  Find an employment advisor or a someone in your network to review your resume and provide you with feedback. 

You're Not Applying Properly.  Employers don't want to hire candidates who are either annoying or can't follow directions.  Make sure that your behaviour during the application process doesn't cause them to put you into one of those categories.  If the job description includes application instructions, make sure that you follow them perfectly.  Follow up once about a week after you submit your application.  If the employer decides not to return your call, phoning them repeatedly will not help. 

In this competitive job market, it can be difficult to get an employer to notice you.  The key is to put yourself in their position and to approach your application with a strong focus on their needs. 

(Photo by: David Castillo Dominici/

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reach an Employer Through Social Media

Today's job seeker has more opportunities to connect with employers than ever before.  Social media allows you to find out about hidden jobs and make direct contact before you even submit your application.  Here are some tips that will help you use this tool to its greatest advantage: 

Follow Companies.  To keep up to date on a particular company, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn and like them on Facebook.  In addition to posting available jobs, they may post company news and updates that will help you identify future opportunities. 

Reach Out.  Since social media is a tool that facilitates connections, it is not inappropriate for you to reach out to a manager at your target company.  You can ask about future opportunities or let them know that you've applied to a specific position.  The key is to be respectful and to recognize that the person may or may not be receptive to you. 

Do a Search.  Identify the keywords for your target position and pair them with the words 'jobs' or 'hiring' when you conduct your search.  On Twitter, you can search hashtags to find job leads.  If you search in a few different ways, you will eventually hit on something that gets you results. 

Update Regularly.  It is important that you keep your profile current, particularly about career information.  Also, when you post at least once a day, you  build a following that can help you in your networking efforts.  If your profiles are stale, nobody will have any interest in them.   

Job Boards.  Some companies are so serious about their social media presence that they don't post their open positions anywhere else.  Make it a habit to regularly check job boards to see if there are any positions that interest you.  An added advantage is that you can see if any of your contacts are currently working for the company. 

Social media is not just a way to share pictures with your friends.  When used effectively, it is an important networking tool that can allow you to connect to potential employers.  If you are strategic and consistent with it, you just might tweet your way into a job!

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: JS Creationzs/

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Promote Yourself Without Sounding Arrogant

One of the toughest parts about interviews is that you have to sell yourself.  The employer doesn't know you so you need to show them how amazing you are.  If you're not a person who likes to brag, this can be difficult.  Here are some tips that will help you promote yourself without sounding like a jerk:

Don't Downplay Your Accomplishments.  When you're at a job interview, the expectation is that you are trying to sell yourself.  The other candidates will be promoting themselves, so if you're not telling the interviewer about your accomplishments, they may assume that you don't have any.  Never make your achievements seem smaller than they are and unless you were working on a team, use the pronoun "I" instead of "we".   

Give Them the Facts.  Instead of saying "I'm an amazing salesperson!" give them enough information to come to their own conclusion.  Present quantitative accomplishments, such as "I increased sales in my department by 25% over a period of six months."  When you give the employer the facts, you can communicate that you are great at what you do without actually saying it. 

Tell Stories.  If you feel awkward selling your skills and accomplishments, storytelling is a great alternative.  Tell the interviewer about a problem that you encountered and the steps that you took to solve it.  Give them details on the outcome of the situation.  When you provide examples, the employer gets a glimpse into what kind of employee you would be if they decided to hire you. 

Create a Portfolio.  Sometimes it's nice to have something tangible that you can show the employer.  Depending on your line of work, a portfolio can showcase your talents in a variety of ways.  You can include examples of  your work, articles you have written, articles that were written about you, letters of reference, and anything else you think might interest the employer. 

Don't Put Anyone Else Down.  When it comes right down to it, the employer is expecting you to promote yourself at a job interview.  As long as you don't put other people down in the process, nobody will think less of you for it.  Instead of comparing yourself to others, let your accomplishments speak for themselves. 

From a very young age, we were taught not to brag.  Now you have to learn to do it well in order to get a job.  If you are feeling uncomfortable about it, the best approach is to hold your head high and stick to the facts.  Once the employer sees what you have to offer, they are in a strong position to determine if it would be a good fit.    

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, July 18, 2014

Do's and Don'ts For Calling in Sick

We all get an allotment of sick days, but the decision of when to use them is not always easy.  How many times have you found yourself sitting on your bed, phone in hand, trying to get up the nerve to make that call.  Here are some tips that will help you use your sick days in a way that won't get you into trouble:

Do call early.  Always make the call at least fifteen minutes before your shift starts.  The earlier in the morning you call, the more time your manager has to cover your absence.   

Do provide a clear reason for calling in sick.  Don't be wishy-washy when calling in sick.  Instead of saying ,"I don't think I'm feeling well enough to work today.", say "I've been vomiting all morning and I won't be coming in." Be firm and don't give them room to argue with you. 

Do phone your supervisor.  Don't email your manager or have someone else give them the message.  When you phone your manager directly, they are less likely to think that you're lying.  It also allows them to address any concerns or ask any questions. 

Don't go to work sick.  Nobody wants your germs.  If you come in and someone else gets sick, they will blame you. 

Don't call in sick to attend a job interview.  If you get caught, you could lose your job.  Use a vacation day instead. 

If you only use your sick days when you're legitimately sick, your manager shouldn't give you any grief about it.  Be direct with your employer, don't play games, and go get some rest so that you'll be ready for work tomorrow. 

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Secrets that Employers Don't Want You to Know

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be on the other side of the desk?  It seems like the employer is completely at ease as they sit there watching everyone else sweat.  You might be surprised to learn that the interviewer is also under a lot of pressure.  If they don't make the right hiring decision, it could have negative implications on their job.  Here are some other little tidbits that you might not be aware of:

They want you to be the perfect fit.  During a job interview, it is not uncommon to feel like the interviewer is trying to trip you up.  However, the reality is that the interviewer needs to ensure that you actually possess the skills and experience that you've listed on your resume.  The employer would like nothing more than to declare that you are the best fit for the job so that they can conclude the hiring process.  However, you need to prove yourself first.     

Other people may be weighing in on who to hire.  In many companies, there are a variety of people involved in hiring decisions.  You may be interviewed by a representative from each department, a selection of staff members, or even the president of the company.  Even if you do an amazing interview and completely win over the hiring manager, there is no guarantee that you will be offered the job.  Do your best to make a positive impression on the interviewer, but keep in mind that it might be out of their hands. 

They are expecting you to be a little nervous.  Do you get nervous when you're going for a job interview?  So does everyone else.  You don't want to be so nervous that it inhibits your ability to answer the questions, but by showing a little nervousness, you demonstrate that you care about getting the job. 

It's not a bad sign if the interviewer is a little tough on you.  When the interviewer asks you a lot of pointed questions, it is natural to come to the conclusion that they aren't impressed with you.  However, that assumption may be completely inaccurate.  If they are investing a lot of time in asking you questions and getting you to expand on your answers, they may be seriously considering offering you a job.

The next time you attend a job interview, instead of focusing on yourself, take a step back and consider employer's perspective.  When you make yourself more aware of the employer's needs, you are better able to position yourself as the best person to meet them. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/

Friday, July 11, 2014

When You're Referred By a Friend

Great news!  There is a job opening at the company where your friend works.  They are willing to refer you, but you aren't exactly sure how to go about it.  Here are some tips that will help:

Ask Your Friend for Guidance.   What is the best way for you to apply to the job?  Who should you talk to?  Should you mention your friend's name in your cover letter?  As an insider, your friend is in the best position to guide you through these nuances.

Behave Professionally.  Never forget that your behaviour reflects on your friend.  If you are unprofessional or disrespectful, it could negatively impact your friend's job.  Don't make your friend regret referring you.   

Stand on Your Own Feet.  Your friend can't get the job for you.  By referring you, they have already given you a significant advantage.  Now you have to do the heavy lifting.  Research the company, study the job advertisement, and identify your relevant skills and experience.  It is up to you to persuade the employer that you are the perfect fit for the job. 

Don't Expect Special Consideration.  Getting a referral is amazing, but it is not a guarantee that you will get the job.  Do your best to impress the employer but also continue with your job search.  Even if you're not offered a job, let your friend know that you appreciate their support. 

When you are looking for a job, you need all the help you can get.  Since most employers prefer to hire through their network, if you can get a referral, you are almost halfway there.  Just remember to return the favour when you are happily employed and your friend is looking for work.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stock Images/