Friday, January 30, 2015

How Do Employers Search for Candidates?

Searching for candidatesMost job seekers are so focused on themselves that they don’t even consider what the employer is thinking.  Your job search will be significantly more successful if you take the time to put yourself in the employers’ shoes.  What are they looking for in an employee and what steps do they take to find that perfect candidate?

They look at their current employees.  When there’s a position available, most managers do an inventory of their employees to see if any of them would be a good fit.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to get a foot in the door at your target company, even if it’s not your dream job.  Once the employer gets to know you and what you’re capable of, they may consider you for other opportunities.

They consult their network.  Managers are always more comfortable when they hire a candidate from within their network.  If they know you, or know someone who knows you, you feel like a safer choice.  This is why networking is the most effective job search strategy.  If you put in the effort to develop a strong network, you can find out about opportunities before they are even advertised.

They advertise on their website.   If they don’t know of anyone who is qualified for the position, most companies will post the job on their website.  That way they attract people who have some relationship to the company, or who have a strong interest in working there.  It’s a good idea to create a list of your target companies and to check their websites at least once a week.

They review the resumes they have on file.  Before starting a brand new recruitment campaign, most employers will check out the resumes that they have received over the past few months.  If any candidates possess the required skills and experience, they may be invited in for an interview.  This is why it can be advantageous to send your resume, even if the company hasn’t advertised a position.

Only after exhausting these four strategies do most companies post jobs on online job boards.  This explains why most jobs are never advertised.  Use this information to your advantage; how can you adjust your job search strategy to make it more consistent with the employers’ perspective?

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo courtesy of: Imagery

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Unique Ways to Find a Job

Standing out in a competitive job market is not easy.  Sometimes you need to do something a little unconventional to get noticed, but these types of stunts can backfire if you don't do them properly.  You want to stand out for the right reasons and make sure that it doesn't pull the focus away from your skills. Here are some tactics you can try that will definitely set you apart from the herd:

Social Media Campaign.  Social media offers today's job seeker endless opportunities to connect with potential employers.  You could make contact through the company page, position yourself as a subject matter expert, participate in discussion groups, take out a Facebook advertisement, start a blog, or directly contact employers.  The key is to ensure that your approach is appropriate and professional and that it effectively demonstrates that you would be a great fit for the job. 

Video Resume.  A video resume is a short video that demonstrates why you are the best candidate for the job.  You can include clips of your work, an elevator pitch, testimonials or anything else that you think an employer might find intriguing.  Just keep it short, interesting, and related to your target job.     

Unconventional Resume.  While this approach is controversial, some job seekers have found it to be effective.  Unconventional resumes are generally only appropriate when the job requires some creativity.  The form that your resume takes is completely up to you, but always stay focused on demonstrating how your skills relate to the job.   

Personal Connection.  Since everyone is so focused on online applications and social media, you can stand out by making personal connections.  Attend community events, professional association events, and any other gatherings where you can meet key decision makers.  Don't be afraid to approach them and introduce yourself.  If you have an excellent elevator pitch prepared, you will definitely make an impression.   

When the usual approaches aren't working, it makes sense to look outside the box.  The type of strategy that you choose will completely depend on you.  Don't be afraid to be bold.  If you keep it professional and relevant to your target job, you can't go wrong.  Good luck!
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of: Stuart Miles/

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stand Out When You're Missing a Job Requirement

You find an amazing job opportunity that would be a perfect fit for your skills.  You have all of the requirements for the position...except for one.  So what do you do?  Some job seekers give up way too quickly.  Remember, job advertisements aren't written in stone and many managers are willing to overlook a few of the minor requirements if it means finding someone who is truly the right fit for the organization.  Here are some tips that will help you overcome this barrier and show the employer that you are the best fit for the job: 

Focus on Your Strengths.  What makes you a great fit for this job?  Identify your skills and experience that relate to the position and highlight them.  The employer may be so impressed with your strengths that they don't even notice that you're missing one or two points.

Be Ready to Address the Missing Requirement.  If you get an interview, you need to be ready to discuss your missing requirements and explain how you plan to overcome this challenge.  Will you take a course to attain the required skills?  If you can successfully put the employer's mind at ease, you will significantly increase your likelihood of getting the job.  

Identify Your Transferable Skills.  Even if you are missing a requirement or two, you probably have experience that is easily transferable to your target position.  You are the expert on your background, so it's up to you to figure out how your skills and experience make you the perfect fit for the job and articulate it to the employer. 

Don't Worry About Preferred Experience.  Employers have a bad habit of including requirements in job advertisements that aren't actually necessary for the job.  For example, if a manager was looking for a receptionist, they may put "ability to speak a second language" as a preferred requirement just because it would be nice to have.  While a bilingual receptionist might be their ideal, they may still be willing to consider your application if you possess the other qualifications for the job.

If you want to impress the employer, you need to exude confidence.  You can't ask someone to believe in you if you don't even believe in yourself.  Don't focus too much on what you are lacking.  Walk in knowing that you are amazing and that they would be lucky to have you on their team and they will respond to that energy.   

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Artur 84/

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Monday, January 19, 2015

No Experience = No Job?

No experience = no job.  No job = no experience!  How can a frustrated job seeker ever escape this cycle?  It makes you feel like the system is rigged against you.  There are ways to overcome this barrier, but you have to be smart about it.  Here are some tips that will help you get your first job even without experience:

Get your foot in the door.   Once you get into an organization, it is a lot easier to get the employer to take a chance on you.  Even without the required experience, if the employer sees that you are a hard worker and that you have a good attitude, they might be willing to teach you what you need to know.  The key is to be willing to accept any position that will get you into the organization and to exceed the employer's expectations of you.

Show enthusiasm.  Often employers are more interested in hiring a candidate with the right attitude than they are in hiring one with lots of experience.  Use your cover letter to show your enthusiasm for the position.  Allow your personality to shine through.  You can even phone them to follow up on your application; just make sure that you are confident and positive when talking to the employer. 

Identify transferable skills.  Even if you don't have any paid work experience, you do have skills.  Consider your volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and courses you have taken.  What knowledge and skills have you gained from these experiences?  The employer doesn't really care where you got the experience; they just want to find a candidate who will do a good job. 

Use your network.  One of the advantages of networking is that it is an effective way to overcome any employment barriers that you may be facing.  For example, even if you are lacking experience, when an employee at the company recommends you to the manager, your chances of getting hired skyrockets.  As you develop your network, you will find that more doors open for you. 

Getting a job without experience is not easy, but it is certainly not impossible.  However, now that you have identified this barrier, you need to work on fixing it.  Start volunteering or get a part time job.  As you get more experience, your career will grow.  Take the first step today.     

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Chaiwat/

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Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Overcome an Employment Gap

If you've been unemployed for more than a few months, you need to start thinking about how potential employers will perceive that fact.  It seems unfair, but the reality is that many employers are unwilling to hire a candidate that has been out of work for a long period of time.  The good news is that there are some actions that you can take to overcome this barrier.  Here are some tips that will help you get employers to focus less on your employment gap and more on your skills: 

Find Small Opportunities.   While it is understandable to want to hold out for your target job, don't completely close yourself off to other opportunities.  A part time job, a contract position, or a job that is a bit out of your realm could provide you with needed income and reduce your employment gap so that is actually easier for you to get your dream job. 

Take a Course.  Unemployment provides you with an excellent opportunity to update your skills.  The key is to find a course that would make you more marketable for your target position.  The other advantage is that when an employer asks you about your employment gap, you can point out that you were furthering your education.   

Volunteer.  Volunteer work can be an excellent way to fill in an employment gap, but you need to be strategic about where you invest your time.  For example, if you were going to volunteer at a school, it may be more beneficial for you to volunteer in the office where you will be gaining valuable administrative skills than it would be to volunteer painting sets for the school play. 

Use Your Network.  The people in your network can help you overcome virtually any employment barrier.  For example, if you have someone in the company who is willing to vouch for you, the manager may overlook the fact that you've been out of work for six months.  You can also consult your network to see if anyone knows of any opportunities that might help you reduce your gap.  Never be afraid to ask for help. 

Up until now you have probably been dreading the question, "So what have you been doing since you've been out of work.?"  If you take the right steps today, you will look confident and sound impressive when you're answering that question.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Years' Resolutions for Networking

How do you feel about the year ahead?  Excited?  Discouraged?  The new year is the perfect time to try something new.  You've heard all about the benefits of networking, but have you made it work for you?  Why not make this the year of connections.  Put everything you have into building a strong network and see what happens.  Here are some tips to get you started:

Join a Professional Association.  But just joining isn't enough.  Make sure that you actually use the resources that you get access to with your membership.  Attend events, make connections, volunteer, and read industry publications.  Even if you've been a member of the association for a long time, this year you will be an active member. 

Attend One Networking Event a Month.  You have to get out there to make connections.  You might be surprised by how much of a benefit you can get from attending just once a month.   

Follow Up.  You can make a lot of amazing connections, but if you don't follow up on them, they won't amount to much.  Follow up on new networking contacts at least 48 hours after meeting them, and make sure you contact your existing network at least once every few months.  Be organized about it and create a system that works for you. 
Give to Your Network.  Networking is all about give and take.  You should be just as focused on what you give to your network as you are on what you receive from it.  If being connected to you benefits your contacts, they will always be eager to help you.   

Be Yourself.  Some people think that they have to be schmoozy in order to successfully network.  It's not true.  You will be able to build stronger and more genuine connections if you are true to yourself.   

Many job seekers are intimidated by networking so they avoid it.  This is not a good approach because networking is, by far, the most effective strategy for finding a job.  The key is in how you perceive networking.  If you just view it as getting to know people and building relationships with them, you may be more comfortable with it.  It will feel awkward at first, but it gets easier with time. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Ambro/

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

5 Words You Should Never Use on Your Resume

Most resumes are poorly written and as a result, hiring managers dread reading them.  Why?  Because they use vague language that doesn't actually mean anything, and seems to be designed to put people to sleep.  If you are trying to get an employer's attention, that is not the way to do it.  Here is a list of five words that are definitely not worthy of your resume: 

Hard-working.  Employers aren't interested in how hard you work.  They want to see results.  Give them proof of your accomplishments so they can see that you are both hard working and effective.

Mainteance.  The word maintenance is one of the most commonly misspelled words on resumes.  When you submit a resume with spelling or grammatical errors, you give the employer the perception that your work is sloppy and you couldn't be bothered to proofread.  Always put your resume through a spell check and have someone look it over for you.

Innovative.  This word is overused on resumes and as a result it has lost its meaning.  Instead, include examples of your innovation and let them decide for themselves.

It's.  You should consider your resume as a formal document, and as such, you shouldn't be using contractions.  Surely you have enough time to write out the whole word.  

Professional.  Employers are going to assume that you will behave professionally in the workplace.  If you feel the need to state on your resume that you are professional, they might wonder why.

There are two basic rules when writing a resume.  The first is to avoid praising yourself, and the second is to make it flawless.  Let your accomplishments do the talking and make sure that you review it two or three times before sending it to the employer. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/

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