Thursday, August 28, 2014

Interview Mistakes that Candidates Make

Interview candidates make the same mistakes over and over again.  In some cases, seemingly small errors can leave the employer with an inaccurate perception of you.  By becoming aware of common mistakes, you are able to avoid them and ensure that the employer  stays focused on your relevant skills and experience:
Appearing disinterested.  Employers want to hire a candidate who is enthusiastic about the job.  If you seem arrogant or disinterested during the interview, the employer will conclude that you either have a bad attitude or that you don't care. 

Not doing research.  If you are interviewing for a job, there is an expectation that you have done some research on both the company and the position.  If it becomes apparent that you are not prepared, the employer will quickly lose interest in you. 

Not providing specific examples.  Candidates that are vague in their answers are labeled as weak by employers.  If you only give general explanations and fail to provide specific examples, the employer will come to the conclusion that you are either being evasive or that you are exaggerating your level of experience.  Allow the employer to picture you doing the job. 

Being negative.  Often the interviewer will ask you questions that almost invite you to speak badly about a previous manager or colleague.  Don't take the bait.  Remember, it's you on trial here, not your manager or co-worker.  Anything that you say will reflect negatively on you, even if you're right.

When it comes down to it, your success at job interviews depends on two things; preparation and attitude.  If you're positive, enthusiastic and you do your homework, you will be offered a job in no time. 

(Photo by: David Castillo/,  Written by: Karen Bivand)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Are Your Thoughts Limiting Your Career Growth?

While you may find it surprising, the way that you think can significantly impact your career success.  It's not that far fetched when you consider that your behaviour is directly determined by your thoughts.  If you get trapped into negative thought patterns, they can hold you back.  Here are some mind traps to avoid:

Focusing on the negative.  Do you filter out all of the positive aspects of a situation and only see the negative?  For example, if you were invited in for an interview would you be concentrating more on your strengths or your weaknesses?  Keep in mind that a pessimistic outlook can negatively impact your performance.   

Viewing a setback as a failure.  Do you make general conclusions based on a single incident?  If one employer decides not to hire you for a particular position, would you then assume that you will never get a job?

Taking things too personally.  Do you tend to attribute people's behaviour to their feelings towards you?  For example, if an interviewer was being standoffish, would you automatically assume that it was because they don't like you? 

Having an expectation of fairness.  Deep down do you believe that if you are a good person and you work hard you will get a job?  While this may be fair, it's not the way the world works.  The strongest candidate is not always hired and just because you've been working like crazy, doesn't mean that you will get a job on your own timeline.  However, you can increase the odds in your favour by growing your network and targeting jobs that are in demand. 

While you can't always control what happens to you, you can control the way that you respond to it.  If you feel like your mind is taking you down a negative path, give yourself a moment to reflect.  When you maintain awareness, you can ensure that your thoughts work for you instead of against you. 
(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo Courtesy of Graur Codrin/

Friday, August 22, 2014

Improve Your Leadership Presence

Have you ever noticed that some people just walk into a room and immediately command attention?  What is that 'it factor' and how can you get it?  While some people seem to just be born with it, it is a skill that you can master.  Here are some tips that will help you better command a presence:

Appearance.  The reality is that people do judge a book by its cover.  You don't have to be a supermodel, but you should always be well groomed and well dressed.  Choose clothes that fit you nicely and always look slightly more professional than is necessary.

Keep your composure.  Never let them see you sweat.  If you are someone who is able to stay calm in difficult situations, people will see you as a leader. 

Communicate confidently.  Leaders are able to communicate assertively but respectfully.  They understand the needs of others and know how to behave appropriately in any situation.  It is important that you always communicate honestly, directly and clearly. 

Watch your non-verbal communication.  If you're not feeling confident, your body language will betray you.  Take control of your non-verbal communication.  Stand tall, make your voice loud and steady, and make eye contact with people when you talk to them.  Ask people for feedback on your body language to identify areas where you need to improve. 

Maintain your integrity.  As a leader, your character is important.  People will not be willing to follow you if they don't respect you.  Communicate your values and make sure that your actions are always consistent with them.  Set your priorities and show that you are willing to stand up for your beliefs. 

In order to grow in your career, you need to get people to see you as a leader.  You might be surprised to learn that people who seem to effortlessly command attention have actually put a lot of work into it.  Be strategic and before long people will be hanging on to your every word.   

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Find a Part Time Job

If you are going back to school in September then there is a good chance that you will also be looking for a part time job.  While it's similar to looking for a full time job, there are some subtle differences.  Here are some tips that will help you find a part time job before school starts:

Find a Sector that Offers Part Time Work.  Most sectors provide some part time work but some industries have a lot more opportunities than others.  For example: retail, hospitality, the service sector, non-profit organizations and call centres usually have a multitude of part time jobs available. 

Be Flexible.  Companies that are seeking part time employees are generally looking for people who are flexible with their hours.  Since most part time work takes place on evenings and weekends, if you are only available daytime during the week, it will be difficult for you to find a job.

Keep Your Eyes Open.  Since it's expensive to formally advertise open positions, employers may be reluctant to incur that cost for part time roles.  Instead they may decide to advertise using unconventional methods.  They could put up signs, advertise in online classifieds or put it out on social media.  Always be ready to identify potential opportunities. 

Consult Your Network.  Before advertising anywhere else, most employers will look to their network to find potential employees.  Talk to people and let them know that you're looking for a part time job.  You never know what opportunities you might find. 

With education and the cost of living being so expensive, most students also need to find a job to make ends meet.  While it initially may feel like an extra burden that you don't need, think of it as an opportunity to learn some skills that you won't pick up in the classroom. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo courtesy of Marcolm/

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stay Calm During a Tough Interview

When you're looking for a job, it feels amazing to finally get an  interview.  Unfortunately, that elation is often short lived as the process becomes increasingly stressful.  This is not improved by the fact that some employers use stress interviews as a strategy to assess whether candidates would be a good fit for the job.  Here are some tips that will help you navigate your way through difficult interviews:

Do Your Homework.  Never go to an interview unless you are properly prepared.  Research the company so that you are aware of their values and priorities.  Have a clear understanding of the requirements of the job.  Try to find out about the organizational culture so that you can make the right decision about what to wear to the interview.   

Treat it Like a Conversation.  There is no doubt that interviews are intimidating, but in the moment it's really just a conversation where the employer is trying to get to know you.  Remove the fear behind the job interview by imagining that you're just meeting someone for a coffee.

Be positive.  What does the conversation in your mind sound like?  Are you building yourself up or beating yourself up?  Try to talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who is about to attend a job interview.  The content of your self-talk can make a significant difference in the way that you perform. 

Watch your body language.  Sit up straight, don't fidget and look the employer in the eye.  If you appear confident, you will feel confident and the employer will be more likely to respond positively to you. 

Know what you have to offer.  What are your strengths as they relate to the specific job?  What about your skills and experience will get this employer excited?  When you know what you have to offer, it is much easier to stay relaxed during a tough interview.   

Even the most confident among us sometimes get rattled at job interviews.  Just being nervous doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to perform badly.  In fact, employers like hiring candidates that are a little nervous because it shows that they care about the job.  The key is to stay focused and to show the employer that you are well equipped to meet the needs of the company. 

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

Friday, August 15, 2014

How to Make a Cold Call

How do you feel about making cold calls?  If you are like most job seekers, it probably makes you a little nervous.  You may have even determined that it doesn't work for you.  Don't be too quick to rule it out.  Cold calls are not easy but they can be an effective tool in your job search strategy.  Here are three ways that making cold calls can help you find a job:

It is good practice.  When you're making cold calls, you quickly learn how to introduce yourself in a way that gets the attention of potential employers.  As you get more practice making your professional introduction, you will become more comfortable with it and it will sound better. 

It can help you make connections.  Even if the person that you are talking to cannot offer you a job, it is still worth connecting with them.  If you focus on growing your professional network you never know what opportunities might open up for you in the future. 

You can find out about unadvertised jobs.  The real benefit to making cold calls is the opportunity to access jobs in the hidden job market.  By contacting the employers directly, you might find out about jobs before they are advertised, giving you an edge over the competition. 

Here are some tips that will help make your cold calls more successful:

Do your research.  Never call an employer unless you research them ahead of time.  Know about their business, their needs, their organizational culture, and the direction that their company is headed.

Be fearless.  When you're making a cold call, you need to be confident.  If you're feeling insecure or nervous the employer will be less responsive to you.  Remember- the worse thing that they can say is no; you don't lose anything by trying.

Be persistent.  Cold calling is a numbers game.  The more companies you call, the more likely you are to get a positive response.  You will get a lot of no's, but if you stick with it opportunities will open up for you.

Right now most of the people that you are competing with for jobs are sitting on the computer submitting online applications.  If you want to stand out, you have to do something different.  Sometimes making a personal connection can be your quickest path to a job. 

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Are You Using LinkedIn Effectively?

So you're on LinkedIn but is it leading you to potential jobs?  Are you using this tool to showcase your expertise and to connect with employers in your industry?  Many job seekers take the time to build a profile but before long they forget about it.  To find a job through LinkedIn you need to have a strategy and you need to work on it each day.  Here are some tips that will help you link your way to a job:

Invest time into your profile.  The first thing that any potential employer is going to do is review your profile.  Build your profile in a way that presents you as the best candidate for the job.  Make sure that your profile is complete, has a photo and that it includes keywords that are relevant to your target position.

Actively build your network.  The power of LinkedIn lies in your connections.  The more people you are connected to, the more likely it will lead you to a job.  Make an effort to connect with people but only add people that you know and trust.  Join groups, participate in discussions, and make an effort to reach out to people who work in your industry. 

Get recommendations.  People will be more likely to trust you if your past employers and colleagues have given you recommendations.  These recommendations tell potential employers that you are trustworthy and that you're good at what you do.  Think of it as today's form of a reference (although you will also have to provide a reference).  The quickest way to get recommendations is to ask for them.  You can also encourage your contacts to recommend you by providing them with a recommendation.  Often they'll be so touched by your words that they'll recommend you too. 

Identify opportunities.  Some companies exclusively post their open positions on LinkedIn.  The best way to find these jobs is to follow your target companies and to conduct a job search.  Also when you pay attention to a company's updates you can see where they are expanding, which may allow you to identify potential opportunities before they are even posted.     

LinkedIn requires a consistent effort, but that doesn't mean that you have to be on there for hours every day.  The key is to be strategic and to stay focused.  Also, whenever possible take the opportunity to give back to your network.  Once people see a benefit to connecting with you, your network will grow exponentially. 

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo Courtesy of Goldy/