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Canada Career Week – November 4 – 8, 2013

Canada Career WeekToday’s issue of the Monday Morning Rx is a salute to Canada Career Week.

The week, November 4 – 8, 2013, has been designed “to promote, showcase and celebrate career development nation-wide”, by the Canadian Career Development Foundation and its partners.

Canadians are, indeed, at a crossroads in their careers, and even though there are a plethora of services and resources available, many are still not sure how to access these resources and make them work to their advantage.

public perceptions about career development and the workplace

At The Wright Career Solution, we will be hosting a FREE Q & A on Thursday November 7, at 8:00 pm EST, to provide answers to questions about career, resumes, interview strategies, or the job search. Details are below.

Can’t attend? No worries…send your questions to: careercoach[at]thewrightcareer.com, and we will answer them live.

To join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device: Go to Canada Career Week at The Wright Career Solution. If you would prefer to join by telephone, the phone line is: 1(424)203-8450 (US/Canada only). Meeting ID: 474 467 653.

If you are a career professional, then I invite you to participate as well.

Related information on Canada Career Week and Career Development:

Sharon Graham’s Blog

Facebook

CERIC’s Online Survey of Public Perceptions About Career Development and the Workplace

 

 

 

 

Why Dumbing Down Your Resume is a Dumb Idea

Resume_iStock_000015851364Small

If you are dumbing down your resume and downplaying your achievements, you are playing small. You are cowering under the pressure of other people’s opinions. You are undervaluing your capabilities.

The majority of my clients are aspiring managers, managers and emerging executives. Some are also senior leaders or presidents of their own companies but are considering corporate opportunities. Many are faced with challenges from being told they are overqualified, they don’t have Canadian experience, or that they are too old.

I had a conversation with a senior leader (someone in his late fifties) this past week where he said that headhunters have told him that he is too old. I asked him how old is his intellectual capital – that mass of knowledge, ideas and experience housed in his cranium that some 30- or 40-somethings wouldn’t have. This man is an executive within the energy industry, and prior to that worked in the investment and bond markets. Will his age prevent him from adding value to a company?

My colleague Sharon Graham, wrote a blog post recently on this topic. The link is posted below. In it she exposed some of the myths about dumbing down one’s resume. She discussed the fact that there is currently a leadership vacuum, and that new industries are emerging, while others are here to stay. For those reasons, one should highlight one’s achievements instead of dumbing them down.

We live in a real world where these things happen, and I know you hear it quite often. Employers, hiring managers and recruiters telling you overtly or covertly that you are overqualified or you are too old. This is a dumb approach and only serves to exclude potentially good candidates. By the same token it  puts you on the defensive. There are strategies that you, a potentially good candidate, can use to overcome these barriers:

  1. Research the potential employer thoroughly then focus on areas where you know you can solve their problems and add value. Don’t apologize for your accomplishments and successes.
  2. Seek to connect with decision makers, or other people who know these decision makers. This proactive approach might be uncomfortable for some of you but it’s better than constantly uploading  resumes that may end up in the resume black hole.
  3. Be prepared to begin your conversation with something like: “I want you, just for a moment, to suspend your belief that I am overqualified, too old, don’t have Canadian experience [or whatever your specific circumstance is]. If you would like your company to remain where it is, then I might not be a good fit. But, if you would like to see explosive growth within the next X months/years, then we should be having a discussion.” Of course, you have to back up this blatant claim with your proven success stories.

It is the responsibility of managers, emerging executives, or any job seeker for that matter, to focus on what they have to offer their next employer. The next step is to determine how they can package this offer in a way that will have employers reaching out to them. This is not the time to leave your career up to job boards, applicant tracking systems, or junior staff who sometimes screen you out because their perception is that you are overqualified or too old.

If you find yourself downplaying your achievements, it’s time to stop. You are someone with a whole lot of things to offer. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back and be prepared to articulate your stories in ways that produce conversations. If you are meeting too much resistance, then ask yourself if this particular organization would be a good place for your to work.

Have you been told to dumb down your resume? If so, share your story in the comments section below, reach out to a career coach, or contact me. We just might be able to help you overcome these job search obstacles.

Related resources

Dumbing Down a Resume is Not a Great Idea (Sharon Graham)

10 Resume Tips to Beat Online Applicant Tracking Systems

 

How to Read an Interviewer’s Mind and Ace the Interview

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The main reason job seekers fear and fail at interviews is that they are attempting to read the interviewer’s mind then give answers they think the interviewer wants to hear.  This mind-guessing game will not work and is destined to fail.

Most interviewers will use Behaviour-based interview questions to find candidates who will fit the job, fit the team, and fit the company. These are open-ended questions designed to drill down and uncover evidence of the competencies needed for the position. While no one interview strategy is fool-proof, the premise behind behavioural interviews is that past behaviour predicts future success.

This is where a good understanding of the PAR/CAR/SAR interview concept will be helpful to the job seeker. If he or she knows how to develop success stories demonstrating problems faced, actions taken and results obtained, it puts them in a better position to ace the interview.

Below are five randomly selected questions followed by a sneak peek into the mind of the interviewer and ending with strategies on how to answer the questions:

QUESTION #1: Why should I consider you a strong applicant for this position? What have been your most significant achievements in your previous job?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Does this candidate understand the duties and responsibilities associated with this position? Does he have the specific skills, abilities and the right experience that demonstrate a high level of proficiency?

STRATEGY: Review the job posting very closely and identify the skills and knowledge that are critical to the position. Then offer your specific achievements that directly or closely relate to the job.

QUESTION #2: What were three of your most significant accomplishments in your previous role that directly relate to the position we are discussing today?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Is the candidate aware of the contributions she has made to the employer? Has she left a legacy that has had significant impact on the company? Did she make or save the company money?

STRATEGY: Recall and tell stories of instances where your efforts made significant impact on the company’s bottom line and where you saved the company time or money. Also mention any awards or recognitions you received for your efforts.

QUESTION #3: If I were to contact your supervisor, what would she say about your ability to complete a difficult task? What criticism would she have about your technical competence?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Is the candidate someone who accepts or resists management directives? Does he have a good work ethic? Does he willingly pitch in to help coworkers with challenges?

STRATEGY: Focus on the teamwork / collaborative competencies that directly relate to the job for which you are interviewing. Give specific examples of how you get along with your coworkers and how willing you were to go the extra mile to get the job done.

QUESTION #4: Describe a situation when you worked with someone whose work style was different from yours. What problems did you encounter? How did you resolve the problems?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW:  Can this candidate work with different personalities? Is she accepting of others? Is she flexible? Is she aware that there’s more than way to accomplish a task?

STRATEGY: Offer stories that demonstrate flexibility and tact when dealing with people and problems. Relate your cross-cultural experience and your respect for diversity.

QUESTION #5: Tell me about a challenge our company is facing and offer a solution. Why do you feel this solution is the answer?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Does the candidate understand our industry and can he offer some insights into potential challenges the industry is facing?

STRATEGY: Tell stories that demonstrate a thorough understanding of the industry and offer ideas for solutions. Give examples of ideas you offered that were accepted in your previous role. If you can do this you will be an extremely desirable candidate.

It’s your turn. Review the questions and leave your answers and or comments below.

 

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

How to Prepare for an Effective Informational Interview

One way of meeting new people and finding ‘hidden opportunities’ is to conduct informational interviews.  An informational interview is a good way to start building your network. It builds your self-confidence and also helps to prepare your for job interviews. You can use an informational interview to expand your networking contacts, find out about possible career paths, learn if and where opportunities might exist for your skills, and gain an understanding of workplace culture.

An informational interview also gives you a look at the inside operations of a company and helps you to decide if the company would be a good place to work.

Most people will be pleased to spend a few minutes (in person or over the telephone), to conduct an informational interview with you. After all, most people like talking about themselves, their jobs and their successes. Others might  not have the time or inclination, and if that’s the case, don’t take it personal; just move on.

Preparing for an Informational Interview

Before you contact anyone, you should develop a script that explains the reason for your request. The script below is an example, but it should be customized to fit your situation and needs:

“I was speaking with ____________, and s/he suggested that I give you a call. I am currently _________________. I am curious about the roles of people currently working in __________, and I was wondering if you would be able to meet with me for 15-20 minutes to talk about your role and the organization you work for.”

If you feel uncomfortable using the telephone, send a letter or an email as your first contact. At the end of your message state that you will contact the person by a certain date and make a note to follow up on that date.

Once you have your script ready, you should:

  • Find at least 3-4 people in the field. The more people you interview, the more information you will get.
  • Ask to meet at the workplace so that you can see the work environment.
  • Be authentic in your approach. Make it clear that you are asking for information only and not inquiring about a job possibility.
  • Practice with a friend or family member to build your confidence before you participate in an informational interview.
  • Prepare questions ahead of time.

Questions to Ask at the Informational Interview

Before starting the interview, introduce yourself and thank the person for taking the time to talk or meet with you. Tell them enough about yourself (interests and skills) so that he or she can offer you relevant information. Once all of that is out of the way, start by asking:

  1. What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  2. How did you get into this line of work?
  3. How long have you worked for this organization?
  4. What are your major responsibilities?
  5. What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  6. What are the major frustrations in this job?
  7. What do you like most about this job?
  8. What advice would you give to a person coming into a company like this?
  9. My strongest skills are____________. Do you know of any other company that could use someone with my skills?
  10. Would you have the name of one or two other individuals to whom you could refer me who could give me additional information about this occupation?

The above tips, while not all-inclusive, will help you in preparing and conducting an effective informational interview. Add your comments below.

 

Can My Dad Come to the Interview With Me?

 

When my son was in high school I often told him that if he went away to college, I would be moving next door. He hasn’t moved away, so I have no need to do that. That said, most of us as parents are very protective of our children and sometimes we go way overboard and become known as ‘helicopter parents’ – always hovering around! Of course, this can sometimes have a negative impact on the children, especially when they are in their early adult years.

 

In a recent survey of Executives by Officeteam, they witnessed some unusual parental behaviours:

  • “One parent wanted to sit in during the interview.”
  • “A parent called a politician to push me to hire his son.”
  • “A mother submitted her daughter’s resume on her behalf.”
  • “Someone stopped an employer at a grocery store to ask that person to hire her child.”
  • “A parent called to ask about a job applicant’s work schedule and salary.”
  • “A parent called during the interview to try to push me to hire her daughter.”
  • “I received a call from a father asking about the status of his son’s application.”
  • “A parent came by my desk and told me that he expected his daughter to get preference for a position since he was a manager at the company.”
  • “A mother called to ask how her child did in the job interview.”
  • “A parent called to find out why we did not hire her son and why we felt he was not qualified.”

Whether you are a helicopter parent or not, these five tips from Officeteam will equip you to help your son or daughter navigate the job search maze:

 

1. Branch out. Networking is still one of the best ways to find a job. Your friends and colleagues can help set up introductory meetings with employers and alert your job-seeking child to opportunities.

2. Give it another look. Review their resume and cover letter. Most times you can spot typos and other errors and make sure the most valuable information is included.

3. Do a test run. Offer to conduct mock interviews with them to practice responses to common questions. Give them constructive feedback on their answers and delivery.

4. Weigh the options. Offer to be their sounding board about potential opportunities. You can provide a different perspective and bring up points they could consider in their decision.

5. Offer encouragement. Looking for a job can be difficult, and it’s important to remain positive. Offer your parental advice and support throughout the process to keep them on track.

 

Read the full Officeteam article here

Survey on Canadian Resume & Interview Trends

Whether we are career coaches, professional resume writers or job seekers, we want to know what’s current and what’s out-of-date when it comes to resumes and interviews. Here is an opportunity for recruiters and hiring managers from across Canada to have their say and let us know what they look for in resumes; whether they bother to read cover letters, and what are their pet peeves.

Please complete this short survey at Canadian Resume & Interview Trends, and pass it along to others in your network.

Thanks. I will be sharing the results in the next few weeks.

The E.A.S.Y Way to Ace Your Next Interview

As career professionals, we can learn a lot from our clients. They come to us because of their perceived belief that we have all the answers. They believe we have the expertise to help them when they are seeking a professional resume to distinguish themselves from other candidates, or when they are looking for interview coaching to help them tell their stories and get hired.  Little do they know how much they also bring to the coaching relationship and how much we learn from them.

I am coaching a young man who is interviewing for a position in law enforcement. His contact at the agency suggested he retains a Career Coach to help him prepare for the interview. After our first session and I had given him his homework assignment, he sent a note to say someone in his network heard of an E.A.S.Y. way to practice for this particular type of interview. I was intrigued! After all, I had coached other law enforcement clients before and always used the S.T.A.R. or C.A.R. interview technique. Was this something new?

When I reviewed the concept, I found out it operates on the same premise as the C.A.R. technique we had agreed to practice. Now, we wouldn’t have to ditch our original plan, except that we would now be working with a different acronym – E.A.S.Y.Event, Action, Step taken and Yield (or Outcome). Once we got that straightened out, it was easy to get back on track to prepare for the next session.

If you are a job seeker and would like to ace your next interview, or you are a career coach and would like to incorporate another acronym into your interview coaching toolkit, it’s E.A.S.Y. :

E – Event:                           What event did you face?

A – Action:                         What did you do?

S – Step taken:                  What steps were involved?

Y – Yield:                            What did you get? What was the outcome?

So, Miss or Mr. Job-Seeker, the next time you are preparing for your interview, suggest to your coach that you use the E.A.S.Y. way to tell your success stories and get hired.

What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments below.