careers advice

General tips for finding and applying for a graduate job in Canada

 

Cover Letters

 

A cover letter should accompany every resume. It explains why you are sending the resume and is an opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why they should consider you and why the attached resume will be of some interest to them. This is where you highlight and expand on your most relevant points in your resume.

A cover letter has several purposes – to identify the position to which you are applying, to convince the employer why they should invite you to an interview, and to inform the employer how you will follow-up. Your cover letter should answer the question, “Why should you hire me?”.

Cover Letter Do′s:

  • Be concise and clear in your request. Keep your letter to one page.
  • Demonstrate confidence - use words such as “confident", “certain", and “positive” rather than “think", “feel", & “believe".
  • Make sure the overall tone is quite upbeat and enthusiastic.
  • Show that you have taken time to research the company and the position and that you have put effort into your letter.
  • Demonstrate that you meet or exceed the requirements of the position.
  • Use several short paragraphs (consider using bullet points in the middle section) - it makes your cover letter easier to read.
  • Personalize your letter by addressing it to the appropriate contact person, either the employer or a human resources officer. Use their name and title, and double-check the spelling.
  • Proofread your letter and ask someone else to read it as well. Use your cover letter as an example of your written communication skills.

Cover Letter Don′ts:

  • Repeat your resume in your cover letter.
  • Send a résumé by regular mail without a covering letter.
  • Use the same cover letter to apply to every position. 

 

Resumes

 

The 3 Absolutes For Competitive Resumes:


1.It must be relevant and targeted

  • Tailor your resume to a specific position; the information that you provide on your resume for one position may be different than the information provided for another. In other words, do not mass produce your resume.
  • To see if you have relevant and targeted document, give it to a friend and have them guess the type of job you are going to be applying to – they should have no trouble doing this.
  • Identify and emphasize your relevant skills and experiences, but be selective - choose only those which highlight the qualifications of the position for which you are applying.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of the company, matching the language in your resume to the language in the job posting/organization.

2.Skills and accomplishments matter!

  • •Remember – Skills are developed from school, projects, volunteer, extra-curricular and work experiences.
  • Highlight the accomplishments from your experiences, not just the duties or tasks you completed. The bullet points under your experiences should NOT consist of a list of duties (unless some of the specific duties are very relevant to the job you’re applying for).
  • Use skill action verbs and accomplishment statements when describing what you did - proof of your actions and the results you achieved.

3.No room for errors

  • Be honest and accurate – your resume is a legal document.
  • Use standard fonts in an easy to read size; keep margins in a normal range
  • Have a consistent format for headings and subheadings.
  • Use 1 complete or 2 complete pages – if you use the second page, your name and page number need to be located at the top or bottom of the page.
  • Make points not paragraphs, and use phrases instead of full sentences.
  • Put the most important information in the top half of the first page.
  • Present a consistent theme which is communicated throughout the application process (cover letter, resume and interview).

 

Standard Resume Formats

 

Chronological

  • The most common and traditional format – easily recognized by employers.
  • Lists all experiences in reverse chronological order.
  • Works well for people with years of related work experience.

Functional/Skills Based

  • Highlights relevant skills and abilities.
  • Best for someone who has skills but has no related volunteer or work experience.
  • Useful to hide large gaps in employment.
    Combined/Hybrid
  • Frequently best for new graduates.
  • Highlights and organizes skills & experiences in most relevant way, but also includes dates.
  • More time-consuming to prepare, but is very effective.

Combined/Hybrid

  • Frequently best for new graduates.
  • Highlights and organizes skills & experiences in most relevant way, but also includes dates.
  • More time-consuming to prepare, but is very effective.
     

Source: Western University

 

Sample CVs

McMaster University

Resume Target

Resume World

 

Researching Employers

 

See GlassDoor at www.glassdoor.ca

 

 

Sources of Graduate Vacancies

 

Websites

Talent Egg (www.talentegg.ca)

Workopolis (www.workopolis.com)

Monster (www.monster.ca)

Jobs.ca (www.jobs.ca)

Eluta (www.eluta.ca)

Indeed (www.indeed.ca)

Simply hired (www.simplyhired.ca)

Career Jet (www.careerjet.ca)

 

Interview Types
 


Screening Interview
 
This type of interview is generally conducted by larger companies when there is a large applicant pool and is typically the first phase of selection.  Screening interviews are used to ensure that the candidates meet minimum requirements and are often conducted by a computer or by an interviewer from the human resources department who is skilled at determining whether there is anything that might disqualify you from the position.
 
Tips:

  • Highlight your qualifications and accomplishments using non-technical language - the HR professional is not necessarily an expert in your field.
  • Answer questions clearly and succinctly - personality is not as important at this stage of the process.
  • If asked about salary expectations, use a range – make sure you’ve done your homework in this area.
  • If conducted by phone, have your resume beside you to refer to for dates and names.
     


Telephone Interview
 
Telephone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews- and is a good way to minimize travel expenses! They can be challenging because you aren’t able to rely on nonverbal communication or body language.  You should prepare for this type of interview just as you would for a regular interview so, if you are not given any warning and are not ready for an interview when called, politely request that the interviewer call back at another mutually convenient time.  This will allow you to refresh your memory on the organization and be better prepared.
 
Tips:

  • Have your resume, organization information, points that you want to highlight, and list of questions you may want to ask in front of you - and have a short list of your accomplishments prepared to discuss.
  • Although you’re not required to dress up, you may find that it’s easier to get into the ‘interview mindset’ and feel more confident when dressed professionally. 
  • Have a pen and paper handy to keep notes or write down any questions that come up; keep a glass of water beside you.
  • Close the door or ensure you are in a quiet setting to eliminate any potential distractions.
  • Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and vary your voice tone, tempo, and pitch to keep the interviewers attention.
  • Provide short answers that make interchange easier on the phone; do not interrupt the interviewer.
  • Restate the question if you have not fully heard or understood it.
  • Smile – even on the phone it will project a positive image.
     


Video Conferencing
 
Video conferencing is typically used to conduct interviews using video technology from a distance. The same interview strategies you would use if you were meeting in person apply - clothing, body language, and dialogue are important.
 
Tips:

  • Depending on the sophistication of the technology, you may experience short transmission delays so be sure to take that into account when you are interacting with the interviewer.
  • Make eye contact with the camera, which, to the employer, appears as direct “eye contact.”
  • Check the monitor periodically to observe the interviewer’s body language.
     


One-on-One Interview
 
The most common interview format is the one-on-one (or face-to-face). This interview is traditionally conducted by a direct supervisor and if often the last step in a series of interviews.  The interviewer may or may not be experienced in conducting interviews and, depending on personality and experience, the interview may be directive following a clear agenda, or non-directive relying on you to lead the discussion as you answer open-ended questions.
 
Tips:

  • You will likely be asked a variety of interview questions, so be familiar with all of the different types of questions so that you can adjust your answers appropriately.
  • It is important to be thoroughly prepared – know the job and know yourself.
     


Panel Interview
 
A panel interview is conducted by two or more interviewers and is designed to reduce individual interviewer bias.  It is very common for entrance into graduate and professional schools.  One member of the panel may ask all of the questions or individual panel member may take turns. 
 
Tips:

  • Make eye contact with the person asking the questions, but also to give every member on the panel your attention, regardless of if they ask any questions at all – treat them all with equal importance.
  • Be prepared to extend more energy in this setting, as you need to be alert and responding to more people
     


Group Interview
 
A group interview occurs when several candidates for a position are interviewed simultaneously.  Group interviews offer employers a sense of your leadership potential and style, and provide a glimpse of what you may actually be like as an employee and how you would fit into the team. Candidates may also be asked to solve a problem together which allows interviewers to assess candidate’s skills in action (e.g. teamwork).
 
Tips:

  • Be aware of the dynamics established by the interviewer, try to discover the “rules of the game”.
  • Regardless of how you may feel about any member of the group, treat everyone with respect, and avoid power struggles which make you appear uncooperative.
  • Give everyone a chance to speak and not monopolize the conversation.
  • Be aware that all interactions are being observed; don’t let down your guard or lose your perspective.
     


General Group Interview/Information Session
 
This approach is intended to save time and ensure applicants understand the basics of the job and organization by providing large amounts of information. This process is usually followed by an individual interview. 
 
Tip:

  • To stand out in a group setting, a well-timed and intelligent question may help the employer remember you positively.

 


Sequential/Serial Interview
 
A sequential interview is conducted by two or more interviewers, separately or in sequence.  The candidate either moves from one location to another or stays in one room and while different interviewers join them.  Sequential interviews involve a number of ‘first impression’ opportunities so be aware of how you present yourself each time. At the end of the process, the interviewers meet to evaluate each applicant and make their decision.
 
Tip:

  • If you have difficulties remembering what you have already said to one person – don’t be afraid to ask!

 
 
 
Interview Formats
 


Behavioural Interview
 
The Interviewer will ask for specific examples from your past experiences to determine if you can provide evidence of your skills in a certain area – the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.  Although the interviewer is having you recount stories from your past, they are really trying to imagine how you would handle similar situations in the future.
 
When deciding what examples from your past to use, consider the following:

  • The more recent the behaviour, the better its predictive power.
  • The more long-lasting the behaviour, the better its predictive power.
  • Prepare yourself for the probable skill areas the employer will be interested in and will, therefore, likely be asked about in the interview. Determine this by reviewing the job description.
     


Situational Interview
 
This format is highly structured in that hypothetical situations are described and applicants are asked to explain what they would do in these situations.  Interviewers may use a scoring guide consisting of sample answers to evaluate and score each applicant’s answers.
 


Structured Interview
 
This format combines the situational interview with a variety of other types of interview questions.  Typically, each candidate is asked the same set of questions and their answers are compared to a scoring guide and rated.  The goal of this approach is to reduce interviewer bias and to help make an objective decision about the best candidate.
 


Unstructured Interview
 
Questions here are based on the individual’s application documents such as their résumé and so different variants of a question will be asked to each applicant. Without structured guidelines, the conversation can be free-flowing, thus making this method of interviewing the most prone to bias, but allowing the interviewer to get a more natural and perhaps more realistic sense of who you are.  Although this type of interview may seem more casual, and may even occur over lunch or dinner, you must still be well-prepared and maintain a professional demeanor. Be careful not to provide information you would not have communicated if the interview was more structured.
 


Semi-Structured Interview
 
This format is a blend of structured and unstructured, where the interviewer will ask a small list of similar questions to all candidates along with some questions pertaining to your resume.
 


Case Interview
 
The case interview format is popular among consulting firms.  It gives the interviewer a good idea of you ability to solve problems ‘on the spot’ – an important skill for any consultant.  This interview format is also designed to assess logical thought processes, quantitative skills, business knowledge, general knowledge, creativity, and communication skills.
 


Testing/Assessment
 
It is common for employers to use standardized tests or work simulation exercises to assess a candidates fit to the position or to test work-related competencies.  Testing is usually done after an initial screening process and can be a very costly process for the employer.

 Source: Western University

 

Salary Negotiation

The following websites allow you to find the average salary of an occupation:

 

Networking

 

When professionals refer to networking to advance their career, many times they are simply referring to their use of the social networking site LinkedIn.com.

Yes, LinkedIn has done a fantastic job of branding itself as the #1 method to grow your professional network, but let’s not throw away the traditional methods just yet.

Humans are more likely to remember an individual they’ve met in person, rather than a name they’ve viewed on a screen. Therefore, networking in-person will remain the most effective method to receive results.

 

But how will I meet professionals in my field or industry to build relationships with?

Believe it or not – there was once a time where the internet did not exist and the #1 method to build professional relationships started with a handshake. So for those of you who have forgotten, let’s revisit some traditional methods for networking in-person.

Industry Events

From conferences to tradeshows, there are an endless number of industry events that you can attend to meet professionals. Equipped with your business card, you should head out to these events in order to establish relationships with your industry peers.

The best part – most other professionals in attendance will be there to network just as you are. The purpose of many tradeshows, etc. is to provide a professional environment for people to find new business partners, vendors, contractors, etc. You’ll fit right in.

Lunch Dates with Colleagues

Now many professionals already head out of the office at lunch time with a colleague or two, but these colleagues are generally those who you already work with on a daily basis. If you are looking to move into a different department or into a higher level role, reach out to someone within your company that has already achieved that goal.

Establish contact with the person in question and ask if you two can meet for lunch or a coffee because you have a few questions about their role, and are interested in travelling down the same path. You can treat this colleague as a mentor and earn valuable advice on how to achieve your career goals.

At the same time, if a position becomes available in the department, the individuals is now aware of your interest ahead of time, and you may appear on the shortlist before you’ve even applied.

Get to Know Friends of Friends

In the social media world, you can easily find out who your friends know, just by clicking a few buttons. So let’s use that information to your advantage. If you have an old friend from college that is celebrating a milestone birthday, and you’ve noticed on LinkedIn that they are connected with an influencer in your industry, go to the birthday party.

Yes – you should really be there to simply celebrate your friend’s birthday, but you can be on double duty to network with the influencer in question. Instigate a casual conversation and allow it to lead into your professional background. Once the influencer is aware that you are from similar career backgrounds, you can establish more of a professional relationship.

These are all great tips to guide you through in-person networking tactics, but don’t leave LinkedIn out of your networking process.

LinkedIn’s benefit is its ability to create transparency in your professional network. After meeting a professional in-person, there is no possible way to know a list of individuals that connect you to this relationship. This is LinkedIn’s edge; the ability to immediately determine if you know someone who can introduce you to this individual, or find something in common to build the relationship upon.

A great idea is to combine the two methods of networking. Find potential connections and professionals through LinkedIn, and follow up the online connection with a personal interaction. Now you’ve covered all of your bases and can ensure that you’ve established a great contact in the field/industry that may benefit you in the future.

Source: Resume Target

 

Creating a Presence on Linked-In

 

Getting Started

Whether you’re starting out on LinkedIn for a job hunt, a strategic partnership or a way to open up a new opportunity, you need a strong professional network (think quality over quantity). Without this online rolodex, it is much more difficult to get through the door of a whole spectrum of possible career choices or business relationships. If you know the industry you want to get into and you have a few places to target, developing strong connections with people in your work field would help you greatly. To maximize your network, you should utilize LinkedIn to its full potential. It’s like Facebook…but for professionals only.

To get the most out of what LinkedIn can do for your job search or for your business venture, follow these 5 easy steps.

  1. Re-connect with old friends and colleagues – If you know any previous employers, colleagues, peers, associates and acquaintances – you should find a way to get in touch with them. Send them an invite to connect with them and see what’s going on. Re-introduce yourself and make a fresh start. Always re-acquaint with old friends or colleagues so that you can develop a deeper connection with them in the future.
  2. Find recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn – One of the best ways to make quick connections is to upgrade to a premium account. This will allow you to connect with any recruiter on LinkedIn and fully optimize your job search. Not only do you have access to over 100 million member profiles, you can contact any of the industry professionals on LinkedIn you want! You get expanded search results, expanded profile viewing and an expanded view of who has seen your profile as well. That’s a lot of access! So take advantage.
  3. Develop a strong contact list – You should constantly develop relationships with business partners to make sure they know you via your personal and professional brand.If you can make strong connections you will already have a higher percentage of gaining new opportunities. LinkedIn is a great place to reach out and build partnerships, arrange meetings and to discuss plans. Collaboration is your competitive advantage and LinkedIn gives you that edge.
  4. Join LinkedIn groups and relevant discussions – Engage in daily topics in groups and join relevant discussions. If you want to add more connections, you have to be active on LinkedIn daily. It’s not enough to just reply to someone’s post, you have to start your own discussions and get people to join in on your conversation. This way, you will have a number of followers that you can share and gather information with.
  5. Make connections with people you don’t know – For example, if you like someone’s blog, why not reference their name on LinkedIn and send them an invite saying you really enjoy reading their content?
    Did you know that for every connection you make, you have access to their personal connections as well? You can use this tool to your advantage by sending InMails to a targeted audience. Start sharing your profile with as many people as you can to jumpstart your career.

TIP: The best way to connect with new people on LinkedIn is to introduce yourself. Think of how you would approach a professional at a junction that you didn’t know but have read their blog or even seen them on TV. Don’t just send an invite to someone and wait for them to reply. Show that you’re interested in getting to know them, especially if you are in the same industry as they are in. A couple of sentences could go a long way. Never ever go with the standard invite.

An example:

Hi Amos, thanks for sharing good suggestions, links on the group discussion and your website. Like to keep in touch instead of only using the “follow” button. Thanks! VW

After you tried optimizing your network on LinkedIn, you should build solid relationships with your contacts. If one of your connections refers you to their hiring manager or even sends your job application to their department, you must send them a thank-you letter as a token of your appreciation. You could even arrange a time to thank them in person or make a call over the phone to personally show your gratitude. These little things can go a long way when it comes to developing strong connections with people in your own industry.

Source: Resume Target

Raising your LinkedIn profile among recruiters 

Any recruiter will tell you that they are signed on to LinkedIn.com every single day. Why? Because recruiting has taken on the saying of “out with the old and in with the new”. When LinkedIn came onto the scene, the entire profession of recruiting instantly changed.

Instead of using traditional methods to source candidates, they now have hundreds of thousands (and now millions) of candidates right at the tips of their fingers. Without having to leave their desks, they are now able to view the professional background of all of these potential candidates based on their LinkedIn profiles.

So why haven’t you ever been contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn?

Six ways to optimize your profile in order to grab the attention of recruiters.

 

The Three Cs – Current, Complete and Concise

Current: Creating a profile on LinkedIn is the first step in the right direction, but you also need to make yourself current. This means that you should be actively involved in the LinkedIn community. You can post updates regarding your career, share links to interesting articles you’ve read, or link your Twitter account up to your LinkedIn account so that your tweets are shared with your connections.

Complete: It doesn’t take long to browse through LinkedIn to find some atrocious profiles. Having an incomplete (or completely bare) LinkedIn profile, is just as bad as submitting an unfinished resume for a job posting. This will always hurt you more than help you. As soon as you sign up for a LinkedIn account, they automatically walk you through the steps of completing your profile. Aim to have an 80% completeness score, to start off, and then later you can add more information into the profile.

Concise: LinkedIn does not confine your information to a two-page limit the way a resume will, but that does not mean you can include every single position you’ve ever had. You will easily lose a recruiter’s attention on a lengthy profile page, the same way you would lose it in a 5-page resume. You must remain concise! Outline all of the key pieces of information, but make sure you still have something to say if you’re asked to expand upon each point.

 

Keywords

Skills & Expertise: The new and improved LinkedIn profiles now offer a Skills & Expertise section where you can include in-demand keywords into your profile. Once you start typing a common keyword, you will see a drop-down list appear with common keywords to choose from. This is an incredibly easy way to incorporate effective keywords into your profile.

Job Postings: If you’re really at a loss for what the keywords for your role are, look up job postings that are similar to your position. Throughout the responsibilities and requirements sections, you will easily be able to pinpoint the common keywords that are used across a variety of companies, and then incorporate them into your profile.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool: This tool provided by Google allows you to see which keywords yield the highest number of searches. It seems like a small detail, but “Client Relations” and “Client Relationships” could get you two very different levels of results. This is a great way to know that you’ve made the right choices in regards to the keywords you’ve included.

 

Profile Photo

Professional Photo: First things first – this isn’t Facebook. This is a professional networking site, and you must look professional in your photo. You should be wearing something you would wear to work or to an interview, and have a warm smile on your face (it doesn’t have to look like a passport photo). Once that is all taken care of, make sure the background you choose has no distractions, and ensure the photo is from your shoulders up. If you’ve ever had a professional headshot done, this would be a great use for it.

Visibility: Many people opt out of the Linkedin Profile Photo either because they don’t have a professional photo to upload, or because they don’t want people to know what they look like. This is a poor decision. Including a photo into your LinkedIn profile instantly increases your visibility on LinkedIn by 7 times. Also, by having a friendly face at the top of the page, the recruiter will see you as a person, and not just text on a webpage.

 

Networking

Connections: You could have the greatest LinkedIn profile in the world, but if you don’t have any connections, it won’t get you very far. Building up your network of connections is one of the most important tools on LinkedIn. A great way to get started is to use your e-mail address book to find contacts who are already members of LinkedIn. You can also use the “People You May Know” tool to connect with friends, family members, and colleagues from past or present.

Groups: Another great way to meet professionals on LinkedIn is by joining groups. There are a multitude of groups on LinkedIn for every field, profession and industry. You can browse through the groups and choose a few that really relate to what you are looking for. By actively participating in groups, you can easily build new relationships which will lead to more connections.

Recruiters: Instead of waiting around for recruiters to find you, why don’t you take the lead and connect with some recruiters. By conducting a people search in LinkedIn, you will be able to find recruiters within your targeted industry and field. It is completely acceptable for you to reach out to them and request a connection. Don’t be shy – LinkedIn is all about expanding your network.

 

Value Statement & Headline

Introduction: You will notice that the LinkedIn profile begins with a Summary section. Treat this section the same way you would treat the introductory value statement on your resume. You want to immediately tell this recruiter what your current job title is, what your industry focus is, how many years of experience you have, your academic background, and a brief highlight of achievements. This will catch the recruiter’s attention and intrigue them enough to continue reading through your profile.

Headline: When you appear in search results on LinkedIn, the recruiter will see your picture and your headline, and that information must be interesting enough for them to click on your name. The headline will also help you appear in search results for specific keywords. Instead of listing your headline as your current role, such as “Senior Chartered Accountant at KPMG”, list your headline as your strongest keywords, such as “Accounting | Auditing | Management”. Your current role is already listed in the information box at the top of your profile, so focus on the keywords that will get you noticed.

 

Recommendations – Give & Receive

Give: Before sending out a mass message requesting recommendations from your former employers and colleagues, start off by providing recommendations for them. If you’ve taken the time out to improve their profile on LinkedIn, it’s far more professional when you ask for a recommendation in return. Many LinkedIn users will respond automatically by providing you with a recommendation as well, without you even having to ask.

Receive: Be sure to request recommendations from professionals that you maintained a relationship with over time. You want the recommendation to reflect the depth of your relationship with this colleague, and not to sound like a generic statement. Also, always send a thank you note to anyone who provides you with a recommendation. They’ve helped you improve your visibility on LinkedIn, which may just land you a new job one day.

Source: Resume Target