Anyone who’s ever looked for work knows it can be one of the most nerve-wracking, frustrating and exhilarating experiences in professional life. Regardless of whether you’re a recent graduate conducting a first-ever round of job interviews, or a seasoned executive tackling new career adventures, there are some overarching,basic lessons about form and presentation that every job seeker should heed.
But first, it’s important to note that the etiquette of job seeking and the tools now available to both seekers and their prospective employers has shifted somewhat over the last decade.
The Internet has put a wealth of information at everyone’s fingertips, so it’s critical to embrace the old adage that “knowledge is power”...because in today’s ultra-competitive job market, this is truer than ever before.
The human touch
Job-search experts speaking to CharityVillage for this story all advise that it's important to carefully curate your professional and public profiles to become as appealing to employers as possible. That’s not necessarily a revelation for most people today. Stories abound about candidates who were otherwise perfectly suited for a job posting but were either screened out due to inappropriate or questionable social networking etiquette or terminated shortly after being hired because they lied or exaggerated their experience or skills online.
So it goes without saying that being forthright in your resume and living as decent an online social life as possible are both musts.
That being said, this is still only half – or maybe less – of the job-search equation.
Career and human resource experts still point to the “human” factor in hiring and cite how decisions are still made predominantly based on actual physical human interaction. It is a focal point to all further advice for a successful job search.
Keep calm and job search on
Marla Chandler-Soanes, Vancouver-based HR expert and principal at Boutique Careers, urges job hunters to master both resume creation and social skills in order to make the best possible impression at the inevitable job interview. Her first tip:
#1. Exude confidence. Analyze responses...and smile.
“Interviews are as important for the employer to see if you are a fit as they are for you to see if you'll fit with the company,” Chandler-Soanes says. Bonus advice: Don’t be afraid not to like what you may hear back from your interviewers.
“Ask questions in the interview such as: ‘Are there time commitments expected outside my traditional hours?’ or ‘Can you tell me about your workplace culture?’ You want to see if the boss expects you to answer emails at 11 p.m. or work weekends. A job advertising - and paying for - 40 hours per week when you really work 60 may not be a place you want to work,” she says.
Still, you had to get to this interview, which means you successfully piqued the interest of the employer. How you do that are encompassed in Chandler-Soanes’ next few tips.
#2. Seek employment in the fields you’re actually interested in.
If you want to work for an environmental charity, have some background or experience in that sector by having worked or volunteered on the front lines. Remember, says Chandler-Soanes, “you are building skill sets and terminology for your dream job, which means you may have more insider access to environment jobs than if you [interned] at an entirely different job to fill the gap. Think in terms of career clusters and find something related to your ultimate career goal.”
#3. Don’t be the “template resume” guy/gal.
Make sure you carefully tailor your resume for each position applied for. And don’t skimp on editing.
“While this is not new advice, I can't tell you the amount of times I've seen resumes that are very obviously templates; such as people leaving ‘Type here’ on the document or a resume still addressed to a different company,” Chandler-Soanes says. “I don't look at these resumes, they go directly to the recycle bin. If you say you are detail-oriented, you better be. Check your spelling and grammar, then double and triple check again. Have someone else proofread. If you are not comfortable with English grammar, you may want to pay a professional resume writer or proofreader. That investment could help you land the job.”
#4. Your resume is also a picture of your personal brand.
As the single most important piece of job-search collateral, your resume is not just a document; it’s you on paper (or PDF). At least, that’s all employers have to go on when you apply. So make it special while still conveying all the pertinent information, Chandler-Soanes advises.
“Creativity in resumes is today’s trend, [using] a graphic design look. Keep the content traditional with education history, experience and specific skill sets related to the job, but have some fun,” she says. Examples of this include, moving your name off-centre, left justified and down the side, placing contact information at the bottom and using a unique font.
“Remember that when emailing resumes, the fonts and spacing may not look the same as your original. Send the resume to a few friends first and ask what it looked like on their computers. And when printing, use good quality bond paper. It makes your resume stand out.”
And make sure to always have extra copies on hand, since you never know who might ask for your resume or whether members of the hiring committee may want to distribute some to colleagues for their opinions.
#5. Be patient in the summer, but don’t get too casual if you’re called in.
In the summer particularly, the interview/hiring process may take more time. Hiring managers, HR department staff and other critical search team members tend to be away on vacation more at this time. Be patient, even though you’re excited about an opportunity that pops up over July and August.
But if you do get called into an interview, be prepared to go full-out business attire if necessary; or have an idea of what typical, daily dress code is at the organization and dress accordingly to make the right esthetic impression.
“Offices tend to be more casual in the summer, but don't dress too casually for the interview. When it's hot out, bring a blazer and dress shoes in a separate bag. Arrive to the interview location early; you can cool off and freshen up in a nearby coffee shop and put your blazer/shoes on just before you get to the interview.”
But wait, there’s more...
Toronto-based HR Consultant Nancy Cyros offers a complementary set of tips for job seekers.
#1. Be authentic both online and off.
“Your personal brand carries more weight when making an impression than one might realize,” Cyros says. “From that initial email you send until that job is landed, how you present yourself can inevitably determine your fate, both consciously and unconsciously. Many times over, it's personality, professionalism, skills and experiences that equate to that winning combination of overall fit that helps a recruiter to visualize you as a valuable hire.”
According to Cyros, both mindfulness and self-awareness of the right behaviours in-person and online have an impact on the success of finding work.
Job seeker etiquette is critical and helps to achieve likeability above other candidates when competing for a position, she says. Cyros suggests asking yourself the following questions and answering them in a manner that would impress an employer:
- How quickly do you return a phone call or email when contacted by a recruiter?
- Are you aware of your social presence online?
- Are your posts and pictures private or are they publicly available for employers to view?
- Does your online presence build your personal brand or hinder it?
- Do you use LinkedIn? And if so, is your profile up-to-date?
- Do you enhance your online visibility by contributing to groups or making posts for your network to like and share?
"Taking a look at your social presence with greater detail will help to support you on your journey to finding meaningful work.”
#2. Use and properly leverage current job-search technologies.
According to Cyros, technology is a crucial lifeline for job seekers. Without it, one wouldn't be able to customize cover letters and resumes to match keywords on a job posting, maintain a professional social media presence or be able to research organizations being applied to. Some of her tips/advice in this area include:
- When applying for a job, it is acceptable to use LinkedIn to search for the appropriate person to address your cover letter or email to.
- Be prepared when job searching to be available for timely replies to an employer.
- Ensure your email address and voicemail are professional.
- When called for an interview, research the company online and be familiar with its core values and mission statement. (“It's handy to relate back to their values when addressing why you desire to work with their company.”)
- Register with CharityVillage to receive job alerts based on the specific type of work you are looking for. This will help direct you to opportunities and make your time more efficient.
- Personal websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are all enhanced tools to promote your brand and experiences. They are powerful and effective tools to aid in conveying your unique message of who you are and what you are about. However, ensure that you are familiar with privacy settings should there be any concern as to what others are seeing about you.
Be prepared and get that job
Remember, when you’re going out job hunting this summer, Cyros says the five “must-haves” in a job seeker’s arsenal today are: a likeable personal brand, excellent communication skills, networks, awareness of self and a professional, current presence on relevant, public social media profiles.
Are you ready to find your career? How have some of the above tips/advice come in handy to you during your own job searches?
Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is a professional writer living in Toronto. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photos (from top) via iStock.com. All photos used with permission.
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