Employment Tips

 Research the Company Beforehand

Employers value candidates who have done their homework. You should research the company’s website, recent press releases, staff members… to find out anything you can about the company.  Here are some starting questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the company history?
  • What are the key values of the company?
  • What products/services does the company deal with?
  • How does this company compare to its competitors on the market?
  • How will the job you are applying for fit within the company’s structure?
  • What are some current challenges the company is faced with?
  • What are some current successes the company has accomplished?

You can incorporate this into your personalized cover letter to address how your background fits with the company. You can also use this information to be better prepared during an interview with this company.

 Build Your Résumé with Volunteer Work

Let’s say you’ve got an impressive résumé full of international credentials and experience in your field. Perhaps you’ve even gotten your credentials recognized by Canadian standards.  Are you still running into the dilemma of not having ‘Canadian experience’?
One way to overcome this is to offer your valuable services to a local company or organization on a volunteer basis. It won’t be long before you accumulate the experience they are referring to. There are other benefits to volunteering as well:

  • You may develop contacts and/or references for future job leads
  • You can improve your language and interpersonal skills
  • You will learn new job-related skills
  • You will be making a positive contribution to your community

 Compile a Professional Portfolio
A professional portfolio is compilation of documents that clearly and concisely represents your past experience and education. You should never consider your portfolio complete, since you will have regular updates to add to it as you gain new competencies, enter a new job setting or upgrade your skills. Going through this process will also help you identify areas to work on in order to meet your career goals.
You can use this set of documents in various situations.  For example, you can extract relevant information for a résumé, refer to it during an interview, use it as the basis for licensing applications or submit pieces of it to evaluators for credentials recognition.
Professions North offers eligible clients a FREE online portfolio development course that you can do at the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. It will guide you step-by-step through various modules and the end result will be a professional portfolio you can be proud of.

 Workplace Communication
Soft skills and understanding the workplace communication style are crucial because they allow you to deal with workplace situations successfully and showcase your knowledge as well as how to interact with your co-workers, bosses, clients, etc.
Professions North is here to help! We offer an online Intercultural Communication for the Canadian Workplace (ICCW) course. This course is free of charge for eligible clients and deals with real-life scenarios, managing each situation effectively. Some scenarios may include:
  • How to deal with a difficult co-worker
  • How to excel at performance evaluations
  • How to best present your skill set during an interview
  • How to apply productive teamwork

 Online Résumé Tips
Today, candidates are submitting their résumés online more frequently than ever. Whether you’re sending in your résumé through e-mail or through an online application form, there are ways to help you reach the top of the pile. Here are some tips to keep in mind when submitting your résumé online.
Do start off with your strongest points
Consider your résumé as you would your ‘elevator pitch’. A potential employer is going to open the application you just e-mailed to him or her. Then they will look it over for 15 or 20 seconds before forming an opinion. In this time you must convince the person to open your e-mail, read your message and not delete your e-mail. Once you’ve passed this stage the employer will proceed to take a deeper look at your application.
Don’t discount the value of a tailored cover letter
This is generally the first thing an employer sees when they open your application. You should make sure that you use key words from the job posting. You would be surprised how many people don’t include a cover letter in their job applications. Let your passion for this job and your perfect skill fit shine in a cover letter written specifically for each job and for each company you apply to. 
Do make your résumé computer-friendly
The last thing you want to do is to produce a résumé that is difficult to read on a computer screen. Keep your type to the left side of the page so that the copy is easy to read. Don’t use fancy formatting that won’t appear online; keep it simple. Make sure there is sufficient space between lines so that the résumé will appear attractive in various software programs. Some employers may also prefer that your cover letter and résumé be in one attachment instead of two, and ideally in a PDF format.
Don’t rely on your computer’s spell check
This may be a good start for detecting typographical errors, but your computer’s spell check won’t necessarily pick up on everything. There are plenty of organizations available that can review your résumé for errors.
Don’t use an unprofessional e-mail address
Create a professional e-mail address for managing job-related e-mails.

Do track where you’ve posted your résumé
It’s very important to remember where you’ve posted your résumé and to track this information. A simple spreadsheet can be helpful. For example it could include the date you submitted your application, the organization, the contact person, the follow-up response, etc. This way you won’t accidentally send in your application twice by mistake!

 Dress for Success
Have you ever heard the advice “You need to dress for the job you want”? Nothing can make a more impactful first impression than your appearance. Whether it’s for an interview, an important meeting or for your first day of work, you’ll want to have a good understanding of how you should dress. Here are a few dress code categories defined:
Business Professional
This is generally as formal and conservative as you’ll get in the workplace. You should dress in business professional for most job interviews, though it really depends on the job and the company. For men this will include a suit, collared dress shirt and a tie. For women it will include a business suit or pants suit or dress and jacket. You may be expected to dress business professional on a daily basis depending on the industry you work in and the types of clients you work with. For example, many professionals in the accounting and financial service industries dress in business professional most days.
Business Casual
This is the most widely accepted dress code in office positions. But don’t mistake business casual attire as simply casual. While it is more relaxed than business professional, they share some similarities. Women may wear a moderate length dress or skirt (knee-length or longer) or a pair of dress pants and a shirt with a collar and/or a sweater with nice shoes. Men may wear a polo shirt with a collar and/or a sweater, khakis or dress pants and dress shoes and no tie is required. As a general rule for business casual you should keep it classic, keep it neutral and keep it covered.
Dress Down Days
Some places of employment have a special day per week where employees dress more casual. Depending on your work setting this may include jeans and a tasteful t-shirt.
What NOT to Wear
It is standard in most work settings to avoid any clothes that reveal too much of your body: short skirts or shorts, shirts that don’t have straps, anything transparent, etc. Jeans must be in good condition with no tears. Many corporations also disapprove of open-toed shoes, sometimes for safety reasons, so it’s best to ask beforehand.
Head Coverings & Perfume
Hats are typically not allowed in the workplace, though head coverings for religious or cultural purposes are permitted. Some companies have adopted scent-free policies. This is because people with scent allergies can have adverse reactions to the chemicals used in conventional perfumes.
If you are not sure what to wear on your first day at a new job you should ask your hiring manager if there is an appropriate dress code, especially if you’ll be dealing with the public. When in doubt it’s better to overdress than it is to underdress.

 Talking Business
Depending on the industry, the specific company and the company ‘culture’, some workplaces may be considered quite informal when compared to other countries. Nevertheless there are some conversations that don’t belong in any workplace. Bringing up some topics could cause discomfort among your co-workers and harm your reputation in that work environment. In general it is wise to stay away from personal information that may influence your co-workers’ perceptions about your ability to do your job effectively. You should also be sensitive to information that will pass as office gossip.
Here are a few specific topics to approach with caution, whether you are sharing information or asking it of others:
  •  Religion
  •  Politics
  •  Salary information
  • Work complaints, especially about other people you work with
  • Intimate details about your personal life and relationships
  • Problems with your family
  • Your every minor health problem
Where you work is both a social environment and a work environment. You must balance being friendly and having a good rapport with your co-workers with doing business in a professional manner. If you feel that any of these topics are important to share because they may impact your work, for example the need to visit family in the hospital, it is best brought up in private with your immediate supervisor.

 Phone Interviews
As most job applicants get prepared for in-person interviews, they are surprised when employers call for phone interviews. Phone interviews save employers money and time. Most employers use phone interviews to screen candidates and to make a short list of the candidates who will be called for in-person interviews. 
Having a phone interview is not as easy as it seems. Therefore, it’s very important to be as prepared for a phone interview as if you were going for a regular face-to-face interview.
Here are some tips how to prepare for a phone interview:
  • Find a quiet place where there are no distractions from kids or pets. 
  • Sit at your desk or at the dining table or anywhere you feel comfortable.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for taking notes.
  • Research the company before the interview.
  • Have your résumé and personal profile in front of you.
  • Do not drink or eat anything before the interview that may make you feel or sound uncomfortable or not normal.
  • Don't smoke, chew gum, or eat during the interview. It is okay to have some water.
  • Listen to the questions carefully before you start answering.  
  • Speak clearly and slowly during the interview. Give the interviewer time to take notes.
  • Answer succinctly; give adequate but short answers.
  • Speak with enthusiasm.
  • Give the interviewer a good first impression of your personality, and make the phone interview memorable.
  • Show respect to the person interviewing you; use titles (Mr. or Ms.).
  • Close the interview by thanking your interviewer and expressing interest in a face-to-face interview. Remember that the phone interview will get you to a face-to-face interview.
  • Follow up the interview with a thank you letter addressing your interest to work for the company and ask what the next steps will be.

 Teleconference Interviews
Employers often use teleconference interviews as a tool in their hiring process. They are cheap and convenient and are particularly useful for interviewing candidates who are not from the local area. Teleconferencing also allows employers to bring multiple parties into the interview, which makes them especially attractive to employers with geographically dispersed staff.
Fortunately, job interviews conducted via teleconferencing can often be just as effective as those performed in person. However, telephone interactions can be stressful for job seekers. They force the candidate to interact with two or more interviewers they cannot actually see. This lack of an in person connection can be unnerving but, dealing effectively with this situation is extremely important because it will allow you to move ahead in the selection process.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for the teleconference interview:
Be Prepared
Practice answering common interview questions with your career counselor, friend or family member before the day of your interview.
  • Avoid distractions by choosing a quiet location free of all interruptions.
  • Make sure you have a pen and paper handy. Also ensure that you have a copy of your resume, or any other important documents close by in case you need them.
  • Use a landline or conference phone whenever possible as they tend to have clearer phone lines. Avoid using cell phones and Internet phones since the sound quality on these devices varies and they often produce more echoes and problems with background noise.
  • Have the teleconferencing number and passcode handy so you are ready to dial it on the day of your interview.
  • Call in at the right time; not too early and never late.
During the Interview
Answer all the questions you are asked and use examples to illustrate your points when appropriate.
  • Watch your body language and your posture. Sit up straight and smile.  Even though you can’t be seen, poor body posture may be reflected in your tone of voice and overall enthusiasm. 
  • Use a relaxed and even tone. Though you may not be in the same room with the interviewers, they will be able to detect boredom and lack of enthusiasm in your voice.
  • Avoid speaking too quickly. This will help you to pronounce words as clearly as possible.
  • Listen carefully, and make sure you hear and understand the questions you are being asked. If something is not clear, ask for clarification.
  • Do not panic if there is silence. Interviewers often write notes and this can sometimes lead to pauses in the interview. Let the interviewers break the silence when this happens.
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer when he or she is speaking. Wait until they are finished talking before you speak.
  • Be confident and make sure to exude that confidence.

By using these tips effectively, you will improve your experience and be more able to highlight your experience and qualifications to an employer.

 Virtual Job Interviews
Virtual or video interviews allow employers to meet and interact with job seekers using video or web-conferencing services. This interview format is a cost-effective, convenient and practical way for employers to reach beyond their pool of local talent. It allows employers to source the best candidates-no matter where they live. Whether through Skype, WebEx, or other videoconferencing programs, virtual interviews can be tricky for those who are not accustomed to them. They present a unique set of challenges as they force you to sometimes use unfamiliar technology, while simultaneously selling yourself effectively in the absence of an in-person connection.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for a virtual interview:
Be Prepared
  • Your virtual interview may include more than one interviewer as many programs can be used to conduct a virtual panel interview.
  • Always do extensive research on the position and company you are being interviewed for well before your actual interview day.
  • Install any software or set-up any of the services you need well in advance of the interview.
  • Check your webcam, speaker and microphone to ensure they are working properly.
  • Try using the virtual interview technology by testing it out with a career counselor, friend or family member to practice your answers and ’see’ how you look and sound on video.
  • Have a back-up plan in case your Internet service goes down before or during the interview. For example, have the interviewer’s phone number handy in case you need to call them. Only use this back-up plan in an emergency and as a last resort in case you cannot connect with the interviewer online.
  • Choose your space carefully. Make sure to do the interview in a quiet room free from distractions. The room should be well lit but not with bright, blinding light.
  • Ensure that electronic devices and cell phones are turned off.
  • Make sure that children, pets or other interruptions are avoided.
  • Have a writing pad and a pen near you, as well as a copy of your resume and other important documents for easy accessibility.
  • Position your computer or webcam so that it points directly at you, not your ceiling or the floor. You should be the main focus of the video image. If possible, have a blank wall or at least a clean professional looking room behind you.
  • Dress professionally as though you were going to a real in-person interview.
Stay Calm and in Control during the Interview
  • If there are any issues with sound or video quality, let the interviewer know about the issue right away. You cannot answer questions well when you cannot hear what questions are being asked.
  • Do not make any comments about how uncomfortable or weird it feels to be interviewing virtually. This will make you look like unprofessional.
  • Never fidget, yawn, shift or balance awkwardly in your chair.
  • Watch your body language and your posture. Sit up straight and smile.
  • Maintain the illusion of eye contact by looking at the webcam, not your computer screen.
  • Do not look bored or uninterested in what your interviewer is saying.
  • Always show the interviewer how enthusiastic you are about the job by using the proper facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Answer questions effectively and demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job.
  • Use real world employment examples to illustrate your points whenever it is possible and appropriate.
  • Always make sure your answers are relevant to the posting and to the employer.
  • Show off your unique value, skills and experience.
  • Be natural and confident; be yourself. 

By using these virtual interview tips and tricks, you can present yourself well to the employer and demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job, all from the comfort of your own home.