The Quick Rise, Long Fall, and Mediocre Levelling of Online Applications

Levels Panel

There is no denying it: If you peruse employment or HR related topics on LinkedIn or Forbes, folks are discussing online applications – both grimly and with disdain. If further proof is what tickles your fancy, then look no further than the job seeker cursing at their laptop. Online applications are the way of the future … and NOBODY likes them! This has been the case since Dawson’s Creek premiered (hold your sheepishly sarcastic applause – there’s more!)

The downside today is that standard online applications are increasingly becoming the key reason why companies miss talent and job seekers miss nights of peaceful rest. Luckily, we have solutions. We always do.

Here are three reasons (with accompanying and multiple solutions) that explain the annoying truths of the online application process:

1. The length of a standard online application is often a contentious discussion in our industry.

Is the dawdling pace required to complete an application meant to deter applicants without patience, without basic computer skills, or without the determination to keep cutting and pasting points from their résumé into drop-down bars? BusinessNewsDaily goes so far as to differentiate the time candidates are willing to spend as both generational and dependent on experience. Those with more experience and demonstrated results are less patient than those who are fresh out of school. If time is money, then those used to making that money and the decisions behind it would prefer to get down to business than cut and paste.

However, if you’re serious about your job search you should have a schedule in place where ALL of your job search activities have designated allotments of time. If you plan ahead then you’re psychologically ready to commit an afternoon or a few hours to this process. In other words, don’t go in planning to complete your online application in 20 minutes. 

2.  There is no “non-valuable” position, ever.

Of course, this is not to diminish any type of work; however, while completing online applications for entry-level positions today, one might question why these applications require the same psychological testing as an Airline Pilot or Secret Service Agent. Truthfully, the personality testing speaks to the demands of every position in the 21st Century. If you’re upset that an employer has standards, you’d be wise to look at your own. As mentioned in point 1, be prepared to spend some time completing the psychological assessment.

Note that some online assessments will try to trick you by unexpectedly changing a question posed in the affirmative to a question posed in the negative (this tests your attention to detail). Be sure to read each question over at least twice to ensure you’re not answering on ‘autopilot.’

Example:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Describe three attributes that your ideal employer would not possess.

3.  The technology still isn’t where it should be.

It would be one thing to simply upload your résumé and answer a number of standard questions. It’s another thing to prepare your résumé like a proper job seeker should —that is, customizing it to fit the posting, the position, and the culture of the company to a tee — only to see fragments of what you’ve written disassembled in some sort of format that only a whirling dervish could make sense of.

The other sad state of application technology is when truthful answers cannot be entered because the website won’t allow them. A number of firms have been accused of institutionalized racism when addresses were asked to be entered, but those without a Canadian postal code could not be accepted. And most likely before talk of prejudice began, the job seeker was already lamenting the unlikely need for this information as references aren’t usually asked for at this point. Again, it takes time and if you haven’t allotted it during your job search schedule, you should start doing so.

The best ways possible to circumvent or at least complement your online application is to consider a number of best practices related to accessing the hidden job market. (FYI: This should already be part of your job search schedule).

Key Strategies:

  • Connect with an employer regardless if they are hiring or not. This requires a bold leap, but is easier done when you have crafted in advance a “pitch” to explain how you’d assist and add to the goals of their business.
  • Network beyond HR professionals. Attend Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce functions and trade shows/conventions where you can meet with staff of all designations. Tip: Be prepared to offer something so that you don’t present yourself as someone just looking for a job — bring ideas and answers!
  • Media research with Google news alerts combined with social media contact is good, but be sure to have insight and ideas to offer, from simple advice to interesting articles. You look best when you present yourself as a trusted resource.

This article provides additional tips. Remember to stay positive — the online application process will improve, and the demand for this change will make it so!

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

The Death of Administrative Positions

Death of administrative positions

It’s more than troublesome to see how many job seekers want to work in an office – without giving much thought to what the office actually does. I’m not talking about what office workers in an administrative capacity do; I’m talking about what the company and industry does. I suppose, however, these are now one-in-the-same. Administrative duties do exist, but they are part and parcel to other needed skills and knowledge required in the offices of 2017. Administration is no longer limited to answering phones, organizing meetings and making coffee.

As such, I have officially declared an end to all ‘general administrative’ positions! It’s official: there are no more office jobs and they have left the building. Or rather, the office jobs have left the office.

Here are 3 reasons why general administrative positions are dead (with thoughts on how to thrive and survive in this administrator-less economy).

1.) COMPANIES NEED ADMINISTRATIVE WORKERS WHO SPECIALIZE IN THE CORE PURSUITS OF A GIVEN INDUSTRY.

The era of slaving over the proper filing of files and redirecting phone calls is over. Don’t take my word for it – ask Former President Eisenhower’s personal secretary, instead. The mentality of 1950s/1960s “My Job Title = What I do” ended when those decades did. In 2017, it’s not enough to be competent in Excel and Word. You need to fully grasp and know what that industry is about before you apply for an administrative position within it. An administrative position in government will require you to know government programs and policies, as well as the specific government programs and databases that administer them. An applicant for an administrative position in an accounting office – not even in an accounting role – stands a better chance if they know QuickBooks. A SCUBA gear company would be better served by an administrative worker who knows what a buoyancy compensator is and so on.

2.) TOO MANY JOB SEEKERS BELIEVE THAT LIFE IN AN OFFICE IS EASIER. AS SUCH, THE NUMBER OF APPLICANTS OUTWEIGHS THE NUMBER OF POSITIONS AVAILABLE.

Nothing is ever easy and if that’s what you prefer, keep your expectations minimal. When general administrative positions do appear, they then disappear just as quickly as they were resurrected. There are more people looking for these positions than there are positions themselves. As such, the market is saturated with generalist job seekers and therefore the pay is often much less than what folks want. It stands to reason in an age where general computer use is the norm: companies will pay more for administrative personnel who specialize in areas specific to their industry and have the transferable skills and knowledge to do more than provide clerical support alone.

3.) IN THE AGE OF MULTI-SECTOR MULTI-TASKING, ADMINISTRATIVE PERSONNEL BARE THE BRUNT OF NEEDING TO BE AN EXPERT IN EVERYTHING A COMPANY AND INDUSTRY DOES.

Modern administrative personnel require not only the ability to efficiently process all of the technical aspects of an industry while simultaneously being the first point of contact to the public, but must also assist in the delivery of every aspect of an operation by connecting each part of that operation to each other. A good administrative officer must know how all the pieces fit together. One might be well advised to approach a cover letter and later an interview with the expectation that you are able to do this. Speak to these abilities rather than how fast you type.

Transformers magazine cover
The Transformers aren’t all dead, but those unwilling to adapt and transform as needed, could soon find their careers and office aspirations becoming extinct.

And you wanted to answer phones and make coffee…

The good news is: There are solutions and you most likely have them!

Résumés and cover letters need to target the specific industry and explain a greater depth to the position sought after. You might surprise yourself at all of the transferable experience and skills you have. If you understand that basic computer skills are not enough and that the position will require a great more depth, then you are already near the finish line! If administrative work is what you want, you’d be well advised to follow these four simple suggestions. (1) Research the company, (2) be ready to talk the talk of that industry, (3) understand the overall goals of the company, and (4) make your case as to how you could assist each different department in the role you’re applying to!

Sort of like a “Double-Double”. 😉

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

4 Simple Steps to Explaining “Gaps” on your Résumé

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There is no “right way” to explain a gap between positions on your résumé. It’s a roll-of-the-dice how an employer perceives that gap when they first see your résumé, and is as likely to be scrutinized and judged when they ask you about it in an interview. The key to surviving this “red flag” is keeping your answer honest, positive, and without reason for further discussion – which is ultimately more scrutiny.

1.  Start with a skills-based functional résumé!

These résumés can’t hide a gap, but they do lead with pertinent skills before revealing when and where you have worked.  The intent is to win the heart and mind of an employer by directly answering why the employer should hire you within the first half of the first page. With the emphasis on what you know and what you’ve done, the hope is that this is where your interview is focused. However, be prepared to deal with the gap in the interview.

2.  Positive and complementary activities between positions

Don’t pretend to be Superman undertaking Superman things unless you actually did save the world. Beware trying to over-compensate with larger-than-life illustrations as it may not convince the interviewer. Simple and real examples (if they are in fact real) are the easiest way to explain how you’ve been keeping busy while unemployed. Training and certifications are best. Volunteer initiatives or projects in the arts are great. Being a “Home Coordinator” is good. Travel is cool, too!

3.  If you’ve moved or recently immigrated, then welcome! (And use this to your advantage).

This is the best-case scenario. If you’ve relocated then use that. Complement it with positive experiences in your new location, the energy you’ve put into understanding and adapting to the local labour market, and your enthusiasm to be where you are now.

4.  Honesty with heroic doses of genuine sincerity

Some have used humour and some have simply said nothing, and the latter is as bad as chattering at great length on any topic not relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you must indicate the reason you were let go, then do so in the most positive way. This could entail referring to changes to the labour market and company restructuring; and while these aren’t necessarily positive, they can be communicated in a tone that demonstrates your genuine appreciation for your previous role and employer.

Keep your answer short and DO NOT provide any additional information that might raise suspicion from the employer. This leads to additional questions – none of which will be focused on what you could do for that company. Add a sincere “I’ve been actively job searching, and in a labour market as competitive as ours is, I trust you’ll understand why I’m so excited to be meeting with you today.”

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for Provincially funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing, and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

The ‘Power Stance’ (And What to Wear in That Stance)

Some of The Career Foundation's very own staff show off their 'Power Stance'.
Some of The Career Foundation’s very own staff show off their ‘Power Stance’.

Outside of Martial Arts and the Sears Catalogue, a “Power Stance” can be a great tool for a job seeker. It is both a method of warming up before an interview by increasing your self-confidence and a way to express and maintain that confidence during an interview. It’s also great for sales people, public speakers, and superheroes.

While sitting, keep your back straight with arms either folded or with your arms at your sides with hands on hips. Legs can be angled in any direction so long and your head is aimed at the central audience. Add a bit of style if your whole body is aimed at the audience and cross a leg – but do so in a way that suggests you have the power. Project confidence with an open posture. To avoid projecting entitlement or arrogance, add a smile. Be serious if you must, but tilt your head ever so slightly so as to add a sense of fluid humanity – and always dress the right way!

What to Wear (For Men): 

Professional male holding out hand for a handshake

The golden rule is that dressing conservatively with formal attire is an approach that never loses. Always dress a little bit better than you might while working in the position you’re applying for. See the graphic below!

How to Dress for a Job Interview infographic

What to Wear (For Women): 

Women have a little bit more leeway when it comes to clothing and style options for interviews. Skirts, dresses, pant suits, blazers, heels, flats – there’s a plethora of choices to navigate, so as a woman dressing yourself for a job interview tends to be overwhelming. Here are some helpful hints to get you ready for the big interview.

Business casual attire versus professional attire for women

As with men, conservative and formal is usually the way to go. Wondering if something is appropriate to wear to an interview? Think “high school dress code” – no exposed shoulders, no short skirts, no midriff (please).

If you wear makeup or nail polish, ensure you go for a poised and natural look. Dress in a soft, neutral colour palette. You may want to add one coloured piece to your outfit, to make it pop and ensure the interviewer remembers you. Keep any accessories simple and understated.

Our Summery Summary:

As summer approaches and the hiring season ramps up, knowing what to wear to your interview is vital. Make sure you wear temperature-appropriate clothing (AKA, avoid wool suits in the summertime) and remember to keep it professional and conservative.

We know it’s 2017 and our society is a lot more tolerant and encouraging of individuality than it once was, but you may want to remove any facial piercings and other loud jewellery as well as cover any visible tattoos for your interview. You don’t want to draw focus away from your qualifications and experience, and interviewers can find such things distracting. It’s good to give off a neutral appearance until you can get a sense of the company’s corporate culture.

On top of developing a strong power stance, it may be wise to develop a power ensemble: your go-to outfit for a successful interview. Above all else, make sure you wear something you’re comfortable in. Comfort is the key to confidence and confidence is the key to nailing your interview!

Put your ‘Power Stance’ to the test by entering our #MyPotential2017 Instagram Contest! It’s super easy, and you could win a $100 Pre-paid Gift Card! Click here for full details.

This blog post was produced and contributed by Kaily Schell and Jason D. Smith of The Career Foundation. 


T.M. Lewin, based in the U.K., also shared with us an informative infographic to help you crack the office dress code. Check it out below!

What to Wear to Work infographic by T.M. Lewin

Don’t Leave Money on the Table: 7 Negotiation Tips to Help You Increase Your Salary

Pocket change scattered around a table

For most of us, salary negotiations are uncomfortable and intimidating. We fear losing an opportunity, appearing greedy, or over-assessing our professional value. Thankfully, negotiations don’t need to be so difficult. Integrate these seven simple tips during your next salary negotiation and reap the benefits!

Tip 1: Perfect Your Pitch

Don’t try to improvise your salary negotiation. Have a plan in place and practise it! Before you get to the interview, do your research, know your bottom line, and make a case for your request based on your strengths and achievements. Consider multiple negotiation scenarios and develop an action plan for each.

Tip 2: Determine Your Value

Research the average salary for professionals with similar skills and experience to yourself. If your salary expectation is too high (or too low) you may risk elimination. Use sites like Indeed, Payscale and Glassdoor to research industry salary standards and to pinpoint the target company’s (or its competitor’s) salary ranges. Also, be sure to consider your qualifications and employment history when evaluating your worth. When you reach the negotiation stage, you should have a clearly defined salary range and a bottom line in mind.

Tip 3: Focus on What You Can Offer, Not on What You Need

Potential employers don’t care about your mortgage payments or the costs associated with maintaining your current lifestyle – they care about how much value you can bring to the organization. Justify your salary request by providing evidence of your professional achievements and by emphasizing the specific benefits that you can offer to the employer. One of the greatest mistakes that people make while negotiating their salary is failing to support their request with evidence of their value. “Show them the money” and watch your bank balance blossom.

Tip 4: Ask for Extras

More money is great, but so is more free time or more education. If an employer is offering a salary that is workable, but not ideal (and won’t budge) consider asking for additional vacation days, flex-time, tuition reimbursement, or other benefits that may sweeten the deal.

Tip 5:  Avoid Discussing Money Too Early

If possible, leave compensation out of the conversation until you are the last candidate standing. Many employers will inquire about your salary expectations early in the hiring process. If your expectation falls outside of their target range, you may get screened out before having a real opportunity to wow them. Do your best to delay money discussions until the last phase of the interview. If asked about compensation early in the interview process, politely advise the employer that you prefer to have a solid understanding of exactly what the position entails before discussing compensation.

Tip 6: Allow the Employer to Present the First Offer

Allowing the interviewer to advance their offer first helps you to avoid presenting a high figure that may lose you the job or a low figure that could leave money on the table. Additionally, many employers do not lead with their best offer so the employer’s proposal can provide you with a starting point for negotiations. Just how much bargaining room you have is tough to say, so be sure to consider your estimated value and remember that the sky is not the limit – avoid countering with an unrealistic figure that can’t be backed by market research and your professional experience.

 Tip 7: Know When Not to Negotiate

If an employer delivers a generous offer right off the bat, consider accepting (with a smile). You don’t have to negotiate simply for the sake of negotiating. Alternatively, if a salary figure or range was defined in a job advertisement, or if the employer assures you that they are presenting their best offer, there really may not be any room for movement – if you do decide to attempt negotiation, proceed wisely.

The Bottom Line: While salary negotiations may push us outside of our comfort zone, research shows that salary negotiators tend to make significantly more money over the span of their careers and are also perceived as stronger candidates than those who do not negotiate. Perfect your pitch and give it a try!

The author, Terra Blunt, is an Employment Specialist with The Career Foundation.

6 Important Considerations for Second Career Strategy Applications

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Second Career Strategy is an Employment Ontario (EO) skills enhancement program in which EO Service Providers, such as The Career Foundation, assist clients in organizing their applications to The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (formerly MTCU) should the clients be both eligible and suitable. The objective of the Second Career program is to provide laid-off, unemployed individuals with skills training to help them find employment in occupations with demonstrated labour market prospects in Ontario that are vocational in nature.

Unfortunately, the name of this program is often taken out of context. Applicants need to understand that this program is based on a need, not a want. Furthermore, this particular program has more than its fair share of urban myths surrounding it. Applicants need to be able to demonstrate – to both the EO Service Provider and to the Ministry – that without training they are unable to re-enter the labour market. Often, applicants state that they simply want to do something different in their careers; and unfortunately this program is not designed for that purpose. Clients need to demonstrate that their current skill set is now obsolete. It’s important to note that the application process is extensive and time-consuming, and that the Second Career program is intended to be one option among many EO services and programs.

If Second Career is the right option for you, here are a few very important guidelines to remember as you put your application together. Hopefully a few urban myths will be dispelled along the way.

1.) Employment Ontario Service Providers (like The Career Foundation) will assist in providing interested clients all relevant information pertaining to eligibility, suitability, and mandatory application requirements. This includes a myriad of application forms, some of which are used for all applicants and some of which are used in specific circumstances (such as a need for child care or transportation) during the skills training.

2.) It is highly recommended that clients understand why an honest and full disclosure of an applicant’s financial situation and job search are required. An active job search is part of the application process. The Ministry has the right to scrutinize each and any part of the application upon receiving it. Applications can be rejected at the Ministry’s discretion should they feel that any part of it is incorrect.

3.) The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) created this program and designed its parameters. EO Service Providers are NOT able to change the rules and requirements, and they do not make the final decision on acceptance into the program.

4.) The client will need to complete the application themselves, and be able to demonstrate that they in fact completed the entire application without interference from a third party. There are training institutions that provide interested applicants with completed applications, including falsified job logs, school research, informational interviews, and labour market research. This is fraud and it is against the law.

The downside for a prospective applicant is that it is the applicant’s signature that goes on the fraudulent application. The Career Foundation can ardently recognize falsified documents, but those documents can still find their way to the Ministry. And yes, they too know how to spot falsified documents. If a client’s application is to be approved, the client will be expected to meet with the Ministry to demonstrate that their application is accurate, authentic, and was completed independently. Honesty truly is the best policy.

5.) Choose a school that is reputable and a career that speaks to your heart. When your counsellor indicates that Second Career is an option, research what public and private colleges have to offer. Speak to real employers and ask them which training institutions they respect the most. Ask them which schools and which qualifications they are more likely to consider when a resumé comes across their desk or screen.

6.) While there are strict parameters for limiting what you can study through Second Career, you also need to imagine how employers view these qualifications. DO NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING A SCHOOL TELLS YOU! REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE THERE TO MAKE MONEY. THIS IS YOUR FUTURE – TAKE YOUR RESEARCH SERIOUSLY!

If you think you may be eligible for skills enhancement and training through the Second Career Strategy, please connect with your Employment Specialist and/or visit your nearest The Career Foundation hub for more information and an assessment.

Lastly, if ineligible for Second Career Strategy or uninterested in a vocational position, the good news is that OSAP (the Ontario Student Assistance Program) has dramatically changed its own parameters in 2017. There is now increased incentive for lower income families. OSAP offers two kinds of funding for post-secondary education: (1) Student Loans you need to repay and (2) Student Grants, which are financial supports you don’t have to pay back. Please connect with OSAP directly for more information.

To quote author, educator, and Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam, “There’s always a miasma of misinformation emerging from the higher education sector as to which are the ‘best’ courses to take. My advice would always be to ignore the perceived wisdom and look for the most reliable evidence on the ground.

Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for retraining for those in need of skills enhancement. When not doing this, he can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.   

5 Benefits of Seasonal Contracts

Contract

With hiring season around the corner, the job market is booming with temporary and seasonal opportunities (particularly in manufacturing and production positions). Here at The Career Foundation, we’ve seen an ever-growing number of temporary positions cropping up as we roll into spring. In light of this, we decided it might be time to evaluate the many benefits of temporary and seasonal employment opportunities.

Let’s start with the most obvious benefit of seasonal contracts: The income.
Temp assignments can provide a good source of supplementary income alongside your primary job, or they can simply provide income while you search for opportunities more in line with your career goals. Either way, money is never a bad thing.

Temporary contracts can allow you to “test drive” a position without having to make any long-term commitments.
Perhaps you were thinking a certain field or job is right for you, but you wanted to try it out before committing to a full time, permanent position. If this is the case, a seasonal contract might be the right fit for you.

So, your test drive went well and you’d be interested in a longer-term commitment to the company?  You have a shot!
Well, consider it a good thing that a lot of companies offer temp-to-perm opportunities to their successful seasonal employees. In many cases, companies will offer permanent positions to employees who stood out (positively) during a seasonal contract. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re the only one doing a little test-driving – always be sure to go that “extra mile” so employers will want to keep you just as much as you want to stay!

Seasonal contracts can also be a good opportunity to update your skill set, while preventing any questionable gaps from popping up in your resume.
Even if the seasonal opportunity isn’t your ideal, more work experience ultimately leads to a robust resumé and – so long as you’re not crowding it with an abundance of three-month stints – this can be beneficial to your future job search endeavours. If you find you have way too many short-term jobs listed on your resumé, bulk them strategically under a separate “Freelance” or “Contract Work” section.

Temporary contracts give you an opportunity to network and make new contacts. Developing a broad range of professional contacts can be very important, so even in a temporary contract it’s important to conduct yourself in a professional and friendly manner. You never know when you might need someone to be a reference – or if you’re going to have to work with someone again. Thus, it’s always good to leave a positive impression, even if your working relationship is a short one.

Next time you’re considering passing up a job opportunity due to its seasonal nature, you might want to reconsider. Seasonal contracts can have all the perks of permanent positions (including good pay rates and sometimes even benefits packages – ooh la-la!), as well as some benefits that you just don’t get from a permanent gig. So don’t shy away from giving some of those seasonal roles you glazed over a second gander.

Kaily Schell is an Office Administrator and Customer Service Specialist with The Career Foundation. When she’s not streamlining agency records or supporting just about all of the foundation’s committees, she can be found nibbling rice cakes at her desk or chasing her colleagues for last-minute reports.