How to make the most of your job search

Shannon Neighbour (Marketing ’00) knows it’s a buyer’s market for labour today. Many employers have a luxury of choice not seen in Alberta in more than 2 decades. “Times like these call for being a little more diligent and taking a more active approach to your job search,” says the owner of Edmonton-based Shannon Neighbour Recruiting.

She doesn’t deny that “It’s difficult for a lot of people right now.”

The good news, she adds, is that there are simple ways for job seekers to stand out. Whether you’re actively looking or just casually checking postings, Neighbour has recommendations that will help improve future prospects or make your search more successful.

The job market might be tough, but Shannon Neighbour believes there are ways to stand out.“There’s a right person for every job,” she says. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be you.

Shine online

Your online presence may be your most important asset. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t tarnish that brand with inappropriate content.

You also need to make the most of it, says Neighbour. “It’s important that – even if you’re not looking for a job – you correctly profile yourself online.” That is, hone your LinkedIn profile:

  • Post a professional photo. That look can vary, says Neighbour, but “always try to err on the side of being as neutral as possible, because you never know what people are going to think.” Stick with a headshot only.
  • Highlight accomplishments. This is more than awards. Get specific about your contributions – how you boosted quarterly sales, for example, and by how much. This is a marketing exercise, so don’t feel like you’re boasting. “As Canadians we need to get past that.”
  • List not-for-profit work. “Show who you are through the organizations you volunteer for; that says something about you as a person.” It might also demonstrate how your values align with those of a potential employer.

Treat your resumé as your one-pager – literally. It’s supposed to be a slim document designed to whet the appetite of a potential employer and motivate them to interview you.

Reduce your resumé

As a recruiter, “I want a quick snapshot of what this person’s about,” says Neighbour. She’s scanning for accomplishments, contact info and a LinkedIn address for more details.

She’s not looking for a photo or a paragraph explaining that your interests include ultimate frisbee and 1960s Italian cinema. She’s also not terribly concerned if you’ve used its when you should have used it’s (unless your applying for a communications job) but she does expect that you’ve had 5 people proofread your resumé.

Nail the interview

“The number 1 thing that’s done wrong is people’s preparedness for the interview.”

Sometimes, this isn’t your fault. If you’ve filed applications with multiple companies and one of their HR people calls with questions, you can be caught off guard. Instead, when that unfamiliar number comes up, leave it for voicemail and call back when you’re ready. “The last thing you want is to answer the phone and be on the spot,” says Neighbour.

When that interview happens, be sure your research has gone beyond the company mandate and stats. If you can identify your interviewer beforehand, Neighbour recommends that you learn something about her or him (keep it professional, of course) to help quickly establish rapport.

The number 2 error comes at the end of the interview when, if asked if you have any questions, you cheerily say all your questions have been answered. “That’s totally the wrong thing to say,” says Neighbour. Instead, to show you’re thoughtful and interested, try

  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • Can you describe the company culture?

If at first you don’t succeed, try harder

Your LinkedIn account likely contains hidden pathways to potential employment. Always build your network. Be wary of invitations from those with no obvious connections to you (or which come out of nowhere from abroad, lack a photo, or have a small number of connections) but don’t dismiss locals looking to extend a hand.

In most cases, take it. You never know who might be able to tell you exactly where to send your resumé, or who might even get it into the right hands. With the job market tighter than ever, “You have to get a little more creative these days,” says Neighbour.

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