What Do You Want In Resumes You Receive?

One of the social media articles which came my way this past week showcased a, “winning resume” from what they stated was a large number of submissions for an annual contest. This resume had colour, broad bands of headings, was filled with numerical stats and while visually impactful, I couldn’t help wonder about whether or not such a visually busy resume would even get by the applicant tracking software used by many employer’s.

Now if it did get by, and if it found it’s way to the people making interviewing decisions, there are a lot of people who need to start overhauling their resume designs and advice. I’ll be one of them. Hence, I think it only wise for us in the business here in Canada to check in from time to time and ask employer’s what they want in the resumes they receive.

As is always the case, it’s important when reading articles – any articles – to determine the source. I can tell you this resume winner was from the United States. Maybe resumes of such ilk are in vogue there, but in Canada, I’ve yet to see a big push for resumes that were so busy; had colour, etc. Can I make these myself? Sure I can. The question is whether I can or not, the question is really whether I should in order to give those I partner with the best competitive edge.

So it’s out there as a question; what are you looking for in the resumes you receive?


Ah Those Mystery Job Ads

Last week one of the people I was supporting in their job search brought to my attention a job posting where the employer had specifically requested no contact. That in itself isn’t anything new, as job ads have been instructing applicants to not place calls for quite some time. This one was different though, because it read, “No follow up phone calls please.”

This puzzles me honestly. I mean, yes, I understand that with the growing number of people competing for jobs, the organization would indeed have to devote a lot of someone’s time to respond to all the calls they’d get. On the other hand, I have always believed that employer’s are looking for people who show initiative, who have personal drive and genuine enthusiasm or passion for the jobs they apply to. So if no one follows up on their applications with a call, it would appear more difficult for an employer to separate those who really want the job from those who apply and then are content to just wait and see what happens.

Another reason that this puzzled me upon seeing it was that I’ve heard from some employers who have told me they value calls from applicants. Some have even told me that they built in a few days following an application deadline to determine who calls and who doesn’t; with the one’s that call getting additional marks for taking such initiative. Times change however, and whether this one ad becomes a trend or not we’ll see.

There are other tactics employer’s use that discourages applicants contacting them too. For a long time now, employers have been using Recruiters and temporary agencies to pre-screen their applicants. In the job postings that produce applications, the identity of the hiring company and their location is carefully omitted. While this makes it easier on the organization in that they don’t get walk-in traffic and phone calls following up on their job applications, it also has problems.

One such problem the omission of a company name and location has is that applicants can’t do their homework when it comes to researching company culture, values and see if their own aligns with this employer. This can waste both the time of an applicant and an employer if a well-qualified applicant applies in good faith for a position but upon learning the identity of the employer, pulls their application from the hiring process based on their own experience or that of others.

Dependability and reliability are two of the key qualities just about every employer desires in their workforce. For a majority of those who rely on public transit to get to and from work, knowing where they’d have to travel before applying would be helpful. Again, when an employer conceals their name and location, just as an applicant conceals their own address, a situation is created whereby wasted time is spent on both ends by both parties. Ironic isn’t it when an employer who refuses to identify their location makes an applicant’s address a mandatory field on an online application; we’re not telling you where we are but you have to tell us where you are!

Some job ads would almost be better thought of as a blind date. Sure there might be a face-to-face meeting or interview eventually, but the first contact will be one party (the employer), gathering as much information as they can about the other party (you) without revealing much about themselves. Yes they make the first step in getting the job posting out there via a temp agency but at the same time there is a vagueness to the actual posts sometimes that means an applicant can’t really get excited about the prospect of getting the job until they know the organization and along with that organization their reputation.

I’m looking at the way many employers are going about their hiring and seeing a disturbing trend developing. While it’s all good to remove potential bias, (heavens knows this is nothing but a good thing and needed for ages), employer’s who keep their identities known until personal interviews are set up unintentionally make things harder on themselves. Seeing applications with names removed, addresses removed, names of educational institutions removed (all by HR departments) contribute to a level playing field but can make selection of great candidates more challenging. If an applicant lives in their opinion too far away, they won’t know until they meet. If they organization has a distinct preference for a long-standing school with a solid reputation, they may feel they wasted their time seeing people from an upstart school struggling to gain credibility.

There are pros and cons to all hiring processes and I can usually see the good and the bad from each. As an Employment Counsellor working with the unemployed however, one of the things I’ve always encouraged people to develop and show is enthusiasm for the jobs they apply to. Hard to advise someone to get excited about an opportunity when two of the first things they ask is the name of the employer and where they’d work.

Oh and these long online applications they make applicants fill out? I’ve seen people with very little drive and sincere motivation sit for ages filling them out, getting help from others on what to say. Little drive and little interest.

Be careful employers…how you attract applicants does indeed determine the quality of applicants from which to hire.

Would You Hire The Last Chocolate In The Box?

Today a question for those Hiring Managers, Recruiters, Headhunters, Interviewers and employers who are responsible for the selection and hiring of applicants.

First,  imagine a box of chocolates; you know, the ones that come with the pictures and descriptions of the contents. It’s a full box, none have been tampered with. Most people tend to look at the descriptions, match up what they read with what they want, reach in and choose one. That’s pretty much how companies hire when you think about it too. You know what you’d like, you do some research into your choices via resumes, social media and interviews, then make your selection based on which candidate which is most likely to fulfill your needs.

Over at the chocolate factories, every chocolate they produce has to appeal to at least some of their customers in order to continue profitable production. If the market shows a trend where consumers are consistently passing over a certain type of chocolate, it’s probable they’ll produce it in fewer quantities; perhaps dropping it entirely.

However, each one of those chocolates is in their own right, a quality produced piece. We might not like the coconut maroon, the fudge caramel or even the one with the maraschino cherry center, but they are in the variety packages because they’ll appeal to someone if not us. As for the last chocolate in the box, there’s nothing wrong with it; as soon as the first one is selected, one will inevitably be the last one remaining.

Ah, if they could only talk though. I’d guess that last piece would have started off feeling pretty good about itself; just as appealing as every other chocolate. As it’s neighbours get selected again and again, that chocolate’s self-worth might get shaky though. I can imagine it wondering aloud, “What’s wrong with me? Will I ever get taken? Give me a chance, you’ll see I’m pretty good; you’ll like me!”

If you think about it, the value of that last piece of chocolate might start off on equal footing compared to each other chocolate in the box, but as fewer and fewer remain, and ultimately it ends up being the last one, it’s value at that moment is higher than ever. For the right person, they’ll be thrilled to find the one they want most is the one remaining. For me, that last piece will always be the one that tastes like coffee. I’ll pass that one over every time. What’s that? That’d be one of the first ones you’d reach for? Point made.

So my question for you is whether or not you’d hire the last chocolate in the box. It’s unspoiled, unhandled. My guess in this scenario is that you wouldn’t. Probably because like me with the coffee tasting chocolate, no amount of time would have me take it. I’d go and get another box of chocolates; one which contains the kind I’m looking for. That coffee tasting chocolate will either go to a guest who drops in or out in the bin; even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

And here my analogy of hiring and a box of chocolates breaks down and gets uncomfortably real. That last chocolate that nobody selects and gets trashed has no feelings; it’s a chocolate. Individually it’s under a dollar, maybe about 27 cents. So big deal. A person however? The one that gets rejected over and over, passed over time and again? The one that puts on their best face, extols their attributes and strengths as best they can and gets considered, evaluated and ultimately tossed aside; well, they’ve got feelings. That person’s value never truly diminishes, but the process – your process – can make them similarly feel undervalued.

The things you find unappealing as far as employment goes get in the way of taking a chance right? A decade of unemployment, lack of a car, poor credit history, lacking local experience, age, as examples. But every so often, you might take a nibble of a chocolate you’d otherwise pass on and in that moment, discover it actually has an appeal. Hmm… you might even take a second, larger piece, then in the end satisfyingly pop the remaining bit in and wonder why you didn’t try it earlier. You suddenly have a new favourite and want more.

Now suppose before you there was a woman with a 10 year gap on her resume. Prior to that gap she worked for 12 years with a single employer in the Financial Industry. The gap? No fault of hers; certainly not by choice. This was a time when her controlling, emotional and psychologically abusive spouse forbade her to work, relocated her away from her friends and family; manipulated her into isolation and full dependency on himself. He crushed and all but extinguished her self identity. Today, she’s left him, is rebuilding her fragile self-worth, still holding onto the belief there is good in the world and she’s deserving of a normal life.

Her resume is before you and she wants an interview to best make her case for hiring her. She’s got the education, past experience you said you wanted. It’s just that unexplained gap… Without a conversation, you’re never going to understand that 10 year gap. You could end up with a genuinely grateful employee; hardworking, trustworthy and trainable. Initially rusty yes, but will shine up nicely.

Come on…might surprise yourself and be glad you took a chance.




Dear Employer: On Behalf Of Your Applicants

If you read all the blog posts I’ve penned – yes all 1,197 of them; you’d find that the majority are directed at the people looking to get or keep their employment. The minority of the posts I write are directed at the people who represent the companies that applicants approach for employment. This post is one of them.

So hello there! Whether you’re the owner/operator or an employee yourself tasked with finding the best talent out there to fulfill your needs, I implore you to read the 900 words I’ve put down here and then reflect a little. Please do add your comments from your perspective as that would be very helpful to others.

Okay, so you need a person or people to join your workforce. That’s great news for you and great news for those who are looking to make a contribution and start working with your organization. Understandably time is money and you’d like to get a hold of the best people to choose from in the least amount of time. You and I both know you’ll get applications ranging from highly qualified and professional to hardly qualified at all and desperate.

Sure it would be nice if you only received applications from the cream of the crop out there but there’s a lot of people looking for fewer jobs than exist in our tight economy. Still, behind every application, resume and cover letter, there’s a real person offering up their skills, experience and education to work with your firm. Let’s remember that; those people are…well…people. They’ve got hopes, dreams, and feelings just like you and me.

On behalf of those applying, thanks first of all for including what you’re really looking for in your postings. That saves you and the job seekers time trying to figure out which jobs need what skills and experience. You’ve done your part if you’re clear about these; oh and including a bit about the environment and what the person would actually do is much appreciated. Now it’s up to those applicants to target their applications to your needs.

When you do get applications, I imagine like so many other employers I hear from, you’re a little overwhelmed. It’s flattering actually isn’t it to think so many people were attracted by your advertisement that they applied? On the other hand that’s a lot of applications to go through, especially when you assume you’ll have everything from near perfect candidates to very poor ones. Still, it’s a nicer problem than having too small a number apply and wondering what you have to do to attract the best talent.

I can’t tell you how much just acknowledging you’ve received someone’s application means to those who took the time to apply. The discouragement and disappointment people feel when they pin their hopes on getting an interview and not even getting contacted is extremely distressing. You see it’s not just you they applied to but many jobs with many organizations. It’s pretty hard to consistently be that happy, positive person putting their best foot forward over a prolonged job search.

Just promise to acknowledge all those who apply and you’ll get a reputation for being a compassionate and respectful employer. That would be a good thing wouldn’t it? You know, the kind of employer that really gets it; that empathizes with the applicants they attract. That line in the posting that says, “We appreciate all the applications but only those qualified will be contacted for an interview” wears a little thin when very qualified people apply and don’t even get verification you got the application in the first place.

That takes time of course and someone’s time to respond. That one could argue is the cost of doing business though. You both have needs; you an employee to do work and they a job where they can contribute and produce income.

Everyone knows you can’t hire all the applicants. They get that. What every applicant hopes for though is to be recognized for the effort of the application. Sure you get applications from some that are too general and don’t address your needs. Maybe however those people are doing what they think is right. How will they ever learn what they need to know if they get zero feedback though?

Oh, and could you please stay open to hearing people in interviews and resist the urge to measure them up against your personal prejudices. By prejudices, I mean assuming young people have no maturity or older workers can’t learn anything new and will drain your health care plans. I tell you this; give these two groups of people your open view and you’ll find some real gems.

You wouldn’t believe how appreciative some people with gaps in their resumes will be if you give them a chance. Maybe they cared for a dying parent, raised a family or coped with a broken marriage but now have taken the steps to ensure these factors are no longer a barrier. That would be precisely why they are applying now…they are ready.

Look, you want good people; the best in fact. We all get that. All I’m saying is while you’re not a charity, you can be respectful. Don’t become jaded and just another faceless, uncaring organization. You don’t want that reputation or you’ll attract more of the wrong people.

So, how about your side of things? Comments?


Experience: A Blessing Or A Curse?

Ever noticed on job postings how various employers state the level of experience they’d ideally like to see in their applicants? I’m sure you have seen the ads calling for 6 months to a year, 5 years experience etc. If significant experience is always better, how come you seldom if ever see an ad looking for 25 years or more experience? Some actually indicate no experience is required whatsoever!

The level of experience sought as ideal depends on a number of factors. When an employer specifically states that no experience is necessary – even preferred – you might ponder why. What they are really communicating here is that they don’t mind taking the extra time it’s going to require to train you and train you their way. They are counting on saving time actually by not having to wait while you unlearn behaviours you picked up from past employment.

Now it isn’t always the case that the job is relatively simple and anyone can acquire the skills, but I’ve seen ads that do say it’s more the right person they are looking for not experience someone has had. These employers feel that finding the right people outweighs actual experience. I suppose most of us can identify people in jobs who have the technical skills to perform the work but their attitude and priorities seem at odds with the actual job they are paid to do. It’s these kind of people many employers would love to avoid hiring in the first place.

So why would some job postings advertise that 6 months to a year is the ideal experience they are looking for? When you see these postings, interpret the employers’ message as meaning that enough experience is required so you know what you’re getting into and you’ll like it, but don’t have so much experience that you’ll do things the way you’ve done them elsewhere. These organizations want to avoid hiring people with no experience who initially sound and look motivated to do the work but who once in the job, discover they really aren’t cut out for it after all and quit to look for other kinds of work. They may in fact have a really solid work ethic, they just discovered they don’t like doing the job they signed on to do having never done it before.

Now the ad requesting 3-5 years’ experience. Here the company is communicating a higher value placed on previous experience actually doing the same work elsewhere. They figure over that time you’ve learned the ropes, made your big mistakes elsewhere as you cut your teeth on the job. What they are banking on is that having done the work before for several years, you have a really good and thorough understanding of what is involved and you’ll be up to speed in a pretty short adjustment period. You can expect less formal training and a higher expectation that you’ll be productive faster than someone coming onboard with less experience. They see you as trainable; you know a little but can do things their way.

Now suppose you’re someone looking for work with significantly more experience. Say you’ve got 15 – 25 year’s of experience doing exactly the same thing the employer has expressed is their current need. You’re a shoe-in for this job! Surely once you get your resume in front of them they’ll pull that, “Help Wanted” sign out of the window won’t they? “Help Wanted” sign? Do they still do that? If you’ve got 25 year’s experience you might expect they do only to find a lot has changed in the quarter century since you’ve been looking for work.

To many employers, extensive experience is more of something to avoid than it is an attraction. They are worried you’ll bring your bad habits with you, you’ll be set in your ways, you’ll say things like, “Well that’s not how we did things at such-and-such when I was there”. Well you’re not there any more and this employer doesn’t want resistance when trying to get its workforce working cohesively in the same direction. They are cautious of hiring old dogs who can’t or won’t learn new tricks, folks that are set in their ways. 25 year’s experience? They picture people using out-dated technologies and practices.

However, there are employers who would love to have applicants approach them with what they see as the perfect combination of experience and attitude. It’s hard to go wrong if you are genuinely open to learning new procedures and best practices, you’ve stayed current in your training to complement your experience; if you can demonstrate your use of modern technology and bring energy and enthusiasm to your work. Now your experience is truly an asset.

Here’s a tip however right from employers: If the job calls for 2-5 year’s experience and you’ve got 15 year’s of direct experience, DON’T state this on your resume expecting an interview. It will be preferable to state you have proven experience and leave it at that. Put, ’15 year’s experience’ near the top of your resume or in your cover letter and they stop reading immediately in some cases. You just ruled yourself out. Tell them you embrace learning new ways of doing things, share your blend of experience and passion for the work required.

Many really good people with extensive experience are sitting on the sidelines when they could be significantly impacting positively on organizations’ bottom lines. I know many of them; James, Paul, Ruben, Lorraine…


Who Do You Work For?

Go ahead and answer first. It’s a pretty straightforward question; 5 short words strung together: “Who do you work for?” Your answer is: ____________.

Did you put the name of your boss in the blank space? Possibly you chose the name of the organization or the company itself. Fewer of you might have even put your own name in the blank space.. Well that’s not where I’m going.

Suppose you have a wonderful boss; one who supports you, praises your accomplishments and gives you constructive feedback which accelerates your learning. You love working as a member of their team and you certainly are motivated to do your best because the boss does right by you. All this is wonderful and good, but do you work for them?

What happens when the boss is promoted, goes on extended sick leave, retires or leaves the organization? The purpose you had if you work for them is gone and you’re left wondering who you are working for now even though your job description hasn’t changed whatsoever. So is working for a boss or supervisor the best answer?

Let’s look at the organization as a possibly answer to the same question, “Who do you work for?” “I work for (company name).” The person or people at the top would love nothing better than their employees see themselves as working for the company. So if you gave this as your answer those owners are feeling good that you’ve come around to thinking the way they’d like best.

Yet think about it. To some a company is a building or collection of buildings. If a virtual company I’ll concede it’s not got bricks and mortar; but it is an entity which produces goods and / or services. The company may have a culture, values and principles, an attractive logo and a code of conduct; all of which you may find personally appealing and want to uphold as you go about your work. But seriously, do you want to spend years, possibly decades feeling you work ‘for’ a company? Do so if you wish of course.

Those who said they work for themselves don’t have to be self-employed people to feel this way. Every organization has people who are in it for themselves. They take their salary and benefits and seize moments of pride in the work they do, always getting the most out of the company they can to advance themselves and get more for themselves. When they no longer feel there’s anything to ‘get’ from the company they work for they stop being as productive and leave (a good thing for the company) or become complacent (not good for the individual or the company).

The answer I personally prefer is none of the above. I hope you don’t think it smug of me to differ from you if you answered any one of the above. I’m not some mystical guru who has a never-heard-before-now answer but I do think it could be a better choice and provide lasting motivation benefitting both you and the organization you work for. So who do I work for? I work for the people who use the goods and services I produce.

So as an Employment Counsellor working in a large municipal government organization in the Greater Toronto Area here in Ontario Canada, I work for the unemployed or underemployed social assistance recipients who walk in our doors. In the past I sold clothing and shoes but I never worked for the name on the front of the store but for the people who walked in. These I assisted and knowledgeably advised which in turn led them to make educated decisions with respect to their purchases.

This isn’t semantics and hardly a big deal. In my mind it’s a critical shift in thinking that puts the consumers wants and needs paramount in my own mind and therefore affects how I go about my work on a daily basis. Anytime I am faced with a decision to make, I am guided by the principle thought, “what is in the best interest of the person before me?” That working principle based on a philosophy of knowing who I work for makes it easy to never lose focus.

Look, I love my current boss, but I’ve had others that I didn’t admire as much and I’ve worked for a company that was all about how much money they could extract from their customers and they paid their staff the bare minimum they had to. I still thrived in those environments because I never lost sight of the fact that I didn’t work for them but rather for the consumers of those services; people.

Now you don’t have to share this working philosophy to be successful and it’s not a one-size-fits-all ideal to uphold. It works for me and it might just work for you too. Imagine yourself at a future job interview and the interviewer says, “I see you worked for (name of a company)” only to hear you reply…

“Actually I never worked for (name of the company)” pause for effect… “I certainly was employed by (name of the company) but I actually worked for the people who purchased their products and services.” Will you stand out from every other applicant? Yes, and in a meaningful way that will impress upon them your priorities and your motivation.

Aside from a great interview tactic, it’s just a philosophy of service; one that works for me.



Think You Can’t Help The Poor? Yes You Can

Let’s face facts okay? Some of us are socially conscious and empathetic to the plight of those in need and others (I’m hoping a small percentage) wish the poor would just disappear completely from view.

One of the things I’ve come to understand and realize is that as we age, Life has a way of changing the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and we get multiple opportunities to change our outlook. Eventually, many people shift their opinions away from their previous held viewpoints, and adopt new ways of thinking; it’s called growing and maturing. Not everyone changes their attitude or outlook of course, but I can bet that most people as they grow, think differently on many subjects as they spend more time on the planet and interact with people on it.

So, the poor. Well, they’re not invisible; you can spot them on the streets in cities, you can see them at food banks, cooling centres on days when there are heat alerts. You can see them hanging around shelters, rooming houses, lining up for jobs outside temporary agencies, in discount stores, cheque-cashing outlets, and sometimes outside coffee shops. Look for the soup kitchens and you’ll find them there, the clothing giveaways and of course the social assistance buildings in communities all over. You might even note the odd person standing at a set of lights with a coffee cup in their hand asking for a handout of whatever you can afford.

Well like I said, some of us are socially conscious, or at least empathetic. One thing you can do that would be appreciated by many is to think about the clothes you own that you’re never going to get back into. Whether too big or too small, that clothing is only taking up space in your closet. I call these, ‘someday clothes’. Someday you might fit into them again so they hang around – literally and figuratively. Do yourself and the less fortunate a favour and bundle these up and donate them to a second-hand clothing store, a charitable organization or give them to the next organization who phones you at home and asks if you have clothing to donate – like the Diabetes Association. You’ll feel good and do good at the same time.

Another thing you can do that doesn’t involve making a donation of any kind is think about the words you use in general conversations about those marginalized folks living in poverty. Be mindful of putting them down, nodding your head when a buddy makes some wisecrack about the bum blocking the sidewalk or who says to someone panhandling, “Just get a job!” Maybe you can start a conversation just by saying in return, “Hey man give the guy a break. Not cool.” Sometimes just a short comment will be enough to get someone else thinking about their own words.

Now of course you can make a donation – or donations. It needn’t be big to make a difference. In fact, you can start small. See someone on the sidewalk either sleeping or living rough? Walk up and put down a bottle of water or a piece of fruit. You don’t even have to stop and talk or say anything. Even if you don’t get a thanks, that gesture will be appreciated more than not. And if you’re an animal lover and the person has a dog with them, some dry dog food could be more appreciated by the person than food for themselves.

So all my columns and blogs focus on job searching, getting ahead and tips for getting and keeping work. Why a blog about the poor? Good question. Poor people are often people who have either been born into poverty and through no fault of their own didn’t benefit from good parenting, and weren’t supported in their schoolwork; their parents beliefs about education and what is important in life passed on through them as children. Poor people can also be those who have had circumstances in life happen to them which were beyond their control and they haven’t got the skills to overcome those barriers.

Either way you look at things, poor people are – well – people first and foremost; they just don’t have the financials resources to support themselves. Sure, I’d go so far as to say the decisions we make also impact our futures; and some people do make repeated questionable decisions and fail to learn from the consequences of those choices.

There are many however who just need a small break. Some kindness that comes unexpected can re-inspire a distrustful soul, or provide some measure of hope to a disgruntled job seeker. Pass on some clothing, makeup, the donation of your haircutting skills – even a smile instead of a scowl; it’s all in the little things we can do that can make a difference between giving up on looking for work or being encouraged enough to stick at it or start again.

A special word for employers too; think beyond your bottom line. No seriously. If you set out to use and abuse poor folks who don’t know their rights, you may get by paying minimum wage to people and regularly firing them just before the pass probation and starting all over again. Please remember you’re dealing with real people who often do their best just to learn simple routines having not had structure employers look for in their recent past.

Any kindness you can do makes us all better.

Convictions And Unemployment

I bet you know someone who has a criminal record. I’m not saying they’ve told you about it mind; I’m just betting you know someone who happens to have a criminal record. Given all the people you know as family, friends acquaintances and all the people you interact with in a given day, I’m betting it’s inevitable that at least one if not a few have been convicted of some offence.

What you may not know is how difficult it is these days to get a job when you have a conviction; even a conviction that happened 20 or 30 years ago, perhaps when the person made a serious error in judgement and did something stupid. Maybe it was a group of young adults joyriding in a stolen car, maybe drinking excessively and getting a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction. I’m not excusing or defending the behaviour, but that behaviour might have been a one-time occurrence and it was ages ago. Since that time, the person hasn’t re-offended; not even a speeding or parking ticket.

So fast-forward to the present and you’ve got this person who has gone on to get an education, but then can’t find a job in the field they were trained for because at the conclusion of every job interview, the interviewer says some version of, “Congratulations. We’d like to extend an offer of employment to you – pending a clean criminal reference check of course.” It’s at this moment that the sinking feeling in the pit of the applicants stomach hits, and despite anything they say to admit and explain their behaviour way back in time, the next thing they hear almost all the time is, “Gee, I’m really sorry but that’s a condition of employment. If you can clear your record with a pardon, get back to us because otherwise you’re exactly what we are looking for.”

Two things you should know at this point: 1) this single person will repeat this experience all the time and 2) this isn’t a unique situation because there are thousands of people in this predicament. Essentially, these people are unemployable. Do they want to work in meaningful jobs? Yes. Are they willing to start with entry-level jobs where they can prove their worth, earn their way up the ladder and justify your faith in them by working responsibly? Yes. Does that seem to matter? No.

Here’s some irony for you to think about. In listening to employers talk on the radio, I hear them say from time to time, “We can’t find qualified workers locally, so we have to look off-shore and Canadians don’t want to do the work so we have to bring in immigrants.” Their words by the way, not mine. Seems to me that there are some very well qualified unemployed people who are out there, but by qualified, I mean they meet the job requirements in every way except one; a clean criminal record.

If these people with convictions were hired, what would immediately happen is that the number of unemployed would be reduced. That would mean taxpayers would have less of their money given out to people trapped on social assistance who can’t get a job. Governments would win because these same people would transition from social assistance recipients to taxpaying employed people. With more people working, the unemployment numbers would drop, the economy would pick up too as more people would have money to spend on discretionary items.

Now I don’t mean we should sponge away every person’s record and that every person with a conviction should have that information denied to potential employers. It makes sense to me that we don’t want someone convicted of sexual abuse working in a childcare centre, nor a thief exposed to temptation by working at a cash register. There are exceptions.

However, take a 25 year-old male who had a few too many and succumbed to peer pressure and went along for a joyride in a beat up car with his friends at 18 years of age. Now say for the 7 years since, he learned his lesson, stopped drinking, made a new and better circle of friends, completed University and has a degree. By now he’s also paid for his crime with community service or a short stay in detention. That sentence is over as is the probation. The criminal conviction that he carries with him every day seems unusual punishment that just goes on and on without end. Aside from your ethical beliefs, is he employable as a Printer, Researcher, Psychologist?

Would you be surprised to learn that many employers wouldn’t even hire such a person to wash dishes, sell clothes or wait on tables? None of these six jobs involve cars or alcohol; so is it saying that the conviction reveals a character flaw?

Some employers say it’s an insurance thing; and that if the person should ever re-offend, customers or clients could sue the company and win bigger awards because they knowingly hired a ‘high-risk’ applicant. High-risk? We’ve got people out there in their 50’s with a conviction they got at 19! Hardly high-risk.

It’s about time we used some common sense and pardoned people once the punishment assigned by our courts is served in full. What we have now is cruel and unusual punishment, sentencing people to years of unemployment, making their ability to provide for themselves near impossible. And it’s cheap; pass some legislation, and keep that past conviction in some cases from coming up in a criminal record check.

Improve Your Odds Of Getting Hired

There are an awful lot of job seekers who think they have a good grasp of the jobs they apply to, when in fact they obviously do not. You could be one of them! If so, your chances of successfully getting and passing interviews, passing tests of your competency, getting hired and then keeping jobs are extremely slim – and you’re wasting both the employers time and your own!

I keep chatting both with job seekers and with employer’s, and while I’m not the only one doing this, I’ve got to tell you, if you could hear the things I hear, you’d be surprised.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not meeting the essential requirements of the job; assuming incorrectly that once you get the interview, you will wow them with your appearance and charm and talk them into hiring you. Sorry, you’re not making the short list to interview. When they say you must have a post-secondary degree or diploma, don’t apply if you don’t. If they say post-secondary education is an asset on the other hand, then it’s a bonus if you have it but not essential. Know the difference!

If the job posting calls for 5 years’ experience and you’re fresh out of school, this means you are an entry-level job seeker considering a job requiring more than you can currently offer; you’re going for a job you aren’t qualified for in other words. You need to refocus on applying for an entry-level job in your field. The on-the-job training and support you need is not going to be provided by the company looking for someone with 5 years’ experience. When applying for a job requiring 6 months to a year experience, this is not the time to put down that you have 25 years’ experience in the industry. No, that isn’t a bonus; you’re over-qualified.

One sure thing you can do to annoy an employer and clearly demonstrate your inability to follow clear directions is to apply for a job in any way other than that specified by the employer. If it says to apply by email, don’t deliver your application in person or fax it over. They want an electronic version of your resume for a reason. If you can’t follow this simple and clear direction, you’d likely ignore clear direction if they hired you, and they won’t.

As for some test of your competency, all those written questions they have posed to you have been thought out and asked for a reason. Don’t leave questions blank or write the word, “pass” (What were you thinking?). Follow the instructions – answer the questions.

People at interviews make similar mistakes. You can’t expect to be hired by the employer if you deem a question they ask you dumb. What to you is unusual or yes even dumb, serves some purpose and just answer the question to the best of your ability. I’m not referring to illegal questions like age, marital status or religion by the way. Make sure your reply doesn’t insult the interviewer. If they ask you, “Tell me about your office administration experience”, don’t say, “I think requiring office administration experience is a mistake. I can pick it up as I go.” You clearly have no idea why this is essential and you’re also insulting the employer and every other applicant who put in the effort to get some formal education and then acquired the experience before applying.

One interviewer I was speaking with recently told me that he’s had a couple of people do something unusual in the last two rounds of interviewing that he hopes is not a trend. All applicants get asked the same questions and two of these applicants replied with some version of, “Well, I’d rather talk about…” They chose not to actually answer the question at all, even when directly asked a second time, essentially removing themselves from the selection process.” The question wasn’t illegal, nor was it one of those odd questions designed to catch you off your feet. Answer the question asked.

Now another key mistake is failing to correctly understand what the job actually is that you are applying to. Job titles may be ambiguous. You can look at 6 “Customer Relations Officer” postings, and you’ll see vastly different requirements and responsibilities in each. So firing off the same resume and cover letter to each isn’t going to get you six interviews; far likely not even one. What a waste of your time. Failing to understand the jobs you are applying for and failing to send individualized targeted resumes to each is only going to prolong your job search and have you blaming everyone but yourself.

One last thing I will pass on to you from a woman who interviews new applicants for a living. She told me that people rejected for interviews continue to send in the same resumes for employment in the future without upgrading their education or getting the experience they lacked in previous applications. If you don’t get to the interview stage, you’re not marketing yourself well enough and need to find out why. If you constantly see a job advertised for that you are applying to, find out what you are lacking.

The key to success is to clearly understand the jobs you apply to and match your skills and qualifications to the employer’s needs. Change your perspective and look at how you present yourself from the employer’s point of view.

The Employer’s Responsibility To Applicants

I’d be willing to bet that at some point or other you’ve applied in good faith for a job opening and then waited for some kind of acknowledgement from the employer that your application has been received. Confirmation that perhaps never came. You may even have had an interview and then waited without ever being contacted to advise you that the position was filled – and obviously not by you.

So why is this apparent poor behaviour common and growing? Wouldn’t this reflect poorly on a company’s image and reputation? It was them who posted the job and asked for applicants after all!

Well, let’s look at that seemingly rude and inexcusable behaviour but from their point of view. First, let’s give companies some credit for putting in the line that reads, “We thank all those who apply but only those who meet the criteria will be contacted for interviews.” This is their way of making sure in advance you know that only those who actually meet the requirements move on. Those who don’t meet the identified skills and qualifications test will not be contacted.

Now this might not equate with a phone call or letter advising you that you didn’t make the grade, but it is a courteous notification and warning to make sure you are so well matched on paper that you stand a good chance. Can you imagine a phone call to everyone who applied and was not successful in getting an interview? If 70 people applied for a job and they narrowed things down to 6 candidates, that’s 64 people to call! While some applicants might say something nasty and hang up, the majority would express disappointment and ask for some kind of feedback.

So now you’d have someone tied up letting some down gently who appear upset, others wanting feedback they don’t know about first-hand, and being yelled at and told off by at least a few less than ideal candidates. Who would you have make these calls were you the company? An entry-level employee who may not have the discretion and wisdom to refrain from saying anything that could be later used in a lawsuit launched by an unhappy applicant, or a person well-trained in what not to say costing a small fortune? Neither is a good business decision.

What of an email or a letter you ask? Oh you could do that if you are the employer, but now your decision is in writing and you’d want your lawyers looking over such correspondence so that again, you aren’t sued.

I myself remember many years ago having an employment lawyer come in where I was working. They schooled us on what we should and could say to avoid lawsuits just on providing references. We were told about some companies that were initially providing honest references and then getting into trouble because someone didn’t get hired and sued them. So they changed. They’d say things like “you’d be lucky to have Susan work for you.” This could be taken as Susan is an asset and she’ll do great things for you, or you’ll be lucky if she actually does any work for you because she didn’t for us! That double-speak got messy.

So now in 2015, we’ve got companies who have policies stating they will confirm employment dates and nothing more; good or bad. Some really bad experiences ruined things for the majority. I think you can understand the employers predicament: in some instances, a really good employee gets a good reference and another company makes their hiring decision based in part on that reference. The 2nd company can’t get the same level of excellence out of the person and they fire them, suing the 1st company for wages and lost time in part caused by that glowing reference.

So now organizations who do acknowledge receipt of applications, and who do notify those who are not successful job applicants are becoming a minority. Even more a minority are the ones who provide feedback after interviews so the person can improve moving forward. Most won’t now again out of fear of reprisals and that feedback ties up an employee and their productivity halts while they spend time with someone who isn’t working there anyhow.

I believe employers who identify hiring needs have a responsibility to be genuine. They shouldn’t post jobs that don’t really exist just to gather resumes. If a job is essentially a given for an existing employee, then it’s not ethical to advertise a job prompting desperate people to hope a little for something they have no shot at. This erodes a persons dignity, self-image and confidence only to be told, “Oh sorry, not you this time either”.

Good organizations DO exist. Like most things, it’s a small number who taint the process for the masses. Maybe someone who is interviewed but unsuccessful could sign a document promising not to sue in exchange for honest feedback? Something legally binding? Of course that doesn’t address the productivity and salary issue for person tied up giving feedback does it?

Yes, if only all applicants only applied to jobs they really had a legitimate shot at, and if only applicants didn’t launch lawsuits when they didn’t get hired, we might expect more from employers. The next time you apply for a job, get someone in that field to go over your application and prepare you for the interview. Increase your odds!