By: Michael Timmermans
With the end of the semester fast approaching, the minds of many students are starting to turn toward the summer job search.
Applying for jobs is simple: search online, submit a resume, and nail the hoped-for interview.
Unfortunately that is increasingly not the case is today’s job market.
When looking for work, a good place for students to start may be Algonquin’s employment support centre. The centre offers one-on-one assistance with resumes, cover letters, mock interviews and portfolios, as well as two career fairs a year held at the Woodroffe campus. Two employment officers are available five days a week. The officers help students, graduates and alumni with all aspects of employment.
The centre assists about 2,000 students a year, not including those attending job fairs and in-class presentations, and has seen an increase of about 25 per cent this year.
According to Jane Norman, an employment officer with the employment support centre at Algonquin’s Woodroffe campus, a good resume should start with a list of personal, technical and value-added skills. Technical skills are typically what students learn in their school courses and value-added skills are ones gained from work experience.
Education should be listed in reverse-chronological order and work experience should be divided into experience related to the job and other work experience. Successes and accomplishments should also be included and always list any volunteer work and publications.
“As a new graduate, experience in your desired field may be limited, but if you can take responsibilities from your summer jobs and/or co-op experience and elaborate on the experience obtained, you may be able to capture the evaluator,” said Evelyn Barker, senior technical recruiter at Veritaaq. “Take the time and put some thought into your responsibilities section of your work experience.”
The benefit of hiring students is that they have “just come out of Algonquin with the most up-to-date skills that employers are really interested in having. Rather than being in the job for ten years, students come in with up-to-date knowledge and really do make a positive impact to the working environment,” said Norman.
Work-related experience can include course assignments which should be included on the resume.
“All those great assignments that people have done really are work experience,” said Norman. “If you don’t add it then the employer doesn’t know your areas of expertise.”
Norman also councils that resumes should always be created specifically for the job being applied for. Even at job fairs the expectation is that job seekers should research the participating employers ahead of time and have a notion of what they are looking for.
As for resume style, Norman suggests visiting the company’s website and mirroring the style on the resume.
When it comes time for the interview, be prepared ahead of time to list major skills, key strengths, related experience and to answer behavioural questions. For example, an employer may ask for a situation that highlights leadership skills.
“Look at the interview similar to an oral exam,” said Norman, and market yourself effectively.
“Most people feel, ‘well, I should be humble’, but that’s not what an interview is about. What you have to present to the employer is the skill-set that the employer can’t live without,” she said.
“Having a solid knowledge of the company they are interviewing with is critical,” advised Michelle Gordaneer, senior consultant at Grapevine Executive Recruiters.
Between 80 and 90 per cent of employment vacancies are not posted anywhere. This is often referred to as the hidden job market. For some employers, posting jobs can be burdensome and expensive, and can result in hundreds of email applications being received every day and the cost of postings can add up quickly.
“The best place to find jobs is through your network. Fewer companies are investing money in postings on job boards, but they will often post on their own website or through LinkedIn,” said Barker.
A document titled On Target Job Search obtained from Algonquin College Community Employment Services at the Perth campus outlines how to tap into the hidden job market.
“It all begins with self-assessment,” the document begins. A self-assessment “assists you in marketing yourself to employers and allows you to communicate positively about yourself in a resume, cover letter, during an interview and on the job.”
The hidden job market is accessed through networking, cold calls to potential employers and research on company websites and social media pages.
“Networking is meeting and connecting with others to develop mutually beneficial relationships that lead to discovery and sharing of opportunities,” states On Target Job Search.
Including social media in your job search toolbox is a great way to network and locate employment opportunities.
LinkedIn is likely the best place to start, and “employers are placing jobs on Twitter,” said Norman. “They will have a link to their website.”
Social media, however, can be a double-edged sword. Some employers research candidates’ social media profiles. Make sure that all public online profiles are professional and free of any questionable content that could be a potential red flag to prospective employers.
“Some employers will go to Facebook to find out what the person is really like,” warns Norman.
The key is to use social media to create a personal brand for employers to see. Seeing a person both personally and professionally creates “an image that employers would like to have on board,” according to Norman. “People should create a personal brand through Facebook – and can.”