Connecting with employers: informational interviews
by Stacy Dunn
During a job search, most people regularly visit job posting sites such as the Job Bank. That’s good! On The Employment Journey website, there is an extensive list of more job posting sites to research jobs advertised on PEI via this link.
But did you know most jobs are not advertised?
To increase your chances of landing a job, arrange an Informational Meeting with an employer or manager. A 15 minute conversation lets you find out about the company, build a relationship with a new contact, and gain great job leads.
Before the meeting
Prepare an up-to-date resumé. Also, narrow down a list of companies you would like to work for.
To find an extensive list of employers, click here.
To research companies further, especially to determine the way they hire, check out their hiring practices.
- Check out company’s website.
- Talk to family and friends about the companies.
If you need more help connecting to employers, talk to PEI Career Development Services or other employment service providers. Click here.
Making the call
Many employers prefer that applicants introduce themselves in person. You are doing just that by making a call to arrange to meet the employer. In this case you are not sure if a job opening exists.
- Find out the name of the employer or manager before making the call. This will help you feel more at ease.
- If you were referred by someone, mention their name.
- Say you are presently looking for work in a job related to the type of work their company does. You can say how interested you are in their company and that you have researched them as best you could. Tell them you realize they may not have a job opening at this time but your main interest is to know more about the company.
- Ask for a time to meet at their convenience.
During & After the meeting
During the meeting:
- Present yourself well. Consider the impression made by your clothes and appearance.
- Your handshake should be firm, and make comfortable eye contact.
- Walk and carry yourself with confidence.
- Bring your resumé and calling card to give to the employer.
- A calling card is a business card with your contact information and key words to describe your skills and work experience. Check out the example below:
- Jane Doe – Reporter/Photographer
(902) KL5-0000 [email protected]
- 10 years media experience
- Holland College Journalism graduate
- Creates compelling stories
- Utilizes Adobe Photoshop
- Meets deadlines and works well under pressure
Questions to ask the employer/manager
- What services or products do they provide?
- How long have they been in business?
- How many staff, and what are their titles and duties?
- What’s a typical day at their workplace?
- Future plans for the company?
- Future positions they might need to fill?
- What are the requirements for the job(s)?
- How do they advertise jobs?
- How do they set up their hiring procedures?
- Show the employer your resumé and ask if your background would be a fit in the event of a job opening.
- Ask if the employer knows of other employers who may be looking for someone with your background.
- If applicable, ask if you can contact the employer in a few weeks to follow up.
After the meeting:
- Send a letter or an e-mail thanking the person for their time.
- Let the person know what may have resulted from your meeting (i.e. new contact, job lead or job offer).
Everyone could benefit from a career check-up
by Gloria Welton
We take our car in for check-ups and inspections, but something as important as our own career and the stage we are in with our employment tends to be left to chance.
This is the insight that Sareena Hopkins of the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) in Ottawa brought to an audience of about 120 people at the Career Development Association of PEI (CDA of PEI) annual conference held in Summerside.
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if every Canadian heightened their sense of career awareness every now and then?” says Sareena. “Look inward, look outward, do a check. And if they didn’t like what they saw, they would go to see a Career Development Practitioner for a check-up.”
Sareena says what stands out in her own career path is how incredibly blessed she is to be part of a community practice world-wide doing exactly what she always felt she was meant to do: helping people live healthier and happier lives through career development.
According to the October 2015 Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, 74,400 people are employeed on PEI. However, 8,200 people are looking for work, and this is not counting those who are employed but looking for a career change.
“The work of career development workers and educators on PEI helps people find the career meant for them,” says Kim Murphy, Chair of CDA of PEI. “This effort leads to improved lives, productive workplaces, and a better PEI.”
CDA of PEI Inc. was formed in 1999 and incorporated in 2011. Its members are career and education providers, influencers, and stakeholders. Its mandate is to seek out information and provide networking opportunities to empower its members on PEI.
This year’s conference provided information on what is happening across PEI, Canada, and globally when it comes to advancing the career development profession while keeping the needs of job seekers in focus.
“When we work day to day with students and clients, it is essential to be focused on the individual,” says Sareena. “To serve them best, it is important to know that we are part of a global community of practice.”
Career development field exploding with opportunities
“Every day, we see students and clients struggling to find their way,” says Sareena. “Many face unwelcoming and confusing labour markets. And as career development practitioners we also face our share of funding cuts and instability at work.
“Ironically, many of the current political issues, like skills shortages and workplace health, are exactly what we do, yet no one is looking to career development practitioners for solutions as yet.”
For more details about the work being done with the Career Development profession on PEI, visit www.cdapei.ca.
For job seekers looking for professional Career Development services and programs on PEI, click here.
Resources for Career Development professionals
CCCD has been trying to make the field much more visible to funders, the media, and ultimately to the public they serve. Visit www.cccda.org.
Every two to three years, researchers, policy makers, and practice leaders from around the world, including Canada, come together for a symposium on career development and public policy to exchange, bridge gaps, and collectively strengthen the field. Visit http://iccdpp.org.
The International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance has over 22,000 members world-wide. It can connect you to an entire global community of career practitioners. Visit www.iaevg.org.
The Canadian Research Working Group on Evidence-Based Practice in Career Development is pushing the research agenda in the field. For more recent research and evaluation initiatives, visit www.crwg-gdrc.ca.
How to explain your employment gap without hurting your chances of getting the job
By Jenny Foss
You took some time off. Finished your degree. Went on sabbatical. Stayed home and raised young kids. Took care of an elderly parent who needed you. Whatever it was, the net result is an employment gap—and it’s making you squirm. Do people even hire professionals with the dreaded G-word on their resumes?
Of course they do. But you will need to strategize.
That recruiters and hiring managers raise an eyebrow over gaps is not a myth; but it’s also not a death sentence. You’re not the first person on this Earth with a gap, and you most certainly won’t be the last. It’s more common than you think. You’re just going to need to take some care with how you explain it, in both your paperwork and in person at an interview.
Let’s break it down:
How Do I Explain a Gap on My Resume?
Simply put? Proactively. Your best defense when you have an employment gap is almost always a good offense. Recruiters will likely wonder what the deal is if, say, you don’t list employment past 2011. Rather than empower them to draw their own conclusions (which might not be accurate, or beneficial to you), make it instantly clear what you’ve been up to.
In Your Summary
First, this is when you need to use a career summary. Keep your target role and target audience in the forefront of your mind as you construct it. If this is your first time writing one, it should be three to five bullet points that introduce you as a professional and announce your strengths across the key things you know (or suspect) that this audience will be looking for.
Your summary section also affords you an opportunity to construct a statement that quickly and succinctly explains what’s up. For instance:
Present a valuable skill set that combines IT consulting experience with a recent graduate degree in healthcare management; interested in meshing the two to serve as an IT consultant in a healthcare-related corporation or hospital system.
Do you see what we did there? We proactively spelled out that this person recently finished grad school (thus, explaining the gap), and at the same time, married her prior experience with the recent degree. Assuming the reviewer of this resume is someone looking for an IT consultant in healthcare, you’ve not only just made his or her job easier, you’ve done some damage control.
In Your Career Chronology
OK, so maybe you stopped working in 2010, and you feel like that end date is just glaring on your reverse chronology resume. Should you shift to a functional resume instead, so you can bury this date further down in the resume? No, you shouldn’t. Most recruiters hate functional resumes. They want to know what you did, when, and where.
Instead, consider adding any volunteer work, freelance projects, or part-time gigs that you’ve done across this time right in your career chronology. Maybe you’ve been a volunteer project coordinator for a local nonprofit for the past two years. If so, don’t relegate this information to a separate “Volunteer Work” section; instead, roll it right into your experience section so that your gap is diminished or eliminated. Certainly, mention that you’re serving in a volunteer capacity, but if the work you’ve been doing is stuff you’re proud of, and potentially relevant to your next assignment, build it right into your career chronology.
In Your Education Section
If the reason for your employment gap is because you’ve been in school and just graduated, pull the education section of your resume right up near the top, listing your graduation date. This, at the very least, will imply that the gap is directly tied to your decision to return to school.
In Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter is also a wonderful place to proactively manage the “I have a gap” message, because you can be a bit more personable here than you can be in the resume. I recommend that you come right out of the gates with it, be clear and succinct, and then move immediately into the “What specific value can I bring to your organization?” part of the cover letter.
Consider something like this:
Completing my degree while caring for both small children and an ill parent wasn’t an easy assignment, but it’s one I took on with honor and pride. I also discovered something very interesting as I juggled a full-time Master of Public Health program while making sure lunches were packed, buses weren’t missed, and doctor’s orders were followed: My 10 years of experience as an event planner and project coordinator came right in handy.”
Next: Head right into a paragraph about why you’ll be a great event planner for this company.
Use this real estate to your advantage if you’ve got a gap that needs explaining, but don’t belabor the point or over-explain things. Recruiters cares a lot more about what you can walk through their doors and deliver than your six-paragraph explanation about your time off.
You can (and will be asked to) explain further in the interview. On that note:
At the Interview
You’ve made it past the screening process, and you’ve got an invitation to the ball game. Don’t squander this opportunity by being unprepared to cover obvious holes in your career experience. Once again, your best strategy is to walk in prepared to confidently, succinctly, and in a positive manner, explain the reason for the gap. The more confident and matter-of-fact you can be about the time off—even if you feel insecure about the reason at your core—the better.
Try to weave the information proactively into the conversation, before you’re asked (if possible). Just like in the cover letter example above, try and spin that time off into something that was beneficial or professionally valuable (even if in a roundabout way).
For instance, say your last employer laid you off and you’ve been unemployed for several months now. You could bring it up in a way that goes something like this:
“While getting laid off from a job and company I loved was both unexpected and challenging, I learned some valuable things about myself through the experience—things that I believe will make me an even better customer service manager going forward. And that could benefit XYZ Company by…”
Next: Pick out a couple of lessons that tie in to the requirements for this job, such as managing tense situations, calming unhappy clients, or whatever you feel best applies.
If you can make your interviewer not only feel OK about your gap, but see how it may actually make you a stronger, better employee? You’re golden.
Any which way, brevity and openness is the way to go most often. And in every instance, work to shift the topic right from the gap to the great things you can do for that company.
The more you consider your employment gap to be a liability (or, if you’re really despairing over this, a deal breaker), the more the interviewer or recruiter is going to feel the same.
Strategize. Come out with a good offense. And then bust out the goods on what you can bring to the party. Because, without a doubt, it’s a lot.
Photo of resumes courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Jenny Foss is a career strategist and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Jenny also operates a Portland, OR-based recruiting agency and is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse’s Coach Connect.
Tips for resume, cover letter & job interviews
- Monster.ca Resume Centre | resume.monster.ca
- Career Options Magazine | www.careeroptionsmagazine.com
- Job Postings | www.jobpostings.ca
- Job Junction | www.jobjunction.ca/resources/job-search-tips
- EducationCanada.com | www.resource.educationcanada.com/tips.html
- Gerald Walsh Associates Inc. | www.geraldwalsh.com/our-perspective
Nailing down your career choice
Websites to help you to nail down a career choice suited to you:
- Canada Skills Shortage
- Essential Skills
- Funding Sources
Use this information to search for work or research a career on PEI or across Canada, plus more.
List of over 100 job choices on PEI. Includes employment potential, wages, job description, educational/training requirements and more.
A list of wages for over 100 jobs on PEI.
Click on top occupations advertised in Canada to find the top occupations advertised on PEI.
PEI news on new companies and company expansions.
If you are searching for a new full-time or part-time job in the private or public sector, this has a list of resources that can help find job listings, create a résumé, choose a career, and assess your skills.
PEI is focused on advancing economic development in PEI by investing in people, innovation, and infrastructure. They target key sectors that have a high potential for economic growth, including aerospace, bioscience (including agriculture and fisheries), information technology, financial services and renewable energy.
Atlantic Provinces Economic Council – information on economic growth.
|Click for related articles about job search tips.|
Where to find names of PEI employers
Check out PEI Chamber of Commerce websites and research their members
- Greater Charlottetown Area | www.charlottetownchamber.com
- Greater Summerside | www.summersidechamber.com
- South Shore | www.southshorechamberpei.ca
- Kensington & Area | www.kensingtonchamber.ca
- Eastern Prince Edward Island | www.epeicc.ca/site
- Acadian and Francophone Chamber of Commerce | www.rdeeipe.net/ccaflipe
- West Prince Chamber of Commerce |http://westprincechamber.com
- PEI Business Women’s Association member listing
- PEI Aerospace, Defence, and Marine company profiles
- Over 400 tourism members of TIAPEI listed
- PEI Seafood Processors Association members
- Architects Association of PEI members
- PEI Visitor’s Guide
- Souris Business Directory
- Amherst Tanti Enterprise (five businesses in aerospace & manufacturing)
- Town of Montague Business Directory
- Ordinary Islanders with extraordinary ideas
10 Career Fair Tips
Explaining work experience
During a job interview or networking event, how do you explain your work experience? What did you learn from it? There are ways to put a positive spin on the years you’ve worked and the jobs you’ve had.
The following video from Career Realism TV tells you how:
This Snagajob video shows how to explain employment gaps:
Consider telling a story with your answer. The following video from the University of Phoenix describes the P.A.R. technique: describe the problems you solved, the actions you took, and the results that came about.
View other job search tip videos from the University of Phoenix here:
Career shift, transition and occupational change in later life
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteering is a good way to build onto your resumé. You can also find your references this way. This video from Snagajob explains the benefits of volunteering well.
Networking / Informational meetings
Don’t think you are good at networking? It’s a myth to think so, says Michael J. Hughes, from Networking for Results. Check it out:
For more human resources videos from BioTalent Canada, click here.
Here’s advice from D’Youville College on making that first impression in 30 seconds or less:
The hidden job market refers to the 85 percent of jobs not advertised in the newspaper or online. Informational interviews is one effective way to find out from potential employers, or friends and family who can lead you to potential employers, what jobs are open.
Click below to view the Right Mountain video on informational interviews:
Cold calling is one effective way to find out from potential employers, or friends and family who can lead you to potential employers, what jobs are open.
Click below to view this video from Daniel Dreyfus Videos on a good introduction to cold calls.
Many businesses and organizations use facebook and twitter to promote their services and occasionally post jobs. They also post jobs on their own websites and other job boards. Job seekers who apply by e-mail and then wait for the employer to contact them might be missing an important step in their job search. Employers keep telling The Employment Journey that face-to-face interaction is the best way to get hired.
This video from Capture Your Flag on YouTube gives clear reasons why meeting in person is better than social media:
The elevator pitch: connecting with employers
If you happen to meet an employer you would love to work for at the grocery store, at a social engagement or elsewhere, you need to be prepared to talk about how your skills could add value to their company. It is called an elevator pitch because you have about as much time as an elevator ride to introduce yourself and say a few things about your skills and abilities.
The following Snagajob video illustrates the best way to promote your skills to a potential employer:
Working from Home
Working at Home – which jobs are legitimate, which are scams?
A career practitioner recently asked The Employment Journey about work-at-home jobs. Which jobs are legitimate and which are scams? The following is a list of websites that could help you find out:
Atlantic Provinces Better Businesses Bureau http://atlanticprovinces.bbb.org/.
Canadian Anti Fraud Centre http://www.antifraudcentre.ca/english/home.html.
The following video from Rob Brauer of the Internet Truth Project has some good tips about spotting scams:
Are you planning to apply to Walmart, Atlantic Superstore or other major employer? Prepare to fill out a job application on-line. Large companies are becoming more reliant on computerized applicant tracking systems to narrow down the thousands of resumés they get for one advertised job.
Be prepared for a few things when applying on-line. For security reasons, you will need to create a username and password. The username is usually your own name or e-mail address; the password is a minimum of six characters (including letters, numbers and symbols). Keep this information somewhere for safe-keeping.
The other thing to prepare for, especially when applying to a large company, is an on-line pre-interview questionnaire. Expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour answering questions such as “What kind of worker are you?” “What kind of working conditions do you prefer?” When going through the process, don’t be afraid to get help from a friend or service provider such as PEI Career Development Services.
Some job applications allow you to attach your resumé or type information into the space given on-line. Submit your resumé as a document, plain text or PDF using MS Word. When you “cut and paste” into the space provided, use plain text because it’s easier for the hiring manager to read.
For more tips on applying on-line, check out this video by Mark Swartz of workopolis.com:
Body language during a job interview
How do you sit in a job interview? What do you do with your hands and feet? This video from the TheSite.org gives helpful hints on proper body language during the job interview.
Voice coaching: what’s a good tone when you’re on the job search? This video from Forbes magazine knows:
Job interviews: do’s & don’t’s
This video from Workopolis gives an example of the wrong way to do a job interview and the right way to do a job interview:
This Workopolis video shows common mistakes and how to fix them:
The following Snagajob video shares techniques to help a job seeker calm down before a job interview.
Strengths & Weaknesses
In the job interview, you may be asked about your strengths and weaknesses. This video from Howcast gives tips on speaking about your strengths:
This video from KCRATV shows the best way to handle the “weakness” question:
How do you stand out during an interview?
When preparing for a job interview, remember the three Cs:
- Chemistry with the employer
- Content of your knowledge
This video from Career Joy TV has some good advice:
Deciding on a career change
TEDtalk: Every decision is a career decision. Career development expert Dave Redekopp evokes new ways of thinking about young people’s career decision-making.
Job fairs do's & don't's
Vault Video has a good video on what to do during a job fair. This advice is also helpful for career fairs and post-secondary days at high schools.
This video from Cleared Jobs Dot Net is a humourous take on the dos and don’t’s in attending a job fair.
Standing out in the job market / What Employers are Saying
Monster.ca has an interesting video on what hiring managers look for in job seekers:
Finding a mentor
The video from the Better Life Coaches Channel on YouTube below has good tips on how to look for a mentor for your job search.
Tips for job seekers looking for mentors
There’s so much to consider when looking for a mentor. This video from UXPA International shows where to look for a mentor and how to build on the relationship:
What to wear on the job
When looking for work, what you wear is as important as what you say. Check out job search tips on the dos and don’ts of what to wear for the job interview and at the office. Here are two videos from About.com on the subject:
See over 150 job and career-related videos at http://jobsearch.about.com/
Youth & employment
ROAD TO EMPLOYMENT: THE DOCUSERIES
This series follows a pair of recent graduates, Denis and Clinton, as they leave their home in Victoria, BC to journey across Canada in search of answers to the ageless question: How do youth build meaningful, relevant and sustainable careers?
Road to Employment also has a career advice blog and a podcast. Check out their website here.
What can to done to help post-secondary graduates?
CBC News The Exchange reports on how the school system, government and employers can help college and university graduates get jobs best suited to their diplomas and degrees.
Check out the video here.
Common Goal shows youth talking about what it takes to find work on PEI. It was produced by Career Development Services of PEI.
For more information on Career Development Services of PEI, go to www.cdspei.ca.
Videos - miscellaneous
The Intern, starring Academy Award winner Robert De Niro, is about a seventy something worker taking an internship at a company run by a thirty something entrepreneur. It’s a comedy that brings to light the reality of mature workers starting over in a career.
Two videos were recently produced on PEI to raise awareness of workforce participation of youth, newcomers and Islanders who have returned home.
The PEI is My Home video campaign featuring people explaining their choices to stay on PEI.
For more information on PEI is My Home, go to www.opportunitiespei.ca.
Job Fair Info
Job Fairs on PEI
- PEI employers provide details about their hiring needs Part 1
- PEI employers provide details about their hiring needs Part 2
- Tourism workers needed
- 2017 WorkPEI Career Fairs – O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown & Montague
- Home renovation companies gear up for a busy season with hiring in mind
- Construction companies discuss hiring needs
- A great variety of jobs available in tourism
- Culinary jobs in high demand on PEI and across the country
- What’s in store for job seekers & employers at the WorkPEI Career Fairs
- Finding a career on PEI – Job Fair 2016
- An inside look at a potato processor’s hiring needs in West Prince
- 2016 hiring opportunities with PEI aquaculture & seafood processors
- West Prince Job Fair showcased many jobs available in rural PEI
- Job fair highlighted many job choices in Summerside & area
- Sectors showing strong opportunities across PEI
- Job seekers connect with Montague & area employers
- Job fair showcases the variety of jobs in tourism
- Job fair in Charlottetown
- UPEI Job Fair showcased work for post-secondary students
|Click for related articles about job fairs.|