Insider Interview Tips from Vancouver Hiring Managers

What do hiring managers look for during the interview?

 This past week, I had the pleasure of hosting an Interview Skills workshop for women with along with a few other professional colleagues. During the event, Rachel Maxcy conducted a hiring manager panel where we got to hear interview insights from a few talented hiring managers including Bosky Mukherjee, Melanie Ewan, and Dube Toich. Here are a few key take-aways from the event.

  1. Back up your answers with data and evidence. It’s not enough to say that you can do something – think about stories of what you have done in the past that can demonstrate your point.

  2. Show adaptability and resourcefulness. Especially in start-ups, it’s critical to be self-managed and take initiative. Your manager doesn’t want you coming to them to ask about something that you could have googled on your own.

  3. The job description is a wish list. If you don’t match everything in the posting, you can still apply. The hiring manager is looking for a person who will fit into the team/role, not a perfect match to their job posting qualifications.

  4. Know yourself well. Be clear about what your strengths and weaknesses are. Hiring managers are looking for someone who can fit into their team. By being upfront, you and the hiring manager can determine if this role is the right fit.

  5. Talk about your motivation. One of the most critical discussions in your interview is about why you are interested in the position and the company.

  6. Show that you are committed to personal development. Are you someone who is always progressing, learning, and growing? This is very attractive to employers.

  7. Provide complete answers to technical questions. Be ready to talk about how you can apply theoretical concepts to the work or tweak models or frameworks.

  8. Show up as a real person. Hiring managers appreciate vulnerability and honesty. Be yourself.

  9. Failure isn’t bad. If you are asked about something that did not go well, the hiring manager isn’t so concerned about the failure itself, but rather how you got through. What did you learn? How have you moved forward?

  10. Demonstrate teamwork skills: Working as part of a team is critical in most companies. In your answers, be sure to focus on how you collaborate or communicate with others.

An additional tip that came from the session was on how to answer the question, “What are your weaknesses?” If struggling to come up with an answer, think about one of your strengths. Your weakness can often be your strength, just on a bad day. For example, you might normally be a straightforward communicator. But on a bad day, you might find yourself being blunt.

Lastly, know that many interview opportunities in Vancouver come through networking so never under-estimate the importance of developing connections. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Join my 5-day Career Happiness Challenge!

f your career isn't working for you anymore, join my 5-day Career Happiness Challenge, designed to help you shift your thinking and uncover new possibilities. The challenge will run from September 24-28. 

Even after working with hundreds of clients, I still firmly believe that career satisfaction is possible. But it takes work. 

We change. Our workplace changes. Who we work with changes. And the world around us changes. 

So career isn't so much about the perfect job forever... rather it's a constant navigation of finding what works for us at the stage that we're at. 

Why not take this next step toward uncovering your new career possibilities? (And bonus, it's free!) 

I'd love to have you join me. Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/dGarqP to follow along.  

I can't wait to see where the next step in your career path takes you. 

3 Career Questions To Ask Yourself

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions about my career.

Am I heading in the right direction?

Am I putting energy in the right places?

Am I living according to my values?

These conversations are challenging, but they are important to staying aligned in my business, work, and personal life. A conversation that I often have with my clients is about how to define career.

We often want to give career that narrow definition of just being our paid work, but really career is about how we want our life to be.

It’s the work we do, paid or unpaid.

Where we volunteer or contribute in the community.

The business we run.

The educational opportunities we pursue.

How we spend our leisure time.

In 2017, I said “Yes” to everything and it ended up being the most amazing year. But in 2018, my commitment is to be more intentional and focused on building a career and life that is life-giving and sustainable.

If you’re at a junction in your career and recognize the need for a change, start asking yourself these questions:

1. What are my core values?

2. What am I giving up by staying where I am? (There’s always a cost)

3. What do I want my life to look like?

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

What Brave Career Step Do You Need to Take?

What’s that next brave step that you need to take in your career?

When we think of effectively managing our careers, we often look at the big things like changing jobs or leaving a company.

But you can take brave steps in your career right where you are.

Maybe it’s seeking out a stretch project.

It could be finally addressing a difficult colleague’s behavior.

Or finding ways to get better at telling your stories of success.

Possibly it’s improving your skills so that you expand your career opportunities.

These adjustments can make all the difference when it comes to your career satisfaction and opportunity. So, what’s your next brave step?

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Find Career Clarity in Community

Three years ago, when I first realized that I needed to make a career move, I felt lost, overwhelmed with options (or some days, lack of options) and a bit lonely in the process.

I knew that a change needed to occur, but what that change was or how to get there was unclear. The turning point was when I started to find my community. 

Having honest conversations about where I was at and getting input from trusted mentors gave me a glimmer of hope and excitement for the future. This eventually sparked the birth of my company, Career Story.

I believe that we shouldn’t have to figure this out alone – finding a community can make that critical difference and open new possibilities that you hadn’t even considered.

If you find yourself ready for a career move, but feeling alone, I'd love to hear from you. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Why My Networking Approach Was All Wrong

When I first tried networking, it didn’t work.

Starting Career Story two years ago, I also started faithfully attending networking events. As I gravitate towards the introverted side of the personality spectrum, I’ll admit it was challenging to walk into a room full of new people, but I was determined to not let that stop me.

Like any good type A personality type would, I read up on how to effectively network. One of the recommendations was to craft a pitch, something punchy and engaging to get people excited about you and your business.

So, I put a pitch together. And let’s be honest – it wasn’t great. It felt contrived and just not authentic to me.

Plus, with meeting so many people, I was exhausted and frustrated with how superficial it felt. Just a mad frenzy of exchanging business cards with no lasting relationship.

At some point, I took a step back to ask what I valued. I wanted connection and relationship, not a transaction.

I also asked myself what strengths I could use in networking. Some of the traits that came to mind were sincerity, curiousity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

Going back into the networking scene, I started by ditching my pitch and made it about building relationships.

I also started to experiment with language that felt more genuine. When people asked me what I did, I’d started off with a simple introduction and  let the conversation naturally move forward from there.

I’d ask lots of questions of the other person (my natural curiousity coming through). And as the conversation evolved, I’d share more about what I loved about my work if asked. I found that speaking from my passion and my heart was a much better way to spark conversation than anything else.

I also started to think of the people I was meeting as potentially longer-term professional relationships. This took the pressure off the first interaction.  Even if the initial meeting was a wee bit awkward (which they often are), I’d think, “Well, this is just the start, hopefully, I get a second chance.”

From there, I’d stay in touch with people via LinkedIn. That’s where the thoughtfulness of my personality comes into play. I enjoy helping people so when I can, I forward along any relevant resources or try to introduce people within my network.  

And if I had a great conversation with someone at an event, I’d invite them for coffee or Skype meeting. I love a good one-to-one conversation and hearing about people’s passions and work. These networking meetings have become one of my favorite aspects of being self-employed.     

Recently, my friend, Rachael Maxcy, and I started running Career Hack workshops, a non-awkward networking event where women could a) form authentic relationships and b) get input on their careers or business through intentional conversation, basically like a personal Board of Directors. 

I love it – this is everything networking should be. We’re running our next Career Hack workshop on July 17 so we'd love for you to join us. Tickets here:  https://bit.ly/2JHrdGD

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

10 Essentials Resume Tips When Submitting Online Applications

In some companies, online application systems screen resumes before a person does. That means that if your resume doesn’t meet specific requirements, it could be screened out, never even getting a chance.

You may think this only applies to larger companies, but small to medium-sized companies use basic electronic screening tools as well. For example, if you submit your resume via Indeed, recruiters and hiring managers can set search criteria that help them create a short list of all applications submitted.

Here are my top 10 tips for ensuring your resume successfully gets through online systems.

1.      Carefully answer knockout screening questions. These are the questions that you need to respond to before uploading your resume. By answering a question wrong, you may take yourself completely out of the running.

Also, don’t take too long as some companies track the time it takes you to complete your online application.

2.      Stick with standard headings for each section on your resume. The online systems look for headings in your resume to know how to categorize information. By sticking with general headings like “Work Experience” or “Education,” there’s a greater chance your resume content will show up in the right places. 

3.      Job titles matter. Specific job titles are very common search criteria. Your application may be more successful if your most recent job title matches the job posting title.   

If it makes sense, adjust your job title to align with the posting. For example, I used to be called a Career Strategist, but the industry terms for the type of work I did was Case Manager. If applying online to a Case Manager position, I’d change my job title to Case Manager instead of Career Strategist.

4.      Incorporate keywords from the job posting. Carefully review the posting to ensure that you are using the right keywords in your resume.  To test your keyword alignment, use Job Scan. You can use industry acronyms, but make sure you also spell them in full form as well.

5.      Know what will scan. You may have a beautifully designed resume, but keep in mind that graphics and images won’t scan. And systems can also struggle to read text in columns and text boxes.

That doesn’t mean that design doesn’t matter or that you shouldn’t use more graphic elements. It just means that those elements won’t be parsed in an online system. Eventually, human eyes will scan your resume and this can help you stand out.  

6.      Spell properly.  Of course, you want to ensure that you check your spelling and grammar before submitting a resume. But it’s even more important with online applications. If you misspell a critical keyword, the system isn’t smart enough to know that.

7.      Don’t cheat. The advice used to be to put the job posting in white font at the bottom of your resume in hopes of tricking the system. But systems have gotten smarter over time and using out-dated tricks like this could result in your application being black-listed.

8.      Put your contact information in the right spot.  For online applications, you should keep your contact information at the top of your resume. If you put it somewhere else, it can easily get lost. Also, do not put your contact information in the header as not all systems can read information in headers or footers.

9.      Resume length doesn’t matter. You have probably heard that a resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages. Well, with online systems, it doesn’t matter. Focus on using the space you need to explain your background in alignment with the job.

10.   Keep your font simple: Stick with some of the more popular fonts like Calibri, Arial, Cambria, Garamond, or Times New Roman.

Hope this helps you with your next online application.

Warmly,

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

8 Smart Interview Strategies to Land Your Next Job

Early in my career, I had the worst interview of my life. Looking back, I was over-confident. As a new career professional, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. After all, I teach this, right? I skipped the practice and made a mediocre attempt to research the company.

Big mistake. I walked away from the interview, embarrassed by how under-prepared I was. What I hadn’t factored in were my nerves.  In a normal situation, I would have been fine. But in the interview, I found myself at a loss, unable to articulate what I wanted to. 

What I learned is that I can push past the nerves when I am prepared.  Last year, I interviewed for a cool part-time contract job at a local university. (Read more about that here.) This time, I was ready. I reflected. I practiced. I researched. And it paid off when I was offered the position.  

If interviews are anxiety-provoking experiences for you, don’t give up. Interviewing is like building a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger you get.

Having worked with hundreds of clients, I have witnessed incredible interview transformations. Even the shyest job seeker can master interviews and land jobs through practice.

Here are my top eight tips for a successful interview experience.

1. Share your stories: Stories evidence how you have excelled in the past.

Even if it’s an open-ended question like “What is your strengths?” you can always add in a short story like, “I bring strong organizational skills. In my past role in teapot sales, I was known in the office for my Excel spreadsheets. I tracked everything – prospects, where they were in the sales funnel, and outcomes.” 

2. Make the employer feel special: Employers want to hire people who want to work for them. You may just want a job. But an employer wants someone who is as excited about their business as they are.  

3. Do your research: One of the critical questions I used to ask when I was a recruiter was, “What do you know about our company?”

Surprisingly, many job seekers struggled to answer this well. But don’t fall into the trap of memorizing the company website. Provide a thoughtful answer that clearly shows you did your research while also demonstrating your motivation, interest, and connection to the company and the job. 

4. Practice, practice, practice: Interviewing isn’t natural to most people. But I have seen clients improve significantly after working hard on their interview skills. Get interview coaching, build some interview question flashcards, or record yourself answering the questions. 

5. Speak naturally: Time and time again, I meet job seekers who are fabulous communicators and bring great energy when NOT interviewing. But as soon as we start practicing interview questions, they change their communication style. It becomes stilted and awkward.

Best advice to overcome this? Speak like you would normally. I often say to clients, “Let’s pretend we’re out for coffee and I ask you this question. How would you respond?”

6. Pause: After each question is asked, take a moment to gather your thoughts. Think about what the underlying skills or aptitudes the interviewer might be looking for and then make sure you address those. Also, if you launch straight into your response without a natural pause, it sounds too rehearsed.

7. Recover gracefully. You bomb a question. Don’t worry.  It happens - it’s not the end of the world. What’s important is how you recover. Employers are also assessing your soft skills like resiliency, problem-solving abilities and how you keep calm in a difficult situation.  

8. Prepare thoughtful questions for the employer: The point of asking questions at the end of your interview isn’t to look smart. These questions should help you in your decision-making process. What do you need to know so that you can make an informed decision?  

Some job seekers research obscure information from the company’s website and base their questions on that. Or they spend their time talking about logistics like vacation pay or benefits. Don’t do that. Instead use your valuable time to ask questions about things that would directly impact you such as the job structure, tasks, and company culture.  

Once you have done what you can to prepare, go to your interview, knowing that you have given it your best shot.

To your future career success, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

#PressforProgress @ Work

I was delighted to contribute to an article on The Mighty Women for International Women's Day. The question was "How do you think women can best "press for progress" in their career?"

What a massive, important question!  And it was hard to answer as women do still face a number of obstacles to equality in the workplace, but I gave it my best shot.  You can read my response here. 

To your career success, 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Your Guide to Answering Tough Technical Interview Questions

You know that your upcoming interview might include technical questions – often these questions can make or break your ability to successfully land the job.  

Don’t miss out on your next big opportunity. Make sure that you are fully prepared for even the toughest questions.

Read on to find out more about how you can effectively prepare.  

Critical Preparation Strategies

Know Your Resume. Anything you put on your resume is fair game for the employer to ask about. Make sure that you can articulately speak to your experiences and skills. Never put anything on your resume that you don’t feel comfortable explaining or talking about.

Research Terms from the Job Posting: Review the job posting carefully. Are there any terms or skills listed that you aren’t familiar with? Don’t just ignore those. Do the research to make sure that you have a solid understanding of what the posting is asking for.

Identify Your Related Skills: You may not have exactly what the employer is looking for. But you might have something similar. Take inventory of what technical skills the posting asks for and then figure out your closest equivalent skills and experience.

Practice, Practice, Practice:  Interviewing is like a muscle – the more you do it, the stronger you will become.  Google technical questions related to your field to create a question database. Create flashcards or book some interview coaching to hone your interview skills.

10 Tips for Mastering Technical Questions

1. Understand the question: Ask for clarifying information if necessary before answering.

2. Use examples: If you have related experience, use those stories in your answer. If you are new to the field, you can use examples from your courses, labs, volunteer, or personal. But, keep in mind that employers will weight work and education over other types of experience.

3. Demonstrate your thought process: Employers are evaluating your thought process, not just the final solution you present. Lay out any assumptions that you might make in your decision making. Outline possible alternatives. Talk about why you would choose the route that you did.

4. Get clarification: If you aren’t sure about something along the way, ask for more information.

5. Stay calm: Yes, you want to provide the right answer. However, the employer is also watching to see how you act under pressure. Stay focused, polite, and calm even if you feel flustered. I talk more about staying calm during interviews here.

6. Organize your thoughts: Employers appreciate candidates who can clearly articulate their ideas. Present your ideas logically and coherently.

7. Focus on soft skills, too: The interviewer wants to know if you can do the job, but they are also looking for other skills as well such as openness to learning, teamwork, communication, curiousity, safety, and problem-solving abilities.

8. Be honest: If you don’t know, just say so. However, you might know something related so transition your answer to talking about what you do know. You could also mention your willingness to learn.

9. Write it out: If you are trying to explain something complex, it might make sense to draw diagrams or write out examples of your work. Also, if you have a portfolio, you could draw on tangible examples to illustrate your point.

10. Don’t get fancy: Go with the solution that is obvious – don’t try to come up with something brand new as you risk getting it wrong.

To your future career success, 

Kristin

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

A Resume Writer's Top-Kept Secret for Error-Free Resumes

In 2017, I did a survey of hiring managers (read more here, here, and here), asking them what their top resume turn-offs were. Their number one pet peeve was spelling or grammar errors. 

When I became a resume writer, I was terrified of having a spelling error on one of my resumes. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon text-to-voice software so I can listen to my work.

Initially, I started using Siri on my phone and then eventually started using another free software program on my computer. It has saved me so many times! 

Recently, the Career Professionals of Canada published an article which highlighted my experience in using text-to-voice software in my business.  To read more, go here

To your future career success, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

10 Essential Steps to Maximize Your Informational Interviews

If you love learning and like meeting interesting people, informational interviews are the way to go about building your career.

An intentional career-focused conversation can expand your ideas, help you identify new career possibilities, and provide a way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your target industry.

Many people arrange informational interviews only when making a career transition, but honestly, they should be an integral part of your investment in your career.

Back in 2015, I completed a counselling certificate. It was a good program that taught me decent practical skills. But I sometimes wonder where my career and business would be if I had invested those 3 hours a week into networking and informational interviews instead.

I talk about what questions you can ask here. There are no perfect questions – instead, ask about the things that interest you. One of the most meaningful questions I ever asked in an informational interview 10 years ago was “How do you see your work making a difference in the world?”  

But the questions aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to when doing informational interviews.

Today I want to focus on the other essential elements that occur before, during, and after the meeting that can help you make a good impression and improve the process overall.

1. Make a Good Impression Before the Meeting: When you initiate an informational interview, be mindful of your communication through the process of arranging the meeting.

Be prompt, enthusiastic, and thankful in all your interactions. And always double-check your spelling and grammar in emails.

2. Send a Reminder: You can send a reminder email the day before your meeting to confirm the time and location. 

3. Attitude: Go in with curiousity and a willingness to listen. People will be more impressed with an openness to learning than your intelligence. And do not try to convert the informational interview into a pitch for a job – this will do more harm than good.

4. Research: Do some research on the person you are meeting and where they have worked in the past.

5. Dress: Dress professionally, even if it's a coffee meeting. 

6. Time: Be early, but not too early. Arrive 10 minutes before your suggested meeting time.

Coming early is especially important if you are meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant. Get a table before the other person arrives so you don't waste time searching for a place to sit. 

If you committed to keeping the informational interview within a certain timeframe, then be sure to wrap up by the appointed time.

7.  Offer to Pay: Offer to buy the person's coffee or lunch. They may decline, but it's a nice gesture and a great investment in your future.

8. Prepare, but be Flexible: Put together thoughtful questions, but don’t put too much focus on the questions at the expense of building the relationship.

People love giving advice and talking about their careers. Be sincerely interested in the person and their journey. This is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship, not just a one-time meeting.

9. Send a Thank You Note: After your meeting, send an email to the person, thanking them for their time and identifying any information that you found particularly useful. 

10.  Stay Connected: Connect with the person on LinkedIn. Look for ways to help them when you can.  And let them know where you ended up, even if it was a while ago since you met up.

For me, informational interviews and networking meetings have turned into jobs, contracts, and client referrals. And as much as that’s awesome, what I really love about the process is the chance to connect with interesting people and build genuine, long-term relationships that benefit us both.  

To your future career success, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

The Anatomy of a Resume that Gets Noticed

To find work in today’s labour market, it’s expected that you submit a well-written, polished resume which outlines your best skills, experience, training, and accomplishments. And as resume formats have evolved over time, it’s raised the bar on what’s expected by future employers.

Resumes are about YOU, but they are FOR HR and hiring decision makers. As you build your resume, you will get all kinds of advice. But what really matters is what the decision makers are saying.  

In 2017, we surveyed over 60 hiring experts including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. Here’s what we learned. 

1. Target your resume: Hiring managers want to see you made an effort. They want to hire someone who wants to work for them, not just someone who wants a job. For each position you apply to, be sure to adjust your resume to highlight your best skills, experience, and training.

2. Check your spelling and grammar: Spelling and grammar mistakes are the #1 turn-off for hiring managers. Be sure to check, double-check, and check again before sending out.

3. Be organized: Hiring managers scan your resume in 5-10 seconds. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you can do. 

4. Use a common font: Hiring managers don’t care which font – it just needs to be an easy-to-read font. Creative fonts don’t earn you extra points.

5. Limit the length of your resume: The average resume should be two pages. If you are at a senior level, it’s acceptable to have a longer resume. If you are junior, you may only need a one-page resume. Everyone else? Stick with two pages.

6. Utilize the correct date format: Use the month and year format for start and end dates in your employment history.

7. Limit your bullets per section: No one has time to read a dense list of bullets. Identify what is most important. Generally, 5 – 7 bullets per section is the golden rule.

8. Incorporate keywords: Use the job description to identify industry keywords and integrate those keywords throughout the resume.  

9. Use action words: When describing your work and accomplishments, always start your statements with a powerful action verb.

10. Explain your value: Instead of listing tasks, explain what you achieved. How did the company benefit from your performance? How do you do this job better than someone else might? Or what would get missed if you were away for an extended amount of time? 

11. Write accomplishment statements: Under your work history, write accomplishment statements using the PAR (problem – action – result) method.

12. Quantify results: Find tangible examples of what you have done and use numbers and percentages to describe how you made a difference.

13. Explain gaps or short-term employment: Gaps or short-term employment causes concern for hiring managers. If you have a recent employment gap on your resume, address it briefly.

14. Design matters: Hiring managers appreciate a nice-looking resume. In particular, they like the use of bold font to draw attention to important information.

15. Show personality: Reviewing resumes can be tedious, especially when job seekers use generic phrasing or unnecessary jargon. Be unique and memorable in your wording.

16. Send it in PDF: Most hiring managers want your resume submitted in PDF, but always follow the instructions, first and foremost. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. If you want to read more about our survey, you can download our exclusive guide here. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Five Amazing (and Free) 2018 Planners You Should Download Now

With the New Year here, I'm spending some time to get myself organized and focused for 2018. 

As I'm working through this process, I found a few resources that I have found helpful: 

I'm currently working on Claire Buswell's An Illuminated Life reflective planner. It's so good. I'm not done yet, but it's forcing me to think about what worked well in the past year and what I envision for my 2018. 

I've been following Anna Runyan's work at Classy Career Girl for a while. She has put together a free 90-day Planner that is both beautiful and functional. It also includes thought-provoking questions to help you get clarity on your goals for 2018.  

And my network highly recommended Danielle Laporte's The Desire Map which looks pretty awesome. Lots of good food for thought surrounding your goals and desires. 

If you are looking for a household planner, I like this one from The Organized Dream or Home Printables Blog

Happy planning, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

How to Write a Cover Letter Hiring Managers Want to Read

Every once in a while, the cover letter debate surfaces.

Are cover letters still necessary? 

Do Cover Letters Still Matter_.png

According to my friends who hire, many job seekers don’t send a cover letter with their applications. And with most people using online job boards for applications, there isn't always an option to include a cover letter. 

But MOST hiring managers expect to see a cover letter.

When I conducted a survey of 60 hiring managers and HR professionals in 2017 (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here), I found that 81% of hiring managers said that a cover letter was an essential part of the application package. 

You can stand out by submitting a well-written cover letter with your application that:

  • Showcases your most important skills, experience, and training related to the open position
  • Builds connection with the reviewer by showing personality and motivation
  • Reduces red flags for hiring managers by addressing any potential concerns
  • Demonstrates genuine interest in the company and position

Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Job seekers often make these two mistakes when it comes to their cover letters:

  • They make it about themselves, not the company or position.
  • They use a generic cover letter template that reads like a boring form letter.  

Employers spend hours on their recruitment process, trying to attract the right candidate. By putting effort into your cover letter, you show respect for their time. And you make the reviewer’s job as easy as possible by including good information.

Writing Your Cover Letter

When writing your cover letter, start by carefully reviewing the job posting. Then do some research on the company.

Now answer these questions:

  • Why do you want to work at THIS company?  Employers want to know what draws you to this specific job at their company. You need to make them feel that they are your first choice.
  • What are the 2-3 key skill areas that the employer is looking for?  What specific skills, experience, or education do you have that would match what they require?
  • Is there anything on my resume that might cause a red flag? If so, find a tactful way to address it in your cover letter. This is also your opportunity to share information that is not highly visible on your resume.
  • What is your motivation? What excites or interests you the most about this position or company? Beyond getting a job, what drives you to apply?

Cover Letter Tips

When completing your cover letter, here are some of my tried-and-tested tips to make sure that your future cover letter stands out. 

  • Use a proper business letter format including a header with your address and contact information, date, company address, salutation, and closing.
  • Use the same formatting in your cover letter as your resume. You want it to look like a complete package.
  • Keep your paragraphs short to improve readability. I suggest about three lines per paragraph.
  • Use bullets to highlight your most important skills, experience, or training. You want to highlight your “best of” rather than trying to talk about everything.
  • Share stories of success using a personable, professional tone.
  • Use names where you can in the salutation (e.g. Dear Ms. Smith) or if you have been referred to the job by someone. (e.g. When Marie Reddy told me about this position as a Home Stager, I was immediately interested because...)
  • Show enthusiasm and interest. You want to show that not only can you do the job, you could do it best!

All my best, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

How to Find Your Dream Job in 2018

If you are at a point in your career where you feel stuck or stagnant, 2018 could be your year.

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The year when you take control of your career and make choices that bring you more career satisfaction and fulfillment. 

The year when you walk away from that toxic work environment and start taking better care of your own mental and emotional well-being. 

The year when you step out and start courageously pursuing your dreams. 

The year when you channel that ambition and get serious about moving along in your career. 

No matter where you are at, there's always a chance for a new beginning and a fresh start. And the opportunities are endless.

The time is now. Don’t wait until things aren’t working to improve your job search. By taking a proactive approach early on, you will save yourself time and headache in the long run.

18 Ways to Land Your New Job 

Ready to land a new job? 

Here are my top 18 suggestions for how to transition to a new job this year. 

First of all, make sure that you have a clear focus on the work you want or type of company that you want to be employed with. If identifying that is your struggle, consider investing in some career coaching to gain the clarity you need. 

Secondly, diversify how you look for work. Most job seekers spend their time applying to online job postings, but this method is only about 30% effective. 

In a survey I conducted of 60 hiring managers, I found that hiring managers sourced new candidates through multiple methods including their company website, job boards, LinkedIn, online resume banks, and networking. (Read the rest of the survey results here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Get Prepared

Preparation is key to making a good impression on a future employer. 

1. Get your marketing materials in order: Invest in developing a resume, cover letter, and possibly business cards that clearly outline the work that you can do.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the standard when it comes to a professional online presence. Make sure your profile speaks to the work you can do. Start connecting with people in your industry or at the companies you want to work for.

3. Evaluate and clean up your social media presence. In my survey, I found that 74% of hiring managers will always or often (over 50% of the time) check out a job seeker’s social media presence. Tighten up your privacy settings if you have content you don’t want employers to see.

4. Assess your skills. As you review job postings and talk to people, determine if your skills are still competitive. If you need more training or skill development, start working on closing the skills gap as soon as possible.

5. Browse job boards regularly to identify jobs you might want to apply to. Also use these boards to do market research on the types of positions, qualifications, and skills that employers are looking for.

6. Post your resume to job banks: You can post your resume online on sites like Indeed, Monster, or CareerBuilder. (Tip: Don’t include your entire address for privacy reasons – just the city and province is fine)

7. Start preparing for interviews: You never know when you might get a call for an interview. Begin reviewing common questions and thinking about your responses.

8. Practice talking about yourself: It’s not easy for most people to talk about themselves. Put together an introduction script that you can use in casual or networking situations.

Get Focused

Many people feel helpless in the process of finding work. They wait for an employer to post their perfect position. But the best way to go is to lay the groundwork BEFORE the position is posted. 

9. Decide what companies you want to work for: Don’t wait for a job posting to come up. Make a list of 40 companies that you are interested in working for.

10. Regularly check company websites for postings: Once you have your target companies, go directly to their websites on a weekly basis to keep tabs on any upcoming positions.

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11. Follow companies on social media: One of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date on company news or new positions is to follow companies on social media. I personally use LinkedIn and Facebook for this. 

12. Send an introduction email: Many companies want people who want to work for them. If you are interested in a particular company, reach out to someone at the company and introduce yourself.  

13. Demonstrate your professional expertise. Build up evidence of your professional expertise.  You can blog, comment on online industry groups, or publish to LinkedIn, just as a few examples. 

Get Connected

People hire people. Though employers source candidates in a variety of ways, networking does still play an important part in the recruitment process. 

14. Tap into your network: Networking continues to be critical in landing work. Start talking to the people you know and tell them what you are looking for.

15. Talk to your references: Let your references know that you are looking for work and that they could expect a call. Don’t forget to ask them if they know of any opportunities, too.

16. Develop new relationships: Look for ways to meet new people through social media or face-to-face. Attend events such as workshops, parties, networking mixers, or community groups.

17. Get information: Conduct informational interviews with your network. But don’t stop there. Identify who else you want to talk to and reach out to start a conversation.    

18. Connect with your professional association, union, or sector council: Ask for advice on how to connect with employers and if there are any events or programs you should attend.  

Don't spend another year at work that is not right for you. Make 2018 the year that you step out and take control of your career direction. 

All my best, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Resume Trends: What Do Hiring Managers Really Think?

This is Part 3 of our series on What Hiring Managers Want in a Resume, based on a survey of 60 hiring managers I conducted with Lisa Stephen in October 2017. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here. 

In the past few years, we have seen emerging trends such as more visual infographic resumes, integration of video, and personal websites/ portfolio sites. 

So what do hiring managers think of these approaches? 

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Infographic Resumes

There's no doubt, a well-done infographic resume is stunning. But is it enough to capture the attention of a hiring manager? 

Positives:

Captures attention: 61%

Good networking tool: 30%

Concerns:

Not enough info on experience and skills: 20%

Won’t get through the online application system: 12%

Possible discrimination: 42%

Feedback:

Some of our survey respondents found the information overwhelming and they didn't find the graphs very useful. Though it's visually appealing, a few found it difficult to scan to find useful information. This type of format works well for creative, marketing, or design positions. 

Video Resumes

We were curious to see if video resumes would be the next up-and-coming resume format.  We asked if a video resume could be used instead of a standard resume in an application. 

The hiring managers said NO! They need to be able to scan information quickly. The rule of thumb is 5-10 seconds to see if a candidate is viable. Clicking and watching a short video is way too much work for them. 

Then we asked, "Could a video resume be used to enhance a standard resume?"

And yes, 41% would look at a video resume but also want to see a standard resume first. The key here is that your standard resume needs to capture attention first. Only then will a hiring manager be willing to invest time in watching a video. 

Portfolio Sites

A friend of mine was doing some hiring and she noticed that a number of candidates had portfolio sites, showcasing their work. We commonly see this for creative positions, but these positions were administratively-based. 

So we asked, "Would you look at a portfolio site if a client included a link in their resume?"

And we found that 50% of hiring managers would be open to that. 39% said it depends and only 7% said no. 

Again, like the video resume, employers are open to looking at a portfolio site, but first, your resume needs to be good enough for them to consider you a viable candidate.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

8 Productivity Tips for Busy Professionals and Business Owners

People often tell me that I’m lucky as I run a business from home. But at times, I find it hard to maintain productivity – sometimes I would rather be at an office, away from my messy kitchen or the piles of laundry that our family produces.

Early in my business start up, I made a commitment to myself that I’d treat my work-from-home job with as much professionalism as an office job. Each morning, I get up early and get dressed (no working in my pajamas) before heading down to my office. 

Now two years into my business, I've found some ways to streamline my workflow and improve my productivity. Here are some of my tips along some amazing nuggets of advice from a few other professionals and business owners. 

1. Get Focused on Your Important Tasks: This is critical. My friend, Cathy Kuzel from The Connected Woman puts together a clear schedule of business actions each day. It's easy to get caught up in "busy work," but not accomplish those big items that will help you move forward in your career or business. 

2. Keep Your To-Do List Full: When I’m swamped, I hustle. Where I struggle is when things get slower. In times like that, I make a long “to-do” list of all the lower priority items that I had been meaning to get to. I need at least 15 things on my list to feel motivated. Maren Hanson, Regional HR Manager at Whole Foods, suggests using the Outlook Task section to keep organized. 

3. Find an Accountability Partner: I work better under pressure. When I find myself procrastinating, I find an accountability partner, often someone in my field, with whom I can share my goals for the week. Usually, we’ll check in at the beginning and at the end of the week.

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4. Use a KanBan Board: My husband introduced me to the idea of a KanBan board and I love it! Using a whiteboard, you write down your tasks on sticky notes. Then you set up your board with the following categories: To Do, In-Progress, and Done.

As you start and complete tasks, you move the sticky notes across the board. I love the satisfaction of watching my Done section fill up with sticky notes!

5. Tidy Your Working Space: My work space gets chaotic, quickly.  Sometimes, to improve my productivity, I need to take 10 minutes to organize and clean. It truly makes a difference in clearing my head.

6. Use Technology: Knowing that I only have a certain amount of time makes me more focused. I use the timer on my phone to get into a more focused work mode when I have a specific task to complete. Business Development Coach, Lisa van Reeuwyk suggests using the Focus Keeper or Pomodoro app. 

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7. Get Rid of Distractions: Turn off your social media while working and clean up your inbox. Recently, I unsubscribed to a variety of advertising emails. It wasn’t adding any value to my life and my head feels clearer without those distractions.

8. Use Outlook Signatures as Templates: My friend, Sharon Graham, shared this amazing tip which I use all the time. You can set up template emails in Outlook, using the signature feature. Now to populate an email, I simply click on the appropriate signature.

If you have any other productivity tips that work for you, let me know in the comments.

All the best. You got this.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Hiring Manager Resume Pet Peeves, Must-Haves, and Red Flags

What do hiring managers look for in a resume? 

We asked and they answered.

In October 2016, Lisa Stephen and I conducted a survey of 60 hiring managers across a variety of sectors, asking them about what their pet peeves, must-haves, and red flags were when it came to resumes. 

Pet Peeves

What do employers find most frustrating about the resumes that come across their desk?

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Spelling and grammatical mistakes topped the list. One employer shared that communication skills are critical in any job. The resume is the first indicator of whether a candidate has those vital communication skills. It’s also about respect – employers want to see that the candidate has put in an effort.

Secondly, our survey respondents wanted to see resumes that were specifically targeted to the job they were applying for.  Resist the temptation to simply apply to everything without changing your resume!

And third, organization is key - content needs to be easy to understand and get through.

We have such a short time to make a good impression. Employers are often scanning resumes for about 5-10 seconds. If we can capture their attention – show the connection to the work they are hiring for, they will take more time to dig into the content. If your resume is too hard to get through, it will get chucked.

The Rise of the Indeed Resume

Do you use Indeed to apply for jobs? On the Indeed platform, users can upload their resumes and when they see a position they like, they can simply apply with the click of a button. The problem with this approach is:

  1. Resumes are not tailored to positions – which is one of HR’s pet peeves.  Inundating HR with resumes that don’t show how you fit their role, is simply spamming. 

  2. They all look the same. The Indeed format strips away formatting and design that can help you stand out.

  3. Indeed doesn’t give the option of using a targeted cover letter which is an important element in the application process.

Instead of applying through Indeed, try alternative methods of applying like through the company’s website or via email.

Red Flags

What causes the most amount of concerns for hiring managers?

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59% of the employers we surveyed were most concerned when someone had a pattern of short-term employment.

If that is you, it would be wise to indicate why.  Perhaps companies closed, or the positions were contract positions. Anticipate what concerns the reviewer might have about your past work history and then ensure you address those in your application package.  

Because resume targeting is so important, it makes sense that 49% of employers get worried when they see unrelated experience to the job that you are applying for. You may have your reasons for applying to this position, but you need to clearly evidence why you are a good fit for the job.

Gaps in employment or no recent employment are less of a concern than many people think. If you can provide a rationale, many employers are willing to still consider you as a viable candidate. You can put a short note on your resume and then also address it in your cover letter.

Standout Elements

What, then, is the key to an amazing resume? Having a beautifully designed resume can make a difference, but what do employers really want to see?

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Evidence of past work experience related to the job!  No big surprise here.

Your resume needs strong content MORE than it needs a sleek design or layout.  Consider using bold font to help important information stand out.

Resume Advice

Other important insights from our employers regarding resume content and design.

  • Show personality!  People hire people they like. “Let me see your personality shine through - don't just provide technical details.”
  • Including keywords is key! “Include keywords from the job posting when relevant to experience.”
  • Design and readability do matter (though not as much as content.) “Add a splash of color and leave blank space”

 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

What Hiring Managers Want in a Resume: Survey Results

Resumes ARE the backbone of a strong job search.  A well-crafted resume can greatly energize your job search and generate the opportunities that you truly deserve. 

Resumes are about YOU, but they are FOR HR and hiring decision makers. As you build your resume, you will get all kinds of advice. But what really matters is what the decision makers are saying.  

In October 2017, I partnered with Lisa Stephen to put together a survey of over 60 hiring authorities including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. 

We wanted to know what most employers wanted to see when it comes to resume mechanics. Do they care about page length, font, file format or length of experience represented? It turns out that they do... 

A Reasonable Page Length

Google “resume page length” and you’ll find a variety of opinions. Our hiring managers had a clear preference for a 2-page resume. That being said, 30% of respondents say that it depends on the type and level of the job.

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A Useful Date Format

We asked if employers wanted dates with only the year OR in the month/year format. We found that most employers (77%) wanted dates in the month/year format. If only the year is included, it is difficult for an employer to know if the applicant worked one day or 12 months in a specific role.

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Enough (But Not Too Much) Experience Represented

How many years of experience should you include on your resume? We found that 49% of employers want to see up to 10 years of experience while another 21% look for about 10- 15 years of experience. Very few wanted to see more than 15 years or all of a person’s work history.

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The Correct File Format

Then, what’s the preferred format to get a resume in? 79% of our respondents preferred PDF while only 5% strongly preferred Word.

The most important piece of advice is that you need to follow the instructions on the job posting!

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The Right Font

Most of our respondents didn’t care, though it seemed that sans serif fonts were preferred over serif fonts. The key here is that it’s easy to read!

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.