If you are looking for the type of job that works eight hours a day, then you should spend eight hours a day looking for work!

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Now, the question which immediately comes to mind following a statement like that is: What could I possibly do regarding job search that would take eight hours a day for more than a couple of days?

The answer to that question is what you will find here.

The first step is to prepare some tools to assist you in your job search. A cover letter contains a quick highlight of your skills and experience; the purpose of a cover letter is to indicate how you meet the requirements of the job so the employer wants to look at your resume for more information about you. The purpose of the resume is to present your accomplishments, experience and abilities in such a way that an employer becomes interested in interviewing you.

While fewer companies are using application forms in their hiring process, they are still a very important part for those who do use them. In addition, some businesses have online applications, so it is important to have the appropriate level of computer skills for the job you want.  When completing application forms of whatever nature, it is necessary to consider what the employer is wanting to know from each question as you complete the form. 

The cover letter, resume and application form are all tools to get you to the all important interview. However, before any of these things can be of use to you, you must know where to look for jobs, particularly the sort of job that you want. 

The very most important thing in finding employment is to make it very easy for the person doing the hiring to choose you for the job.

Cover Letters

Image: Sample Cover Letter

The main purpose of a cover letter is to get the person reading it to want to look at your resume!

Cover Letter Tips and Tricks

~ Use good quality white paper and black printing, 8.5 x 11. It should be computer generated unless specified otherwise. Do not exceed one page typed; keep it brief and to the point.  (Business is essentially conservative, so colour should be only used if you are applying in a field where artistic creativity is  a major function of the job.)

~ Use one inch margins.  If there is more room left top to bottom, then center the text on the page. Space the parts so the letter looks neat and is easy to read.  

~ Check carefully for errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Check again, then have someone else check.  This is the first sample of your work that a potential employer will see, and you will be evaluated based on it.

~ Letters must be addressed to a particular company and worded to show how your skills relate to that particular employer’s needs. Photocopies or generic print outs are unacceptable.  Why should an employer be interested in hiring you if you are not interested enough to properly focus the letter?

~ When sending your letter electronically (email, etc.) or uploading it to online application sites, first save it into a standardized format such as PDF.  This ensures that it will look like you want it to look to the person receiving it.  Programs such as MS Word vary formating and font depending on how the program is configured and what printer is being used.

~ When you are applying without a posted job ad, avoid having your application arrive on a Monday, Friday, weekend, or the day after a holiday.  These are generally busier times for people, so your application might not get the attention you would like it to have. 

What goes in a cover letter?

1.  Name and address (you can choose to use just city and province).  You may include phone number and/or email address here as well.

2.  Date - this is important to let the employer know you made the letter specifically for them (computers allow you to do this without a huge amount of work being involved!).

3.  Name and job title of the person to receive the letter; company name and address.  Be careful to correctly spell the name of the person to whom you are writing. Give the correct title and check carefully on the spelling of the firm’s name. Phone the company to get any information needed, look in the phone book or do a google search.

4.  Salutation - Use Dear 'Mr.' or 'Ms.' as appropriate and add the person's last name.  If the gender of the person is unclear and you cannot find out, use both of their names (Dear Ichabod Crane:).  If you are responding to a job posting that indicates they do not wish any contact from applicants and which does not include a name, address it to the position if provided (e.g. Dear Human Resources Manager).  If there is no position included, using 'Dear Hiring Manager:' is generally a good choice.  Close the salutation with a colon (:).

5.  Subject line - In the cover letter, this begins with 'Re:' and is followed by the job title for which you are applying and the job posting number if there is one.  It is normally formatted in bold.  Also include this information in the subject line when applying via email.  Providing this information helps keep things organized, especially if the employer has more than one job posted, and it helps the person reading your letter know how to think about what you have written.

6.  Paragraph one:  State the job you are applying for and mention how you heard about it. Be sure to apply for a specific job not just ‘anything’.  If someone in the company is referring you, be sure to make the link.  If possible, word things to indicate that you know a little about what the company is doing and in such a way that the employer wishes to read on.

7.  Paragraph two:  Highlight skills and experience that you have that directly relate to this job.  Refer the employer to your resume for details.  Use action words to make it interesting.  Show how the employer will benefit from hiring you and how you fit the job.  Do not ask for a job based on your need.  If you are responding to an ad, BRIEFLY address the qualification etc. listed there.

8.  Paragraph three:  Politely request an interview and indicate you are prepared to meet at the employer’s convenience.  Provide a telephone number and email address where you can be reached. Thank the employer for their time and consideration.

9.  Closing - Choose a closing that is professional and not too casual (Sincerely; Yours Truly; etc.).

10.  Remember to sign your letter.  For electronic applications online or by email, scanning your signature and including it in your letter is a good indication of computer skills.

11.  Type your first and last name.  Do not use titles.


Image: Sample Resume

The main purpose of a resume is to get the person reading it to want to meet with you in an interview!

Resume Tips and Tricks

~ After your name and contact details, the information that is most important for the potential employer to know about you goes nearest the top of your resume.  This could mean a 'Summary of Qualifications', your education, or your work history.

~ Employers are busy people, so it is in your favour to make your resume easy to read and understand.  Use an easily read font.  Leave white space in a way that is easy on the eyes.  Bulleted lists rather than sentences and paragraphs make it easy to see the important information.

~ Write your own resume.  You can get help with the typing, the layout, proofreading, etc. but the words need to be yours.  And, only you know all of your history and experience.

~ Research the job; use the job posting, company websites, people you know who work there, and whatever other source of information you can think of.  This helps you to know what information to include on the resume and which is the most important and should go near the top.  USE THE SAME KINDS OF WORDS USED IN THE JOB POSTING OR ON THE WEBSITE; computers are used to scan resumes, so make sure yours get scanned in not out.

~ Prepare a resume for each job posting you respond to.  The computer helps a great deal as you do not have to start from scratch each time.  Doing this will greatly increase your chances of getting an interview.  

~ Keep a "shelf' resume" that contains everything in your work and education / training history.  This is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, but you will use it for information when tailoring your resume to specific jobs.

~ Use action words in the present tense (no '...ed' words) when describing the work you did.  This comes across as 'I can do this ...' rather than 'I did this ...' and is more current and engaging.  Begin bullet items with the action word.

~ Emphasize accomplishments and achievements.  Tell tiny little stories that illustrate what you can do rather than just stating it.

~ DO NOT include any mention of gender, marital status, ancestry, religion, height, weight, etc.  These things could be a source of discrimination against you, so some companies do not consider applications including this information.

~ EDIT, EDIT, EDIT; PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD.  Get someone to do it for you, then do it again!  This is the first sample of your work, so make it a good one.

~ Include hobbies or social interests only if they relate to the job or fit with the values of the organization.

What goes in a resume?

1.  Name and address (you can choose to use just city and province).  Also include your phone number and email address.  It can be helpful to make your name bold and/or a bit larger font to make it more easily visible.

2.  Job Objective - Provide a job title as this helps the reader know how to think about your information that follows.  If you are responding to a posting, use the job title from the posting and include any competition number etc. that is included.  Providing this information ensures that your resume gets considered for the job you want.

3.  Summary of Qualifications - Use this section if there is a set of skills, certifications, experience required by the job.  The purpose here is to provide the reader with a quick checklist of your qualifications so they can see if it is worth their time to continue reading your resume.  This section needs to be reviewed and organized specifically for each job.  Here again, put the most important information (from the employers viewpoint) at the top of the list.  The summary is particularly useful in fields where it is the normal way of doing business to have many short term jobs with a variety of different employers.

4.  Work Experience or Work History - If you have work experience related to the job for which you are applying, this section should come before the education section; if your education is the most recent and relevant, put that section before this one.  Work history can be included with or without dates.  Including dates will showcase any time you spent unemployed or out of the workforce; try to give a brief explanation if it is something that does not negatively impact employment such as raising a family or caring for a sick relative.  If you are including dates, put the most recent work first and then go backward in time; if your most relevant work is not your most recent, consider creating two sections such as 'Relevant Work History' and 'Recent Work History'.  Not including dates raises questions in the reader's mind about whether or not there are gaps that might indicate problems.

5.  Education and Training - Include the certifications and training that you have that are relevant to the job.  If there are particular courses within a certification that are particularly important, list them as part of the information provided.  If you are trained and/or certified in more than one field, leave off any information that might cause confusion.  (Why would a trained cook want to work in a doctor's office?)  Employers realize that a resume can not include everything.

Image: References

References are a very important part of your application for a job, but . . .

~ If references are not done well they can prevent you from getting the job.

~ Do not include references with your resume and cover letter if you are applying for a job that is not posted.  Only include them when applying for a posted job IF the posting instructs you to do so.

~ Always ask the person you want to use as a reference before including their name.  And, let them know when you are applying for work as you do not want them to be confused or sounding like they do not know what is going on when they are contacted by an employer.

~ Be prepared with at least three work references and three personal references; bring two separate computer generated lists to your interview.  If you do not have direct work references, you can include others who can address your work ethic such as teachers, group leaders, volunteer work supervisors, etc.

~ If you find yourself getting job interviews and things seeming to go well, then not being offered the job, find a way to check what your references are saying about you in case that is the problem.

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Application Forms

Tips and Tricks

~ If you are filling out a paper application form, make copies first so that you can perfect what you are putting in the form, then transfer the information to the original form.  Computer forms, of course, don't need this, but if there are multiple pages, review carefully before moving to the next page in case you are not able to go back to it.

~ Always follow directions.  Do not leave blank spaces; if the section doesn't apply to you enter N/A or some other entry to show it doesn't apply rather than you just missed the item.  Check for details of how to complete the form such as writing above or below the lines, the format for entering dates, and what order they want first and last names recorded.

~ Provide as much detail as possible and ensure that all information is accurate; if it isn't and the employer finds out, it will look like a lie.

~ If there is an 'Additional Information' or 'Comments' type section, this is an excellent place to provide information that is relevant but does not fit in other places in the form.  Talking about your accomplishments is always a good use of space.

~ Keep a copy of the form (or print it out) so that you can review what information you have already provided when they call you for an interview.

~ There are key questions on application forms which employers use to see if you are a good fit for their workplace.  Always consider your answers those sorts of questions from the employer viewpoint.  These are such questions as those about salary, about why you want the job, and about your reasons for leaving your last job etc.

Image: 2 people in a job interview

Interview Skills

Tips and Tricks

~ Write down the time, the address, who you will be meeting with, etc.  If you are unfamiliar with the location, check it out ahead of time if possible.  If you have to travel to another community, leave yourself pleanty of time to find the location.

~ Prepare well for the interview.  Review the job posting, any information you provided in a cover letter, resume, and/or application form.  Research the company so you know something about them.

~ Be mindful of the image your appearance creates.  The interviewer will assume it is either your best appearance or that you didn't care enough to put your best forward.  Be neat and clean.  As a guideline, choose the type of clothing that would be worn to work by the person supervising the job for which you are interviewing.  Avoid scented products as the workplace might be allergen free.

~ Practice an interview with a friend or family member.  Speak enough to adequately relate your skills and experience but not too much (avoid unrelated details).  Show enthusiasm and a positive attitude.  

~ Get the interviewer to like you.  You can do so by what you say and how you act.  Listen carefully to what they are saying; if you do not fully understand, ask for clarification.  Try to forget being nervous by just having a conversation with them; the more relaxed you are the more you will be yourself.  Show interest in the interviewer, the company, and the job.  Use the interviewers name in the course of the conversation.

~ Prepare for behavioural interview questions.  Interviewers often ask questions which require a little story from your past experiences.  Plan for these ahead of time, but do not try to memorize your responses.  If you cannot recall what you memorized it will increase your anxiety and nervousness.  Instead, just review a couple of potential situations for each question using the STAR method:
          1.  Situation - briefly set the scene
          2. Task - describe the issue, problem, or job you were facing
          3.  Action - outline what you did in relation to the issue, problem or job
          4.  Results - report what happened as a result of your action
Click here for a list of behavioural questions and a couple of examples of how to answer them.  The 'Results' is a key part of process as it is your chance to shine in the interview.

Image: a hand choosing a person from a line

The Job Market

There are two general ways that people find employment. One is through jobs which are advertised in a variety of ways. The other is through jobs they locate from personal contacts, job market research, or applying with employers who currently do not have a job advertised; this source of jobs is called the hidden job market.

Advertised Jobs

~ Jobs can be advertised in many ways such as online job boards, company websites, newspapers, radio, TV, on city buses, on fences, by roadways, on billboards, or in the front door or window of the business.

~ Regardless of how the job is advertised, be sure to follow any of the instructions given in the ad.

~ Unless the ad indicates otherwise, a cover letter and resume should both be used when responding to an advertised job.

~ An estimated 70% to 80% of jobs filled are never advertised.

~ There are some sectors / employers which use advertised jobs exclusively and others who never advertise jobs. Find out which is true for the kind of work you want.

The Hidden Job Market

~ An estimated 70% to 80% of jobs are never advertised.

~ The key to accessing the hidden job market is simply talking to people.  Let people in your life know that you are looking for work and ask them if they know of any available jobs.  Then, with that information, talk to the people at the places of employment.  If you get a 'we're not hiring right now' type of response, always ask when would be a good time to check back again.

~ The best way to access the hidden job market is to identify the employers for whom you would like to work, then contact them.  Find out about what sort of skills and training etc. they require for the type of work you wish to do, and find about their hiring practices and how you should apply.

Here are some links that might be helpful for you:

www.jobsearchonline.bc.ca - Job Search and Support Services / WorkBC serving Dawson Creek, Chetywnd, & Tumbler Ridge, BC and surrounding area

www.employmentconnections.bc.ca - Employment Connections / WorkBC serving Fort St John, BC and surrounding areas

www.indeed.cawww.wowjobs.ca; www.monster.ca; www.workopolis.com; www.working.com;   - websites that collect job postings from the internet or from employers directly posting on their site and then provide them in a way that they can be search by location, key words, etc.  Some of them also have areas with articles and information about job searching.

www.jobbank.gc.ca and www.workbc.ca - These are government websites that contain jobs that are posted specifically with their site.  The federal one collects the postings from the provincial websites.  These sites both contain sections providing other job search and career information.

www.canada.ca - Interested in working for the government of Canada?  Here you can find job postings and a variety of other related information.

www2.gov.bc.ca - BC government job postings and related information.

These are just a few of the resources available.  If you do an internet search using 'job search' or other related terms you will find more out there. 

Image: Thinking Equation

Other Helps

Career Assessment and Career Research

A job search is really only truly successful long term when the job you get fits with you and your lifestyle. If you are not eligible for our programs or need help quicker than we can provide, these are some links to information that can help you choose the sort of work that will fit for you.  The results from these assessments are drawn from the answers you provide, so if the result does not seem to fit for you, take a look at the answers you provided and see if you have made errors.

The government of BC provides information on helping you choose a career here.   It includes Blueprint Builder which helps you explore different jobs, find education and funding programs, and find job search helps and saves them all in your profile.  It also includes Career Compass which has quizzes to identify abilities, work preferences, and preferred subjects and relates them to jobs that might fit for you.  Career Trek has a variety of information about different careers for you to explore.

The Holland Code rates your interest in six different categories and then provides lists of jobs based on combinations of your top three choices.  This is a research website, so answering the demographic questions at the end will help keep the service available at no cost.

The 16 Personalities is looks at five areas of personality.  It provides a good report on a variety of areas of information, including work related, for free, and you can pay for additional information and help with learning how to manage how your personality impacts on life.

Programs with other Service Providers

Our programs do not fit for everyone, and sometimes there are eligibility requirements attached to them.  There are other services that may be useful to you.

The WorkBC program provides a variety of programs and services at offices across the province.  You can find your local office here

The BC Centre for Employment Excellence provides listings of employment programs in BC as well as a variety of other information that might be helpful though it is geared towards those providing employment related services.

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