Archive for December, 2012

Tips For Skype Interviews

Healthy workplaceI’ve moved across the country a few times.  This has required me to do numerous telephone interviews and on occasion fly out to do a face-to-face interview.  But, times have changed.  The world is rapidly getting smaller due to video calling.  Now you can forgo the telephone and flight and start with an interview via Skype.  In the past year Skype has allowed me to connect with people from Italy, Poland, California, and Brazil!  Here are my tips for preparing for a video calling interview, whether it be through Skype or another platform.

Prepare for a video call the same as you would for a regular interview: do your employer research, prepare answers to common and expected questions, and dress for success.  Next if you’re not experienced with the particular tool you will be using then get familiar with it.  Set up a professional looking profile with short bio, headshot, and username.  Test it out with a friend to see how it works.  You can even try conducting a mock interview to test out your answers, make sure the location you’ve chosen has good lighting (you’re not a silhouette), you have a strong internet connection, clear sound (if not you could try a good headset), and non-distracting background.

Unfortunately, video calling is notorious for not working when you want it to.  Doing a test call before your big interview can help to make sure the platform is working as it should.  Be sure to have a back up platform set up and contact numbers to get in touch with your interviewer if things don’t work as planned.  Also don’t be afraid to let them know if this is your first time using the platform.  They might be a little more gracious to you as you learn; however, do your best to get familiar with it before the big day.

This article was written by Miranda Vande Kuyt a self-employed career development practitioner and communications consultant.

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A Resume By Any Other Name…

ResumeAre you having trouble finding a job, or even getting an interview?  Are you baffled as to why you’re not getting a call back?  Someone once told me they suspected it was because of the name they put on the top of their resume.  Do you have an unusual or ethnic sounding name that is preventing you from opportunities for employment?

First of all, no employer should be refusing to hire you or meet you for an interview based purely on your name.  If you know that this is going on, check out your rights!  Check out this document titled “Human Rights in British Columbia”, published by the provincial government that outlines proper hiring practices that don’t go against a person’s human rights:

http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/human-rights-protection/pdfs/EmployerInfo.pdf

Second, you need to ensure you have a top quality resume.  Have a professional read it over.  You can get free career coaching at a WorkBC centre located near you.  There is much debate on how to handle your ethnic sounding name.  Some career experts question why you would want to work for a company that will discriminate against you because of your name.  If you’re sure the quality of your resume isn’t the issue then other career experts suggest changing your name somehow to at least have a chance to meet the employer and make a personal first impression.  Here are some ideas to alter your name if you choose to go that route:

  • Use initials only – followed by your last name
  • Use your first initial and your middle name in full if that one is not ethnic sounding, followed by your last name
  • Shorten your first name if it’s very long and ethnic sounding but only if that results in something that makes sense as a name
  • Use your “nickname” your peers, friends, colleagues, etc. consistently use for you. This works only if your nickname is an actual name, not something goofy

What’s in the power of a name?  The Digerati Life blog wrote a great piece on this awhile back.  It’s a good place to read more about this topic.

http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/index.php/2007/07/02/name-discrimination-how-it-affects-job-and-career-choices-life-status-overall-success/

This article was written by Miranda Vande Kuyt a self-employed career development practitioner and communications consultant.

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How NOT To Get A Job!

  1. call waitingDon’t hand out any resumes
  2. Only apply to jobs online
  3. Wait for a job to find you

Really?  Seriously? Come on now? Did you really think this strategy would work?  Has it been weeks or months and you’re still saying, “I can’t find a job?”  It’s time to wake up and get real with your self.  Finding a job takes work and it isn’t going to land in your lap without any effort.

The real first step is to make a plan of how you’re really going to land a job.  If you’re clueless on how to make a plan, then get yourself to a WorkBC office where a trained professional will help you strategize.  The service is free and there are many locations across BC.

If you can’t access a center then consider these simple steps:

  1. Create a resume that is targeted to a particular job you would enjoy.  Visit our site for ideas or your local library.
  2. Look for job postings and ask around for openings in your area.
  3. Create a customized cover letter addressed to the job postings you are interested in.
  4. Submit your resume and cover letter to the company in the manner they specify, online or in person.
  5. Follow up with companies you’ve applied with a phone call.
  6. Prepare for your interviews.

For more help on launching an effective job search visit our website at www.myesc.ca or www.workbc.ca.

This article was written by Miranda Vande Kuyt a self-employed career development practitioner and communications consultant.

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Know Your Rights When You Work

By Andrew Lim

ServerWere you laid off, or fired from your last job? Did you quit instead? Was the split from your last job caused by conflict, miscommunication, or misunderstanding between you and an employer? Perhaps you want to start fresh and put your past behind you. Be informed of your legal employee rights. This is the best prevention, and solution to investigating a past workplace incident, or making sure you do not repeat your mistakes again. Let’s start with the basics:

My line of work is unpredictable. Should I bother to show up for work or call before my shift to ask if they need me?

Yes, show up for work and without fail.  Remember, to be selected to join a staff team is not a ‘norm’ or a ‘right’, but a privilege.  Besides, what would you say if you called in advance? You do not give a good impression when you have to ask if you need to work every time, when you are already scheduled. Most employers will find it in their best interest to call you in advance if possible, and tell you not to come in if there is no work for you.

So what do you get for the hassle of travelling to work and back? Two hours of your regular pay, even if you r shift is cancelled. If you were scheduled to work a full day (8-hour shift), the employer must pay you four hours of wages, whether or not you end up working the shift. The catch is showing up on time for your shift if they did not call you.  If however, you called in sick, or you do not show up when you’re supposed to, you do not get paid, whether or not your shift was cancelled.

If you have already begun to work and then you’re allowed to leave because the work was done, or an issue disrupts your work that is beyond anyone’s control, you must be paid. If you work longer than 2 hours and you are disrupted, or if you have already worked more than 4 hours and you get disrupted, in both cases, you are entitled to however many number of hours of work you were originally scheduled for that day.

How often does this actually happen? More often than you might think. It depends on the work. Unscheduled and last minute cancellations of shifts may occur in restaurants and cafés, especially for specific jobs such as line cooks, dishwashers, baristas, cashiers, or other kitchen staff. A variety of skilled trade workers from roofing to horticulture may be whether dependent, or disrupted by weather, safety related issues, or a combination of both. Even if you work as an office admin assistant, extreme weather such snowstorms and flooding may force operations to grind to a halt and business may be cancelled.

So if you are expected to work that day as far as you know, and then you arrive only to be sent home, it is a good idea to make an appearance. If you feel it is dangerous however to travel to work, you will likely not get paid for a cancelled shift. This is because often it is dangerous due to extreme weather conditions. In these cases, the majority of employers will make announcements, or provide you with advance warning via phone and/or email. Show courtesy, commitment and take initiative by making a simple phone call and tune into your local news on TV, online, or on the radio, in these situations.

How many breaks do I get?

None.  Employers are not obligated to provide 15-minute breaks.  If you work longer than five hours at a time, you are entitled to a half-hour, unpaid meal break.  That’s it. If an employer wishes to provide you with 15-minute breaks, they are free to do so, but it is not a requirement. Your employer is only required to give you 30 minutes to eat, and then return to work.

Be aware of split-shifts as well. It may be legal for an employer to ask that you work nine hours in a day, without paying you overtime for the extra hour, and take an one-hour meal break instead of 30 minutes. If you do not want to work extra hours in a day and not be paid overtime, you may want to turn down this position, or begin looking for something new.  Before accepting a job offer, it is a good idea to ask question about “expected hours of work per day, or per week” and the “work culture”, so you have an idea of what do expect.  If an employer approaches you with an “Averaging Agreement”, be informed before you sign anything and give consent.

The BC Employment Standards Act provides employers the basic framework to conduct their business with you as their staff member and employee. It also gives you an idea of minimum standards you need to consider for a place of work acceptable and appropriate. An employer can of course, do more to keep you around, happy, and committed to the company. It is however, illegal for any employer to provide less than what is laid out by the BC Employment Standards..

Do you have other labour law related questions? Check out the BC Employment Standards Act website:

http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_96113_01#part4

We’ve also explained more about your rights and work on our website at: http://www.myerc.ca/content/Job%20Seekers/Rights.asp

Andrew Lim is a career development practitioner with the FraserWorks Co-op.  You can connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.

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Top 4 Questions To Ask An Employer During An Interview

Congratulations, you made it through the stressful and challenging process of answering all of the questions in your job interview. You nailed the “What is your biggest accomplishment?” question and smacked the “Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with your boss?” question right out of the ball park. Finally, you can breathe again.

But don’t take that huge sigh of relief just yet because your job isn’t quite done. An employer will typically allow candidates to ask questions of their own at the end of an interview and this window of opportunity provides you the job seeker with a great chance to:

  • learn more about the position,
  • evaluate whether the organization is a good fit and,
  • impress the interviewer by looking prepared and asking intelligent questions.

Too often, job seekers barely think about what questions to ask at the end of an interview, but this part of the process is critical to helping you determine whether this is a job you actually want. So be smart about this and ensure that you come to the interview armed with some pre-loaded questions that will help you get the information you need to make an informed decision. Here are some questions that I typically ask at the end of employment interviews:

1)    Can you tell me a bit about the culture of the organization and how the team functions?

This will be important to most job applicants. People should be interested in discerning the culture of a team or workplace so they can decide whether they can operate effectively in that environment. For example, I prefer a casual workplace so if the interviewer indicates to me that the organization has a strong corporate culture, it might cause me to reconsider the opportunity. Similarly, some people enjoy working independently so if the position is one on a highly collaborative, interdependent team, it might not be a great fit.

2)    What is it about the organization that makes it a great place to work?

This question is similar to the first but is more open-ended and allows you to evaluate your preferred criteria for an organization against what this specific company offers. Part of this comes down to knowing what you are looking for. For instance, if work-life balance is important to you and the interviewer says the company offers flexible hours and doesn’t ask employees to work much overtime, this would be a positive sign. Alternatively, if the potential to make money is high on your priority list, you might not be able to do that in an organization that doesn’t offer overtime. I always ask this question because it helps me gauge what the employer’s competitive advantages are as well as what they do to recognize, value and retain their staff.

3)    What are some of the challenges of the position?

This is a good one to ask because it can shine some light on some of the obstacles or difficulties you could face in the day-to-day functions of the role. Every job has its challenges, but asking this question at the beginning allows you to compare some of the challenges of the position against your own strengths and weaknesses as a professional. For example, if you are the type of person who thrives on routine and predictability but one of the difficult aspects of the job is that things often pop up unexpectedly and no two days are ever the same, you will want to ask yourself if the position is really right for you. Or, if you don’t thrive when working under pressure and the job comes with the stress of a heavy workload and competing deadlines, it might not be sustainable (i.e., it could cause you to burnout). Figuring out the challenges of a position (as best you can) ahead of time can save you valuable time and effort. There is no point in accepting a role for which you are set up for failure from the outset.

4)    How does the organization support the professional development of its staff?

Some companies strongly value the ongoing development of their people and take steps or implement policies that provide support (financial or otherwise) for courses, training, workshops, or memberships to professional associations. Some other organizations don’t invest in these things at all. If improving and upgrading your skills is important to you as a professional, it is advisable to ask about this early. If the response you get is something like “what do you mean?” then the company likely doesn’t have much of a professional development program in place. People should be able to work for organizations that help them be the very best that they can be in their chosen field and a big part of that is figuring out whether the organization is willing to help with ongoing skill-building opportunities.

These are merely examples of questions you can ask at the end of an interview, but they won’t be relevant to everyone. Job seekers should reflect on what they want out of their careers and in a prospective employer in order to determine the most relevant questions to ask for their specific circumstances. Think about your past experience and the pros and cons of your previous employers to help you start brainstorming some possible questions for your next interview. Because you should always go to interviews with some prepared – it will help with how you are perceived and provide valuable insight as to whether the opportunity is right for you.

What are some of your favourite questions to ask at the end of an interview?

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