Job Hunting

Company Culture – does it affect your Career Change Decisions

 What is Company Culture?  Company Culture isn’t just the mission statement, but also the values, ethics and goals of the company and how they affect you and the way the Company conducts its business.  Like people, Companies have their own unique personality and so do departments within each company.  This personality will decide whether you love your job or not.

Company Culture is now a major factor to consider when planning on a career change.  20 years ago you went to work, did your job and you left.  9 to 5 wasn’t just a movie, it was the company culture.  Clock in at 9 and out of there at 5.  An hour for lunch which you ate at your desk or you went to a restaurant.  Most professional companies didn’t have lunch rooms, if you were lucky there were vending machines for coffee.  Sales departments used to do team building events and some departments might have had corporate baseball teams, but that was it.

I remember when Ontario Hydro went to the open concept office.  Walls came down, everyone sat in pods.  One big happy family.   Oops – within a month, buffer panels came in for individual departments and groups.  Walls went back up for key positions, ie HR, CFOs etc.  It was a nice concept but unfeasible.  Too noisy and distracting.  Now we have the innovative Google office, new technologies and company culture has become an important part in career planning.

You will spend 1/3 of your life at work.  Not only do you have to like what you do, but you have to like the company and the people you work with.   Your company and your group within that company are like a baseball team.  Would you stay on the team if you weren’t enjoying yourself?  If you hated the Team Captain and didn’t like the way he was running the team, you would be out of there.  Yes it is harder to leave a job but if you don’t like the culture eventually you will move on.  Companies want you to fit in with their culture.  Retraining and rehiring new people is time consuming, costly and disruptive to running a business.  The Company will be assessing your culture fit.  It is important for you to recognize what the company will expect from you.  Experience, job satisfaction and salary are important parts when assessing a new career.  But so is the atmosphere in the company.

Start assessing the company as soon as you walk in the door.

Are the people in the elevators, hallways, reception desks friendly?  Look at everyone and everything as you walk through the office.   Does the atmosphere seem positive?  Or do the employees look bored and disgruntled.

Assess yourself honestly?

Are you the type of person who wants to show up, do your job and head home?  Do you like to read your book at your desk at lunch?  Or do you want to go into the lunch room and play ping pong?  Do you like team building outings or do you consider these an infringement on your free time?  If you have the attitude I’m paid for a 40 hour work week and that’s all you are getting from me then you need to make sure you find a company that only expects that from you.

Technology has changed the face of company culture.

Companies provide laptops and phones to their employees.  Along with that comes an expectation that they can reach you whenever they want.  Deadlines don’t fall within a 40 hour work week.


Team Building is becoming a fact of life in organizations

Find out what is expected of you.

Are there ping pong tournaments, Ax throwing parties (yes I said Ax throwing parties).  

Dinner nights, weekends away.

Is the atmosphere very competitive as a team or is it based  more on the individual.   



1/3 of your day will be spent with your team members and your group.  Enjoying the atmosphere and camaraderie where you work will make a big difference in your attitude about your job.  During the interview be sure to ask about the company culture.  At the interview with your actual team members assess their characters, are you on the same page, will you be able to get along.  Your team is like your family with less space to escape from them.  Do you like them?  If you do then grab this position, there is nothing better than wanting to get up in the morning to go to a fulfilling job.

Job Hunting – Little things to help you overcome those tricky obstacles

Job Hunting can be mind boggling.  Knowing what kind of job you are qualified for can be intimidating.  Don’t let things overwhelm you.  Think of the positives and form a plan to accomplish your goal.  First thing I do when anything is overwhelming me is make a list.

  • What kind of jobs does your education qualify you for
  • What experience do you have and is it transferable from industry to industry, ie banking to government
  • Who do you know in the industry
    • Call them and set up an information interview to find out what types of jobs you would be qualified for or that would interest you
  • Network – let everyone know you are looking.  Do you volunteer, let the board know you are looking for a new job.  Play sports or children play sports, teams are a great place to network.  The gym, yoga studio – everyone knows someone who knows someone and most people are more than happy to lend a hand.
  • Use a Recruiter.  Recruiters have job boards sometimes exclusive to them.  Research your recruiter and find the one who deals with the companies on your list of places you would like to work.  Also find the Recruiter who deals with your skills.  Recruiters specialize – IT, Finance, Admin, etc so make sure you contact the right one.  Be diligent don’t them forget about you, keep in touch with him/her.
  • Check the job boards.  Don’t be afraid to recontact your Recruiter and let him/her know about job openings.
  • Check specific company websites.  Again before applying online check with your Recruiter to see if he has a contact there.
  • Connect with people on LinkedIn who work for specific targeted companies that you are interested in
  • And then go back and do it all again
There is a job out there with your name on it.


How Big Data and Technology has changed the face of HR

Do you remember typing your resume up on an electric typewriter (lol even I don’t go back as far as the manual typewriters).  One for each company you were applying for.  Back in the 1980’s jobs were in short supply.  It was normal for someone to send out 200 resumes before they received an interview.  Each resume had to be typed individually.  Stuffed into an envelope, stamped and posted or dropped off manually hoping this might give you a leg up on the competition.  Every morning a mini forest landed in the mailroom, sorted into a cart and delivered to the Hiring Manager by the “mail girl” (that was how I started at Ontario Hydro).  Reams of resumes had to be sorted into job categories and then sorted into:  trash, contact, keep on file.  And yes you are right, all these people were then contacted by mail or phone depending on the decision.  Answering machines were in short supply in homes in the 70s and 80s, so it was OK to phone the company to see what the status was on your application.  The next step was storage.  The resumes that weren’t put in the trash were stored in big grey filing cabinets.  After their “shelf live expired” they were archived – which meant put in a box and stored in another location.  There was no recycling back then and we hated throwing anything away.   If you didn’t have a good filing system good luck finding anything in this paper filled “big data” system.

One of the companies I worked for in the early 90’s used to scan 1000’s of paper resumes into their databases every day.  It was a very basic database, name, contact info and a dump of the resume.    


Along came the Recruiter

Large companies like IBM, Ontario Hydro, General Electric, etc soon figured out that they couldn’t keep up with the piles of paper resumes coming in.  What to do?  Here’s a great idea let’s outsource it to a “Headhunting/Recruiter” company.  They can deal with all the paper, the follow up with the people we aren’t interested in and do the screening of the applicants we are seriously interested in.  


Next step was the Applicant Tracking System “ATS”

The monster job board was created in 1994.  Companies jumped onboard paying the fees to use their online database.  The late 1990s found companies running their own ATS systems.  If you go onto the TD site today there are 21 pages of jobs with the keyword “Developer” in it.  If you are interested in one of these positions, be prepared for 15 minutes of ticking boxes and entering data before you even attach your resume.  Don’t forget anything or – boom – rejected.  Your resume then goes into a MASSIVE database of potential employees.  

The ATS morphed into individual databases for SMBs.  Recruiting companies’s can easily have 100,000 entries in their databases.  Now comes the problem, how do you deal with all this information?  

  • Let’s look up keywords.  Oops that can be an issue because anyone who has written a resume in the last 15 years knows to make sure they put the keywords all over their resume. 
  • Keep it clean, don’t let your DB become a MONSTER.  
  • Keep your candidates active.

Big Data and HR is a 2-way Street

This is where H2H (human 2 human) is still an important part of the HR and Big Data Analytics system.  They have to work together.  What is the most important thing you both can do to keep the system working properly?

  • Databases can easily get overrun with duplicate records.  Don’t send in your resume multiple times with different names or different email addresses.  It just clogs up the search process.  You might be the one who gets lost.
  • Use standard titles, a Java Developer is easy to search on.  A fancy title isn’t
  • Keep in touch – Keep your contact information and resume up to date.  When you change jobs send a new copy of the resume in to your recruiter, or update the companies online DB.  
  • If you are a recruiter send out newsletters and email blasts.  If you are a candidate subscribe to these.  
  • Don’t forget the direct approach – a direct email or a phone call is always the best way to keep your relationship growing.

HR – means Human Resources, hiring a person can’t be done strictly from a database. Resumes are your history, databases are a means of contact.  To land the job you have to bring the H2H into the process.  

How to survive a Video Interview

To think that 20 years ago every interview was set up as a F2F (face to face). That’s right you went into the office,  dressed to the nines – suit, skirt/dress, shined shoes all freshly scrubbed.  There weren’t any telephone interviews.  Skype wasn’t even invented.  And now we have video interviews.

In 2012 63% of 500 HR Managers surveyed conducted video interviews.  That was up 14% from 2011.  13% expect their companies to increase their use of video interviewing over the next years.  Office Team Survey.



Lights, Camera, Action.  How do you prepare for a video interview?

Check your Equipment

You don’t want your battery to run out before your interview is over so make sure everything is running smoothly.  Clean the lens on your camera, nothing worse than a fingerprint showing up in the middle of your face.  Practice with a friend so you can find the appropriate volume for a normal speaking voice.  You don’t want to have to yell and you don’t want to miss the question because you can’t hear the interviewer properly.

Where are you going to set up your Interview?

Find an area that is quiet from distractions.  You don’t want to hear the dog barking as people walk down your street.  Make sure the area is clean and clutter free.  If you are doing it in your bedroom you don’t want the Sports Illustrated Bathing Suit calendar showing up in the picture.  Empty or full beer bottles on your counter won’t set a very good example.

Dress like you were meeting in Person

Dressing professionally makes you feel more in control and self-confident.  So put your dress or suit and tie on, make-up, hair, shave.  All the things you would do if you were heading to the office to meet the interviewer. Try not to wear white as it can look very bright through a camera, also busy patterns can be distracting.


Have your camera set up at a level so you are looking up just a little bit.  This will emphasize your face more than your body and will make you look a little slimmer.  It also helps to stop the camera from looking up your nose if you do a bit of a stretch.  REMEMBER – don’t look down or the interviewers will be looking at the top of your head.  Look directly at the camera, maintain eye contact and smile.

Cheat Notes

Yes you can use cheat notes, perfect for writing down your interview questions, but remember that rustling paper can be picked up by the microphone and is very distracting.  You also don’t want your eyes roving around the room or looking down, leaving the interviewer looking at the top of your head.

Truthfully it isn’t that much different than a F2F.

  • Be prepared – practice those interview questions and research the company
  • Sit up tall and don’t wiggle around too much.
  • Relax and speak clearly
  • Remember to thank everyone for their time


Don’t treat a video interview lightly.  You have to have the qualifications and you have to be able to sell yourself.  All you are doing is using a different venue.  So Take 1 and wow them the first time.

happyfacehanddrawn Good luck job hunting


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!



What to put in your email to a Recruiter?


Recruiters receive 100’s of emailed requests and resumes every day. Not only are they working on current positions, they are also trying to form relationships for future endeavors.
Applying for a Current Position:
The most  important thing a recruiter needs is up to date information.  This is where the email becomes very important.  You want to grab them right away.  Keep your email short and sweet.  A one line introduction  with the following information:

  • Availability.  If they are looking for a contractor to start immediately, then put that in the email.
    • two weeks notice
    • immediately
    • current contract ending mm/dd/yy
  • Location:  If your home is in Markham and the position is in Mississauga, be sure to say:
    • willing to commute
    • willing to relocate (especially if the position is out of province)
    • or put in a specific location, ie downtown Toronto
  • Salary:  Give them a range.  Most positions advertised have a salary on them, if this is acceptable to you then put it in the email.
The next thing you want to focus on are the keywords in the resume that relate to education and skills:
  • Education:  Tell them you have a degree from Waterloo or you are a “Sun Certified Java Developer”, etc
  • Technical Skills:  5 years experience working with IBM WebSphere in a Windows environment
  • Management Skills:  10 years leading teams developing ……using …..

Then again a 1 line closing sentence.  “I can be reached at ………  Thank you for your time”

So remember:
  • 1 short introductory sentence
  • 6 bullets briefly detailing the information that makes you qualified for a specific position
  • 1 short closing sentence.

Future Possibilities

If you are sending your resume to a recruiter for future possibilities, then use the same format as above, but instead of your skills detailing specific keywords in the advertisement, put down your strongest qualifications and/or the skills you would like to be working on more.  Another key item the recruiter would like to know is if you are looking at permanent or contract positions or both.

happyfacehanddrawn Good luck job hunting


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!

How to Answer “What STRENGTH would you bring to this position?”

Every interview is different.  Each Interviewer uses different tactics.  Most interviews start with trying to put you at ease by asking a little about yourself.  There are the technical questions – you better be able to answer these questions – you stated on your resume that you had the technical skills to be able to do the job.  Then come the off the wall questions – “what superhero would you be?”.

strengths copy

“What strength would you bring to the position?”  This is a standard question that you will be asked in most interviews.  The best way to be prepared for this question is to sit down and write down your strengths from a previous position or if you are a new graduate then experiences from school.  Below are a few examples of strengths that can be expanded upon with your experience as they fit the job description:

  • Team Player
  • Time Management
  • Good at managing people
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Always finish my tasks
  • Good listener
  • Deal well with difficult customers/situations
  • Able to see the big picture
  • Good with detail
  • Pick out a skill from the job description, ie “With my strong web design, creative writing, phone skills, etc” , then expand on this strength.
  • Problem Solver
  • Able to juggle more than one task at a time

This is where it is very important to know the job description.  Hopefully, you have also had the chance to ask specific questions about the position before this question comes up.  Now you take your strength and the information you know about the position and put the two of them together.

  • I am very good at listening and putting people at ease, this allows me to deal effectively with difficult situations.  In my previous position there was a customer/employee ……..
  • Although I am a detail person I am also able to see the big picture, in my previous position (or while at school) I was assigned the task of ………
  • My creativity has been tremendously helpful in designing web pages over the last 5 years.  One particular webpage was just not …. and I  ……

If you are having a hard time coming up with a strength, then ask your family, friends and co-workers.  You will be surprised at what they come up with.  Just don’t get too bloated from all the accolades.  It is important to be a little humble with this question.  You don’t want to come across as having an “I’m GREAT, I’m a STAR” attitude.


Don’t stress about this question, you have applied for the job because you know you can do it.  Now tell them why and how.  Be a “star”.

happyfacehanddrawn Good luck job hunting


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!

Cover Letters – are they necessary?


Should you write a cover letter?  The answer is yes.  Will everyone read it?  Probably not, but you don’t know who will and who won’t so better to write it because if someone does read it you want to impress them.




This should be written like an official letter including:

  • date
  • company address
  • contact person’s name (if you know it)
  • salutations both at the beginning and the end
  • subject line – this is the first thing the hiring manager looks at so put more than the reference number, ie Experienced Programmer Analyst looking for Senior PA position, reference # 123445
  • body of the letter – the meat and bones of the letter which will help get you the interview.
  • Your contact information, including name, address, phone number and email address
  • Here is a sample of a KISS  Cover Letter

So what do you put in the body of the letter.  This is where you can show your knowledge of the company and the position.  Your resume is about you.  Your cover letter is about you and how you are perfect for this company and this position.  Yes, this means that each cover letter is individually personalized for the company and the position.  If you are going to do a blanket cover letter then don’t waste your time or the hiring manager’s.  Some things to keep in mind include:

  • Keep it simple and keep it short, maximum 200 words.
  • Hiring Managers read a lot of cover letters and resumes over the course of the day, so use your key words to catch their eye.
  • The first paragraph should be about why you are qualified for the job.  Don’t tell them you are a hard worker, tell them specifics “I have over 5 years of experience using Java/J2EE including working on …. systems”.   “My experience includes working with  – keywords from the job description”.
  • The second paragraph shows your knowledge of the company and how you will be a great addition to their team.  Again keep those keywords flowing.  Companies use “applicant tracking systems” to scan for certain keywords, once you are in their system they will scan your resume and cover letter for every position that comes up.
  • The wrap up paragraph thanks them for their time, lets them know your availability and best way to be reached.
Proofread it – get a friend to read it as well.  Don’t just spell check.  Spell check won’t catch words that are spelled correct but don’t fit the context of the sentence, ie planed and planned, Manager and Manger.
And last but not least if you put your cover letter in the email, remember to also attach it in a word and/or pdf document.  Set up a file to save your cover letters as well as the resume for each job you apply for, so when you get a call back you will be able to find your documents.

happyfacehanddrawn Good luck job hunting


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!

How do you survive a Telephone Interview?


Why are telephone interviews so difficult?  They should be so easy – right!!!  Wrong.  That’s the first mistake everyone makes.  Now your first and only impression is your telephone manner.  If you treat this interview like it’s a “no brainer” then chances are you will not get through to the F2F interview.

Telephone interviews are done to find the candidate that can actually do what the job description asks for and can also do the duties/achievements on his/her resume.   In this day of professional resume writing services companies want to make sure that you have actually done the activities on your resume.

What can you do to make it through the telephone interview:

  • First of all treat the telephone interview as seriously as you would a F2F.  This means:
    • Get out of your pyjamas.  Dressing for a telephone interview will perk you up and make you feel more professional
    • Find a room to take your call in that is quiet and has no distractions (no radio, tv, children, pets)
    • If you are going to sit down, then make sure it has a comfortable chair that doesn’t allow you to slouch.
    • Try standing and walking around.  Your voice projects better when you are sitting straight or standing.  Talking with your hands will help add personality and animation to your voice as well.


  • The next important thing is to “Be Prepared”.  Again treat it like a F2F:
    • Study your resume – be able to expand on points in your resume when asked about specifics.
    • Study the job description.
    • Think of questions that the interviewer may ask re your resume or job description and practice them.
    • Research the company and make a list of questions, if you don’t have time to ask them all during this interview, you will have them ready for your F2F.
    • Use a cheat sheet.  No one can see you, this has it’s advantages.  You can have your resume right in front of you.  Write down questions they might ask with the answers beside it.
    • Script your “hello, good morning, thank you for taking the time to interview me”.  But remember it’s not a play so ad lib as well.
    • If possible try and find out who will be interviewing you and their position in the company.
    • Listen to the questions, if you aren’t sure then ask them to repeat it.  Pausing to collect your thoughts is ok.
    • Don’t get flustered if there are silences, the interviewer will be making notes.  Answer the question and then ask them if they would like more detail.
    • Use a headset.  This will allow your hands to be free to take notes and the reception is usually clearer for both you and the interviewer
    • Do a practice phone interview.  Make a list of questions and get a friend or family member to call you and practice, practice, practice.  
  • Little things can make a difference:
    • Don’t multi-task.  If your computer is open, have it open only to your resume or your cheat sheet.  Don’t be checking out your email or your baseball scores or the newest sale at Guess.
    • Turn off call-waiting on your phone and needless to say if you forgot don’t answer it or even look to see who it was.
    • Don’t eat or smoke while on the phone.  Sips of water are fine if you find it necessary.
  • Ask the interviewer for their email address so you can send a thank you note after the interview
Remember be enthusiastic, you applied for this position and you want this job.  You have to get those impressions through with your voice, the person can’t see your face.  So smile, laugh and tell them you are looking forward to the F2F.
Would love to hear from you about “What helped you with a successful telephone interview?” and/or “What simple mistake caused you to miss making it to the next step?”
 happyfacehanddrawn Good luck job hunting


Lynne Carlson started her career off in administration, moved to Cobol Programming and for the last 14 years worked in all things recruitment.  Absolutely loves social media and excited about all the new innovations appearing every day!