Job Search Strategies: Searching the Smarter Way

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by Shabnum Budwhani

“I have sent over 200 resumes in a month and haven’t received a single call.”

As counselors we hear these and other such comments very frequently from our clients who are newcomers to Canada. What you need to understand is that Job Search is an art. You have to learn successful job search skills so that you can get the best results and be successful in the labour market. If you produce a single resume and send that same resume out to many different employers it will probably not help you to get a job. It will only increase your sense of failure. In order to gain best results job search must be part of a well-planned strategy. It must be targeted.

Remember in school we learned about Darwin ‘s law of “Survival of the fittest” – well, it is true even today. There is a lot of competition in the job market and you have to always try to put your best foot forward and to fight hard so that employers notice you. When people immigrate to a new country they expect things and life to be different from what they are used to in their home countries. The culture, food habits, social customs, the education system, the weather – everything is going to be very different from what you are used to and have grown up with. Well, the labour market is going to be different too.

Job search methods are different from country to country. The way you look for a job may be different from what you are used to in your country. For example, in some countries it may be very important for employers as to which University or College you graduated from but in some other places you may get more credit for your past experience and work history. In some other places it may be just a matter of knowing the right person and having the right contact. So when people immigrate to Canada they may not be aware of the importance of resumes and what role they can play in helping you to find a job. Volunteering is another thing that is very important in Canada, but in some countries the idea of volunteering to find a job may not be a very common method.

In other words, in order to find a job it is very important to learn the local job search strategies as quickly as possible. This is in the same way that you will try to adjust to other things in your new home country, such as the culture, the society, weather, transportation etc. The more quickly you do this the easier it will be for you to find a job. Sometimes because we are adults it is hard to make a change, to accept new ideas and to “unlearn” or “re-learn” things. This is because we are used to doing certain things in a certain way for so many years of our life, but the sooner you adapt to your new home country the easier it will be for you to settle down. Job search methods should be planned and matched to the expectations of Canadian employers.

“Cold-calling” can really be a chilling and scary experience in the beginning for a lot of people. But think of it in this way. There are hundreds of call centres in the business world doing good business. They are successful in selling something over the phone to people who are total strangers, whom they have never met or seen before. Then you should not be too afraid to make a few phone calls for yourself. In your case you are not going to try to sell something to an employer or make a contract. You are only trying to make an appointment to meet with the employer to discuss you skills and to offer your services to help them in their business. If the employers don’t make use of this opportunity they are losing also because they will not get a chance to use your skills and knowledge. Is it not amazing that many newcomers who are afraid to do cold-calling for themselves end up getting their first jobs in call-centres doing the same thing for someone else? So then why not do it for yourself?

It is important to know that resumes can’t get you a job offer but they can help you to get an interview, which in turn can help you to get a job offer. So a good resume is an important first step.

For example, there may be two people – A & B. A has excellent skills for a particular job but not a very good resume, and B has half of the skills of A but an excellent looking resume. Who do you think will get the interview call? You have 10 seconds, which is normally the time employers take to scan or look through a resume the first time. In that ten seconds you can either make or break your chance. Make sure there are no mistakes and it is clear and easy to find the information.

Along with the resume, a cover letter is a great way of making a wonderful first impression on the employer. It can help to make a good impression which the employer will remember even after he has gone through many other cover letters. Cover letters are your chance to give the employer a summary of your skills and experience. They can help to paint a picture in the minds of the employer of who you are. The more clear this picture is the more chances of you will get a call for an interview.

We can compare cover letters to a gift wrap. Let us say someone has received a lot of gifts and does not know who they are from. The chances are that the person will feel like first opening the gift which has the nicest wrapping. This is because the human mind will imagine that if the cover is so beautiful the thing inside will be beautiful too. A strong, well-written cover-letter is half the battle won. So don’t under-estimate the importance of the packaging of the gift. The more interesting it is, the more the chances are that the employer will go ahead and read your resume. The cover-letter gift wraps your resume.

Self-marketing during interviews is your final test. Remember you can get help from someone in writing your resume or maybe even get someone else to prepare it for you. Can someone else speak or go instead of you in an interview? No, they can’t. You and you alone have to fight that battle on your own. It can be hard and scary being on your own, especially when you are facing a team of strangers. But look at it in a positive way. Look at it as an opportunity to talk about and prove all your talent, skills and expertise.

You have a wonderful chance because you have people who are listening and making a note of it all. Self- confidence and self-knowledge are the key things here. It is very important that you know yourself very well and also that you believe in yourself. That is the most powerful tool that you have in an interview.

You cannot know what is going on in the minds of the interviewers, but you do know what is in your mind and what you want to say. Express yourself in a professional manner and talk about your skills, experience and goals in such a way that they are related to the job that you are applying for. After that, the ball is in the employer’s court. They have to make the final choice. On your part at least you will sleep well knowing that you did everything you possibly could. The employer knows what his needs are, you showed what you can do for them, now you have nothing to do but wait and trust their judgement.

While you wait for an answer, don’t give up your job search. Continue with your efforts, don’t put all your hopes on only one single telephone call or one interview.

Finally, it is very important to keep a positive mind. If you don’t get that job offer then maybe that job was not the best one for you. You will find something else that is more suitable for you. Always remember that you are not the only one who has lost an opportunity. Start preparing again for the next challenge. You cannot afford to give up, can you? At least now you have the “Canadian experience” of having gone through a “Canadian Interview.”

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