Here are some tips from NSBA for anyone who is job hunting. These are mostly for applying to smaller companies and organizations, as big companies may have many applicants and quite different processes for screening applicants:
1. Do a cover letter. Or at least a cover note if you’re submitting through something like Indeed. If you want to stand out, that’s one thing that stands out – effort.
2. Customize your resume and cover letter. If it seems like you’re just blasting your resume at every job that looks halfway interesting without checking if it’s reasonable, then a potential employer is going to feel like you’re wasting their time and will be a lot less motivated to use their time to consider your application. Note: If you’re looking for a career change, this is the kind of thing you could explain in a cover letter along with why the employer should consider you – see #1 above.
3. Really customize it, we’re not kidding. Don’t just tell the employer why you want the job, show them that you have the skills they are looking for. If the competencies are outlined in the job posting or the job description is available, make sure to tick off as many of those boxes as you (honestly) can. Here at NSBA, we use a scoring matrix for our initial screening; the last time we were hiring someone, the majority of applicants lost out on easy points because they didn’t indicate if they have a valid Canadian driver’s license. This requirement is clearly stated in the job description that was available online.
4. Proofread the resume and cover letter. Or get someone else to proofread it. Or don’t, and then the employer knows up front that you aren’t a detail person and you don’t put an effort into your communication, so maybe that makes their job easier when screening resumes. If you’re not good at writing, sometimes that’s okay depending on the job. But not making an effort to create a good impression? That’s a problem. What you send to an employer is the ONLY thing they have to make a judgement about your suitability for the job if they’ve never met you in person.
5. If there is a respectful and professional way to catch the employer’s attention, do it. For example, in the old days before COVID-19, the current NSBA Executive Director walked into the NS Boatbuilders Association and delivered her cover letter and resume by hand. While she was a strong applicant, the ED at the time said she was the only applicant who did that and it stood out. She got an interview the next day and a job offer within a week.
6. If you have a gappy resume but there are good reasons for it – you were in school, you were caring for kids at home, you were travelling around the world – explain the gaps in your cover letter. Resumes with lots of short-term employment and gaps between employment make employers nervous, so if they don’t need to be nervous, tell them why that’s the case.
7. If you have a gappy resume and it’s just because you don’t like most of the jobs you’ve tried, stick it out for a while on the next one – or current one, if you have a job already. Unless you have an employer who is downright abusive, one of the most important things you can demonstrate in today’s job market – before COVID-19 but maybe even more so since COVID-19 – is that you’re reliable and people can count on you.
We hope these tips help people because, in our experience, it seems like many people are not doing a great job of selling themselves when they apply for work. Our best analogy is that it’s like selling a house where you didn’t tidy up before taking the pictures. It might be a great house, but it’s hard to see it with the pictures you’ve shared.
Good luck to all the job hunters out there. It’s definitely a tough time to be searching.