Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.
Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.
Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.
In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.
Know the Precise Employer Concern
Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”.
Paul fully expected to spend his career in the tool and die industry. When he was hired directly from a high school program, skilled machinists were scarce. The job paid well and there was lots of overtime, and he devoted himself to his family, and really enjoyed the challenges of his job. Paul could find a way to solve problems that seemed insurmountable to others. That didn’t translate into higher wages, but he hoped it would make him indispensable and it did for a while. He was one of the last to be laid off as demand steadily slowed. Now he is applying for work that is further and further from what he used to do. Employer concerns include the reality that they can’t afford to pay him more than half his former wages and he still will need training to produce the same output that a new graduate can provide.
Andrea left her job as an accounting clerk to raise three children. 15 years later, the most significant employer concerns are that she hasn’t done anything to keep her knowledge and skills current. Junior accounting clerk employment opportunities can easily be filled by graduates of co-op programs offered by community colleges across the province who are more than willing to accept modest salaries and are ready to hit the ground running.
I write these posts for Sanjit, Paul, Andrea and other job seekers who share significant obstacles in finding employment.
Employer Concerns May Not Seem Fair, but…
- I completely agree, it is not fair. In a different time, you would be employed and the employer would see your potential and all the benefits of your experience and give you the benefits of any doubts. The would take full responsibility for bringing you from wherever you are to fully prepared to be productive on the job.
- Whether or not you think the employer’s concerns are valid or fair, they are rational from the employer’s perspective.
- By far the most helpful response you could choose is to fully acknowledge the concerns and address them by proving with evidence that they don’t apply to you.
So Sanjit can complete some courses to gain knowledge of the Canadian banking industry and the particular banks (thankfully there aren’t many of them). He can describe the positions he held in India in terms that are readily understood by HR staff in Canada. He can also directly address the matter of duties and work environment and let the employer know that he has determined that they will not be a concern. It’s up to him to identify the predictable concerns of the prospective employer and credibly dispel every one of them.
And Paul can identify the skills and duties of the position for which he is applying and relate specifics from his previous position to those requirements. By doing so, he will communicate to the prospective employer that he will not be surprised by any aspects of the new position. He has already “adapted” to the new requirements and is aware of the reduced compensation. There is also nothing wrong with pointing out the value added that he will bring to the employer and very specifically identifying how that will benefit the new employer.
Andrea will need to demonstrate that she is more than ready to work with existing accounting software and current versions of Microsoft Office, or she won’t be hired as an accounting clerk. She will need not only to list current skills on the resume and emphasize those skills in the cover letter, but she needs to create proof that she can actually perform those skills on the job. There will be enough adjusting to working every day after being out of the workforce for 15 years. It would be very helpful to come up with some evidence that she had also directly addressed that issue on her own. Simply, she needs to fully dispel any doubts that she can very quickly perform all the requirements of the accounting clerk role.
Bring Concrete Evidence That You Can Hit the Ground Running!
The simple checklists that I have added to the MS Office Skills Checklists page over the last few weeks are intended to support the efforts of each of these worthy individuals to dispel the predictable doubts of a prospective employer.
All three of these job seekers will very likely be applying for positions that require some level of Microsoft Office skills.
By assessing their current proficiency on the skills listed on each checklist, they can take the initiative and generating substantial evidence of their qualifications and readiness to “hit the ground running.”
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