September 15, 2021

On the job hunt

On the job hunt

Looking for a job is a job in itself. And a tough one at that. Add to that a global pandemic and it’s a difficult time for job seekers right now. During COVID-19, Manitoba’s employment rate fell, as did the rest of Canada’s, and it’s been slow to bounce back. More people are out of work applying for the same pool of jobs, hiring freezes are occurring in some organizations and even more companies have tightened the purse strings. But as vaccinations roll out and restrictions ease, things are expected to improve this fall for those on the job hunt.

For someone who has been actively looking for some time, the process has likely become even more daunting and confidence is waning, but the outlook is looking better than ever. Know that this temporary gap on your resume will not haunt you forever.

“Try to stay positive during this challenging time. Employers understand that the pandemic has resulted in job losses and cuts for many people, resulting in gaps on their resumes,” says Jaclyn Noel, senior human resources advisor with Manitoba Blue Cross.

In the meantime, how can someone improve their chances to snag that interview?

“It really is the candidate’s skills and qualifications that are going to secure an interview,” says Noel. “Use this opportunity to ensure your resume and cover letter are the best they can be for each application.”

Noel recommends examining your resume and cover letter to determine if they are up to date and accurately highlight all your suitable job responsibilities, education (including courses) and skills for the position you are applying for. (And yes, sometimes that means updating and personalizing your resume and cover letter for each job.) Get a fresh set of eyes on it to look at it for flow, grammar and potential enhancements that can help you shine.

Don’t forget about your online profiles, such as LinkedIn. Not all employers look at your online presence, but many do and it’s important to keep those relevant.

Playing the waiting game

Waiting to hear about an interview can be tough, but don’t just sit around. Use this time wisely. Noel recommends volunteering to gain new skills and boost your resume. Another great option is to take online courses. Many are free and flexible, such as Microsoft Office Suite updates, so you can do them as your schedule allows. Watch a webinar or online conference in your industry or the field you want to enter. These actions can be highlighted on your resume and can show you have that drive and determination so many employers are looking for. Plus, it can boost your confidence.

Here are a few other things you can do while you’re waiting for that phone call:

  • Prepare to speak to your work experience and skill set with specific examples as it relates to the position you applied for. Some companies will do a preliminary interview over the phone, so it’s advantageous to be prepared to answer those questions at any time.
  • Practice interview questions and your responses. Ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview or practice in front of a mirror.  
  • Research the company (or companies) that you have applied for – an employer always appreciates a candidate who takes initiative to learn about the company.

Whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t lose hope!

“A positive attitude goes a long way,” says Noel.

Manitoba Blue Cross continues to be one of Manitoba’s Top Employers. Learn more about working with us.

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How to stand out

With hundreds of people applying for the same job, what can someone do to stand out?

This is where your cover letter is crucial, says Jaclyn Noel, senior human resources advisor with Manitoba Blue Cross. Not submitting a cover letter, submitting a letter for an incorrect position or company and not using the letter to identify if and how a candidate meets the skills and requirements of the position are some of the most common mistakes Noel sees from potential applicants.

“We also see people listing skills without demonstrating how or where they acquired these skills,” says Noel.

Your cover letter should be used to explain how you meet the qualifications for the position based on the job posting criteria. Whether it be with your knowledge, skills or abilities, use the letter to highlight these and where they may match components of the job posting criteria.

“It’s your time to sell yourself to the hiring team. If you feel that you are an ideal candidate for the job, explain why. Is it your exceptional customer service skills, which were recently recognized in a company award or perhaps your recently upgraded courses where you learned X, Y and Z?” says Noel.

If a job posting indicates that presentation skills are required, indicate the amount of experience in the area (i.e. two years) and briefly provide an example of when you demonstrated your presentation skills, such as at their recent annual sales conference.

The cover letter is the first and best way to sell yourself so make sure you’re not selling yourself short.