Independent businesses give advice on how to land a job
In a recent Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey, we asked small business owners the following question: “Think back over all the job applications you have received and the applicants you have interviewed during the past three years. If you could give job seekers one piece of constructive advice, what would it be?”
Close to 9,000 business owners filled out the survey and we had over 200 pages of comments on this particular question. The following is some common-sense advice for those looking for a job from small business owners who are doing the hiring:
1) Be Personal
Many of the comments on the survey emphasized the importance of applying for a job in person. In the words of one business owner: “With respect to the first point of contact, nothing says ‘serious contender’ like someone who comes in person to introduce themselves to the hiring manager, all the while prepared with CV/resume in hand and a clean, professional image…” Another advises: “Don’t email me a resumé. Drop it off. Highlight it with yellow marker. Shake my hand. Make yourself memorable.” Another business owner commented: “We aren’t always hiring, but when we do we call the people that kept calling and stopping by.”
Including a cover letter was another piece of advice mentioned. In my own experience reviewing resumes, cover letters are critical. The best ones show some personality and explain why the applicant wants the job. They help spark interest in a resumé, which without the context of a cover letter can be boring.
Attitude counts for a lot with small business owners, and many comments focused on the importance of enthusiasm and passion. Many of the respondents commented on how important a great attitude is for a small business: “Be energetic and positive. Put your heart into your work because you will be happier in your job and it will rub off on the rest of your team and the customers.” Another commented: “Energy is everything to our business. People with lots of energy and enthusiasm during the interview process are more likely to show that to our clients. That translates to a client as someone who is ‘connected and plugged in’, not just another ‘seat warmer.’”
2) Be professional
Hundreds of comments hit on the basics of professionalism. In particular, good grooming, showing up on time (or a bit early, but not too early), and spell checking resumés were frequently mentioned. Others mentioned turning off cellphones. One suggests: “Make eye contact and smile during the interview.”
Another piece of advice on professionalism is to understand that an employment relationship is a two-way street, and both employees and employers must be satisfied with what they give and get from the relationship. An employer is giving money and experience. The best applicants focus on what they will give, or as one respondent put it: “Ask not what the company can do for you, ask what you can do for the company.”
3) Be prepared
Many of the comments were similar to this one: “Do some research. It is amazing how many people come into an interview and know nothing about us, our history, or even what we do.” In addition, many business owners said: “Apply for a job that you are actually interested in.” Others commented on reading the advertisement for the job carefully. For example, don’t apply for a full-time job if you are looking for a part-time position.
Honesty, a core small business value, came up again and again in the comments. Business owners don’t want padded resumés. They want you to be yourself. They need and value good help and wish you the best of luck in your job searches.
By Laura Jones
Laura Jones is Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CFIBideas.