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Undergraduate Students - April 2012

The full version of the March CAPSScoop can be found by clicking here.

Articles in this edition

Five “Knows” for Interviewees

Transitioning from School to Work: The CaPS Job Finding Club

Labour Market Information


Five “Knows” for Interviewees

Peter A. Halprin, Practicing Attorney, McGill B.A 2006 and Mentor with the McGill Mentor Program

As someone who has been on many interviews in my lifetime as an interviewee, and who is now in the position of interviewer, I thought that I might share a couple of interview tips with past and future alums.   I have decided to refer to these tips as the five “knows.”

    1. Know Your Materials

      If you submit something to a prospective employer, be it a cover letter,  a CV, a writing sample, or even a transcript, you should know it.  I do not mean know it in the sense that you know you sent it to them. Rather, I mean that you should know it inside and out. 

      For cover letters, this means that even if you send out hundreds of form letters (with some customization for each position), you need to remember the manner in which you altered this one.  For example, if you have applied for a number of corporate positions, but then tailored a letter to a non-profit, you need to remember that the selling point in your letter was your concern for the greater good and not the fact that you did well in financial accounting.  While this may seem trivial, discrepancies between written materials and your answers in an interview could raise red flags for potential employers.  

      This also is true with CVs.  While you may have looked over a CV thousands of times to ensure that no errors were made, you may not have altered the description of a position from your past in some time.  Remember, if you put it on your CV (or in your materials), it is fair game for questioning.  So be prepared to talk about anything on your CV.  This rule also applies when writing your CV.  In other words, if it did not happen or it did not happen exactly as you described it in your CV, it should not be in your CV.  A friend recently interviewed for a position and had nonchalantly listed Microsoft Excel as one of her skills.  To her chagrin, the interviewer was an Excel expert and began quizzing her on Excel functions that she was not even aware existed.  Think carefully before you put these things down, unless of course you are prepared to discuss all of the potential Excel functions.

      Transcripts need to be known as well.  Did you do poorly in a course that may matter for this employer?  If so, you will need to be prepared to discuss what happened.  The opposite also is true.  An employer may ask about a course that you did well in as it relates to the company.  This is something that you might want to bring up on your own in the interview as your “background” or “academic background” in the subject area.

      Writing samples deserve particular scrutiny.  You should think about why you submitted that particular sample and, more so than just the writing, the content of the writing.  Is the topic controversial?  Might the interviewer be an expert in the topic?  Either way, it is fair game for discussion so be prepared to know the document inside and out.

      Interviewing can and should be a fun experience, but the only way that it can be relaxed and calm is if one is adequately prepared.  Good preparation begins with a review of your materials (and the submission of the proper materials for that particular position).

    2. Know Thyself

      “To thine own self be true.”  When you interview, you want to express interest in the position but it needs to be genuine.  And while you may practice or feign enthusiasm, most interviewers will not be fooled.

      Moreover, the best way to respond to questions regarding one’s materials is to simply know the materials because they reflect your life.  In other words, so long as they are accurate, and reflect things you have done in your life, you should be able to speak about them honestly. 

      A good interview is a conversation.  A good conversation is a dialogue that flows naturally.  It will not always be easy to establish a good rapport with an interviewer but you should do your best to have a natural back and forth.  In other words, ask questions during the interview where appropriate, do not just wait for the interviewer to ask you if you have questions at the end of the interview.  Find topics of mutual interest.  Engage the person.  Remember that an interview is a two-way event.  In other words, you are learning about the employer as much as they are learning about you. 

      When I interviewed, I tried to think of two or three areas of common interest that might spark a conversation.   Having that knowledge made it easy to push to those topics and to avoid potentially uncomfortable topics.  For example, in an interview for a summer associate position, an interviewer questioned me about my specific experience in a particular area of law.  While my knowledge in that area was somewhat limited, I referred to an article that they wrote and drew an analogy between an area of law in which I was more familiar and that area of law, discussed in the article, in which I knew a lot less.  Just bringing up the article made the interviewer happy and we spent some time discussing the article.

      Be passionate, and be yourself.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

    3. Know Why You Want the Position

      As previously mentioned, you cannot feign interest in a position.  It can be done, but you are more likely to be suspected of feigning interest than you are to be thought of as genuinely interested.  If the former is true, your credibility will suffer.

      As a preparation technique, I would come up with three reasons why you want the position (and why you would be a good fit for the position).  Take the time to be thoughtful and to test your response on other people to get their reaction.  You look organized and thoughtful when you can give your interviewer three good reasons for the fit.

      The reasons need to be genuine and they need to be unique to you and the position.  For example, when interviewing at a law firm it is better to be passionate about the specific area of law that you will be practicing at the firm than to be generally interested in law.  And, further, you should explain why that area of law is interesting to you.  One might say that they want to work on aircraft financing law because they like the intersection of the practice area with business and they find airplanes fascinating.  It is a superior answer to simply being passionate about the practice of law. 

      This ties in nicely with “Knowing Thyself” because a thoughtful and truthful answer, such as that above, may lead into a discussion of airplanes and what fascinates you about them.  Assuming this is a genuine area of interest, it should be a relatively stress-free and comfortable conversation.

    4. Know the Company

      If you can articulate why you want the position, it is likely that you know something about the company.  Knowing about the company is important for a number of reasons, including being able to assess your role (or future) with the company.  For example, if there is news that a division that you want to work in is being shut down or transferred elsewhere, this is something that you might want to know before you talk about that division or plan to work at that company.

      Knowing the company is simply a matter of preparation.  While a general Google search is helpful, I would search specifically for news about the company.  This also is a great starting point for asking questions.  If the interviewer starts telling you something about the company, and you have read about it, that piece of knowledge can look very impressive.  It may also give you a starting point for a discussion of media or news coverage of the company or sector. 

      Knowing the company also means learning about the corporate culture.  The best way to learn about a corporate culture is to look around the offices when you get there.  This does not mean to snoop around the offices but rather to pay attention to your surroundings.  How are people dressed? Is there artwork in the hallways? In people’s offices? How are the offices arranged?  Do people seem happy? Does everyone look tired?  Remember, an interview works both ways, you too are checking out the company. 

      It also helps to ask someone who worked there or who works there about the company.  You can figure out who you know through websites like Google or Linkedin.  If the company has biographies of employees online, as law firms typically do, you may be able to find McGill alums who might be willing to help.  One of my most successful interviews occurred after I had a law school alum, who had worked at the company, brief me on all of my interviewers ahead of time.

    5. Know the Interviewer

      The best way to know the interviewer is to talk to someone who worked there or who works as the company as discussed above.  Another good tip is to Google them and to see what kinds of organizations they are a part of and what publications they have written.  Both avenues provide good conversation starters and help to give you an idea of their personality type and what they might want to discuss with you.   I had one interview with an HR director who had posted articles online regarding interview techniques.  Needless to say, I did not tell her about this find, but I took the tips to heart when meeting her.  Similarly, if you ever interview with me, and I hope you will, I hope you will take these tips to heart.

      • Experts say new technology responsible for one in six hires in next three years
      • The hiring climate in mining and energy sectors is booming in the West
      • Occupational highlight: Pharmacists
      • And more!

Prepare well and be yourself.  Good luck.

Transitioning from School to Work: The CaPS Job Finding Club

Yakun He, Bachelor of Science 2010

After completing a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences, I decided to combine my background in science and my interests in working in a customer-oriented environment to launch my career. However, this was a lot harder than I imagined when I started my job search, seeing that most of my experiences were laboratory-related. In fact, I not only felt a little lost in front hundreds and hundreds of job postings, I also wondered if sending out massive CVs and applications is really the way to go to get myself started in the right place.

Through a CaPS ad, I discovered the Job Finding Club and eventually enrolled in it, hoping that I could get some tips or advice to advance my job search. But what I learned from was far more than what I expected. In fact, this two-week intensive workshop teaches everything from A to Z in a job search process, including discovering one’s own strengths, overcoming the fear of networking and concrete suggestions on how to say thank-you after an interview. The advisors were very understanding and they were really giving it their best to help the students physically and mentally in their job hunting. It was such an enriching and amazing experience listening and talking with the CaPS advisors, and people in the JFC were very supportive of each other by reviewing each other’s CVs, practicing interview questions or just recounting each other experiences and networking stories. By the end of the workshop, we sort of formed this special bond between us and the fact of constantly updating about each other’s progress really made job hunt an enjoyable and motivating process.

After attending the JFC, I also learned about the Mentor Program and made use of the CaPS library. I knew that CaPS has some good resources, but I did not expect it to be that helpful.  In fact, there are tons of material you can find such as videos of past CaPS guest speakers, samples of eliminatory exam questions, interview preparation etc. which helped me a lot to get through my interviews that led me to my current job. I now work in the health claim division of Canada’s largest insurance company, which I believe is a great starting point for my career. With the help of the CaPS advisors, resources and the experiences I had at the JFC, I learned to better define my strengths, was reminded of the importance of maintaining relationships, and became more strategic about looking for jobs and career options. I would definitely recommend the JFC to anyone who’s about to embark on his first adventure in the job market!

Labour Market Information Report

Lisa Lin, CaPS Resource Consultant

This monthly bulletin aims to inform you of major news and trends in the Québec, Canada and U.S. labour markets. Your feedback is welcome caps [dot] library [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

In this issue

The good news

Employment bright lining in cloud computing
Montreal Gazette, 14 March 2012
Cloud computing will be responsible for one in six hires in the next three years.

Canadian hiring outlook warmest in the West
The Globe and Mail, 13 March 2012
Canadian employers see a steady hiring climate in the coming quarter, led by upbeat expectations in the mining and energy sectors.

U.S. jobs picture a tale of two surveys
The Globe and Mail, 13 March 2012
The U.S. labour market is a story of two surveys: one that is good, and one that is even better.

Wanted: 100,000 workers in next decade
Montreal Gazette, 08 March 13, 2012
Canada’s mining sector is entering a period of “significant and sustained growth”, which will translate into the need to hire more than 100,000 additional workers in the next decade.

Boom de l'emploi dans le Grand Nord
La Presse, 20 February 2012
The Northern Quebec and the North Shore have a high demand for workers in mining, energy and service sectors.


The bad news

Young leading exodus from lackluster Canadian labour market
The Globe and Mail, 09 March 2012
An eight-month stretch of meagre job creation is driving more Canadians out of the labour force, especially the young.

Job stats continue their wacky course
Montreal Gazette, 10 March 13, 2012
For the fifth month in a row, Canada's disappointing job performance in February seemed strangely disconnected from an economy that continues to show decent growth.


Other news

Statistics Canada – Labour Force Survey
February 2012
Employment was unchanged in February. A decline in the number of people searching for work pushed the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 7.4%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment was up by 121,000 (+0.7%), with the bulk of the increase occurring in the first half of the period.

Statistics Canada – Payroll employment, earnings and hours
December 2011 (preliminary)
In December, average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $888.26, up 0.7% from the previous month. On a year-over-year basis, earnings rose 2.4%.

Statistics Canada – Labour productivity, hourly compensation and unit labour cost
Fourth quarter 2011
The labour productivity of Canadian businesses rose 0.7% in the fourth quarter, similar to the gain observed in the third quarter (+0.6%).


Occupational highlight

Pharmacists (NOC 3131)

Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists compound and dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals and provide consultative services to both clients and health care providers. They are employed in retail and hospital pharmacies, or they may be self-employed. Industrial pharmacists participate in the research, development, promotion and manufacture of pharmaceutical products. They are employed in pharmaceutical companies and government departments and agencies.

Job prospects in this occupation are good.  In the last few years, the number of pharmacists has grown sharply. Employment growth in this occupation depends primarily on the degree of prescription drug use, developments in the field of practice of pharmacists and the number of pharmacy graduates. The sharp increase should continue over the next few years.
For a complete profile of this and other occupations, visit Career Cruising http://public.careercruising.com/ca/en
Contact us at caps [dot] library [at] mcgill [dot] ca for the username and password or login to myFuture https://csm-caps.mcgill.ca/students/index.php and search for Career Cruising under the tab “Documents/View Career Resources -> Career Resources”.


Lisa’s Corner

Looking for employers in Life Sciences and Biotechnology?
BIOTECanada (http://www.canadianlifesciences.com/) provides a comprehensive database that allows you to find a list of companies and institutes in Life Sciences and Biotechnology in Canada.  The database currently has information of 1700+ companies and is searchable by map, location, and industry sectors.  The main sectors in this site include biotechnology, pharma, medical technology, media, supplier and engineering, investor, professional services and consulting.  You may also check out the links “Events” and “News” to keep you updated about what goes on in the industry.


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