Blog Archives

5 Underrated Traits That Can Get You a Job

Some employment skills, essential though they are, rarely feature in job ads. Many of our clients have these in spades, but never mention them because employers don’t specifically solicit that information. When’s the last time you saw a job posting asking for kindness? Helpfulness? Humility?
Skills and credentials are important, but personality and culture fit will sometimes serve as the ultimate deciding factors. The following five personality traits can either complement a skilled candidate’s experience, or make up for a lack thereof. If you have any of these five skills, don’t be afraid to mention them in your application. They might just tip the balance in your favour!

1. Likability

Don’t misunderstand us: Likability does not mean being artificial, inauthentic, or unremarkable. Likable people let their individual personalities shine without compromising respect for other people. Being likable has a few key benefits. Likable people are more likely to have their mistakes forgiven. They usually have an easier time getting help at work, and also find it easier to persuade others. They enjoy these workplace privileges because people instinctively want to assist and please them. As you’ll see, trying to be more likable is definitely worth the effort.
True likability sounds like the kind of trait you have to be born with, but almost anyone can increase their own likability with conscious effort. Demonstrate sincere curiosity about and interest in others. Smile frequently, mimic other people’s body language, and search for common ground. All of these behaviours must be carefully managed, as doing any one of them to excess might unsettle people, but incorporating them into your everyday social strategy should encourage employers to envision you as one of their team.
Don’t forget that likability is just as important online as it is offline. If you project genuine warmth and authenticity in person, be sure to project that same persona through your social media channels.

2. Kindness

Have you ever heard that nice people finish last? Well, we’re here to tell you that the data disagrees! Candidates who are described as helpful and kind by references, or who are perceived to be particularly kind during interviews, are twice as likely to be hired compared with candidates who focus exclusively on skill and talent. If your employer believes you’ll be a kind, cooperative person, they might even give you a higher starting salary, and will certainly trust you more readily with their team.
Here’s the thing: bright stars who court the spotlight take up a lot of oxygen, and no workplace can sustain too many of them at a time. While employers need and respect brilliance, they also look for candidates with helpful, collaborative spirits. These are the people who give a workplace its strength, positive culture, and resilience.
Pro tip: if you know yourself to be a kind, helpful person, don’t be afraid to ask your references to highlight that aspect of your character. Employers will notice.

3. Humility

In theory, humility is a value much of society holds dear, but we seldom see it demonstrated in traditional workplace culture. All too often, we are encouraged to play to win; be the best; eliminate the competition; aggressively pursue our goals. Inevitably, getting a job means someone else was not chosen, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace humility as a professional value. If you do, you will be welcomed with open arms by employers who value cohesive workplace cultures.
How can you demonstrate humility? Here are a few ideas:
• Ask for and use candid feedback about your performance.
• Treat everyone respectfully, even if they are below you in the professional hierarchy.
• Remain open and receptive to advice and education, no matter where it comes from.
• Value the perspectives of others, especially if they are different from your own.
Practicing humility doesn’t mean being meek or subservient. It means nurturing a growth mindset, even if you have vast experience and skills. Approach life humbly, and you’ll discover infinite opportunities for growth, learning, and self-improvement.

4. Cultural Competence

Comfort with cultural diversity is not only desirable, but expected in the 21st-century professional world. It is so integral to almost every occupation that it’s surprising it is not explicitly mentioned in more job advertisements. If you’re able to exemplify cultural competence, or at least a willingness to develop it, you’ll put yourself at the head of the pack in most industries. If you lack cultural competence, you might face increase conflict and confusion in the workplace.
There is no shortcut to developing cultural competence. You’ll need a combination of study and lived experience to hone this skill, and the sooner you make it a priority, the better your career prospects will become. Spend time with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Observe and research the way different cultures communicate, manage time, collaborate, and handle sensitive workplace situations. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be an asset to any team.

5. Coachability

Coachability is an essential skill that has its foundations in humility. As we discussed before, humility means being receptive to feedback, remaining open to differing perspectives, and accepting that everyone has something to teach you. Coachability builds on all these principles to make you a resilient, responsive, and highly adaptable (and valuable!) employee.
You can demonstrate coachability by:
• Soliciting feedback rather than waiting for colleagues to provide it.
• Showing a willingness to grow and adjust when faced with uncertainty and change.
• Listening carefully when receiving constructive criticism.
• Owning your mistakes and proving you can learn from them.
If you are truly coachable, you can transcend almost any other barrier in your path. What employer wouldn’t be impressed by that?

Is your resume feeling a little lackluster? Have you caught yourself using the same clichés in your cover letters? Visit the Community Hub to take advantage of our free resume writing service, or ask about our specialized employment programs. Our staff will be more than happy to help.


3 Reasons Your Job Search is Unsuccessful (and How to Improve)

The job hunt is unpredictable: there’s no way to know how long it will take or what the results will be. This unpredictability should never be used as an excuse not to conduct the most organized and efficient search possible, though. Yes, job hunting is somewhat influenced by luck, but many unsuccessful, frustrated job-seekers are going about things in entirely the wrong way.
Here are a few reasons your job search might not be going as well as you’d like, and some ways to turn it around.

You’re Living the Unemployment Lifestyle

If you’re reading this after having spent two hours firing off resumes from your bed, this section is for you.
There’s a reason the phrase “looking for a job is your job” is so often spoken. This piece of well-worn wisdom has solid roots. If you approach your job search as a disorganized, chance-based process, it will lead to unnecessary stress and exhaustion.
Treat your search like a new job. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. For example, decide how many resumes you want to send out in any given week, and aim to meet those expectations, just as you would in any other job. Targets, plans, and deadlines are excellent methods of organization whether you’re employed or not.
If you structure your life the way you would if you were already employed, you’ll increase motivation even more. Avoid sleeping in, lounging around in your pyjamas, and job searching from your couch. Maintain a healthy routine, and resist the urge to isolate yourself. Make sure you’re always in “productivity mode,” so you’re ready to hit the ground running once you do receive that job offer.
Good news: DECSA’s Community Hub, which is open to the public, is an ideal place to go if you need to be productive somewhere other than your kitchen. You can work in a comfortable, well-equipped environment where free coffee, expert advice, and Wi-Fi are always available. What’s not to love?

You’re Afraid to Network

We know, we know: networking is nerve-racking, especially if you’re introverted or shy. Social anxiety and other issues can complicate the process (we have a program for that). No matter how you might feel about it or what type of job you’re looking for, networking is an unavoidable reality. You may as well resign yourself to that fact and start giving it a try.
Networking can take various forms, depending on your needs. It can be as simple as talking to people—friends, family, former classmates—about your job search and what you’re looking for. Even the most casual conversation over lunch with an acquaintance can produce a promising lead.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can take your networking to the next level. Join professional organizations and mingle with people who work in the field of your interest. Getting to know these people will equip you with updated knowledge on your industry, including salary expectations and soft skills you may not realize are in demand. These professional networks can also help you tap the hidden job market, since many jobs are never advertised publicly at all.
Having a support system of some kind is a good idea on general principle. Knowing that there are people looking out for you when you struggle can be a relief in itself.
More good news: One of our strengths here at DECSA is our network. We have placed so many clients throughout the years that we’ve amassed a long, diverse list of contacts. Regardless of what you’re looking for, it’s likely we’ll know the right people.

You’re Not Getting Noticed

Online job hunting is convenient, but it does come with one huge drawback: competition is fiercer than ever, and you have fewer opportunities to market yourself. It’s challenging to stand out in the crowd when you’re up against hundreds of applicants. People tend to apply for jobs they’re unqualified for, simply because online forms make it so easy to do so. Your application, no matter how relevant, can get buried, so it’s no longer optional: you must set yourself apart.
Application forms ask for standard information, which can be an obstacle when attempting to catch a hiring manager’s attention. The best strategy is to present standard information in a nonstandard way. Anyone can list a long series of job duties, so try focusing on your personal accomplishments instead. Did you go above and beyond in your last position? Which tangible targets did you surpass? In which ways did you improve the organization you worked with last? Fitting this information into the boilerplate application form will demonstrate initiative and personal achievement.
Most applications will ask for a resume, even if you must also fill out a separate form. This is your moment. Make it count. There are thousands of articles out there to help you craft a customized resume that will demand the right type of attention, so we won’t get into specifics here, but rest assured that a tailored resume is a must. You may even find yourself adjusting your resume for each application, so choose a flexible format. Please, never neglect the cover letter. It’s not always required, but it’s almost always going to give you an edge.
The best news yet: did you know that here at DECSA, we have resume and cover letter writing services? If you drop by our Community Hub on week days, our expert staff will help you write a personalized resume and cover letter. You don’t need to be a DECSA client. All you have to do is visit us.

If you’re looking for a way to kick your job search up several notches, please contact us. Even if you don’t qualify for one of our specialized programs, you’re still more than welcome to make use of our extensive walk-in services, equipment, and well-stocked business library. In the meantime, browse our website for more information.
Good luck!

Resume Basics: Part 2, Functional


Last week we talked about chronological resumes, and what their advantages and disadvantages were. A functional resume, unlike the chronological resume, focuses on your skills, rather than your work experience. According to the ALIS website “A functional resumé highlights what you did, rather than where and when. It focuses on specific skills you have gained—through school, hobbies, paid employment or volunteer work—that relate directly to the work you’re seeking.” Some people choose to still list their employment history at the bottom, with or without dates, but it is also standard practise to leave it out entirely.

Sample 1

Sample 2

So who would benefit from using this resume style?

  • Someone who has had gaps in their employment history, or has never worked at all
  • A recent graduate with limited work job related experience
  • A person who has frequently switched jobs
  • Someone who is transitioning into a new career

Are there any drawbacks in writing a functional resume?

The biggest problem with the functional resume is that many employers are suspicious of it. Employers tend to think that the applicant is “hiding” something (rightly so), and red flags begin to pop up. There’s a possibility that the potential employer will start to focus on searching for what’s “wrong”, rather than focusing on the skills that the applicant actually has. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use a functional resume, especially if a chronological or combination resume highlights the work experience that you don’t have. You want to choose the style that best showcases your skills.

What’s a combination resume? Subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss out on the final instalment in our resume series!

Still overwhelmed in your job search? Come on down to our Community Resource Centre! We offer resume writing assistance, as well as access to computers, printers, fax machines, telephones, and a fax machine. We are open Monday to Friday from 8am until 4pm.

4 Reasons to Volunteer 5 Hours

There are 168 hours in one week. How do you spend those hours?

Let’s imagine you’re the average Canadian. You spend 56 hours asleep. That leaves 112. You spend 30 of your 112 waking hours watching TV. That leaves 82. Next, there’s about a 50% chance you volunteer. If you’re part of that 50%, then you probably volunteer about 3 hours a week.

Here are 4 reasons to take 5 of those TV-watching hours and turn them into volunteer hours. I’m Claire, an avid fan of volunteering. I just happen to volunteer here at DECSA.

Why is volunteering way better than watching TV?

  1. You meet people and make connections: Volunteering is a great way to get to know people. One summer I volunteered in a camp kitchen. The next summer they hired me as their kitchen assistant. The next summer they gave me a great reference for another job. I also made three good friends at that camp, and they’re still my friends today.
  1. You build new skills and learn new things: You can learn a lot in volunteer positions. You can even choose a skill you want to develop and find a volunteer position that helps you practice it. I wanted experience in writing, so I’m volunteering in social media at DECSA. I’ve learned a lot about online communication, media relations, non-profit organizations, and employment in Edmonton. I can take my new knowledge and experiences into future jobs and use it to help out friends and family.
  1. You beef up your resume: Volunteering, especially if it’s related to the job you’re applying for or if you’re short on work experience, looks really good on your resume. Employers notice that you have experience and that you’re contributing to society. I’ll definitely put DECSA on my resume.
  1. You help other people: You have a chance to help others while doing things you’re passionate about. Maybe you love art or music or math or English. Maybe you care about people with disabilities or mental health conditions or addictions. Edmonton has volunteering opportunities in all of these areas. I connect with people’s need to find work, and I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that supports Edmontonians in their search for employment.
Claire working away at her DECSA desk

Claire working hard at her DECSA desk

Convinced that volunteering is worth your while? Check out Volunteer Edmonton to find out about opportunities around town.

You can also volunteer with DECSA by providing admin support. Duties include reception, taking calls, building resumes for walk-in clients, and helping clients use the computers in the Community Hub. If you might be interested in volunteering with us, call us at 780-474-2500 or email us at We’d love your company!