Item(s) for the ‘Islamic Articles’ Category

Mar 24,2008


Special to Globe and Mail Update

January 25, 2008 at 11:25 AM EST

When a 20-year-old university student recently Googled himself, he discovered the top result was a 2006 news story that listed him as one of several people arrested on drug-related charges.

The student, who asked that he not be named, recently began applying for work in his profession, which is one that’s prone to extensive background checks. He fears prospective employers might write him off based on what they find out about him online.

“It’s the only real testament to my character that my potential employer would find online,” said the student, who adds that the person named in the story is him, but that the charges were dropped and he has no criminal record. “Likely, I would not even receive a follow-up phone call to allow me to explain the circumstances under which this incident occurred.”

He’s not alone in his concern.

Employers are increasingly turning to online searches or social networking sites to discover information about potential employees. According to research carried out by ExecuNet, a Norwalk, Conn.-based human resources agency, 77 per cent of executive recruiters use search engines to help screen candidates. Meanwhile, employment website CareerBuilder reports that, in a survey of more than a thousand hiring managers, one in four stated they use search engines to help filter applicants.

“I’ve never done my job without Google,” said Cheron Martin, lead technical recruiter at Shore Consulting Group, a Toronto staffing and consulting firm.

However, she pointed out that she’s not conducting searches with an aim to dig up dirt on the applicant, but rather to learn more about their pertinent experience.

“Once I was looking for someone to work as a programmer with the Department of National Defence,” she explained by way of example, “and through online research I discovered that the applicant had previously been with a company that had worked on military applications. It was highly relevant to the position he was applying for, and that information wasn’t on his resume.”

But even if an employer is simply looking to learn more about an applicant’s experience, they sometimes stumble across personal information that can affect how they view the candidate.

One Toronto-based hirer, who asked not to be named, said that a search of a promising candidate’s name turned up a dating advertisement posted by the applicant that contained “sex-related information that could be seen as bizarre.” When she revealed what she had found to a senior executive in her office, he told her that the applicant “wouldn’t be a good fit for their corporate culture.” As a result, the company discarded the candidate’s application.

That screening ability opens a can of worms for human resource professionals.

Hirers can discover information about employees online that, legally, they aren’t allowed to ask about in interviews, such as religious affiliation, marital status and race, says Claude Balthazard of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario (HRPAO).

“If you aren’t allowed to ask about a topic in an interview, you aren’t allowed to use that information if you discover it online,” said Mr. Balthazard. Still, he acknowledged that screening based on inequitable prejudices probably happens, and that most candidates who fall victim to this practice will never be the wiser.

However, there are ways job seekers can manage information about themselves that appears online.

Andy Beal is an Internet marketing consultant with Raleigh, N.C.-based Marketing Pilgrim and co-author of Radically Transparent, a book about managing personal and professional identities online. He works with clients to improve the results returned when their names are searched using Google.

“If a client comes to me with something negative in their search results and wants it pushed out [of the first page of links returned by Google], we have to find ten other pieces of information about them that are positive and get those things to appear before the negative,” he said. “The problem is that scandal is popular. People like to talk about it, and they like to link to negative stories. Google’s algorithm looks at all of those links and thinks that [the page to which these links lead] must be highly relevant to the search query. We have to convince Google that there are other pages with information that is just as relevant.”

It can be an expensive process. Mr. Beal said his clients spend between $3,000 and $10,000 to clean up their search results, and, due to the chaotic nature of the Internet, he can offer no guarantees that, at the end of the day, searching his client’s name will result in nothing but squeaky clean results.

That’s why he recommends that people begin managing their Internet identities before any undesirable information appears online by registering a domain containing a person’s name, or creating personal and professional pages on networking sites like MySpace and Linked In.

“Build up credibility in the eyes of Google,” said Mr. Beal. “You’re being searched all the time, whether you know it or not.”

Some Canadians may already be in the early stages of learning about and managing their online identities. According to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted last fall on behalf of MSN Canada, 76 per cent of Canadians who use the Internet are conscious of the impact that their online activities could have on their image, and 59 per cent have conducted searches of their own names to see what the World Wide Web has to say about them.

As for the student whose name surfaced in a story about a drug bust, he may have solved his problem on his own. He emailed the publication that had originally posted the news story in which he was named, explained his situation, and asked that his name be removed from the article. He received a prompt response stating that his request would be honoured (though, at the time of this writing, the story containing his name was still posted).

Despite his experience of having a negative result associated with his name in online searches, the student doesn’t think it’s invasive for employers to conduct online research into prospective employees. He simply advises they use prudence.

“Discretion needs to be exercised,” he said. “The employer should speak with the person about what is found in online searches before discarding their application.”

The HRPAO’s Mr. Balthazard said this would be an example of best practices in the human resources profession, and he hopes that most hirers take this step. However, just how often employers actually call applicants to give them a chance to explain unflattering information found online is unknown.


Mar 24,2008
Interviews: Set the Stage
Janis Foord Kirk
Monday, January 21, 2008
So acute is the labour shortage in some parts of Western Canada that one Calgary area manager has changed his interview process.”People sometimes drop in with a resume,” says Slade King, CPGA Director of Golf with The Links of GlenEagles in Cochrane. “I used to take it and say I’d have a look at it and then call them for an interview. Now, I drop everything and interview them on-the-spot.” 

King often hires part-time and seasonal workers so on-the-spot interviews make perfect sense. He sometimes even hires on-the-spot, he says. “If I don’t the next employer they talk to will.”

As you move up the career ladder, this seldom if ever happens, of course. And yet, you can never be entirely sure so it’s prudent to be ready to present your case, whether you’re leaning up against a counter at a golf course, behind closed doors in a manager’s office or in a 10 minute telephone call.

Presenting your case is a bit like the making a sales presentation. You need to know as much as possible about the circumstances and needs of your customers (employers). You have to assess and analyse the various features of your product (that’s you). And you have to find a direct and persuasive way to tell people how your product can fulfill their needs (your presentation.)

It’s a subtle process that demands close attention on several different fronts.

Look the part

Like it or not, the way you look creates an impression. Even in these days of anything goes anything does not always go in most job interviews.

Objectivity is crucial. Stand back and assess your appearance. Is it too casual? Too formal? Is it dated? Should you wear your nose ring? Cover your tattoo? If you can’t be fully objective about such things, ask a friend or associate whose style you admire to help you.

The overriding aim is to ensure that your outward appearance is appropriate for the kind of employers you’re approaching and the job you’re going after. A sharp, polished look will speak volumes about you before you open your mouth.

Create a personal profile

This is more involved than a basic list of personal skills and abilities, although that’s part of it. You’re wise to list, as well, the jobs you’ve held (including volunteer and part-time work) and to review each one to identify what you actually achieved on the job and the skills you used to accomplish this.

Reflection of this kind is the essential foundation of a personal profile that clearly states who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and the unique mix of skill and abilities that you bring to the table.

A generic profile of this kind can be targeted to specific jobs, says Heather Stewart, of Sage Transitions, a leadership, coaching and consulting firm in Kelowna, B.C.

“Consider things that you particularly want to emphasize,” Steward advises. “It may be that you have a strong academic background, or a really strong background with experience, or that you feel you have some skills that are a good fit for this particular job.”

Once you’ve highlighted specifics from your profile as they relate to a particular job it’s far easier to get your message across during the interview, says Stewart.

Create an employer’s profile
“The expectation in most organizations is that job candidates will know something about the organization to which they’re applying,” Stewart says.

Research of this kind is fairly easy now, she adds, because many organizations have websites loaded with information such as annual reports, mission statements, current and past projects, executive teams and employment opportunities.

If they don’t, Stewart advises, “Ask for an annual report, or if it’s a smaller company, look for literature and brochures describing what the company does.”

If at all possible, talk to people who work there or who have in the past. Enquire about the needs and concerns of the hiring organization, the overall corporate culture, the company’s products or services.

Extend your research to the industry or field, as well. Review trade magazines and talk to industry experts. Look for information about technological advances, regulatory changes and problems common to the industry as a whole.

The employer’s profile is a backdrop against which you can assess your own profile and decide how to best showcase your strengths.

Manage your mindset

Interviews can be highly subjective. When the chemistry works, you know it; when it doesn’t, it’s obvious, as well.

Still, says executive consultant, Jonn Kares, there are ways to generate positive chemistry before and during an interview.

A mysterious, intuitive dimension, a “6th sense”, connects us in ways we don’t always recognize, Kares believes. And becoming aware of this can give you advantage during interviews.

“If you walk in to an interview concerned about the competition and think to yourself, ‘There might be someone better than me’, you might just as well tell the interviewer, ‘I’m not the one you want’. The person interviewing you can intuitively pick up on your silent self-assessment and agree, ‘You’re not the one we’re looking for’. ”

With a little effort you can control your inner monologue and use the “creative power of thought”, as Kares calls it, to produce a desirable perception of you.

“Thoughts that support and promote you, thoughts like – I make a valuable contribution, people enjoy working with me, I am the candidate being sought – can shape the interviewer’s perceptions,” he maintains.

Don’t worry about feeling nervous, he adds. It’s not your emotions, but rather your actual thoughts that create intuitive chemistry with others.  

“The first step it to hold steadfast to your thoughts about what you want your audience to perceive,” Kares advises. “The second step is to trust that this is what they perceive and what they will remember about you.”

Interview preparation is time consuming. Some people find it boring. And yet, successful job seekers take the time and make the effort. They dress for the job they want, take control of their thoughts and attitude and communicate clearly and well. They know who they are, what they have to offer and how they can meet the employer’s needs.


Mar 24,2008

Lee-Anne Goodman

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No one seems to want to say the “R” word out loud, but there are irrefutable signs that a recession may be looming. And that means even the happily employed should get ready.

The U.S. economy is slumping, and some believe a recession may be inevitable despite damage-control measures enacted by the Bush administration. If growth slows south of the border, that could sound the death knell for jobs in Canada, particularly in the manufacturing and export sectors.

Recessions bring down-sizing as corporations struggle to cut costs, and with down-sizing comes genuine anxiety about prolonged unemployment, a lack of future job prospects and a serious depletion of savings. Even though some Canadian economists remain cautiously optimistic that a recession in Canada will be gentle compared to the mayhem that could unfold in the United States, it’s never too early to start recession-proofing your finances and your career.

“Nobody has a crystal ball,” says Toronto financial planner Andrew Rickard. “If I could predict which way the markets or the economy was going, I wouldn’t be here, I’d be controlling the world from my island villa. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start planning now. Don’t wait until there’s smoke pouring from both engines to strap on your parachute.”

It’s not as hopeless as you might assume, Rickard adds. A few simple and easy measures, taken before a possible recession hits, could make the difference between comfort and anguish during unemployment. It’s no fun scrimping for pennies as you search for a new job, he adds.

Some tips from Rickard:

Start saving now. Ease up on luxury spending, costly vacations, unnecessary big-ticket items, fancy new gadgets and appliances – now is not the time. Ideally, try to have an emergency savings fund equivalent to three or even six months worth of your after-tax earnings set aside.
Don’t even think about raiding your RRSPs to pay the bills. Your retirement savings are for just that, your retirement. They’re long-term investments, so let them do their job. If you cash them in while you’re out of work, especially during a recession when the markets are down anyway, you’ve not only crystallized your losses and triggered a tax bill, but that contribution room is also gone for good. You can’t put the money back in again when you’ve found another job. So don’t borrow from your old age to see you through the present.
Go back to school if you need to upgrade your skills. If you are accepted as a full time student at a university, college or other qualifying educational institution you can take $10,000 a year from your RRSPs (up to a lifetime maximum of $20,000) without penalty under the Lifelong Learning Plan. Your spouse or common-law partner can also participate, meaning one couple could withdraw up to $40,000. After you finish school, you have 10 years to pay the funds back into your RRSP.
No cash on hand? Start saving today by having money automatically transferred from your main chequing account and into a high-interest savings plan on the same day you get paid. Get it out of there so you’re not tempted to spend it. Ask your bank, or look on the Internet. There are lots of high-interest savings accounts available online from places like, HSBCDirect or ING.
Get some credit. If you are concerned about losing your job and don’t think you will be able to accumulate adequate savings quickly, you may have to consider tapping into your home equity – either through a second mortgage or a line of credit – to see you through the rough spots. Don’t wait until you’re out of a job to talk to your banker about a loan. The best time to borrow money is when you don’t need it.
Once you’ve got your finances in order, Rickard says, start making yourself indispensable to your employer. If you’re the type who’s in your supervisor’s office every day to complain about co-workers, the office temperature or the food in the cafeteria, be aware that could be setting yourself up to be the first on the chopping block no matter how many on-the-job strengths you possess. The squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease in times of recession – instead, it could simply earn itself top spot on any axe list being drawn up by already stressed-out managers.

Pull your weight – and then some. Happily take on extra work. Volunteer to work overtime, weekends and to take work home. Be positive; think of it as short-term pain for long-term gain. Companies remember the employees who made their lives easier during stressful times, and are less likely to lay off their stars in both the performance and attitude categories.
Figure out what challenges are facing your employer, and think of ways to come up with solutions. Come up with cost-cutting or revenue-generating ideas.
This is a tough one, and requires a more sacrificial bent than many of us might be able to stomach: offer to take a pay cut. Your employer won’t forget it, and will likely reward you once tough times have passed.

Get your resume updated long before the first hint of layoffs. Make sure it’s picture-perfect. And start looking around to see what’s out there. Talk to a head-hunter. Talk to people in your field about what companies are growing, not cutting. Talk to former colleagues, former bosses, about what’s going on in your industry and if there are any opportunities for you. If the time is right and you get some good leads about possible employment opportunities, consider making a move.

Lee-Anne Goodman