Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview Dos and Don'ts

As a Senior level professional in the recruitment industry I have done my share of screening candidates over the years and consider myself pretty competent at determining who is qualified to move forward to an interview with the hiring manager. That being said it still astounds me how many potential candidates will go to an interview and have an unsuccessful outcome. A candidate can have all the credentials in the world but if they don’t follow certain basic interview rules they will not move forward. This list is based on feedback I’ve received from clients and should be on everybody’s list when attending an interview.

DO have an professional and tidy appearance. Even if you know the company has a culture of casual dress, you should still dress formally for an interview.

DON’T be late for the interview. This should seem obvious, but happens way too frequently. Plan ahead. Plan for traffic, and finding a parking space, and finding the office.

DO go in knowing something about the company or organization and what they do. It is your responsibility to do your research and be aware of the company’s profile.

DON’T badmouth former employers or a former boss.

DO remember to follow-up. If you are dealing with a recruiter, you should follow up with them. Otherwise send a thank you note to the hiring manager directly.

DON’t fail to answer the questions you’ve been asked. Just as it sounds, make sure you are answering what is being asked, and not going off on a tangent.

DO be prepared to describe your qualifications for the job. Be specific. Let the hiring manager know how your qualifications fit with the job specifications.

DONT talk too much or too little. As a rule, the candidate should be doing most of the talking, while not taking over the conversation. If you find the hiring manager doing most of the talking, gently try to guide the conversation back to you and your qualifications. Otherwise they will come away with little or no impression of you.

DON'T use inappropriate language and do make eye contact. Be aware that you are attempting to put your best foot forward.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Should You Incorporate? Sole Proprietorship vs. Incorporation

 It can cost $1000 or more to incorporate your business. But is it worth it? This article compares the pros and cons of the two most common types of businesses that we see: Sole Proprietor and Incorporated.

Tip: You can change the legal structure of your business as it grows. Many small businesses start out as a sole proprietors or partnerships and become incorporated as the business grows.

1/ Liability
One of the main advantages of incorporation is limited liability. A sole proprietor assumes all of the liability for the company. As a sole proprietor your personal assets, such as your house and car can be seized. As a shareholder in a corporation, you are not responsible for the debts of the corporation unless you have given a personal guarantee.

2/ Corporations Carry On
Unlike a sole proprietorship a corporation has an unlimited life span. The corporation will continue to exist even if the shareholders die or leave the business.

3/ Tax Credits
Income tax rates are lower for Corporations than for personal income. Using tax planning, the tax burden can be reduced by earning income through a Corporation, due to the lower corporate tax rates.

4/ Income Control and Tax Deferral
If you are incorporated, you have options to determine when you personally receive income from your corporation. Being incorporated allows you to report your income at a time when you will pay less tax. You may be able to realize tax savings if you receive your income at a time when you are in a lower tax bracket or if taxes have fallen.

5/ Income Splitting
With a Corporation, there exists the opportunity to pay shareholders salary, dividends or a combination of the two. Your spouse and/or children could be shareholders in your corporation giving you the opportunity to redistribute corporate income to family members with the lower incomes taxed at a lower rate.

6/ Perception
Some people perceive corporations as being more stable. Having Ltd., Inc., or Corp. as part of the company’s name may help you attract business.

7/ Paperwork
Incorporation brings with it extra accounting and paperwork. Corporations must maintain minute books, corporate bylaws. Other required corporate documents are register of directors, the share register and the transfer register.

8/ Non-Calendar Year Ends
Corporations have the ability to choose their year end, and not be restricted to a calendar year-end as with a Sole Proprietorship. This opens up the possibility of bonus deferrals. Choosing a year-end may also be better for year-end paperwork filing should your business be busy at the end of the calendar year. By incorporating, you can choose to have your year-end fall during a slow period.

I‘ve outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of incorporation versus sole proprietorship but what’s the bottom line? Is getting incorporated worth it or not? I recommend that you discuss your personal situation with your accountant and lawyer before you decide.

Tim Collins

Monday, November 23, 2009

Impact Gala Caps Off Global Entrepreneurship Week

Last weekend I was honoured to attend the Impact Entrepreneurship gala which capped off Global Entrepreneurship Week and the Impact National Conference 2009. After meeting the aspiring young entrepreneurs at the gala I can assure you that the future of the Canadian economy looks bright.

Kunal Gupta founded the Impact Entrepreneurship Group in 2004. Impact is Canada's largest non-profit, student-run organization dedicated to encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth in Canada (

A longtime entrepreneur myself I was inspired to meet the next generation of entrepreneurs. It was incredibly fun to be in a room filled with young people from all around the world who are bursting with new business ideas and the energy to see those ideas through. I was impressed again when my mailbox filled up with "nice to meet you" emails from the youth I met at the gala. I know these people will have an enormous positive influence on our economy, creating jobs and wealth for themselves and others.

Justin Trudeau was the keynote speaker at the Impact Gala. After the conference he tweeted, "Blown away by the young leaders at Impact entrepreneur's conference yesterday; tomorrow is in good hands. Journée famille dans le nord." Justin presented a strong vision for engaging more young people in entrepreneurial projects and helping young Canadians think INNOVATIVE!

I started young as an entrepreneur myself. I think it began when I sold gift items from the Regal Catalogue so I could buy a bike. In high school I saved money for university by starting up a sports skills summer camp. While I attended Waterloo University I ran an Student Painters franchise in California. I'm thrilled to see that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking among today's youth and that Impact is there to help them.

I've noticed lately that small and medium sized businesses create many of the job orders that we receive. Many small businesses are thriving in this tough economy. I believe that entrepreneurs are leading the recovery from this recession. The students and new grads I met at the Impact Gala will contribute to a bright future for all of us. I have no worries about Canada's economic recovery.

I applaud the Impact team for inspiring our youth to think big, achieve their mark, and ultimately turn their very own entrepreneurial ideas into reality!

Tim Collins

Sunday, November 22, 2009

8 Tips to Differentiate Your Resume

Most employers and staffing companies receive five times more resumes for a job post than we did a year ago. Stafflink reviews as many as 2000 resumes in a month. A hiring manager or recruiter at a Fortune 500 company may review even more. How can you make your resume stand out and be one of the few that makes it to the next stage? Some keys to differentiating your resume are:

  1. Readability
    Layout and ease of reading are essential to getting your resume noticed. All too often the best candidate does not have the best resume. Sometimes a weaker candidate with a more readable resume gets to the interview. Make sure your font is readable on a variety of computers. When friends proofread your resume ask them for feedback on size and clarity of the font and layout you have used. Use consistent formatting. Your headings should be the same style throughout the document. Use bold text, indents, lists and tables to assist recruiters with finding the information they are looking for. You may be the most qualified but if people cannot quickly scan your resume and find the relevant points you will not get the job.
  2. Use of Tables or Charts
    Use a table to summarize your number of years of experience with skills. For example, hiring managers love to be able to look at a resume and see that the candidate has 7 years Java, 7 years Oracle and 5 years in the banking industry, without having to flip through the entire resume. Staffing companies routinely summarize candidate’s skills for clients. Why not do it yourself and make sure your experience gets noticed.
  3. List Your Accomplishments
    While it is important to list the key job responsibilities for each position you've held, it is equally important to list your accomplishments. For example: “Reduced payment processing time by 30% when new business intelligence tool was implemented.” Your accomplishments show the added value that your bring to a job.
  4. List the Technical Environment For Each Position
    List all the tools that you worked on with each project. Make sure these tools correspond with the table listing the number of years of experience with skills. A recruiter should be able to look at each job and know immediately what technical tools you used to complete a project. Describing the technical environment is a good way to add relevant keywords to your resume.
  5. Key Words
    Almost every recruiter will try to fill their requirement by doing a Boolean search on their applicant tracking system, Web 2.0 tool or online job board. Put as many key words as possible into your resume. Recruiters do not have time to read every resume they receive. Usually recruiters will search resumes using keywords relevant to the job. Keyword searches enable recruiters to create a shortlist of resumes that rank highest in searches. These are the resumes that we take the time to open and read more closely.
  6. Cover Letter
    A good cover letter or email introduction with an attached resume is another way to get your resume noticed. Make sure it is specific to the job you are applying for. This needs to be no more than three paragraphs. List your most relevant qualifications in bullet points. The main purpose of the cover letter is to get the recruiter to read your resume. I recently received two page cover letters. I can guarantee you that a lengthy cover letter does not help a person get hired.
  7. Volunteer Work
    This is valuable work that not only helps society but can lead to your next job. Do not just mention that you worked for Big Brothers. Talk about what you have done for Big Brothers and some the skills that you developed and contributed to this work. If two candidates are identical in technical skills, sometimes volunteer work will differentiate you as a desirable candidate.
  8. Review of Resume
    Have at least five different people read over and comment on your resume before you post it. Some clients will not interview you because you have a grammatical error on your resume. Do not differentiate yourself with a spelling mistake. While spell check is a great tool to start with, make sure you have some human eyes read over your resume as well.

Tim Collins

Monday, November 9, 2009

Preparing for New Accessibility Laws

On Jan. 1, 2010, the government of Ontario rolls out the first phase of its new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This new legislation requires the public sector to comply with new customer service standards. Private companies have until 2012 to comply. If you have more than 20 employees and you serve customers then this is a good time to ramp up your efforts to make your business more accessible.

By making your business more accessible you'll be reaching out to a market estimated at $25 billion. Perhaps the most compelling argument is that reaching out to and embracing fellow citizens who face physical or cognitive disabilities is the right thing to do.

Study after study proves that diverse and accessible businesses are more successful. Many companies invest in marketing campaigns to spread the word about their diversity. When your company is fully accessible to persons with disabilities and a wide spectrum of people with diverse backgrounds, you'll enjoy improved customer and employee loyalty and a broader market for your services. Accessibility is a differentiator that will allow you to retain staff and become more successful. I know firsthand this because it has worked for Stafflink.

Training your staff is essential to getting on board. Some training options you could explore:

I offer diversity and accessibility training throught Stafflink Solutions as well. I'm speaking at the HRPA 2009 Diversity Conference on November 25.

George Brown College is an example of a firm that thrives by embracing diversity and improving accessibility to their programs. Their acclaimed assistant chef program has a nearly 100% placement rate and is regarded as one of the best in North America.

Do you have success story about making your business more accessible and embracing diversity? Please share it.

For more information about the legislation:

Tim Collins

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Canada’s Wireless Industry

Recent studies have shown that Canada’s wireless industry is one of the most expensive in the world and yet one of the most inefficient.

The big three: Rogers, Telus and Bell seem to be able to add fees to your bill for things they call "government regulations". One almost needs a PHD to read and understand a phone bill. We were excited to hear that the Big Three would have some competition in 2010.

It seems logical that more competitors would bring prices down and perhaps even make the hieroglyphics they call a bill more readable. We will see soon.

If you are negotiating for a new phone plan these days the Big Three will give you more rebates than in the past. But why should we have to negotiate buying a phone like we are buying a car. Just give me the best price without me having to negotiate and I will be very happy.

A recent ruling by the CRTC has challenged whether or not Gloablive, one of the companies that is supposed to compete with the Big Three, will be able to go ahead. The concern is Globalive’s foreign ownership.

Globalive has hired hundreds of Canadians and is ready and setup shop here to compete with the Big Three. I am told that they are more ready than some of the other new competitors. (Globalive is not a client of our firm).

My question: If a foreign owned company can create hundreds of jobs for Canadians and create more competition for some of our own firms is this a bad thing? I recognize that I am simplifying this analysis. But I know this much for sure. Most Canadians are in favour of creating more jobs for Canadians and having cheaper wireless services.

The government is now getting involved on the ruling on this case. How do you think the government should rule on this? Should the wireless industry be regulated by government? Do we need more competition in the wireless industry? Should new wireless firms be required to be Canadian owned and operated?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Employment Gaps on Resumes

Many jobseekers are worried because they have 4-6 month gaps on their resumes. In the past recruiters were told to put candidates with gaps into a "B" pile. Two years ago if a candidate went to an interview with a large gap in work experience, they would be expected to explain the gap.

That question is still going to come up in an interview today. But the cause of “the gap in the resume” is more likely to be the economy.

How long is an acceptable gap in your resume?

There are still employers and staffing companies that only want to hire people that are presently employed. Their theory is that companies will keep their best employees even in a tough economy. This theory is a little short sighted. Many excellent individuals have lost positions not due to own performance but due to the overall performance of their company.

Many employee cutbacks at companies were made to save money. In many cases people with higher salaries were cut and replaced by junior people. Are the junior people better employees than higher priced talent? The point is that many strong candidates are on the market right now because of the economy. This is a great opportunity for employers to access talent that was harder to find in the past.

Every day we interview candidates that would be working in a better economy . We look for patterns on resumes. If a candidate has gaps throughout their 10 year work career than a red flag goes up. But if they have a gap in in the past 6 months it is obvious what caused it.

My advice to jobseekers: Be prepared for the “gap in the resume” question. Do not just say it is because of the economy. Give a brief explanation without being negative about your previous employer. Negativity about a past employer is always a red flag for employers.

My advice to employers: Expect to see a surplus of jobs in the spring. Consider all candidates if you want to remain competitive and hire the best new employees.

Tim Collins

Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Business Leads Us Back To Prosperity

Analysts report that both Canada and United States will likely reach 10% unemployment rates. These figures are not often seen in recent memory. Both countries always have pockets with high unemployment rates due to a troubled industry. But these are national statistics.

Many employers have asked employees to take a pay cut. Every day we meet candidates who tell us that they are willing to take lower paying positions just to get back to work. When the economy picks up again I suspect many people will leave positions in which they feel underemployed in or underpaid. The million dollar question is when this shift occur?

Many people are working from home after being laid off. Some of these people are making substantially less money than they were when they were employed outside the home. This trend can skew employment statistics. Although these people are employed they may be earning half the salary or less than they did in the past. As a society we need to create more high quality long term jobs to support our families and children in the future.

Governments and provinces need to have a vision and a long term plan. What is going to happen when infrastructure money dries up? Will Ontario’s green jobs programs really create jobs?

We need to take risks. Some risks will work and some will not. Venture capitalists expect only a percentage of their projects to work out. The government needs to create a small business venture capitalist group (not the Business Development Bank). This should be headed by entrepreneurs with real experience and knowledge of what it takes to run a business: SME’s. Together small businesses will create more jobs more quickly than most of the Fortune 500 companies. We still need the big companies to create jobs. But we see that the more agile medium sized companies are doing most of the hiring right now. The larger companies have so many checks and balances in place it is difficult for them to move forward. Big businesses often need to have eight signatures on a single request for a new employee which can take months.

I believe we need to set up “braintrust” groups to offer free advice to new entrepreneurs from successful entrepreneurs. This should be funded by the federal government. Presently the governments are trying to buy our way out of the recession by paying for infrastructure (which is good), but why not put some of that money into helping grow the small and medium sized businesses that are creating jobs now?

We will all benefit by funding small and medium sized businesses in the same way that we support big business.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barometer on the Economy

Clients and candidates frequently if we’ve seen any improvement in the economy. The Bank of Canada tells us the economy is recovering. Many economists say the economy is recovering. How do we see it from the front line of the job market?

As an owner of a staffing company I work with small, medium and large businesses in both the public and private sector. This gives me a unique perspective on the economy.
Houses with multiple offers are common in Toronto again, at least in particular neighborhoods. Multiple offers for particular job seekers is happening again as well. Although this is not a frequent trend it is very encouraging. Similar to the housing market people with multiple job offers bring unique skills sets. For example people with functional healthcare knowledge combined with technology skills are highly in demand. iphone developers are also highly in demand at least in the short term. New trends in technology will always generate job openings.

Small and medium size companies are responsible for a small resurgence in the economy. These companies are more nimble and able to accommodate new technologies. The larger companies have more bureaucracy and may be publically traded. This slows down their ability to approve new projects and make decisions.

In the spring of 2010 the economy will make an even stronger come back. This will have a profound on the job market. Many people have stayed in jobs they do not like for the past 18 months. They’ve stayed for security. As the economy surges ahead in 2010 more and more people will be willing to dip their foot into the job market and see what’s out there. This will cause a great deal of turnover within organizations.

Contractors who’ve had their rates slashed by over 20% in some cases will be looking to increase their rates at their present employers or more likely they will be moving onto new contracts. The movement in both contractors and permanent staff will create more opportunities for everybody.

As the economy improves many companies will begin spending some dollars to reopen frozen projects. The combination of permanent staff looking for new positions, contractors looking for new contracts and companies starting new projects will create the perfect storm for the staffing industry.

Key questions: When will this perfect storm take place? As an employer, will you proactively target key staff to keep them in place in preparation for the storm?