Joy Cohen is the author of Take Aim: How to Get Noticed and Hired In Tough Times. She’s a human resources professional, with over 10 years of recruitment and talent management experience, as well as an accomplished resume writer and career coach.

Calgary’s Business: Tell me a little bit about what you do and how you came to be in this industry?

Cohen: I provide contract recruitment consulting, workshops, career advising and resume writing services to recruitment firms, non-profit career service agencies, private sector outplacement and career service organizations, and individual clients.

Joy Cohen’s advice: Stop blasting untargeted resumes for any job out of desperation – it doesn’t work

My services include intensive and specialized help for job seekers to help overcome complex issues such as employment gaps, prolonged layoffs, age discrimination, and barriers faced by immigrants and career/industry changers.

Prior to launching my own company, I was a registered social worker for many years in the non-profit sector, where I provided settlement services, addictions counselling, emergency mental health, and crisis intervention services to vulnerable Albertans and their families through several different organizations.

I stepped away from full-time social work due to several upheavals in my own life in the early 2000s. Even so, I had to find work to support my son, who was very young at the time. I went to see a career practitioner who helped me to identify my transferable skills. He suggested that I would be good at career counselling. Shortly thereafter, I was hired to recruit and train new crisis line workers at the Distress Centre.

I honed my recruitment skills and leveraged these to land a job in the private sector as a recruiter, prior to being offered a position as a career coach at Career Connection. After being laid off from Career Connection in 2010, I marketed myself as a career services contractor and landed several positions.

CB: How does someone get noticed and hired in these tough economic times?

Cohen: Stop blasting untargeted resumes for any job out of desperation – this doesn’t work. Focus on networking. Speak with the hiring manager before tweaking your resume and applying online. Create a strong LinkedIn presence and learn how to use LinkedIn to find and be found for opportunities.

CB: What are some of the most common mistakes in a resume?

Cohen: Not tailoring and branding your resume to speak to the needs of the potential employer. Resumes that are too long. Usually two pages is sufficient. Resumes that contain spelling and grammatical errors. Listing job titles and responsibilities instead of quantifiable accomplishment statements. Resumes and cover letters that contain “fluff” or meaningless clichés such as “results driven team player,” and “hard working, highly motivated, passionate keen learner” and so forth.

CB: What about a cover letter?

Cohen: Cover letters are still expected, regardless, so ensure that you do send a targeted cover letter, unless you are informed by the employer that a cover letter is not required. Other cover letter mistakes include rambling, sending the same cover letter for all jobs and not following up.

Cover letters should speak to the employer’s needs in a concise and persuasive way. Include accomplishment statements in the cover letter that you were not able to put into your resume and link those accomplishments to the employer’s needs.

CB: What’s your sense of the hiring climate in Calgary these days?

Cohen: The hiring climate is slowly improving as Albertans are continuing to recover from one of the most serious recessions in our history. As more pipeline projects are approved, there will be a resurgence of job opportunities in the oil and gas sector for years to come. Growth for job opportunities are expected in the construction industry, and occupations that support the construction business, such as retail sales, hospitality, health, logistics, transportation, and more. As many skilled workers have left Alberta or changed careers, there will be challenges to fill vacant positions.

– Mario Toneguzzi

tough economic timesThe views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.