The Workopolis Career Blog Where Canadians go for the latest career news, insights, discussions and advice and advice Wed, 20 Jul 2011 15:58:21 +0000 en hourly 1 Job search blunders, bloopers and bungles Wed, 08 Jun 2011 18:58:29 +0000 Colleen Clarke Job search blunders, bloopers and bunglesLooking for a job can be stressful work. You're constantly writing and revising your resume and cover letters, calling strangers or waiting for the phone to ring. Just a little carelessness during this period can hurt your chances of success. HR experts share some of the unintentionally humorous slip-ups they've seen. ]]>
Job search blunders, bloopers and bunglesA client recently asked me to read over her resume for her and about half way down the page I spotted a typo. She was of course aghast and commented that it must have been there for six months! Whenever you write a resume or cover letter triple check it, then read it backwards from the bottom of the page to the top.

This can help you from making one of the classic mistakes that HR professionals and hiring managers see all the time during the recruiting process. And they love to share their favourites:

Resumes Blunders:

  • Instrumental in ruining an entire operation for a Midwest chain operation.
    (It’s amazing what one letter can do to a word? Spell checking wouldn’t catch this. Ask someone objective to read your documents. Also, this accomplishment is missing the action step, in other words, how did you achieve the result.)
  • I’m a rabid typist.
    (Not only is this a typo, but you don’t need to use ‘I’ in a resume; ‘I’ is assumed.)
  • Develop and recommend an annual operating expense fudget.
    (Kind of a fun play on words actually)
  • Work experience: Dealing with customers’ conflicts that arouse.
    (What about the ones that weren’t so stimulating?)
  • Education: College, August 1880- May 1984.
    (How old are you? Plus, you needn’t mention the months you attended school or the start year, the graduation year is sufficient)
  • Under personal interests: Donating blood, 14 gallons so far.
    (This sounds a little creepy, stick to reading, gardening, travel and volunteer work.)
  • I was proud to win the Gregg Typting Award.
    (I wonder how the losers made out)
  • Here are my qualifications to overlook.
    (Consider it done)
  • Qualifications: I am a man filled with passion and integrity, and I can act on short notice. I’m a class act and don’t come cheap.
    (The qualities in the first sentence are not congruent with one another – passion and acting on short notice should be two separate points ; I won’t dignify the second sentence with a comment.)

Cover Letter Bloopers

  • I am extremely loyal to my present firm, so please don’t let them know of my immediate availability.
    (Mention your availability in the interview, not the cover letter. Oh, and look up the word ‘loyal’ in the dictionary.)
  • I intentionally omitted my salary history. I’ve made money and lost money. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I prefer being rich.
    (When addressing the salary issue in a cover letter, mention your salary is negotiable or that you expect the industry standard. If you feel you have to mention a figure, give a range and mention if it includes benefits in or not.)
  • Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping.’ I have never quit a job.
    (That’s good news, phew! Getting fired is sooo much better. It is only necessary to list jobs that go back 10-15 years maximum.)
  • While I am open to the initial nature of an assignment, I am decidedly disposed that it be so oriented as to at least partially incorporate the experience enjoyed therefore and that it be configured so as to ultimately lead to the application of more rarefied facets of financial management as the major sphere of responsibility.
    (If you wouldn’t – or couldn’t possibly – say this out loud, don’t write it on paper.)

Interview Bungles: Reasons for leaving the last job

  • Responsibility makes me nervous.
    (You might not want to mention that as a weakness either.)
  • They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Couldn’t work under those conditions.
    (That’s inhumane! We’ll be happy to support your sleeping in, by not hiring you. If it is flex time that you need or time in lieu, present what you want, not what you don’t want.)
  • I’ve been working for my mom and she decided to leave the company. (So, you left too? Would we also be obliged to hire your mom to get you to work here?)
  • They didn’t allow me to surf the web as often as I’d like to. They weren’t very nice about it either.
    (A company computer is a tool in which to execute ones’ work, it is not a personal toy. You have to work within the policies of your employer – or go someplace else.)
  • The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers.
    (Do not mention anything negative about a previous employer, whether or not you think they were in the wrong. Plus when you’re the ’scapegoat’ for four jobs in a row, it suggests a pattern where you might actually be the problem.)

The job search process puts you out there in front of people with the written word, voice mail or face to face in an interview. You have lots of chances to slip up along the way, so take your time, triple check your work, think before you answer questions and get other peoples’ help reviewing your work as often as you can.

Good luck!

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

The most common lies on a resume (and what HR actually checks) Fri, 03 Jun 2011 14:18:24 +0000 Elizabeth Bromstein The most common lies on a resumeRoughly 40% of people lie on their resumes, and many more exaggerate. Find out what the risks are, what you can get away with and what the fabrications are that HR professionals are most likely to uncover. ]]> The most common lies on a resumeI recently met someone who had been laid off not too long ago. Telling me about the job search, she said she’d been fudging the truth on her resume and in interviews, and by “fudging the truth,” I mean “lying.”

She’d lost her job, which she’d had for a year, several weeks ago, but told me, “I’m telling them I still work there, and that the role isn’t what I expected when I took the position.”

Another truth she was fudging was her salary, to which she was adding a breezy $20,000.

“Wow,” I said. “That sounds…incredibly stupid.” I am nothing if not charming upon first meeting.

She said she thought it was a “calculated risk.” I let it drop. But I still thought it was dumb. The two things she’s lying about are things that any respectable HR person can easily check, and is likely to. Right?

Not necessarily, as I have since discovered. Who knew?

I asked one HR manager who asked that his name not be disclosed. He told me, “I don’t check last salary. I think it’s not as important as the combination of what people want, market value for the job and what I’m willing to pay. We use a third party to background check everyone as a condition of the offer, so I would usually find out if they were fired or laid off and we confirm exact dates of employment.” This, he says, is the most common resume lie. However, put this in your ‘good to know’ file. He adds, “If they are currently employed and they ask us not to contact their current employer, we won’t, so that’s the risk they could lie about their current situation and get away with it. Also a lot of companies won’t disclose too much info, so sometimes you can’t get what you need.”

Still, even if you get away with it, and land your dream job, for all you know, your old boss could follow you there, or even a former co-worker, and let the cat out of the bag. Or someone could just be chatting with your old boss at a party. The point is, you could get caught at any time.

Regardless of the risks, this old Forbes (pre-recession, but still) article says about 40% of people lie on their resumes. The most common lies listed on are:

    Lying about getting a degree (M.B.A. from Whatsa Matta U)

    Playing with dates (2000-2004: Rikers Island Starbucks)

    Exaggerating numbers (Increased revenues infinity percent)

    Increasing previous salary (They paid me in ingots and conflict diamonds)

    Inflating titles (Most Exalted Grand Poobah)

    Lying about technical abilities (Haskell and Lisp? In my sleep bro!)

    Claiming language fluency ( Urdu, Tagalog, and that African clicking language)

    Providing a fake address (1600 Pennsylvania avenue, 10236 Charing Cross Road)

    Padding grade point averages ( 9.0…What?)

Come on folks. HR peeps are hip to this stuff. You think they never heard of combining your salary and bonus to create an inflated number? Puh-lease. And they’re going to figure out you don’t know Haskell the second they ask you to code something.

Also, if they do find out, they’re not going to tell you. They just won’t hire you. So, you’ll never know, and keep making the same dumb mistake. In the immortal words of Melle Mel: “Don’t do it.”

I don’t think this means, however, that you can’t make things look awesome, maybe awesomer than they actually are, without lying.

If you don’t have the degree, highlight the related courses you have taken. And if you don’t have enough experience, write in action and industry words and play up your skills and accomplishments. How? Easy. Observe:

    Moved a clothing rack – “Redesigned inventory placement.”

    Talked a customer into buying two ice cream cones instead of one – “Increased revenues 100%.”

    Worked as a cashier – “Supervised financial transactions with the public.”

    Answered phone – “Console communications specialist.”

    Pointed a customer towards the bathroom – “Solved customer problems/Improved health and safety

    Showed a new person how to work the coffee machine – “Employee training in office technology.”

    Got creepy person to leave the building – “Enforced security protocol and secured business perimeter.”

    Sent external emails – “Updated communications and served as public relations liaison.”

    Got obnoxious office mate to stop telling dirty jokes – “Served as employee grievance mediator.”

    Unjammed paper from copy machine – “Troubleshooting print technology.”

    Opened baffling attachment: “Served as communications sysadmin.”

    Planned small surprise karaoke party for boss – “Media and entertainment planner.”

Just be sure not to claim anything you can’t back up. Then, as soon as you get the chance, amass the skills and accomplishments you need on the job so you won’t have to stretch the truth next time.

What are these weird job interview questions really looking for? Wed, 25 May 2011 17:09:22 +0000 Elizabeth Bromstein Weird job interview questionsDon't put too much pressure on yourself to answer these questions perfectly, as that will cause you to appear stressed out and flustered. These head-scratchers are aimed at testing your approach, not your answer. The strangest questions we've heard so far? ]]> Weird job interview questions“If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out? …Uh huh, I see. Sorry, you can’t work here.”

It could happen to you., an online “career community where anyone can find and anonymously share an inside look at jobs and companies,” has compiled a list of the most off the wall job interview questions posted on the site. Apparently they culled through “tens of thousands” of them before coming up with the top 25 (10 of which are listed below).

Among them is the above headscratcher from Goldman Sachs. I tried to figure out how I’d answer it, like “Well, if I lived in a world where I can be shrunk to the size of a pencil, then I could just as easily grow right back at will, right? So, I’d just grow back and get out,” which is probably a terrible answer, even though I had hours to think about it and in real life I’d have been expected to answer on the spot — so in truth my answer would probably have been “What!?” I mean, come on. There’s not nearly enough information here. Who shrunk me? How? And, more important, why would someone do that? Then put me in a BLENDER?! What kind of sicko even came up with this question?

I bet I wouldn’t get that job. Interviews, as we have mentioned before, are not my strong point.

My husband said he’d tip the blender over, which probably makes more sense but might require violence since you’d have to slam into the blender walls. And maybe they’re looking for a more thinky answer…(see below for more responses).

What ARE they looking for?

I asked Alexandra Levit, author of such books as They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, How’d You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweet, and New Job, New You. She says they may be looking for a variety of things.

“Depending on the specific odd question, employers are trying to assess your creativity, problem-solving ability, or analytical ability,” says Levit. “They may also be feeling out how you behave under pressure by asking questions that cannot be answered easily and that you cannot prepare for. Given that, the best way to cope with them is to anticipate that you may be asked questions of this nature.”

Other questions on the list include “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” and “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum number [of] guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ for each guess you make?”

Pfffft. Who doesn’t know that?

Workopolis also did its own survey of weirdest job interview questions last year, which you can find here.

Levit adds that you shouldn’t stress about the answer. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to answer these questions perfectly, as that will cause you to appear stressed out and flustered. Keep in mind that most of the time it’s your approach and attitude toward the question rather than the actual answer that interviewers are paying attention to.”

So, what have we learned? There are no right answers. But, don’t kid yourself, there are probably wrong answers. Just be prepared.

The top ten weirdest questions as found on

    1. “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” Asked at Goldman Sachs.

    2. “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” Asked at Deloitte.

    3. “What is the philosophy of Martial Arts?” Asked at Aflac.

    4. “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.” Asked at Boston Consulting.

    5. “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are.” Asked at Capital One.

    6. “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room?” Asked at Google.

    7. “Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?” Asked at Bloomberg LP.

    8. “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” Asked at AT&T.

    9. “You have a birthday cake and have exactly 3 slices to cut it into 8 equal pieces. How do you do it?” Asked at Blackrock.

    10. “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum number [of] guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ for each guess you make?” Asked at Facebook.

See the rest of the questions on

And here are some answers we gathered to the pencil conundrum.

I would stand on the blades, in the middle. Then I would use my puffy shirt as a parachute, and hope that the wind from the blades pushes me up sufficiently towards the top that I could manoeuvre my way to the spout, and FREEDOM! – Neil

Unscrew the nut, remove the blades, go out the bottom…- Peter

I’d just pray that the blender had been through my dishwasher and therefore still had dried berry seeds coating the insides. This would turn the once smooth glass sides into a climbing wall like on a cruise ship or co-op owned mountain equipment retail store. Then I’d just coat my fingers with some protein powder (also left over from dishwasher) in place of chalk and ascend sans rope like Mr Cruise in Mission: Impossible II. Not like Mr Franco in 127 Hours. All (miniature) limbs will remain intact. – Tim

Remove cell phone from pocket. Call for help. – Peter

Beg. – Lee

Go to the corner of my blender, get bare feet and hands and use the friction to climb high enough to pull myself out. – Amanda

I’d wait for someone to add the margarita ingredients and then I’d swim to the top and wave my arms, and yell HELP! HELP! I can’t swim. Then I’d probably drown. – Daphne

Pencils are pretty tall, compared to blenders, so I bet you’d be big enough that you can press your back against one side & your feet against the other, and walk up to freedom (unless it is a slippery blender). – Katarina

The only five interview questions you need to prepare for Wed, 25 May 2011 16:42:40 +0000 Colleen Clarke The five interview questions you need to prepare forInterviewers are very busy people. When you walk into an interview, consider that they already want to hire you. They just want you to be the right fit so they can get on with their next task at hand. The answers to these five questions can tell them all they need to know. ]]> The five interview questions you need to prepare forInterviewers are very busy people. When you walk into an interview, consider that they want to hire you. They want you to be the right fit so they can get on with their next hire or task at hand.

Start the interview with the idea that you have 100 points, you basically have the job. With each question you answer incompletely or fail to impress the listener(s) with, you lose points. Prepare strong answers to these 5 questions, run them by a hiring manager or HR professional then practice, practice, practice. People remember stories they don’t remember words so for each skill you have identified that you bring to the job create relatable and meaningful stories to validate your professional wonderment.

1. What have you done that has caused you to stand out amongst your peers? Explain how you have gone the extra mile by taking courses or volunteering outside of work in a certain skill set area. Even if you are a student interviewing for your first job you can talk about your school involvement in clubs, teams, camp leadership or creative hobbies.

2. What have you done that has caused your company department to either generate income or reduce its costs? Using a Situation, Action Result model, tell a story. Include sourcing a cheaper supplier, recycling a product usually thrown away, or taken a course so a consultant doesn’t have to be hired to do the work. If this ‘result’ hasn’t been a part of your reality then relate how you personally respect and treat company equipment and supplies that may positively affect the environment or recycling programs.

3. What have you implemented to help your company save time? Using SAR’s again, tell of the resource database you put together or a telecommunications implementation. Maybe you designed a form that saved a few steps in a process and was easier to fill out. Be careful about multi tasking stories unless they are moderate and manageable and haven’t led to a weakness like stress or taking on too much or not being able to say no.

4. How did you contribute to the interpersonal element in your company?
Tell about how you organized the company golf day, or have stayed late to help others. Talk about how you make a point of ‘walking around’ to engage your colleagues and comment on something they have accomplished lately or a new clothing item. Make yourself more visible by sitting on a committee and taking the initiative to mentor or orient new employees to your department.

5. What are your weaknesses? Make sure however you answer this question that the weakness does not pertain to any skill required to do the work involved in the position. You might mention how you aren’t as accomplished at something that you would like to be so you are taking a course or practicing daily on your own. It is also perfectly acceptable to say that as far as the skills required to do this job, you don’t have any weaknesses though you are unfamiliar with the way this company executes such and such, but you can learn than in no time and be up and functioning fully within two days, or whatever time line you determine. There are many different answers for this question, whatever you say, be sure to turn it into a positive.

Keep in mind that you are selling yourself first and foremost. Interviewers want to know what results you bring not the features. Be sure to tie what skills you have to what benefits you will deliver, it’s called benefit selling and all successful salespeople use this technique to close a deal. Good luck.

Colleen Clarke
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

Go To Work Without Leaving Home on June 1: Unofficial Work From Home Day Wed, 25 May 2011 16:21:30 +0000 Workopolis Overwhelming support for Work From Home DayPress release: A new study reveals overwhelming support for the national Work From Home Day campaign that was kick-started by Workopolis on Facebook in May 2010. ]]> Overwhelming support for Work From Home DayToronto, ON – May 25, 2011 – To mark the one week countdown before Canada’s Unofficial Work From Home Day, Workopolis today reveals the results of a new survey showing overwhelming support for the campaign which first got the attention of the Canadian Parliament last November. Given all the benefits associated with teleworking, nine in ten (88 per cent) of Canadian workers agree there should be government support for a nationally recognized day, with over half (52 per cent) strongly agreeing.

“Work is not a place you go anymore, it’s something that you do and increasingly something for many workers that can be done anytime and from anywhere,” said Gabriel Bouchard, President of Workopolis. “Technology is changing the very nature of work. Forward-thinking employers are waking up to this new reality, changing their approach and seeing the benefits of new smarter working practices, including remote working, which also reduces transportation costs.”

Support from Coast to Coast

In a separate Omnibus study, Quebec and Atlantic Canada were found to be the most in favour of government support for a National Work From Home Day (80 and 79 per cent respectively). While the Prairie provinces were less likely to want government involvement, the majority surveyed still support the initiative (66 per cent for Manitoba/ Saskatchewan and 65 per cent for Alberta).

To date, over 75,000 Canadians have pledged their support for the Workopolis campaign on Facebook.

Working From Home Works for Many

  • The U.K.’s sixth annual WorkWise Week culminated with a National Work from Home Day on Friday, May 20, 2011 with approximately 5.8 million people telecommuting on their designated day. Not surprisingly, Canadian workers were even more vocal in their support for the Canadian campaign (91 per cent) upon hearing this news.
  • Four in ten (43 per cent) of Canadian workers said their current employer encourages working from home.
  • Telework success stories include Calgary, which just completed its 2nd annual WORKshift Week (April 18-22, 2011); Ottawa which recently announced City Hall would invest $20-million over four years to introduce a telework program for almost 2,000 of its workers and the province of Quebec, which has launched a new program that ‘certifies’ employers that meet standards for encouraging work-family balance – telework being one of those programs.
  • Workers, Employers and the Community all Benefit

    The most commonly perceived personal benefit of working from home for Canadian workers is cost savings. Greater flexibility, which includes aspects such as choosing which hours to work, working on their own terms and reducing stress, was the second most popular benefit for workers. This was followed closely by the ease of caring for others (a pet, children, an ill or disabled family member or an elderly parent). Nearly nine in ten (88 per cent) of those who work from home at least once per week agree they are more productive. There are many fewer distractions when working from home.

    “Mental health is an important part of our overall health and well-being,” says Peter Coleridge, National CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). “Poor work-life balance can negatively impact an individual’s mental health. A flexible work environment that recognizes the need for balance between the demands of work, family and personal life will have positive impacts on employee mental health. Having a national Work From Home Day can help spread that message to more workplaces in Canada.”

    The argument for working from home extends beyond the worker with the top benefits for employers being greater access to qualified employees, increased employee productivity, improved image of the company as a flexible employer and increased employee retention and potentially even reduced operating costs for things such as rent and transportation.

    Greater access for workers with disabilities/health issues, those nearing retirement, with family responsibilities and with accessibility challenges are ranked as top societal benefits, and these will become increasingly important as the labour market tightens. Environmental benefits due to less pollution also ranks highly.

    “High gas prices, growing concerns for the environment and a desire for greater work-life balance, are coming together to create the perfect storm for a remote culture for Canadian workers,” said Bouchard. “Smart employers will have this on their radar. With a looming labour shortage it is becoming increasingly important for employers to set themselves apart to attract and retain top talent.”

    When asked what the likelihood of switching jobs if given the option of working from home, nearly three of every four (73 per cent) Canadians said they would seriously consider it. And if presented with two job opportunities with all other things being equal, 88 per cent said they would chose the one offering the option to work from home.

    Tips for Talking with the Boss:

    With secure technology, trust and clear policies in place it’s never been easier for Canadian workers to work remotely. But four in ten (43 per cent) don’t know how to raise the topic with their employer. Here are some tips for getting the conversation started.

      1. Have a game plan – Do your research and find a good time to have a sit-down meeting with your supervisor. You want to ensure you have their full attention.
      2. Money talks – Studies show that there are many savings that can be realized by having staff work from home occasionally. Show her/him that this can have an impact on the company’s bottom line.
      3. Know who you’re talking to – How you raise the issue is just as important as what you’re saying. As you would for any presentation, make your pitch tailored for the right person to make a compelling argument.
      4. It’s business - Everyone has personal reasons for wanting to work from home (family, pets, etc), but remember your boss is running a business, so make it a business case, not personal.

    To show support for a National Work From Home Day Canadians are encouraged to visit the Facebook page at where they can access sharable infographics with compelling stats such as if one million Canadians worked from home one day a year, five million KG of CO2 could be saved. That’s the equivalent of planting 10 million trees. There are also tools to convince your boss and coworkers that it’s time for a work from home day. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by following @workopolis and using the hashtag #WFHD.

    About the Research
    The Environics Research Group study results were collected through a custom, online survey between April 5-13th, 2011. This included a sample size of 1001 Canadian workers.

    The Environics Research National Omnibus Survey was conducted between April 12-17th, 2011. This included a sample of 1000 Canadians 18 years and over. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.10%, 19 times out of 20.

    About Workopolis

    Workopolis provides Canadian employers and candidates with unrivalled access to one another by combining unique employer branding tools with the largest pool of candidate resumes on the Internet. Through the reach and scope of, extended by exclusive partnerships and community sites including social networking and mobile applications, Workopolis allows employers to engage with qualified candidates, allowing both parties to best assess fit online.

    Canadian owned and operated, Workopolis has grown to 200 staff members across Canada since 2000. Workopolis is in an equal partnership with Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. and Square Victoria Digital Properties Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Power Corporation of Canada.

    Workopolis was chosen as the first organization to be given the Best Emerging Organization distinction as part of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures program and was a recipient of the 2010 50 Most Engaged Workplaces award.

    To arrange an interview or for more information, contact:

    Amy Greenshields or Sebastian Gatica
    Environics Communications or

    CLMs: The Career-Limiting Moves that many people make Wed, 25 May 2011 16:08:44 +0000 Colleen Clarke Career-Limiting MovesCould poor communication skills and annoying behaviour be limiting your employment sustainability? Career experts weigh in on some of the most common career-limiting moves (CLMs) that they witness time and again. ]]>
    Career-Limiting Moves“Like, I was, like, going to like, register for like, a like, course, to like take….” This is an honest to God sentence I heard at my gym this morning. The woman was in her early twenties, and she was working with a trainer who costs about $60 an hour. She must have a job and some money to afford the gym, expensive workout clothes and a trainer. But who does she work for? How can one get, let alone sustain, a job in this market where education reigns supreme and ones’ ability to communicate is paramount.

    If you haven’t already guessed, it was her use of the word ‘like’ over and over again in every sentence that I found so irritating. Whether you are embarking on a summer job search or job hunting because you’re ready to move up, it’s a good idea to ‘hold the mirror’ to your own interactions with others and take a look at how you might be perceived.

    In my Respect in the Workplace workshops participants have identified these behaviors as annoying, disrespectful and promotion busters:

    • Eating other peoples’ food out of the fridge
    • Leaving your dirty lunch dishes/cups on the counter or in the sink
    • Borrowing office supplies from someone’s desk without asking and not returning them
    • Interrupting someone who is on the phone because you think your needs are greater than theirs in that moment
    • Eating at someone else’s desk and leaving remnants of food
    • Chewing with your mouth open
    • Talking to me while I am on the phone and offering ideas for my conversation
    • Barging into a workspace or starting a phone conversation without asking, “Is this a good time?”
    • Women wearing low cut tops which leave nothing to the imagination
    • Flip flopping or shuffling through the office in beach shoe wear; a double whammy is unpedicured feet
    • Dirty clothing
    • Too much cologne or after shave and body odor and bad breath
    • Not getting to the point, rambling on and on
    • Gossip
    • Negativity
    • Whispering
    • Using an outside voice, inside
    • Speaking a foreign language in an English speaking environment
    • Monopolizing a conversation…Representing ‘Me Inc.’ all the time
    • Rude, crude language or dirty jokes
    • Squeaky bodily functions
    • Aggressively expressing personal preferences of religion and politics on others
    • Always asking for donations to kids’ fundraisers, marathons or service club programs
    • Sneezing without covering your mouth
    • Putting people down using humour
    • Having no sense of humour
    • Not responding to emails or voice mail in a timely manner
    • Asking for an opinion or advice but never taking it
    • Repeatedly poor spelling and grammar in emails
    • Using slang and words like ‘crap’ or ‘thingy’ (or as I mentioned, peppering every sentence with ‘like.’)
    • Not doing what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it

    The bottom line is, just because certain behaviour doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it is appropriate. If you work with someone whose behaviour is problematic to you, either speak to the person and make them aware of what they are doing and how it makes you feel, or learn to live with it. If you choose to confront the person try using this non threatening script:

      When you…
      I feel …
      (Because)… not always necessary to use this sentence
      So I’d appreciate if you would…

    There is no guarantee of what will result but at least you have been heard, just make sure you aren’t part of the problem.

    Colleen Clarke
    Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
    Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

    How much diminished employment do you have to accept? Fri, 13 May 2011 15:27:38 +0000 Norman Grosman Constructive dismissal?Leaving your job and claiming constructive dismissal when your work situation changes for the worse can be a risky move. Recent court cases shed some light on how much diminishment of their role employees must accept. ]]> Constructive dismissal?One of the basic precepts of employment law is that an employee who has been terminated, or elects to treat their employment as having been terminated, has a duty to attempt to mitigate their damages. In other words, a dismissed employee must use reasonable efforts to avoid economic loss by seeking out comparable employment. In many circumstances, this can in turn give rise to the question of whether an offer from the existing employer, perhaps involving changes in terms and conditions of employment, must be accepted as a means of mitigating what a dismissed employee would otherwise claim are his or her economic damages from the dismissal.

    In 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada reached a decision (Evans v. Teamsters Local Union No. 31) which caused this area of the law to become more uncertain. In that case, the court held that a terminated employee failed to mitigate his loss after refusing his employer’s offer of re-employment, five months after he was dismissed. This decision lead both dismissed employees and legal practitioners to wonder how far the obligation to accept continued employment from an existing employer, even if terms and conditions of employment change, extends.

    Recently, the British Columbia Court of Appeal was called upon to grapple with that issue in Sifton v. Wheaton Pontiac Buick GMC (Nanaimo) Ltd. In the context of a constructive dismissal, the appellate court distinguished Evans, and found that it was not unreasonable for Mr. Sifton to refuse his former employer’s offer of re-employment, given the fundamental nature of the changes to the terms of his employment but, more importantly, due to the acrimonious workplace environment existing at the time of termination.

    At trial, the judge found that the reduction in Mr. Sifton’s income, from $78,000 to $60,000, following financial hardship experienced by the dealership, was significant, and that his move back to a technician level position, with the associated loss of his shop foreman/manager position, constituted fundamental changes to his employment contract, amounting to a constructive dismissal. The trial judge further concluded that Sifton’s period of reasonable notice was 14 months, and based his award of damages in lieu of notice accordingly. He used Mr. Sifton’s regular pre-reduction income for determining damages.

    The dealership, at trial, had taken the position that Sifton resigned his employment.

    Following the trial, the dealership appealed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Its primary argument was that the trial judge erred in concluding that Mr. Sifton had not failed to mitigate his damages by refusing its offer of re-employment, and that the trial judge misapprehended and overlooked evidence relevant to mitigation.

    After reviewing the applicable case law, the British Columbia Court of Appeal concluded:

      …Mr. Sifton was offered a job that was dramatically different than the job he had been doing for 11 years at a significantly lower rate of pay. Further, the relationship between Mr. Sifton and Mr. Gordon was not “cordial”. Mr. Braun described the meeting between the two as “tense”. While I do not accept Mr. Gordon was in “a tirade”, it is clear that he was an assertive and, at times, insensitive individual. There is no question that Mr. Sifton was unhappy about the change to his position and had difficulty hiding it; since Mr. Gordon would not “tolerate negativity” it is unclear how he and Mr. Sifton could have functioned harmoniously in the workplace.

    In rejecting the dealership’s appeal, the court emphasized that these types of cases must be decided on an individual, case by case basis, and a particular factor, which may be important or even overriding in one case, will not necessarily be as important in another.

    In reaching its conclusion, the Court of Appeal in British Columbia distinguished the Evans decision. It did so having in mind that the workplace environment for Mr. Sifton had deteriorated, and the effect of returning him to the work force would be incongruent with a civil and decent working relationship. Leaving an employer and asserting constructive dismissal can still amount to a high risk situation for a departing employee. Not only will the employer typically assert that, from their point of view, the employee has quit, but may go further and assert that the employee has failed to mitigate his or her economic loss, as claimed, by not either staying in the job or accepting an offer of re-employment.

    Workplace monitoring: Who’s secretly watching you work? Thu, 12 May 2011 21:12:32 +0000 Elizabeth Bromstein Workplace monitoring: Who's watching you work? How much privacy you can or should be able to expect in the workplace is a fairly hot button issue lately, as employers are making use of technologies that allow them to monitor computer use, emails exchanges and much more. ]]> Workplace monitoring: Who's watching you work? Picking your nose at work when you think nobody’s looking? You probably shouldn’t. Not just because, come on, that’s disgusting, but also because you might be on candid camera.

    How much privacy you can or should be able to expect in the workplace is a fairly hot button issue lately, as employers are making use of technologies that allow them to monitor computer use, emails exchanges and more.

    This recent article in the Globe and Mail lists SpyAgent, NetVizor and WebWatcher as programs that can detect pornography websites or online gambling. But there’s a lot more that your boss can do to keep tabs on you.

    Because we, at Workopolis want to know, I contacted Avner Levin, Director of the Privacy and Cyber Crime Institute, and Associate Professor at Ryerson University, to ask what monitoring methods employers are using and how much of what they’re doing is legal.

    Levin rattles off a list of examples, including technologies that monitor and cache the websites you visit and flag keywords in your email; cameras for recording and observing; passcards/keys that can be used for monitoring location; cash registers to track things like whether an employee is engaged in a higher than normal amount of returns – a flag for fraud; and location tracking of mobile devices that can create a graphic representation of where someone or their phone is throughout the day.

    Then there’s freakier stuff, “Things that employers have been using on a perhaps not as widely reported basis include key loggers — software that they would install surreptitiously on a computer and that will record every keystroke and every screen shot on that computer throughout its use.”

    That last would likely be deemed excessive and unjustified intrusion, says Levin, but actually, there little to nil in the way of actual law in Ontario – Canada works on a provincial basis so, other provinces might have more legislature but in general, it’s a free for all. What we do have is case law.

    Levin points to the case of Sudbury communications technology teacher Richard Cole, who has been charged with possession of child pornography. Last month, after three court proceedings, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that Cole’s charter rights were violated when police, without a warrant, searched a laptop loaned to him by the school where he worked. A maintenance tech had found images of an underage student and passed the computer onto a board official, who copied the images onto disc then passed the computer on to police. The court ultimately ruled that, while the tech and official had acted reasonably and the disc of images was therefore permissible as evidence, the police search was illegal and anything they found was inadmissible. Cole, they said, had a “reasonable expectation” of privacy. You can get more details here. And here.

    Levin points to Cole’s case as “the first that said that there is some kind of legal protection to privacy in the workplace.” In Canada, he says “We don’t have a lot of actual law in the form of legislation or statutes that protect people if they work in the private sector.”

    OK, here’s where I say I don’t think Cole’s rights were violated. The computer DIDN’T BELONG TO HIM.

    I’m mostly in favour of an employer’s right to closely monitor their employees’ workplace activity. Your workplace is your employer’s house, and what you do in someone else’s house is their business, just like what you do in your own house is your business. This extends to your belongings as well, just like it extends to any computers and mobile devices loaned to you by your company. Some believe this sort of thinking will lead to a totalitarian workplace regime in which employees are implanted with tracking chips that administer electric shocks for calling Mother on her birthday. I think that the opposite attitude undermines an employer’s ability to set a workplace standard and serves to protect people with something to hide.

    Still, cautions Levin, “The question is whether there should be any boundaries to what an employer can do.” There are employee freedoms, he says, that should be givens. “Are we comfortable with the idea that an employer can look at what we’re doing individually then tell us off for wasting time or sending a certain email? Is that the way we want the workplace to develop? Personally, I happen to think that there should be limits. There should be just behaving reasonably.”

    Fair enough. I’m not married to my opinion. Also, I work from home, so it’s not an issue for me (that’s how we could all circumvent this entire problem!). Feel free to weigh in.

    Finally getting an interview for your dream job… while pregnant Wed, 11 May 2011 18:09:37 +0000 Colleen Clarke Job interview while pregnantAfter years of trying, one Workopolis user finally gets an interview for her dream job. The trouble is, she's pregnant when the call comes in. Career expert Colleen Clarke has some advice on how to handle the situation. ]]> Job interview while pregnantQ: I have been trying for over a year to get on with a company I would really like to work for. I have applied on at least two occasions over this time frame and have finally received a request to come in for an interview. After two miscarriages in the past 2 years I am expecting, and over half way through this pregnancy. My question is, do I go for the interview? Do I tell them I am pregnant? It would be difficult to hide it, but with loose clothing, I could just leave them wondering. What should I do? If I don’t get on at this time I still would like a shot at it after my mat leave is over. What would you recommend I do?

    A: Talk about trying to do two things at one time! And being successful at both! Seems to me it is time to decide what is your priority in life right now, having a healthy baby or getting a job. Probably not much of a decision.

    But, can you have the cake and eat it too? Possibly, depends on what type of job it is, what the values and philosophy of the company is and how much you bring to the table.

    Don’t even think about going into an interview being deceitful. Being deceitful and dishonest can only come back and bite you in a whole bunch of painful places. That being said, you do have a couple options. Kathy Murphy, HR Manager at Regulus Investments Inc in Toronto initially said, “Don’t go on the interview.” She suggested you phone the company and tell them how much you have wanted to work for them, but voila, you are pregnant and didn’t think it was fair to take up their time to come on the interview in this condition. JoAnn Miele, another HR professional suggests you state that you would appreciate the opportunity to apply again after your maternity leave is over. Then we all discussed a couple alternatives and this is what we also thought could be some alternatives:

      1. Don’t go on the interview.

      2. Go on the interview. Tell them you are pregnant at the beginning of the session but you wanted to meet them and have them meet you. Be prepared to tell the interviewer why you want to work for the company so much; that you have tried for a year, twice, to work for them, and exactly what benefit they will derive from hiring YOU. Even if they dismiss you right away, they know who you are and in 16 months when you contact them again, they already know you are a trustworthy, honest individual who really cares about their company.

      From here you can suggest to work on contract until your mat leave starts then come back full time after the year is up.

      3. OR ask if it is possible to start now, give ‘er for 4/5 months and return after mat leave. This is not a likely reality.

    The bottom line is, no deception, nothing but straight forward honesty. Companies are spending thousands of dollars looking at ways they can build trust with their employees in the workplace, the employees have to be trusting as well.

    Colleen Clarke
    Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
    Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It

    Illustrating the benefits of a national Work From Home Day Fri, 22 Apr 2011 17:50:50 +0000 Workopolis Illustrating the benefits of a national Work From Home DayA graphic look at how if one million Canadians worked from home just the one day a year, it would have the same environmental impact as planting 10 million trees. ]]> A graphic look at the environmental benefits of working from home. Click on the image for a larger version. Join us at to support the movement.
    Illustrating the benefits of a national Work From Home Day