When Canada reported its highest unemployment rate in 11 years in May, sights were quickly set on job loss.

But with more and more Canadians out of work and seeking, where does that leave the prospects for job gain? “Somewhere between tough and brutal,” says Barbara Moses, president of BBM Human Resource Consultants and author of the recently updated guide What Next? Find the Work that’s Right for You.

To match a fickle market, Moses says employers are demanding more than just a passable prospective hire, changing how job hunters must approach their prey.

“You have to be much more savvy and focused in how you look for work,” she says. “(Employers) don’t want someone who looks, for example, like they could transfer skills because they’ve done similar work in similar environments. They want someone who’s done the exact same thing.”

To convince a company you’re the exact fit for the job, Moses recommends three steps, starting with employer empathy.

“Put on the headset of a recruiter,” she says. “Write down, specifically, skills, experiences and abilities that you would be looking for if you were hiring for that job.” By visualizing the ideal candidate, Moses says you can begin understanding how your qualification compares, leading to step two — mine your own experience.

“Dig down and reframe everything you’ve done in the light of what that employer would be looking for,” she says. That means scrapping stock resumés for customized ones and even tailoring your response to a request like ‘Tell me about yourself’ for different job interviews.

During the interview is where step three comes into play — form a human connection. “You don’t want to sound like a robot,” says Moses. “Human connection can be expressed in any number of ways — a smile, or it could be that you’re anxious.” And nerves are OK by Moses. “It shows that you’re human,” she says. “You don’t have to be slick.”

While the recommendations apply to all, the experience and ability of different age groups can change their application approach.

For older workers laid off later in life, Moses suggests capitalizing on the prevalent cancellation of training programs by using years of experience to offer mentorship. “Make yourself available and tell employers, ‘I really enjoy mentoring younger workers and helping them develop.’ That will be a big plus.”

And while twentysomethings plagued by ‘last hired, first fired’ syndrome don’t have years in the workforce at their disposal, Moses says they’ve got more experience than they think, including casual jobs and volunteer work.

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