Dear Job Applicant…

Dear Job Applicant image ideaDear Job Applicant,

I really want to help you get work, and I’d like the process to be as simple as possible for both of us. With that in mind, I have some straightforward suggestions for you as you apply for jobs.

For now, let’s focus on your Cover Letter, which is the first piece I am going to look at when your application comes my way.

I post jobs for my own company as well as for my clients, and every job posting I create asks for at least a cover letter and a resume. I get hundreds of applications, and I want to consider each one carefully. I want to screen out the people who aren’t qualified, and keep the people who might be right for me. Because I have to do this without ever meeting you, I need to see your cover letter in order to help me decide if you might be a great hire.

Here’s how you can help yourself:

1. Please write a cover letter. I’ve asked for one, and I want one. I am willing to read extra words (I’m a really good reader), so please don’t ignore this instruction. Not including a letter when I’ve asked you for one means you can’t follow instructions, and I might not read your resume. I sound serious about this, because I am.

2. Take a moment to figure out how to address your letter. If I’ve listed my company name, please look at the website and find out my name or my client’s name. If there is no information available, then your letter can be addressed “Dear HR Manager” or “Dear Hiring Manager”, or even “Dear (Company Name)” and that’s ok. If you can see by my photo that I have a name and that I am a woman, please do not address me as “Dear Sirs.” That seems lazy to me, and that’s not a great first impression for a job application.

3. Customize your letter and tell me why you really want the job. I don’t know who is advising you to tell me that your goal is to “work for a company where I can grow my skills and use my organizational expertise”, but phrases like that are so generic that they just take up valuable room in your letter. If you don’t talk about what the company does and why that interests you, I don’t believe that you are genuinely interested in the position. If your whole letter is impersonal, and my company’s name shows up in a different font, I know you’ve sent me a form letter, and I know you spent little to no time on your application. I think my company is special. That’s why I work so hard, that’s why I created a website, that’s why I get up every morning and skip to the office and away from the people I love at home. Read about my company/product/service/team and decide if you actually want to work for me. Then decide why you want to work for me. Then tell me about it in your cover letter – I will be so happy to hear what you have to say!

4. Spelling. I know I’m not supposed to care about spelling and grammar, but I really, really do. I can forgive a typo, but only if it’s clear it that it was a one-time error. If you misspell any word in the phrase “attention to detail,” I will roll my eyes and sigh. If the job doesn’t require great spelling, I won’t be as hard on you later, but your cover letter is my first impression so please show it some care and respect. Have someone else proofread it for you. And please use spellcheck. And don’t let it autocorrect the name of my company into something else. I chose the name of my company very carefully.

5. Stand out in a good way. If you are applying for an art position, in graphic design for example, you are allowed (encouraged even) to give me a more exciting letter and resume. Format and font: go for it! This is your opportunity to show me your skills. If you are not an artist you don’t need to show me how cool and colourful you are, but I’d like to see if your personality is going to fit with mine or with my client’s. If you are a friendly person, sound friendly. If you are formal and polite, write your letter that way. No swearing or “let’s be best friends” creepiness please, just be genuine and nice. If you think something in your personality and your experience or skills will make you a good candidate for the job, tell me about it. If you aren’t sure that you are qualified for the job, but you really think you’re a great fit for the company, tell me why. I will listen! And I might keep you in mind for the next position that comes along.

6. If I’ve asked for something else, please give it to me. If you are applying to be a graphic designer, and I have asked for cover letter, resume, and portfolio, please do not send me a cover letter that says “portfolio available upon request,” because now you’re throwing the dice. If I already have some great applicants, I may not go out of my way to ask you for it (I already asked, remember?) and your application may be in jeopardy. Why take that chance?

7. Show me a spark. Who are you? Are you good at researching? Are you polite and polished? Are you someone who can spell and proofread? Do you have any relevant interests outside of work that tell me more about you – volunteering, mentoring, teaching, participating in coding challenges or finance Meetups, creating websites for friends or leading a weekend legal seminar? Great teams and companies are made up of all different types of people and personalities, and hiring the right person into the mix is hard! Your letter can help me get to know you faster.

In summary, please write a thoughtful and personalized cover letter. This takes time I know, but it will show me that you are the kind of person who will take the time to do things right once you start working for me.

Want us to write a future blog on resume writing? Let us know at hello(at)projecthouse(dot)ca!

Designing a Performance Assessment Program

Performance_Assessment_Project_HouseIf you show your employees the path to success at your company, they will have an easier time walking it. Simply telling someone to do something doesn’t mean they understand what you want, or know how to achieve it well. Clarity comes from giving them concrete responsibilities, feedback, and goals. Without consistent measurement of both What and How they’re doing, it is difficult to talk about performance. And without the conversation around performance, it is difficult to make fair decisions around promotions, salary increases, praise, terminations, levels of responsibility, and other actions. Also, employees don’t tend to stay in jobs where they feel that goals are unreachable, where feedback is inconsistent and unfair, or where there is no positive result to working hard and doing well.

So, if you’re looking to design a successful performance assessment program that feeds these conversations throughout the year, here’s how to start:

1. Plan for regular feedback and discussion:

The most successful performance programs use consistent measurement year-round in order to keep the conversation going, fix issues as they arise, and provide ongoing focus and feedback. If you rarely connect with your staff to talk about how they’re doing, what they need from you, or what you need from them, how are you really supporting them as they try to contribute to your business?

A full performance review might happen annually, but communication and documentation of successes and goals, progress and issues, training recommendations, and course corrections are most productive if they happen often. Look for an upcoming blog around creating a simple Assessment form that you can use as an anchor for this type of conversation.

2. Care about Goal-setting

One way to keep the performance discussion alive all year is to share company goals, use them to help set employee goals for the quarter or for the year, and check in regularly to see how the employee is doing. This is an opportunity to provide encouragement and further direction, or make a course correction along the way.

Goals don’t have to be complicated; they just need to be achievable and relevant (see our blog post about setting SMART goals). Goals can be about sales, customer satisfaction, hitting deadlines, learning new technology, taking on more responsibility, sharing the load with others, being nicer – whatever is needed for further success, for both the employee and the business.

When all is said and done, you want your employee to feel informed and engaged, with a concrete plan to obtain the tools, skills, and support they need to achieve their goals and do a great job.

3. Tangible results:

What happens when your employee does a great job and reaches their goals? What happens when they don’t? Money is not always the reason people stay in a job, but no one likes their hard work to go unrecognized.

Be clear about what your company is able to do now, and what your plans are in the future. If you’re in start-up mode and you can’t reward with a bonus or promotion, think creatively about what you can offer to high performers: for example, extra days off, a parking pass, more autonomy, a chance to learn new skills, volunteer opportunities, or public praise might go a long way towards keeping them motivated. Are there opportunities for your staff to attend workshops, seminars, or industry conferences? Can you increase access to meetings or workgroups around strategic thinking or creativity + ideas?

Just as importantly, how do you handle employees who consistently get the same critique but who seem unable to improve? Are you equipped to offer training or mentoring? Do you know how to let someone go?

A successful performance conversation is not a one-way street, but rather a more scenic view. In other words, what does your employee think their role and responsibilities are, do their goals make sense, do they know what “good” looks like to the business and to their manager, and what do they need from the company in order to do great work and stay motivated?

Need more help? Please get in touch with us at hello(at)projecthouse(dot)ca.


Project Spotlight: Lloyds Travel & Cruises Ltd.

Given that we have just recently celebrated Family Day across the country, we wanted to present a project spotlight on a client who owns and operates a local family-run business.

Lloyds Travel & Cruises is the oldest travel agency in Vancouver. It opened its doors in 1951 and was purchased by the Weymark family in 1964. Ever since then, it has remained in the Weymark family, with Wendy Fougner (née Weymark) taking the reins from her father in 1986 with Wendy and her husband successfully running this client service-focused agency.

Family-run organizations are quite unique and amazing. While they certainly face a whole set of particular challenges, the unique way in which a family business is typically run generally sets them up for longevity. They are often more frugal, take on less debt/risk, diversify naturally, and retain talent.

At Lloyds, the company values are based on how the owners live their own lives. They are both heavily involved and dedicated to their communities and they believe that you “reap what you sow”. We love this philosophy and enjoy working with them.

Project House has been working with Lloyds Travel & Cruises since we opened our doors, and we provide a wide range of services for them, from HR support, to graphic design, website maintenance & development, event planning, office space redesign, business consulting, and more.

Lloyds Travel wants to focus on their primary service, which is travel, and ensuring that their clients’ needs are met. We are able to supplement their team in a number of ways, and we are able to remain flexible and efficient through the ebbs and flows of their workload. The ideal solution for them is a resourceful outsourcing service that can take on a range of projects when they are needed.

What we love is that Lloyds Travel uses Project House for a variety of great projects, and because we know their business well and we are familiar with their staff and their priorities, we are able to easily jump from one task to another for them, and ensure that everything we do fits into their brand and culture.

As we have completed so many great projects for Lloyds Travel it is hard to pick a favourite, so we’re going to talk about a few of them instead!

Office Reno & Redesign:

Last year, we completed a successful office renovation and redesign for Lloyds and gave their office a much-needed facelift. The office was disconnected, with no adequate space for storage or meetings. The décor was out-of-date, with tired wallpaper, paint, and carpet. We assessed the company’s needs and reconfigured the walls and workspaces, updated the bathrooms, put in new kitchen cabinets and storage cabinets, created a much-needed and beautiful meeting/lunch room space, had new carpet laid throughout, painted the walls a fresh colour with select accent walls that we had branded with their logo, we sourced beautiful travel-inspired artwork & masks, and we engaged a local craftsman team to build a stunning reception desk from reclaimed wood. The Lloyds office is now a bright, modern, and pleasant workspace with a much more efficient flow, and it provides an elegant and welcoming environment for their clients.


Thank You Cards:

We have created a beautiful set of thank you cards for Lloyds Travel. Lloyds sends thank you cards to clients who have introduced new clients to the company, and to clients when they book their travel. It’s a lovely tradition to send a thank you card to someone, and what better way than with a beautiful travel-inspired greeting card.




Four to five times a year, we help Lloyds assemble and print an electronic newsletter featuring a selection of articles written by the agents on a particular topic, along with trip offerings and Lloyds Exclusive Tours. We gather content from the agents, create the newsletter layout, source images, organize the printing, and then post an electronic version to their blog using ISSUU.



Business Cards & Stationery:

We have created a lovely suite of branded stationery for Lloyds to use for all of its day-to-day operations, including letterheads, ticket jackets, gift tags, gift bags, business cards, envelopes, and more. We love designing additional pieces as required to fit their business needs.


Celebrate International Women’s Day


(*) this is from here.