Putting your best foot forward on your job search

Shannon Bowen-Smed of BOWEN Group talks about the win-win of an evolving economy in Alberta

Shannon Bowen-Smed is president and CEO of BOWEN Group.

Shannon Bowen-Smed

Tell me a little bit about the company. Its history and what it does today?

Bowen-Smed: Forty-five years ago this month, my mother took a $14,000 loan from my grandfather and opened BOWEN Group.

The company originally started by solely delivering permanent placements in the Calgary market. However, when clients started asking for temporary support to bridge work gaps until a full-time candidate could be found, it didn’t take long before BOWEN Group was formally offering both solutions.

Ten years later, we added contractor management services into the fold and today we provide full-scope recruitment and contractor solutions from coast to coast.

Since opening our doors, we’ve placed over 120,000 candidates and just recently we were named the number one Canadian staffing agency with three of our recruiters ranked in the top 25 of Canada’s Top 100 Recruiters list.

If a person is looking for work in this market, what should they be doing to improve their chances to be hired?

Bowen-Smed: Tailor your resume to the opportunity you’re applying for. If you have transferable skills, highlight those. Get out there and network with others and be realistic about what you have to offer. Don’t sell yourself short but also don’t over promise.

You want to set yourself up for success; self-awareness can go a long way.Research the company you’re interviewing with. If someone asks you why you want to work there, the answer should never be “because I need a job” – a recruiter or hiring manager is taking interest in you and you need to reciprocate that. Organizations want to hire people who genuinely want to work there and will be a positive impact on their culture.

Don’t give up! Treat every new interview or search like it’s your first, even if it is your 100th. Recruiters can tell if you’re feeling fatigued or frustrated with the process. Stay positive and put your best foot forward.

Are there any particular industries you’re seeing more demand for people?

Bowen-Smed: Calgary is a city of persistent resilience and I truly believe our entrepreneurial spirit is shining through as we move into new industries.

Throughout BOWEN Group’s 45-year history in Alberta, this is certainly not the first time we’ve experienced a downturn. I think what we’re seeing is the next evolution of Alberta. This cyclical economy has now given new opportunity and new life to other industries, and now we’re seeing them rise up to bring our province forward. IT and technology sectors are constantly innovating and growing, and more startup companies are planting roots here in Calgary. The cannabis industry is also growing since the legalization in October of last year.

While there are slowdowns in the energy sector, there’s still quite a bit of hiring going on. Post-secondary educational institutions are also thriving with all of the changes we’re seeing across industries.

How has your industry changed over the years? What are some of the key trends you are seeing?

Bowen-Smed: Almost everything is different. When I started my career, there was a secretary for every manager and a computer on every desk. Today, most managers do all of their own administrative work via a smartphone.

We used to phone candidates for assignments and now we text them. Face-to-face interviews happen via Skype and we can place candidates in cities and countries they don’t even live in.  In a nutshell, automation is king and here to stay.

We also used to look for talent by posting ads in the newspaper career section and now this is all done through online job boards and social media postings.

Staffing firms of all sizes and all sophistication levels could be highly successful. However, given the move to automation and integration, it has made it very costly and complex for boutique and localized firms to compete for national and international accounts.

What’s your sense of where the economy is at in Calgary? What’s the mood of employers?

Bowen-Smed: Cautious optimism is how I would describe the mood of employers. We’re experiencing a shift towards the gig economy as employers look for financial and operational efficiencies in hiring contractors or outsourcing human resources.

I think the most promising sign is that we’re seeing small and mid-size companies who may have been historically reluctant to hire candidates from major energy companies opening their arms to that workforce. This means folks who may have otherwise remained unemployed after losing their jobs are finding work again. It also means firms that may not have otherwise attracted this workforce are hiring some incredible talent that’s helping expedite business plans and accelerate performance levels.

That’s a win-win for our community and our economy.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business

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