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THE QUESTION

I was born and raised in Calgary, and have been watching this city develop over the past decade at an astonishing pace. It is becoming exponentially more competitive and difficult to keep up with peers.

I am currently applying for accounting positions. I have had plenty of calls for interviews based on my résumé – 10 to 12 in the past month alone – but I can never get past the interview stage to land an offer.

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How can I go about improving my interview skills? I have practised with peers at the same stage in their careers and done research online. Also, how can I position myself to stay ahead of the competition and not fall behind?

THE ANSWER

Calgary is one of the most desirable cities in which to live and work in in Canada. Consider yourself lucky that you grew up there, since you likely have large networks of contacts compared with individuals who have just moved there.

Think of all the people you know from the neighbourhoods you lived in, the schools you attended, the sports and hobbies you have been involved with, the places where you've worked, and the volunteer work you have likely done.

Start setting up coffee and telephone dates with them. Tell everyone that you are in the job market and that you are looking for an accounting job. Indicate the type of position you are looking for, and outline what you can do.

The majority of positions, especially in the private sector, are filled through word of mouth. This is why developing, working and continuing to add to your networks is so important. Remember to continue to stay in touch with your professional, business and community networks by attending meetings and conferences, arranging coffee and lunch dates, giving presentations at professional meetings, writing for professional and business journals, and connecting with them on social media through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and so on.

Next, shift your perspective. Rather than think of the market as extremely competitive, consider the growing number of opportunities available. You obviously have a good résumé and the experience and skills that employers are looking for or you would not have lined up the number of interviews that you have.

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Try to get specific feedback from the companies and recruiters about why you were not the successful candidate. Do not settle for general comments. Ask the interviewers to be candid and specific about what you did right in the interviews, where you fell short, and what they think you need to change in order to land the next position.

Consider hiring a career coach or counsellor to help you develop and hone your interview skills, build your confidence, learn stress management techniques, and promote yourself and your skills effectively in both informal and formal interviews. The career coach will likely want to do a number of mock interviews, record you, and tell you what you need to work on to be the top candidate.

Do your own research on companies, their products and leaders. Make a prioritized list of the companies that you are most interested in. Set up information interviews with key officials. Be curious about the companies, acknowledge their fine work, ask what they are proudest of, and ask them where they need help or support.

Tell them how you can help and that you would be interested in working with them on a full-time, part-time, or contractual basis. If they do not have any immediate openings, ask the company officials to keep you in mind for any future opportunities and ask who else they would recommend you speak to in other companies.

Bruce Sandy (@brucesandy) is principal of Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting and www.brucesandy.com. He works with clients across Canada and the world.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name will be kept confidential.

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