Friday, September 30, 2011

Interviewing the interviewer: your resume

Don't forget that your role in an interview includes interviewing the company and the manager in front of you. You don't need to be a passive participant in this process.

If you don't ask questions, you will walk away from the interview without a solid idea of what you might be getting into if you accept the position. This is especially important for people who are coming out of toxic work environments, people who feel strongly about the way they are managed and people who are marginally qualified for the position (but who got an interview, obviously).

I have a great many questions to share with job candidates, but since I like to keep these posts short, I will give them to you in small sets. Today's question for the interviewee is an opening question. You can ask this question before they ask you to tell them about yourself. Feel free to use it at any other appropriate moment throughout the interview.

Those of you who are squeamish or shy may want to cover your eyes for the rest of this post. I know there are folks out there who think being bold is a character flaw or just can't seem to stick their necks out and this question may be too far out of your comfort zone. If you can't do it, don't. That's OK.

But if you are fully confident in yourself and prepared to open a conversation about your skills and their company, give this question a shot and watch it work.

"What was it about my resume that made me a candidate for this interview?"

As always, feel free to massage the wording in a way that's comfortable for you. This question may get the interviewer to reveal something about the job opening you didn't already know. It may also give you an opening to delve deeper into your skill set to illustrate the breadth or depth of knowledge your resume only touches on. You may also have an opportunity to point out similar skills that refer to their job opening's requirements. Lastly, you may even learn something about the hiring manager such as where they went to school, mutual friends, or values such as, "I like that you're an Eagle Scout and thought I should talk to you."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shhh! You shouldn’t be the only one speaking in the interview

Interviews may make you nervous. 

You may be nervous about meeting new people, you may worry you’ll say the wrong thing or you may fear the interviewer’s questions are designed to make you look foolish. Regardless of the source of your nerves, you panic.

You’re asked about your last job and you begin to babble about silly policies, old technology, a bad boss, unused sick days or a project gone wrong. You hear them say, “Tell me about yourself” and launch into an in-depth explanation of every job on your résumé. While you chatter away, you fail to realize the glazed look and bored fidgeting going on across the table.

No matter how nervous you may be, learn to pick up the cues:
  • softening of the facial features
  • fidgeting with a pen
  • stacking papers
  • a lack of note taking
  • crossing and uncrossing legs
  • leaning back and folding arms
These are all methods of communication that indicate you’ve lost your audience.

Be sensitive to the listener's body language as it can tell you you’ve been talking too much.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't let "tell me about yourself" derail the interview

When you are in an interview and you hear the words, "Tell me about yourself," do you panic? Some people do and they review every detail on their resume. Some people think the interviewer didn't read the resume before the interview.

But it doesn't mean the interviewer hasn't read your resume! This is an ice-breaker and an opportunity for YOU to set the tone of the interviewer. Dig right in and list up front the key skills you have that they can't live without.

Preparation for this tactic is key. Have a plan in place for every interview so that you know what highlights you want to mention and keep it relevant to the job and the company you're visiting.

Judging from what you know about the job, whether that's a little or a lot, focus on the skills and experience you bring to this interview and this interview only. Begin by choosing three skills you know match the job, the manager, the company and/or the culture and build from that for your opening introductory moments.

Interviewers don't want you to tell them, "It's all in my resume." Nor do they want you to review your resume exhaustively. While you can use your resume as a guide, it's OK to limit it to the relevant skills from your past three jobs, the companies you worked for and the industries you worked in.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Role Playing: Use the right titles on your resume

You may work for a company that uses titles as rewards or tries to be creative or funny with titles. For some, your title may not accurately reflect your job duties. Another problem is that the company where you want to work calls your job by a different name. Yet another problem is when you want a new job that’s a subset of your current job.

All of this leaves you with the wrong title for the new job. How can you get their attention?

Do away with the titles completely and use roles. If you are asked about your title, there is no need to lie. You can simply say that since titles often don’t mean the same from company to company, you chose to focus on your role.

If you still don’t like the idea, then do use your title, but underneath it, segregate your bullets into groupings headed by the role you played. Order your roles according to the job opening, not the order in which you did them at work.

I’ve found that some people feel that this is deceptive. I completely disagree. Every job has segments that are easily cast into roles. You are simply putting your resume into an order that suits the new organization, making your resume easier to read and decipher.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Your resume makes an impression

Careerbuilder recently asked a question on Twitter about resume pet peeves.

Amy at Careerbuilder for Employers graciously read my post and then asked me about the use of “I” making me less happy than misspellings. I replied, but then thought that I really didn't answer her correctly. That made me think I should expand a little bit so others aren't left with questions. 

Let me elaborate. 

Here are the things I don’t like to see on your resume, although I will still call to get more information.

Here are the reasons these things bother me:  

1. You've been employed for more than 10 years, but you have only a one-page resume.
I can’t read your mind.
 I don’t know what sort of skills you have if you don’t tell me.
You might be difficult when I ask for a more detailed (longer) resume.

2. You've been at your current job for more than three years, but only have 3 bullet points.
Hiring managers have said, “This person has been on the job a long time, but doesn’t have much to say. Does he hate his job?”
Is that the impression you want to make?

3. You list the year of your college graduation (don't).
I don’t want to know how old you are.
If you are a recent graduate, I DO want to know.

4. You've been at your last four jobs for less than a year each and you aren't a consultant (even consultants stay in place longer than that typically).
I’m concerned that you don't play well with others.

5. You wrote your resume as you would a note to friend. Ex: "I" did this and that.
I am concerned that you will be difficult to work with. Also, are you arrogant?

6. You leave out relevant details. Ex: Computer programmers who don't list the languages they code.
Referring to #1, I cannot read your mind. I would like to know details. Hiring managers and HR folks can’t read minds, either. We’re looking for skill A or certification X: You think it’s a given because you’ve mastered skill B or achieved certification Y. We might not know that!

Here are the few things that will keep me from calling you:

1. Your resume is in reverse chronological order.
Honestly…I think you’re difficult. 

2. You have a common skill set and your resume is a mess.
Sorry, but I can find another resume with a common skill set and not have to battle with you over yours.

These are my recruiter confessions! I admit that my biggest pet peeve is when your resume makes you look difficult to work with. 

That's it in a nutshell. That's the basis upon which I make most of these decisions.

I'm happy to say that because I'm in a situation in which I reach out to people even when their resumes make me want to poke myself in the eye, I have found that most people are willing to add to their resumes or focus their resumes for me. 

Just remember, HR doesn't necessarily have the incentive to talk to as many people as a third-party recruiter does. 

If you have a question, Tweet it to @InterviewGeeks or leave it here. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Improving your job search through networking questions

I found an article off my Twitter feed this morning from a blog called ResumeBear. Click on that link to read the article. What I think is the most informative part of the article is in a small excerpt below.

"If you are not getting at least a 25% return – one interview for every four resumes submitted – you need help with your resume – it is just not working well.  If you are getting interviews, and you are not getting job offers, you need better interview skills.  If as a job seeker you cannot find jobs you want to apply to, then start doing information interviews with companies you eventually want to work for." 

I don't know if this person's numbers are correct for every market, but I like the concept. Let me tell you why.

As a recruiter, I want to encourage people who talk to me about how they haven't found a job yet although they've been looking for a long time. I am sometimes at a loss for those encouraging words in a networking situation. It's easier to discuss this with a person sitting in the privacy of my office. 

Also, there are people who say they want feedback, but when they hear something they don't like, they bristle at the news. It isn't my problem if you don't believe me, of course. But if you have found yourself often irritated by the advice you've been getting, maybe you need to change your outlook. No one is out to make you feel inferior! 

When you meet a hiring manager, HR employee or recruiter at a networking event, try a different approach. Rather than mention how long you've been looking and trying to be optimistic about it, ask a pointed question. 

1. Will you glance at my resume to see if there are things that I can improve? This is different than an actual critique, but if you have your resume with you, ask for that quick glance.
2. What is the best question you've been asked by a candidate? The list of questions for interviews is another blog post!
3. Do you know of any companies in the area that hire people with my skills? The point here is that there are many medium to small companies in the community that don't leap to the job seekers mind.

To sum up, the job market notwithstanding, there are some things you can do to increase your odds: improve your resume, improve your interview skills, find new companies to work for.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You should have more than one resume for your job search

Many jobs have more than one component. You might be both a coordinator and a designer, or you do inventory as well as retail sales. If this describes you, you must have targeted resumes for every segment of your skill set. 

This allows you to cut through the fluff of the job skill that may not be necessary for your candidacy and allows room for more information specific to the job you are applying for. To show your flexibility, you might choose to include 1-3 bullet points about your other skill areas, but there’s no need to highlight them because they don't speak directly to the job you want.

If you have interest in more than one area of employment, such as sales and engineering or administration and retail inventory, each area needs a separate resume. The same may apply if you are willing to work in different fields or different industries: reading many job descriptions and drawing on your experience in those industries should help you decide. 

If you are interested in getting a job in an area new to you, your resume must highlight the transferable skills that logically and clearly present your potential to the organization.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What makes me skip your resume?

Careerbuilder recently asked a question on Twitter about resume pet peeves. The folks who responded are the folks who are reading the resumes, not sending them in.

The answers were mostly typos/grammar/job hopping/gaps in employment. I get frustrated when I read these replies because the candidate doesn't always have an opportunity to explain in a resume. They're told to keep it short and simple and explain things like job gaps in an interview, but then HR won't interview them because they don't like the resume. I used to think there should be no misspellings or typos on a resume until someone older and wiser than I pointed out how silly that was unless I was hiring a writer or a proofreader.
Typos happen. Sure, it's a silly mistake. But we all make them. As for grammar, just a quick look at Facebook will tell you how many people don't understand the English language anymore. It's become sadly common. It doesn't mean they won't make fine employees.
If you can't speak well or present yourself properly, that will all come out in person.
As a third-party recruiter, I have to place people to make money. Therefore, unlike HR, I have to read resumes with the idea that the job candidate deserves the benefit of the doubt.

I can't simply toss a resume aside because someone misspelled 'proffesional' (that's the word I see misspelled most often!). I need to look at the skills and then work with the job candidate to create a resume that reflects their skills in a way that matches the job description without fluff or lies. I talk to people about their job search and then I decide if they are good candidates. But HR can't or won't take the time to do that.

Frankly, it isn't the responsibility of any HR department to critique your resume or help you rewrite it. But a recruiter can sometimes help.

Even though I have a clear-cut reason to put up with a lot of poorly written resumes, there are resumes I see that tell me I might not enjoy working with someone. Here's what makes me nervous when I look at a resume (not saying I won't still call you!):

1. You've been employed for more than 10 years, but you have only a one-page resume.
2. You've been at your current job for more than three years, but only have 3 bullet points.
3. You list the year of your college graduation (don't if it was more than 10 years ago).
4. You've been at your last four jobs for less than a year each and you aren't a consultant (even consultants stay in place longer than that typically).
5. You wrote your resume as you would a note to friend. Ex: "I" did this and that.
6. You leave out relevant details. Ex: Computer programmers who don't list the languages they code.
7. You've posted as a confidential candidate. Yes, that makes me nervous although I understand why you've done it.

Here are the few things that will keep me from calling you:

1. Your resume is in reverse chronological order.
2. You have a common skill set and your resume is a mess (see above).
3. You have an unexplained job gap of several years.
4. You have a completely unrealistic salary requirement. By unrealistic, I mean you aren't even in the ballpark.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Email blunders

As surprising as it seems in the 21st century, some job candidates don’t have an email address on their resume. If you don’t have email, get an account and keep the email address simple: your name is your best choice if it is available. If you use your name in a shortened form, be certain it isn’t inadvertently offensive.

If you have an email address that is not your name, make certain it conveys an appropriate image. It is doesn’t, create a new one and use the new one exclusively for your job search.

Monitor your email for communication from recruiters and human resources. While you may prefer telephone calls, you want to keep in mind that for various reasons, email may be more convenient. For instance, if you can only communicate after hours, people can still send you information during the work day via email. Lastly, check your spam trap or junk files regularly so you don’t miss an email from a recruiter you’d like to do business with or from a potential new job.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finding the bullet-point balance for your resume

When you’ve worked at one company for more than a couple years, but you only have a few bullet points, you’re probably missing the boat. I’ve had hiring managers comment on the “lack of experience” or how, after 14 years on the job, “That’s all he has to say about it?”

Read the job description carefully and make sure you’re addressing the needs of the hiring company. Many resumes focus on what you did in your job rather than what you can do for your next employer.

While you’re writing your cover letter, you may want to elaborate on special skills that speak to the company, but those particular skills need to be on your resume as well. The reason for this is because some recruiters read cover letters, some don’t…same with hiring managers. Also, cover letters get separated from resumes.

Your bullet points should be in the order of importance according to the open position. Don’t put them in the order of your work day or the order of percentage of your workload.

Finally, items in your resume summary, but not in the text of your resume are easily discounted: they’ll think the skill is old, you only did it in college or you sat next to someone who did that job and you’re only listing it for the keyword.

That is probably the best interview advice I have have ever received!!! ~Neal C.

I wanted to talk to you again before this interview because you really geek interview tips. ~Chad T.

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