Friday, April 29, 2011

Is Your Resume Going into the "Keep" or "Discard" Folder?

Let's talk resumes again, as it's a continual problem for many...

Your resume is how you get your interview and your foot in the door. Unfortunately, a piece of paper is representing you and all of your hard work, so why don’t you make sure that is it working for you and not against you.

A recruiter, HR professional, or resume screener will typically spend about 15 seconds scanning your resume for key words, items they are looking for, and during this few seconds they determine if they want to put it in the “keep” or “discard” pile.

Here are some resume errors to avoid and things to remember that will definitely help improve your chances of your resume staying in the “keep” pile:

  1. First, make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammatical errors.
This is the easiest thing to avoid, but also the fastest way to get your resume put aside. Spell check, re-read your resume, and have a friend or professional read your resume to help ensure it is error free.

  1. Creating carbon copies of your resume.
Don’t do this. We all know that creating a customized resume for every job you want to apply for is time-consuming, but we also don’t care, because we want a customized resume. It shows initiative, it shows you care, and it shows you are dedicated. A screener can tell every time when they are reading a “one size fits all” resume. You may be lucky that your resume stays in the pile, but if another applicant who created a customized resume has applied, chances are they would get called first for an interview.

  1. Vague descriptions of your positions.
Some people think it hard to write about their accomplishments during their jobs, but the resume is the time to sell those accomplishments. First, you should be using bullet points to describe your accomplishments, and not full sentences. Second, make sure you are not listing your job duties, but rather are highlighting your accomplishments in that position.
For example,
a) Attended group meetings and recorded minutes, is an example of listing your job duties, while
b) Used laptop computer to record weekly meeting minutes and compiled them in a Microsoft Word based file for future organizational reference, describes your job duties as an accomplishment.

  1. Looks do matter.
You have invested the time and energy to make sure the content is worthwhile, but now you need to do the same with the formatting. Make sure you use white space liberally, create at least one-inch margins on your resume and leave some blank space between various sections so a screener can distinguish distinct chunks of your resume. Stick with two fonts at the most, for example one for the headings and the second font for the body text. Use bold and italics to your advantage, but avoid underlining. Many resume writers will bold their job titles and italicize subheading or job date ranges, but don’t underline as studies show most readers find underlined text difficult to read.

  1. No action verbs.
Your bullet points in your resume should include action verbs, such as implemented, resolved, developed, etc. If you do a search for “resume action verbs,” you’ll find plenty of web sites dedicated to listing resume action verbs you can use.

  1. Not including a cover letter.
If the position you are applying for specifically asks for you to send a resume and cover letter, you better be sending both. I know screeners who won’t even look at resumes if the applicant hasn’t included the required cover letter. It shows that you aren’t following directions, and this is the easiest test an organization can ask of an applicant to follow. In addition, when you send your resume and it is to an email address, make sure you put something in the body of the email. Don’t just send your resume as an attachment and say nothing in the email. (Yes, people really do this!)

In the end, avoiding these resume errors helps you create a tailored resume that will work in your advantage, and highlight why the screener should contact you for the position.

Until next time, wishing you great success in your career endeavors!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Avoid these common interview mistakes...and oh yeah, BE HAPPY!

Congratulations!!! You made it to the interview, but NOW WHAT?
What preparations do you need to complete to ensure that you have not only a successful interview, but also remain on the top of the list of the interviewer? 
As a recruiting professional, I have seen firsthand and heard of many interview stories of interviewees who make common interview mistakes, and I want to share with you my top five interview tips to help you avoid those.

  1. Be prepared
You would think this goes without saying, but you would be surprised how many interviewees do not come prepared, either with copies of their resumes or additional items to support their experience, or even don’t research the company they are interviewing for.

An interviewer is always going to ask you “what do you know about our company?” and if you respond with “not much” or “I haven’t taken a look at your website,” you will be going straight to the bottom of the applicant pile. To an interviewer, if you aren’t interested in reading up about the company you are interviewing for, why would you be interested when you work for the company.

  1. Dress appropriately
I think this is probably the biggest mistake an interviewee can make, and also one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to interviews. Always dress professional, which means clean, neat clothing. Even if you just graduated from school, or have been unemployed for a period of time, you can always dress professional. A button-down shirt, nice trousers, and good quality shoes can go all long way if that is all you can manage or afford.   AVOID excessive cologne, perfume or smelling like you just smoked a cigarette as well!

Biggest tip I can give you is to know your location, what is the typical work attire in your city, find out the culture of the company (by doing your research), and lastly if you aren’t sure, ask! When setting up the interview, ask the person scheduling the interview, “Is business attire acceptable?”

  1. Poor communication skills
It is hard to pinpoint what communication mistakes you should avoid, but generally an interviewer shouldn’t talk too much or too little during an interview. You want to have a good 60/40 ratio, where you are using your time to respond to the interviewer’s questions, but not just with “yes” or “no” answers.
If you talk too much, you won’t allow the interviewer to ask their questions which they use to help gauge each interviewee’s level. If you talk too little, an interviewer will feel they are having to force information out of you, and won’t enjoy the interview and therefore won’t place you as a potential candidate. If you are nervous, shy, or uncomfortable speaking in public, it’s okay to say that during an interview, but follow up by telling me, the interviewer, how you are trying to improve upon that.

Always remember, you want to be friendly and personable, but that doesn’t mean you should be talking about personal information. An interviewer doesn’t need to know your family history, how many kids you have, or other items you may think help you to be seen as open and approachable, but instead the interviewer is learning too much information about yourself which in turn could be used against you.

  1. Have your answers ready to the most common interview questions
Just like being prepared and doing research on the company, you should also be prepared with your answers to typical interview questions. If I ask an interviewee why they left their last position, and they don’t have an answer ready, this is a red flag for me.

Interviewers tend to ask the same general questions, for example: “what are your strengths/weaknesses, why did you leave your previous position, how do you respond to stressful environments, what are you looking for, etc.” Write down bullet points answering these questions, and study those points! All of this will help you come across as a confident, well prepared interviewee.

  1. Lastly be happy!
I know, I’m asking you to be happy when you have been looking for a job for the past months with no luck, and few interviews. You probably feel there isn’t much to be happy about, but an interview is your time to shine, and your time to show the organization that they are missing you as their new employee. Being happy, smiling, with a confident, good personality will help you in the interview and help increase your chances.  It also sure beats the alternative of being perceived as sad or coming across as depressed about your situation.  Smile, turn on the charm and STAY POSITIVE!!

Of course, this list is by no means complete and there are, unfortunately, many more interview mistakes interviewees can make.

What are some mistakes you have known you made during an interview?  Were you able to fix the situation?  I'd love to hear from you!

Make today a great day!