Resume and Interview Tips for Our Candidates
Employers typically skim resumes for less than a minute, and their decision to interview a candidate is usually based on that first overall impression. From our past experience working with employers, we know what employers are looking for. Here’s how to impress them in 30 seconds flat.
Customize it. An effective résumé must quickly and clearly convey to the employer how you meet the specific requirements of the position they are trying to fill. Instead of sending a generic résumé to every company, target the positions you are applying. Start by identifying the particular skills and experiences sought, and adapt your résumé accordingly, ensuring that each of these requirements is specifically addressed. Include keywords mentioned in the job postings to really grab the employer’s attention.
Start with a bang. The top third of the page is the most valuable real estate on your résumé. Don’t waste it! Open with a powerful statement on your objective, incorporating a couple of strong selling points about yourself (e.g. your years of experience, your expertise, etc.) For a more modern approach, omit the objective and open with a tag line and a high–impact summary statement, immediately telling the employer what you have to offer.
Lead with your strengths. Follow up your compelling headline with your most relevant and significant information. If you have many years of pertinent experience or sharp technical skills, open immediately with those. If you have little or no real work experience but you’ve just obtained a degree in your field, start by listing your education first. Many employers simply skim through the first part of a résumé, so it is important to tell them what they want to know right away.
Get to the point. Tell the employer what they need to know in the most succinct and concise way. Do not lose their attention by going into tedious detail about every single accomplishment (you can discuss these further in the interview you’ll land with your exceptional résumé.).
- Avoid vague, generic terms, and use quantifiable examples when possible. For example, “strong leadership abilities” is a relatively weak statement, as compared to “supervised a team of 15 welders”, which proves your leadership qualities.
- Use action words to add life to your résumé, such as “achieved”, “developed”, “managed”, etc.
Presentation is everything. Think of your résumé as a promotional device. It must be attention–grabbing, easy to read, and professionally presented.
- Use bulleted sentences, rather than wordy paragraphs. This makes your résumé easier to scan and absorb.
- Keep it to two pages – any longer and you risk overwhelming and frustrating the reader.
- Run a spell and grammar check. Spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar leave the reader with the impression that you are careless and not detail–oriented.
- Ensure that the important information stands out. Reviewers often scan for companies worked for, job titles, and dates. Use a bold typeface to ensure they are clearly visible.
- Ensure that formatting is uniform and appealing. Choose a pattern of spacing, typeface, and highlighting, and apply it consistently.
Have someone review it. Despite the best proofreading efforts, it is often difficult to spot your own errors. It is also sometimes challenging to truly evaluate yourself in the most positive light, which means you may fail to communicate all your accomplishments. A reviewer can help you discover mistakes and omissions made unconsciously and can point out items that are confusing to the reader.
Tips to Help You Outshine Your Competition
Your resume has earned you a face–to–face interview, and now is your chance to prove your worth. Here are five surefire tips that will give you the edge:
- Know your stuff. Research the company fully, and demonstrate your understanding of the company in your answers. Find out as much as you can about the position itself and obtain a job description, if possible. See how your skills might fit within that description and then angle your answers to reflect what you think the employer is looking for.
- Practice makes perfect. Prepare answers to all the questions you may be asked. Practice reciting them, until they feel entirely natural. Ask friends to role–play the part of interviewer and get their feedback. Write down your strengths, skills, achievements. In your answers, use concrete examples of how when you’ve used these strengths and skills whenever possible.
- Dress to impress. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and your appearance will be assessed before a single question is asked. Workplace dress codes are now often industry/company specific, so try to adapt to the company culture. When in doubt, it is still best to stick to a smart suit. Remember that being over–dressed is preferable to being under-dressed, as effort spent on your appearance conveys initiative and interest in the position.
- Bring the goods. Don’t forget to bring a few extra copies of your résumé; you may interview with several people. Also, bring a list of your own questions for the interviewer. Putting everything in a folder labeled neatly with the company’s name will make a standout statement about your organizational skills and attention to detail.
- The early bird catches the worm. By arriving late, you’ve already told your potential employer a great deal about yourself – that you are unreliable and manage time poorly. Confirm the time and location of your interview beforehand, and aim to arrive 10–15 minutes early.
Attitude is everything. With so many applicants fighting for the same job, many with similar skills and abilities, your attitude is often what separates you from the pack.
- Avoid negative comments about past employers. This says more about you than them.
- Show a sincere desire to put forth your best effort for the company. Enthusiasm always generates energy and positive feelings, and employers want people who are excited to work for their organization.
- Have clear personal standards. Many companies respect employees who have personal and professional standards. Know your objectives and articulate them directly and concisely. The candidate who is willing to take anything will usually get nothing.
- Don’t be too familiar with the interviewer. Only address the interviewer on a first–name basis if you are asked to do so.
- Above all, be yourself. The interviewer is interested in knowing all about you, and your personality is as important as your skills. Demonstrate your sense of humor, common sense and any other qualities that make you stand out. Show them the real you.
Body language: Louder than words. Everyone uses body language during the interview, whether they realize it or not. Make it work for you.
The most important nonverbal communication skill during the interview process is maintaining eye contact, as it conveys an image of self–confidence and honesty. A simple trick to make a strong first impression is to observe the interviewer’s eye color when shaking hands.
Here are a few simpler body language tips to keep in mind:
- Convey openness and warmth by smiling. Unbutton your jacket upon being seated.
- Appear poised and polished by sitting upright, chin up, with your hands quietly in your lap.
- Show confidence, by leaning forward in your chair occasionally
- Gesture mildly only to emphasize a point, and keep your hands around chest high.
- Avoid nervous behavior: fidgeting, jingling the contents of your pockets, clearing your throat repeatedly, touching your face, playing with your hair, wringing your hands, twiddling your thumbs, etc.
- Avoid defensive behavior: crossing your arms in front of your chest, squinting, frowning, averting your eyes when responding to questions, rubbing the back of your neck, clenching your hands, leaning back in your chair.
- Finally, try to read the nonverbal cues that the interviewer is communicating. Adapt your own body language according.
Interview the interviewer. There comes a point in every interview when you’ll be asked if you have any questions. The worst possible answer is “no”, but it’s often difficult to think of anything to ask that hasn’t already been covered. Here are a few suggestions:
- Why is this position open? What were the main reasons?
- What would you like done differently by the next person who fills this position?
- What are some of the objectives you would like to see accomplished in this job?
- What are some of the more difficult problems one would have to face in this position? How do you think they could best be handled?
- What freedom would I have in determining my own work objectives and deadlines?
- What advancement opportunities are available for the person who is successful in this position?
- In what ways has this organization been most successful in terms of products and services over the years?
- How is one evaluated in this position?
Give thanks. Exit self–assuredly with a firm handshake, a smile, and direct eye contact. Do not leave without letting them know that you are very interested in the position. Ask them what the next step is and when you can expect to hear from them.
Follow up immediately (within 24 hours) with a quick thank you note or email, reaffirming your interest in the position, and mention a positive detail or two from your conversation. Writing thank–you notes and letters demonstrates that you have good business etiquette and that you are well organized and enthusiastic about the job.