Archive for the 'interviewing' Category

Your Resume Does 2 Things Well & 1 Not At All

There are limits on what your resume does in a job search. A resume can do at least two things very well, but one of them is not get you a job. This is an important distinction that should help job seekers decide where and how to invest their time and energy in the job search process.

Before we move any further, understand what a resume is. It is a marketing document. No different than advertising in other areas of life – the slick brochures at the car dealer, the glossy mutual fund promotional materials your broker gives you, and the constant bombardment of digital marketing – it is created with the purpose of getting a potential employer interested in a job seeker.

Here are the two things a well-written resume does very well:

First, it gets a potential employer to contact you. The employer has a need, an open position with a sets of skills, experience, and qualifications defining potentially successful candidates. Your resume, if it is targeted and fine-tuned to match the employer’s need, can get a recruiter to call you. That is exactly what you want it to do. From that point forward, your resume becomes much less important as you sell yourself based on your interviews, interactions, and follow up.

This brings us to the second benefit of your resume: a terrific interview. If written well, if it presents a compelling blend of stories to support the skills you claim to have, it will help influence the interviews you will face before getting an offer. This requires thought about the content of your resume, of course, in that you should share stories that will stimulate interest and conversation.

Don’t say, “I can build Excel spreadsheets.” Rather, say, “Built a macro-enabled Excel spreadsheet to automate routine auditing processes, saving approximately two hours of work daily.”

In the former example, you haven’t said much. In the latter, you explained how you used a skill to make a tangible difference that made work more efficient, people more productive, and maybe saved some money. If the potential employer wants someone with Excel skills, you might be asked to explain the project in more detail. This is where you get to shine!

The second benefit of a great resume is arguably more valuable than the first. While many people get calls, many fail to land an offer because they do not interview well. A strong interview filled with engaged conversation by both parties, rather than something resembling interrogation, is more likely to lead to a happy outcome.

So, what is it that a resume does not do? It will not get you the job. It will get you the chance to discuss the job, but it will not get you to the offer. Nobody ever or anywhere has said, “Wow! This is such a great resume. Let’s just make an offer without interviewing the candidate.”

Knowing this, it stands to reason that networking, interviewing, follow-up, and salary negotiating skills are as important in the successful search. Do not discount the value of a strong resume, but don’t be over-reliant on what it does for you, either. Preparation and persistence in all areas of the job hunt are well worth the effort.

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Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified Employment Interview Professional, and founder of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut. Contact Bill at contact@resu-mazing.com for a free job search strategy consultation.

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One Failure, One Weakness

Everyone hates interview questions that focus on failure. We don’t like to admit to our weaknesses. We are trying to sell ourselves, after all, so why would we want to discuss any of that? The uncomfortable reality, though, is that you will likely be asked one or two questions that get you talking about something other than your victories. You need one failure and one weakness story ready to answer these questions and their variants.

The good news is that you really only need credible examples of one failure and one weakness. Most interviewers are not going to keep drilling for negatives. One great answer to illustrate each kind of question will serve you well, and you can spend the rest of your time and energy preparing your victory stories.

You might hear the questions like this:

“When did you fail to achieve your goals?”

“Tell me about a time that you missed a deadline.”

“Tell me about a time you had to bring bad news to your boss?”

“What are you not good at?”

“What weakness are you working on?”

Answering these questions is easy if you know how. Actually, it is a lot like answering a more positive question in that you want to tell a story with a positive outcome. The difference is that you are starting with a negative and explaining how you learned from it, made changes or compensated, and how you have learned and grown from the experience.

For example, you might say something like this:

Early in my tenure with my current company, I was given a project to revamp our customer follow-up processes. My boss estimated that it would take about two weeks to complete, but he gave me three weeks. My mistake was that I delayed starting the project for a few days. When I dug into the details, I realized that it was more like a four week project as there were people and resources needed that were not immediately available. (Failure Admitted)

After that experience, I made an important change. Now, I review the details of every project that comes my way as soon as it is assigned. I work to identify resources, potential roadblocks and any other concerns right away. (What you learned)

I never made that mistake again. I recently completed a $200,000 budget project two weeks early and was recognized with a “Chairman’s Thanks” award. (Example of Improvement)

To explain a weakness, give an example of how it manifested itself, what you learned, how you compensate or changed, and an example of success. Use the above framework to craft this answer.

Everyone makes mistakes and nobody is great at everything. Smart people reflect on and learn from them. If you can tell this story well, you will have nothing to fear from these interview questions. Think, prepare and practice for success.

There is a lot more interview advice available right here!

See Question 1: Tell me about yourself. — Question 2: Why do you want to work here? — Question 3: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment.

Question 4: When have you failed? — Question 5: Why did you leave? — Question 6: Where will you be in five years?

Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional and President of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Annual Review Lemonade

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Turn that big sour review process into tasty resume and LinkedIn lemonade.

Everyone hates annual reviews, right? Many are dealing with the process now, either writing their self-evaluations or thinking and writing about their employees (or both). The whole effort takes a lot of time, and many see it as just a necessary hoop that must be jumped through to placate the HR people to get to the raise on the other side. Here is another way to look at it: Use the time to capture the history of your best work.

Annual reviews are often the best source of information for people to use when writing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters. It’s also a terrific resource to refresh one’s memory before a job interview. As a pro résumé writer, I love it when clients have reviews available as there will be solid and quantifiable information to include in the career marketing package.

Here are a few compelling points that should change your mind about annual reviews.

It’s a paid mini-résumé writing session. Think about the résumé creation process. You have to sit down and think about the work you have done and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Isn’t that what happens when you do your self-review? You are writing about your year and putting your work in the best possible light to earn a big, fat, bell-ringing raise. Your employer is paying you to write this year’s section of your résumé.

You have access to information. When you write a résumé after leaving an employer, you may or may not have access to the data you need to tell your story. How much was that sales increase in 2009? You have access to information now that you can include in your review, and nobody will think twice about you researching it. If asked, you say, “I’m writing my self-review.” Done!

You get documented feedback from your boss. Many people complain that the only good feedback that they get is at review time. If that is you, capture this information and use it later if needed. Positive quotes can be showcased in a cover letter or (sparingly) in a résumé.

Get copies and bring them home. Be a freak about this! Ask for or make hardcopies of your completed, delivered reviews (with your boss’s comments and scores). Bring them home now and file them where you will find them later. Gather previous year’s reviews if you don’t have them.

Keep this in mind and use the annual review process as your time to document your year. Annual appraisal lemons can be squeezed into résumé lemonade later.

If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it. Also, be sure to follow this blog to get notifications of new stories. Thanks!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. After writing hundreds of résumés, he knows the value annual reviews in the résumé writing process.

Video Interview? 7 Best Tips

Web-Cam-CAM-876-webcamMore employers are conducting first and second interviews via Skype or some other service. It’s fast, cheap and easy. Only the finalists, in some cases, get an invitation into the office. If you are in the hunt for a new gig, you should be ready for this experience. I got a call last week from a friend who was going to have a Skype interview and I shared these tips. He thanked me after.

Camera Angle: Get your camera up to eye level. This is especially important if you are using a laptop camera. If the camera is below you, you will be looking down on it. The person interviewing you will see nothing but fat chin and deep, dark eyes (remember the scene in the Blair Witch Project?). Put some books or some other support under the laptop to get the angle right.

Good Lighting: Set up some lighting that illuminates your face well. Low wattage lighting that chases away the shadows from your face will work. Avoid too-bright lights that will live you squinting.

Watch the Background: What is behind you that your interviewer will see? Be sure to clean up, take down the Kiss poster, and remove other visual distractions. If you can’t do that, move your camera so that you have a plain wall behind you.

Banish Randomness: Do you have a dog? Get someone to take it for you during your session. Do you have a cat? We do, and it gets unreasonably amorous at inappropriate times. If the cat has ignored me for three weeks, it will want to make up during a Skype call. Unplug or turn off phones. Eliminate any noises and distractions.

Dress the Part: Most people don’t sit around their homes in a suit, but professional business casual attire should be the minimum standard. With a video call, everything is the same as in-person but the hand shake.

Cheat with Notes: If you have a few points that you absolutely must make during your interview, write some notes and hang them up near the camera so that you can see them while looking at the camera and so that your interviewer cannot see them at all. Having these notes will make you more confident.

Sit Up: Your posture will affect your tone of voice. Sit up straight, breathe and project. Don’t forget to lock the tilt switch on your desk chair. You don’t want to go rocking back out of the camera’s view.

It will take a little work to do a Skype call well, but it will be worth the effort. Your preparation will translate into confidence and a better outcome. Skype well, all!

Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and is president of Resu-mazing Services Company.

Setting Interview Traps

gotchaHow can you get the interviewer to ask the right questions? You could try Jedi mind tricks. Wave your hand and say, “Ask about my performance review from 2011.” Or, you can write a résumé that improves the chances of the conversation moving in your favor.

A great résumé requires great strategy. Beyond its obvious function of getting you an invitation to interview, it needs to help influence the interview. It needs to convey results and accomplishments with just enough detail to get your future boss to ask for more detail.

Here is an example:

Your résumé says, “Saved $75K annually by re-engineering warehouse picking routines.”

Your interviewer might ask, “Tell me more about this. What did you change and how did you determine that this was the right thing to do?” When that happens, the trap you set in your résumé has been sprung!

When the question comes, you will have the chance to tell the story. Highlight your critical thinking and analytical skills along with how you influenced others, implemented change and created a more efficient business process.

Focus on results in your résumé and you will get to tell your best professional stories. Set those traps with great strategy and let your interviewer fall into them to your benefit. Leave the mind tricks to Star Wars.

See “8 Things” for résumé essentials.

Need some help with common interview questions? Start with Question 1.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Professional.

Most (Unsuccessful) Candidates Don’t Use These 8 Interview Tips

Here they are, with no fluff. I coach and speak with job seekers daily. The winners do these things; the frustrated don’t.

  1. Confirm the day before. You want to use every opportunity to make a good impression. This can start before you get there. Call, confirm, and say thanks. Your brand just got better as you demonstrated your thoroughness and professionalism.
  2. Arrive just a few minutes early and introduce yourself clearly and confidently. “Hello, I am Bill Florin and I am here for a 10 o’clock appointment with Sue Smith.” Smile when you say that. Thank the receptionist. S/he talks. You want to impress everyone.
  3. Bring and offer hard copies of your résumé. Say, “I brought extra copies of my résumé. Would you like one?” Simple.
  4. Be ready to respond to, “So, please tell me about yourself.” I spoke with a client this week who interviewed with three separate people on the same day in the same firm. They all started that way. She was ready! (Extra-credit tip: See “Question 1” for more help on responding to this.)
  5. Have some company and job-specific questions written down and ready to go. You will be asked, “What questions do you have for me?”
  6. Take notes about your discussion so that you can…
  7. Send a thank you letter or note. Recap a point or two from your interview and how you will be a great addition to the team vis-à-vis that point. (Have you seen “Thank You Letter of Doom“?)
  8. Have your references ready to go at the interview. Offer them at the close of your meeting.

Will these eight pointers get you the job? No, but they will help (and they might!), and most people will not do all of them. Go get that job!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

What to Include in Your Thank You Letter

The “Thank You Letter of Doom” piece has turned out to be one of the most popular ever on the Work blog. It made very clear what shouldn’t be in a follow up letter – spelling and grammar mistakes are just the start – but didn’t talk about what should be included (at least one reader asked). Here is the structure to follow.

Professional Greeting. This is a business letter, so use a formal greeting followed by a colon, not a comma. “Dear Ms. Jones:” or “Dear Mr. Smith:”

Lead with Thanks. Thank the interviewer for the time and consideration. Explain that you learned a lot and that you are excited about the prospect of working there.

Follow-Up Thoughts. You took notes during the interview, right? Explain how you have been thinking about one or two of the points during your discussion and how you can help the company with those issues. You want to reinforce that you were paying attention and that you can see yourself there making a difference. As importantly, you want Ms. Jones to see it, too.

Example: “As I thought more about our discussion about the Alpha initiative, I realized how my past work on the Phase III project at ABC Company was so closely related. Your company will benefit from the experience and knowledge that I have from that effort.”

Close. Explain that you want the job and will look forward to the next steps. Thank again. Sign off with a professional closing (“Sincerely” works).

Print it. Read it again. Be 100% sure that it is error free. Send it. Wait for your job offer.

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.