RÉSUMÉ: YOUR JOB HUNTING PARTNER
Let there be no mistake: next to your driver's license, your résumé is the
most important document in your working life. It is your primary method of
contact with a prospective employer. Many times, it is the first
impression that an employer has of you and your abilities.
understand the role of the résumé in the job hunting process, and not
appreciating the level of attention that should be given to its
preparation, can result in unnecessary frustration, disappointment,
rejection and extended periods of unemployment.
The résumé's role in
the job hunting process is to win job interviews-nothing else. No
interviews, no job. It's as simple as that. And when your résumé is
working for you, it is competing against many other résumés for the
attention of the prospective employer. The challenge for job seekers and
career changers today is not so much to be qualified for the vacant
position, but to beat out all the other applicants competing for the same
position. Your résumé is, then, a marketing instrument that must
successfully promote your value to prospective employers, gaining their
attention and winning an invitation to a job interview. You probably
already knew all of this. The big question is, How to do it?
A Change of Attitude
Begin with a change of attitude about the résumé, and promise yourself
that you will spare no effort to make sure you have a superior
presentation of yourself on paper. The resume is a deceptively
simple-looking document, but in actuality it is a very difficult and
challenging one to create. The résumé is not a job application form. It is
advertising media, and when you describe your talents you are writing
advertising copy. The résumé's "voice" is a staccato of short, incomplete
sentences with little or no standard punctuation, and never uses the
first-person personal pronoun. Looking at pictures of other people's
resumes will not be of much help in writing your own résumé because you
are looking at a finished product, and will not see the creative process
of selectivity. Many times, what's left out of a résumé is as important as
what is left in.
Perhaps the most
difficult challenge in creating a competitive résumé that consistently
wins job interviews with top employers is successfully presenting one's
value from the employer's perspective. Quite naturally, most job seekers
write their résumés from a personal, subjective perspective and get so
caught up in presenting job descriptions of previous positions that they
are unable to see the forest for the trees. They end up describing their
jobs and their employers, losing sight of the fact that they should be
selling their own talents and value.
résumé takes the perspective of the employer, giving consideration to what
the problems and needs of the company might be, and making an effort to
focus the presentation of talent, education, expertise and background of
its owner toward those problems and needs. This requires "going the extra
mile" to find out as much as you can about the company, its industry and
its competitors. One of the most common criticisms of résumés by Human
Resource professionals who read them by the thousands each year, is a lack
of focus in those areas of talent sought by their companies.
Beating the Clock
Organization of the information in your résumé is equally important. It
should be arranged in such a way as to make it easy for a busy department
manager or Human Resource professional who gives it only a quick scan to
see what it is that you bring to the table in exchange for the wage you
expect. Frequently, because of the large number of applicants, the initial
scan of an applicant's résumé may be only ten or twenty seconds. I
recommend that after presenting your name, address and telephone number,
you begin your résumé with a Summary of Qualifications. Done properly,
this summary will help you beat the ten-to-twenty second clock.
The reason the
initial scan given a résumé is so brief is because the goal is not to
select the final candidates, but to reduce the overall number of
applicants down to a more manageable number. The first scan reduces the
résumés to three stacks, a "yes" stack, a "maybe" stack, and a "no" stack.
Once the first scan is completed, the next thing that happens is
universal: they pick up the "yes" stack. And here's the point: If your
résumé didn't make the "yes" stack on the first pass in which it got a
ten-to-twenty second look, the likelihood of you winning a job interview
is practically zero. Someone in the "yes" stack will get the interview and
Image is Everything
As you create your résumé, never lose sight of the fact that you are
creating an image of yourself for someone who is a complete stranger, who
has no idea of your personality, your physical appearance, your vitality,
your intelligence or your ambition. Your résumé is the only asset
available to the prospective employer to determine whether you are the
kind of person they need. Pay close attention to the kind of document you
are preparing for them.
If your résumé
contains misspelled words, the vision you create of yourself is that of
someone who is either (1) ignorant, (2) careless, (3) doesn't know how to
use a dictionary, or (4) doesn't care one way or the other. A recent
survey sponsored by Office Team, a California-based staffing firm,
revealed that 76% of employers will eliminate a job applicant whose résumé
contains typographical errors. Forty-five percent said a single typo was
enough to reject a candidate. And if your résumé is computer typeset but
still contains misspelled words, the image you create is that of someone
whose computer skills are so minimal that you haven't learned how to use
the spell checker.
A résumé that is
printed on cheap, flimsy off-set paper sends the message that its owner is
also cheap. A résumé that has stains, bent edges or other slights sends
the message that the owner is sloppy or untidy. A news article in the
Florida Times-Union reported an interview with the Human Resource Manager
of a major corporation in which the manager said that over 5,000 responses
to his company's employment ads in the Wall Street Journal were thrown
into the trash that year because of the appearance of the envelope. Truly,
image is everything.
Your résumé should
never be printed on anything less than 24 lb. paper. Personally, I prefer
all- linen papers, although there are some nice fiber ones. As to color,
white is "safe," but I prefer color. Advertising professionals will tell
you that color greatly increases reader response, and the résumé is
advertising media. A survey of senior corporate managers and Human
Resource professionals was taken a few years ago, and when asked about
color in résumé, the response was interesting. If you combined the number
of respondents who said the color of the paper had no influence
whatsoever, with those who said they preferred ivory/creme, the percentage
was over 70%. Thus, Las Vegas odds-makers would tell you the surest bet is
to print your resume on ivory/creme paper.
Don't fold your
résumé and stuff it into a No.10 envelope. Send it in a 9x12 envelope, and
enclose a meaningful cover letter with it. If you are faxing your résumé
but also have the mailing address of the prospective employer, send a hard
copy on your nice linen paper as well. No one ever lost a job opportunity
because they went the extra mile.
The One-Page/Two-Page Controversy
Opinions abound over whether a résumé may have multiple pages, or should
be limited to one page. The word, " résumé" is from the French language
and means to summarize. The whole idea of a résumé presentation is that a
genuine effort should be made to make it as brief and tightly focused as
possible. The primary purpose of the résumé's content is to firmly
establish your qualifications for the job for which you are applying. The
goal is to convince the prospective employer that your talents and
abilities would be of value to the company, and that you deserve a job
interview. Never sacrifice content for page count. If the breadth and
depth of your experience takes two pages, then so be it. However, if the
essential message of your background can be captured on one page, don't
stretch it into two pages in the belief that you will seem more
experienced because of the second page.
Keep a heads-up attitude when preparing your résumé. Give quality time to
its preparation, and bring your full intelligence to bear. This is not a
document to be done while watching 20/20 on television, or knocked off in
some cavalier fashion over the weekend. Make a conscious effort to take
the prospective employers' perspective and visualize your talents through
their eyes. Remember, it's their job and their money. You will not win a
job interview if you fail to convince them that what you would bring to
their company is worth more than they will have to pay you. Think value,
as you write your résumé. And don't lose sight of this important fact:
Your résumé is working for you in the most competitive moment of the
entire job hunting process, when you are competing against hundreds of
others for the same job-and you're not there in person. Your résumé is
YOU. Read your résumé carefully, ask friends and professional peers to
also read it and give you some feedback. Is the image you have created,
the best, the most accurate and most comprehensive image you could
transmit to a complete stranger? If not, then you are not competitive in
the marketplace. Go back to your computer and give it another shot.
KNOW THYSELF: THE
AS CAREER COUNSELOR
Perhaps one of the most valuable contributions that the process of
creating a résumé can make to the job hunting efforts of those who are in
career transition is insight into one's value in the world of work.
It may be that you
will write your own résumé, or you may elect to hire a professional to do
it for you. Either way, the process will generate some important questions
that can produce a sometimes sobering, but always useful assessment of
your marketability in today's increasingly competitive workplace. Here are
a few of them:
(1) What key
qualifications do you think your next employer will be looking for?
(2) Of those
qualifications which you currently possess, which ones do you think an
employer would consider the most valuable?
(3) Of all your
talents and qualifications, which constitute your greatest strengths and
make you the most unique?
(4) We all possess a
mix of hard skills, i.e., COBOL programming, and soft skills, i.e.,
interpersonal communication abilities. What are yours?
(5) What do you feel
are your most notable accomplishments on the job? Name 3 or 4 if you can,
and specify/quantify the results produced by each one.
particularly notable accomplishments have there been in your life, not
necessarily on the job?
(7) What are the key
skills/knowledge that you use on the job?
(8) What areas of
talent, skill, or education have you noticed seem to be particularly
valued by employers in your industry or career field?
(9) If you had to
put together a list of "buzz words" related to your area of work, what
would they be?
Quality time spent
in a genuine self-inspection of what makes one valuable to an employer is
a crucial first step in developing a résumé that wins job interviews and
leads to a successful job hunt. Because the résumé is a sales instrument,
a marketing tool that advertises and promotes your value to a potential
employer, the better you know yourself the better you are able to
communicate it to others.
The process of
writing your résumé, or working with a professional résumé writer, is
itself a form of career counseling and helps to clarify not only your
current skill set, but identify those areas needing improvement to enhance
your employability. And if you are contemplating a complete change of
career field, the self-assessment aspect of the résumé preparation process
prepares the way for identifying and acquiring the additional skill sets
that qualify you for employment in your new career.
Okay. You discovered in your local newspaper's employment want ads what
appears to be a great job opening. You immediately sent off your résumé
and cover letter, and you have been waiting expectantly for a reply.
Today's mail arrived, and joy of joys, there's a card acknowledging
receipt of your résumé and it asks you to call the company to arrange for
a personal interview.
At least not before making some preparations. There is a strong likelihood
that the call you are about to make will not be a simple one of arranging
for a convenient time to meet. The increased level of competition for the
better jobs today has resulted in higher numbers of persons applying for
job vacancies, and many employers have begun giving applicants a screening
interview over the telephone. There you are on the telephone expecting to
just set a time for meeting, and suddenly your call has been handed to
someone who begins to ask probing questions about your abilities, what you
know about the company, and why you think you should be hired. This is no
time for fumbling around for creative thoughts.
screening interview is designed to save the employer the time and expense
that might be wasted on a personal interview with an applicant who is not
the most qualified for the position. There may be specific skills or
knowledge which the employer requires and the applicant's résumé may lack
a definite claim in those areas. Or it may be that the employer's
advertisement has drawn such a strong response that the high number of
applicants has made it possible to add selection criteria not reflected in
their original advertisement. Then again, the purpose of the telephone
interview may be simply to get a feel for the applicant's ability to
Whatever the reason
motivating the employer to use the telephone screening interview, the best
strategy for job hunters is to prepare for the telephone interview before
calling. Have a copy of the résumé and cover letter which you sent on the
table before you. Gather any notes you have about the company's
background, and have prompt cards on the significant points you want to
make in the interview. Review all of these before making the call. In
fact, think of The Three P's of Interviewing: Preparation, Practice and
Preparation Builds Confidence
The best remedy for those interviewing 'butterflies' is to prepare for the
interview. Make it a point to look into the background of any company to
which you are applying for employment. At the very least you should make
sure you understand what services or products they provide. It will also
be helpful to have some understanding of their industry and their
competitors. One of the best and easiest-to-use resources for this sort of
information is the CD-ROM-based Business Newsbank Plus found at many
public and college campus libraries. Business Newsbank Plus provides full
text news articles from hundreds of industry and professional publications
and is an excellent resource for uncovering recent news events relating to
a prospective employer. Another resource is Infotrac, which can be
accessed at most metropolitan branches of a city or county public library
system. Infotrac and its Investex files provide information on more than
8,000 U.S. and 2,000 publicly-held foreign companies, and its reports are
written by over 60 respected Wall Street firms.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is essential to mastering any endeavor. It's amazing how many
people continue to insist on just "winging it" when it comes to job
interviewing. You're unnecessarily inviting disaster by not practicing
your presentation of yourself. Just about everyone has a video camera
these days, or knows someone who has. Set it up on a tripod and have a
friend (not your wife or husband) take the role of the interviewer. It's
best to practice in an office environment if one is available. Be mindful
of the clock and work not only to smooth out your presentation, but also
to reduce the time taken in responding to questions. Study the video
closely and look for distracting body language, language clichés, or weak
Presentation is Selling
An interview is a sales presentation. Professional salespersons always
know where they are in the presentation. Like a good story, a sales
presentation has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning of an
interview is your opportunity to ask questions. Professional salespersons
ask questions to uncover the problems and needs of their prospect, then
pitch their product as an answer to those problems and needs. Not a bad
strategy for a job applicant. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The more
you know about the responsibilities of the vacant position, the better
able you will be to answer the questions asked in the middle of the
interview. Let the interviewer control the middle portion, and make it a
point to not talk continuously for more than two minutes. Watch for body
language and verbal signals from the interviewer that the interview is
coming to a close. Have some strategies in mind for summarizing your
abilities and leave no doubt with the interviewer that you will accept the
position if offered. Also, remember that an upbeat attitude, a sense of
humor and a smile are powerful tools in a successful interview.
COVER LETTER DYNAMICS
Probably one of the
most misunderstood and underrated of all personal marketing documents is
the cover letter. The very name, "cover letter," is so bland that it
inspires hardly anyone and dangerously invites flippancy. Yet, the cover
letter may well be the most important of all the various forms of
correspondence a job hunter will use in the search for quality employment.
It is a multi-faceted document that may be used for everything from
answering employment ads and responding to requests for salary
requirements, to the cold-call broadcasting of one's talents to selected
employers who are not necessarily advertising a current job vacancy.
Competition Demands Higher Performance
Satchel Paige, one of baseball's greats, said "Don't look over your
shoulder because something may be gaining on you." When today's job
hunters and career changers look over their shoulders, they will certainly
see a pressing horde of other job seekers frantically positioning
themselves to win the attention of prospective employers. And that horde
includes not only the unemployed, but millions of people who have jobs but
want something better or different. To be competitive and stay ahead of
other career changers, it is crucial to develop a job hunting presentation
of oneself that is distinctive-markedly different in some way from what
others are doing.
Combine Research With Sincerity
Recently, Accutemp, the world's largest employer of accounting and
financial services personnel, had an independent survey conducted of the
tens of thousands of cover letters it receives each year. The survey
revealed that over two-thirds of the cover letters made no mention of the
company or its industry. There's your first clue as to how you can be
distinctive among job hunters. Join the minority one-third of applicants
by taking the initiative to research the company you are approaching for
employment. Gather current data and create a meaningful statement in your
cover letter that sends the signal (a) that your letter is not a generic
rip-off from some How-to-Write-a-Cover Letter book, and (b) that you have
a genuine interest in their company. I stress the words meaningful and
genuine because a mere off-handed parroting of information in a
non-creative way will come across as superficial and phony-not the image
you want to portray. I recently addressed a class of graduating seniors
who were completing their Master's degree in Human Resource Management.
Many of the students already had years of hands-on experience in Human
Resource functions like employment screening. They agreed that the cover
letter is important in assessing a job applicant, but were quick to add
that they were unimpressed by shallow, insincere references to their
company. Point: It isn't enough to just go through the motions.
Two Closing Points
The cover letter is a demonstration of your literacy, your ability to
communicate-a vital and much sought after skill in today's team-oriented
and computer-automated workplace. Tightly written sentences focused in
presenting relevant talents and interests, carefully organized paragraphs,
and text that is typo-free from beginning to end all send a signal of
intelligence and education. The Director of Human Resources for a Fortune
500 company reported that in one year alone, his company eliminated over
3,000 job applicants because of incoherent cover letters. What you say and
how you say it makes a difference.
Secondly, your cover
letter should contain the basic elements of its purpose: who you are, what
position or type of work you are applying for, how you come to be
contacting them at this particular time, an amplification of the talent(s)
you think most valuable to them (and if answering their employment ad, a
focused response to each and every qualification mentioned in their ad),
and a direct request for an interview. Be candid, be direct, be brief and
sell, sell, sell.
THE JOB HUNTER'S CHECK LIST
You must have a
clear vision of who you are in the workplace-from the employer's
perspective. Employers hire for value. Survey your skills, education and
work experience for the value that answers the employer's question, "What
can you do for me?", or "Why should I hire you (and not one of these other
- Make a list of
the specific abilities, specialized knowledge, technical know-how and
people/communication skills that you bring to the table in exchange for
- Give thought to
your personal values and life interests to make sure they are compatible
with the areas of employment you are considering.
Examine the World of Work
At any given time
there are identifiable trends in the world of work. Some economic
activities are on the increase, driven by technology or market demands
while other areas have reached a plateau, or maybe are sliding toward
obsolescence. Focus your job hunting efforts toward those industries which
are experiencing the greatest growth or change, and are upward-trending.
- Learn to use
electronic resources like INFOTRAC and Business Newsbank Plus to
efficiently identify the "movers and shakers" who are most likely to be
- Check out your
local library for business information resources like The American
Business Disc (CD-ROM) or Dun and Bradstreet's Microcosm (microfiche) to
identify the "players" in your local business community.
Prepare Personal Marketing Documents
Next to your
driver's license, your résumé(s) and cover letter(s) are the most
important documents in your working life. Spare no amount of time and
money in preparing them. Remember: The purpose of these documents is to
secure a personal interview-no interview, no job! The most competitive
moment in the whole job hunting process is when your résumé is competing
against hundreds of others for the few initial interviews that will be
- The résumé is not
a job application form! It is advertising media promoting a product-YOU.
It should be upbeat, focused in the talent areas most valued by the
prospective employer, and totally professional in presentation and
- Computer typeset
your résumé and print it on a high quality paper, preferably a 24 lb.
linen paper. Keep in mind that your résumé may be computer scanned, so
keep formating simple and avoid desktop publishing gimmicks.
- Proofread your
résumé several times for errors, and also have one or two friends read
it not only to check for spelling errors, but coherence and organization
as well. Typos, incorrect words and lack of organization suggest poor
education, ignorance, lack of attention to detail and sloppiness.
Contact Quality Employers
Use the information
gained from surveying the world of work to identify specific employers,
then use every method available to contact them.
- Information is
the key to uncovering the "hidden job market." Any resource or method
that is not used will result in missing quality job opportunities.
- There is no one
perfect method or technique for identifying and contacting prospective
employers. The success rate of a particular method varies depending upon
a myriad of factors including industry type, market demand, size of
business community, nature of the work sought, and others.
- Leave no stone
unturned: use industry research and focused direct mail, personal
networking, automated job lines, Internet job sites, recruiters and
employment agencies, career fairs, state employment resources and
telemarketing to spread the word of your availability. Remember: the
greater the number of companies and people that know you are available,
the greater the number of interviews you will get.
Be prepared for a
telephone interview, an increasingly common screening device. Do your
"homework" on a company before returning their call to set up an
interview. Prepare "prompt cards" summarizing what you know about the
company and to help field the most likely questions about your abilities.
- Read a good book
on interviewing. Two favorites: 101 Great Answers to the Toughest
Interview Questions, by Ron Fry, and Sweaty Palms-The Neglected Art of
Being Interviewed, by Anthony Medley.
Ask your most
important questions in the first 5-10 minutes of the interview, then let
the interviewer run the show. Your initial questions should be aimed at
finding out as much as possible about the vacant position. Thus armed, you
are better able to understand and answer the questions that follow in the
- Always, always
follow-up the interview with a brief, courteous letter. This letter may
also be used as an opportunity to clear up or amplify some point that
arose during the interview. End the letter with assurances that you are
very much interested in the position, and would take it if offered.
WHY NOT DO IT YOURSELF?
spending the several hundred dollars involved in hiring a professional
service to create résumé(s) and cover letter(s), someone will argue, "This
can't be all that difficult. Why not save the money and just do it
Our answer is
simple: There are times when it is wise to cut costs and preserve capital.
But when it comes to creating the professional presentation that will be
responsible for winning or losing what may be your best shot at landing a
quality job with a great company, this is definitely NOT the time to count
pennies. For most people, the loss of one week of pay far exceeds all
costs related to preparing one's personal marketing documents. All it
takes is one missed opportunity for a job interview, and all money "saved"
The résumé is a
deceptively simple-looking document, yet it is one of the most difficult
of all forms of business communication to create. Deceptive, because at
first glance it appears to be nothing more than someone's name, address
and telephone number, a listing of places where one's worked along with
job titles, job descriptions and education. In reality, the résumé is
advertising media employing the most demanding form of creative
copywriting. It is a type of writing that few people are ever called upon
An effective résumé,
meaning one that consistently wins interviews against all others competing
for the same position, is a marketing instrument whose content is written
in a peculiar staccato voice that never uses the first person personal
pronoun, speaks in the vernacular of the industry and somehow magically
presents the owner's talents in a way that is particularly attractive to
the needs of a targeted audience, the employer.
between the level of professional services at CareerFlorida.com and the
writing skills of the average job seeker, whether college educated or not,
may be summed up in one word: Practice. At
CareerFlorida.com, we are writing every day, all day long, and
across the full spectrum of the world of work, encompassing virtually
every career field and industry. We use the analogy of aviation flight
training to demonstrate the essential ingredient of Practice:
Most people who want
to learn how to fly an airplane will first attend what is called Ground
School. Here the would-be-pilots learn basic aerodynamic principles that
explain why an airplane flies. They learn the Bernouli principle of lift,
and why the length of the chord over the top of an airfoil is longer than
underneath. They also learn the functions of all the control surfaces, the
flaps, ailerons, elevator and rudder. At the conclusion of Ground School,
the flight students have a full intellectual understanding of how to fly,
but no actual practice flying a plane. So, when they climb into the
cockpit of a real airplane they will certainly crash if an instructror is
not there to save them
In the same manner,
it is not enough to merely realize the qualities that make for a
successful résumé. Reading a book about how to write a resumé is like
attending ground school. No matter what principles you may learn from the
book, it is only practice, practice and more practice that will eventually
result in an acceptable résumé. Most job hunters and persons in career
transition do not enjoy the luxury of having the time to research, learn
and practice creating the elements of a successful résumé. Wisdom, in this
case, says a professional should be brought in. The stakes are simply too
high to do otherwise. Now, the question for you is which professional?
We invite you to
examine our credentials, consider our professional affiliations, and read
the testimonials of our former clients. We are confident you will agree
that CareerFlorida.com is an excellent
choice to assist you in your career transition efforts. We invite you to
contact us to arrange for an initial, no cost
consultation. And remember, we GUARANTEE that you will be successful with
© Robert H. Johnson, B.A., M.A., JCTC
CLOSING THE DEAL: JOB INTERVIEWING STRATEGIES
Just about everyone
will agree that the most intimidating phase of job hunting is the dreaded
job interview: Sitting down with a total stranger to be probed and
interrogated, then to negotiate terms of a relationship not yet fully
understood, but one which will impact profoundly on the quality of one's
life and family. However, it need not be so unpleasant, and the outcome
more likely successful if only a bit of preparation and practice are
brought to the process.
It is amazing how
lackadaisically and nonchalantly many job seekers approach the job
interviewing process, yet cannot understand why they dread it so much, why
those "butterflies" are raging in their stomachs on the day of the
interview, and finally, why the interview didn't go so well. First of all,
those butterflies are the product of fear, and fear is the product of a
lack of information. This is not the death-and-dying type of fear, but the
more common garden variety of apprehension that comes from a strong need
to succeed, yet having a feeling of little or no control over the outcome.
Preparation and practice are the remedy for this condition.
If the truth be
told, few job seekers give more than a token effort to fully informing
themselves about the employer they are approaching, and even less time in
practicing the interview process. There is the classic tale of the job
candidate who was being interviewed by IBM and was asked, "What does the
acronym,IBM, stand for?" He had no answer, and was immediately
disqualified as just another job shopper. Beyond desiring regular pay,
benefits and a two-week vacation, today's job seeker better have a
convincing answer to the interviewer's question, "Why do you want to go to
work for us?"
At a minimum, you
should inform yourself of a brief history of the company, i.e., when and
where it was founded; whether it is the parent company, or a subsidiary of
a larger company; the nature of its products and services; its stature in
the industry, gross sales and whether they are rising or falling, and who
are the major competitors. If the company's stock is publicly held, I
strongly recommend reading the company president's message to the
stockholders in the most recent annual report. This type of information is
easily found on the Internet and in the Reference Department of most
public and university libraries. Several of my favorites for this type of
research are: (1) www.companiesonline.com; (2) www.hoovers.com; (3) and
the Wall Street Journal Background reports at firstname.lastname@example.org.
strategy when preparing for a job interview is to construct a 90-second
thumbnail presentation of your value to the employer. This one and
one-half minute presentation should be a bare-bones litany of the
education, talent and expertise that justifies what the company will pay
you for your time. Just the process itself in collecting and arranging
this brief presentation will prepare you for many of the questions you
might be asked, including the trap-door query, "Tell me about yourself."
The 90-second drill is also valuable in handling the increasingly common
telephone screening interview that precedes an invitation for a personal
comes practice. Find a friend or professional peer, NOT your wife, husband
or other members of your family, and set up as realistic an interviewing
session as possible. Try to find a vacant conference room in your office
building, or go to a friend's office after hours or on the weekend. As you
structure the practice interview, keep in mind that you are expected to
ask questions yourself. Put together a list of the criteria that are
important to you, and compose diplomatic questions for the interviewer. In
a sense, you and the employer are considering a form of marriage. There
are questions to which you are entitled to ask. For example: (1) May I
take a look at the job description?; (2) Do you have a performance
appraisal system and what is the typical career track expected?; (3) Do
you offer training?, and (4) Who will I be working for?
Depending upon a
number of factors such as company size and the vacant position's level of
responsibility, you may or may not encounter salary negotiations on the
first interview. But sooner or later, you and the prospective employer
will have to hammer out an agreement on your compensation. Keep in mind
that compensation is frequently more than just money: quality of life
issues such as child-care subsidies, paid vacations and sick leave are
also values to be considered, not to mention health and hospitalization
insurance. Latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of March
1998, benefits averaged about 28% of total compensation costs.
is one of the most misunderstood aspects of job interviewing, and it is a
topic deserving more attention than can be given in this brief article.
But suffice it to say, the principles of preparation and practice are
equally important to successful negotiation. A couple of my favorite
resources for salary comparisons are: (1) wetfeet.com/salary/home.asp, and
Finally, it is wise
to consider that after all is said and done, it is not necessarily the
most qualified person, or the one who will work the more cheaply, that
gets the job offer. Studies in human nature tell us that we tend to like
or dislike someone in the first 5 to 8 seconds of meeting. Job
interviewing is a dynamic endeavor of engaging personalities, and while
your qualifications are certainly important, you are also being measured
for your compatibility with existing employees. Your best weapon here is
your smile and, yes, a sense of humor. There's no better touchstone for
help in this part of the interviewing process than the all-time classic,
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
Remember, it's all
about preparation and practice. To win a job offer, you can't have too
much of either.
© Robert H. Johnson,
B.A., M.A., JCTC
IS YOUR CURRENT RÉSUMÉ OCR DIGESTIBLE?
In earlier times,
résumés were created on typewriters and mailed or faxed to potential
employers. With the advent of e-mail communication and the soliciting by
Internet job boards for ASCII-formatted résumés, plus the increasing use
of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning to digitize résumés for
computer software management applications, it's a whole new ball game out
Communication is a
two-way street. It's not enough to merely transmit a message; it must be
received on the other end for the exchange to be complete. If the résumé
which you're transmitting is not in a format that is compatible for
receiving on the other end, then you're spinning your wheels and stand to
miss out on being considered for vacant job positions. Let's take a few
minutes to get up to speed on OCR scanning. When you've finished reading
this article, you might want to also read the article, Electronically
Speaking: Résumés Via the Internet, on the differing techniques of
ASCII-text transmissions for e-mailing résumés to employers and posting
résumés to Internet job boards.
As the number of job
applicants increases each year, companies are turning to OCR scanning of
résumés to (1) eliminate having to physically handle and file bulky paper
résumés, and (2) to change the résumés into an electronic format so they
can be easily searched for the specific area of talent sought by the
employer for a particular position. You want to make sure that the copy of
your résumé which you have sent to the employer will present no problems
for their OCR scanner, and that all of your information will be accurately
recorded. Here's your check list to ensure a scannable document:
- Provide the
prospective employer with the highest quality copy of your résumé, using
a standard size 8 1/2 x 11, white or ivory/creme paper. Send your résumé
unfolded in a 9 x 12 envelope and don't staple the pages together. The
creases in a folded résumé can distort letters, and the staple holes may
be read as letters.
- The safest
typefaces to use are non-serif styles like Helvetica, Arial, Optima,
etc., and the best font size is between 10 and 12. Avoid headings in
font sizes larger than 20, and stay away from fancy script-type fonts or
typefaces with long ascenders or descenders. Adjust the leading (the
space between lines) to at least .95, and make sure no characters touch
one another, especially any underlining. When characters touch an
underline, the scanner tries to read the character and the underline as
a single word. In general, avoid underlining when possible.
horizontal lines drawn to make a distinction between sections of your
résumé are okay. Just make sure no text touches the lines. If you're
using horizontal lines, make them of thin or medium thickness and long,
preferably from margin to margin. And use single lines, not a double or
combo of one thick-one thin line.
- Don't use
newspaper-style, multiple vertical columns of text, and while a
digitized résumé of 10 pages is processed as easily as a single-page
one, stay true to the spirit of the résumé: be brief and well organized,
with content focused toward presenting qualifications directly related
to the position for which you are applying.
- Bullets to set
off paragraphs are okay, but use solid ones; bullets with cutouts in the
center can be misread by a scanner as the letter "o." And avoid special
characters like +, &, and %. Spell out the words "plus," "and," and
"percent." Also, add extra spaces around slashes (e.g., advertising /
marketing, not advertising/marketing).
THE USE OF KEY WORDS & PHRASES:
I've saved the most important point for last and emphasized it with bold
print because it is imperative to realize that the primary feature of the
software applications that manipulate résumé information is the
time-saving ability to search for candidates by specific skill areas,
talent and work experience. To be effective in this new OCR-scanning
environment, your résumé must contain the key words and phrases that
relate to the type of position for which you applying. And it is NOUNS
that rule the day, not the verbs, or "action" words around which most of
today's résumés are built.
These keyword nouns
(sometimes acronyms) may emphasize skill areas (mechanical engineer),
level of education (Master's Degree), name of college (MIT), name of a
branded company (IBM, XEROX, AT&T), languages (Spanish), industry (plastic
injection molding), and industry or workplace designations such as
Keywords may also relate to specific elements or functions of the job. For
instance, a high-tech company looking for a college-educated multi-state
salesperson to sell its line of radiological products may set up a search
using the keywords: multi-state sales; outside sales; medical sales;
medical equipment; sales territory management; new product launchings;
Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Arts; major accounts; account management;
radiology, end-user training and customer service.
Where to find the
key words and phrases? The easiest approach is to survey employment want
ads in the newspapers and trade publications, Internet job boards, and any
one of the many career resource publications such the Occupational Outlook
Handbook, or even the U.S. Department of Labor's new NAICS manual with its
And finally, the
controversy over whether a separate key word section is needed at the top
or bottom of the résumé. If you have done a thorough job of strategically
placing key words and phrases throughout your résumé, the answer is no.
Just be aware that if you've failed to send these key electronic "signals"
to the prospective employer, your message may be overlooked by the system.