Some say that the whole job search process can be tough and tiresome. So, too, can be the process of thinking through whether or not career advancement should occur either where you’re at or somewhere else.
It’s with this in mind that we, at vCandidates.com, are providing provide occasional quick-to-read hints and tips to remind or help you in how to think through the whole job search and career advancement process. We also email tips weekly and would be glad to add you to our list (click here).
INTERVIEW TIP #1
Demonstrating your interest in the company that you’re scheduled to meet starts with researching them. Review the company’s website and annual reports (if a public company), read about the company’s industry and key challenges that affect category and company trends, learn what the company’s culture is all about through reviews and press releases and learn about the management team and the people you will be meeting with.
RESUME TIP #1
It’s all about first impressions. You are representing yourself to others who don’t know you that well. And, even if they know you, mistakes may imply a lack of attention to your work and can change perceptions. So, move slowly and proofread for typos regularly when writing your resume. Misspellings, extra spaces and wrong words can stand out to fresh eyes, so call in a friend to proofread your resume before sending it off.
INTERVIEW TIP #2:
RE-READ THE JOB DESCRIPTION
A job description is the hiring company’s review of the roles, responsibilities and qualifications that they are looking for. Re-reading it will help you to identify the keywords, industry jargon and skills and help you prepare how your experiences match up well. Print it out and underline the skills that the employer is looking for. Think about past and current work history examples that align with these requirements. By doing this, your answers to their questions will align more clearly to what they’re looking for.
RESUME TIP #2:
USE KEYWORDS WITH CARE
Keywords are the words or short phrases that a job description includes because they relate to the job or that are familiar to you based on your expertise that relate to particular requirements for a job. They are the skills, abilities, credentials, and qualities that a hiring manager looks for in a candidate. Add keywords from a job listing to your resume in order to get through filters. But, be cautious, recruiters can spot “keyword stuffing” from a mile away. Use buzzwords where they fit naturally and that match your style of writing.
INTERVIEW TIP #3:
PREPARE & PRACTICE
First is getting prepared. You know your skills and your accomplishments, but have you created the stories that showcase these skills and accomplishments. Simple and to the point. The STAR format. What was the Situation, the problem or challenge you were given, what were your Tasks, your responsibilities for this situation, what did you do, the Actions, to address the challenge and what were the team’s and your Results. Then, practice these answers enough to confidently present them. Several times so it becomes second nature.
RESUME TIP #3:
MAKE IT EASY TO READ
A resume that is hard to read won’t be read, especially when, on average, you get 6-7 seconds to make an impression. We write left to right and readers read left to right so orient your resume in that manner. Use left alignment, not the justified setting as it might leave gaps in a line. Use the same font, Arial or Calibri, with size differences and use of bold or italics kept at a minimum for emphasis where appropriate. CAPS are harder to read, so maybe avoid these. Use digits for numbers and think of the white space as room for breathing.
INTERVIEW TIP #4:
PREPARE & PRACTICE
We’re repeating this tip. It’s that important. Prepare and practice your answers to the common questions, “Tell me about yourself, and why are you interested in this role with our company?” Practice your answers in front of a mirror. Align your answers and accomplishments to the job description. Record yourself and play it back to see how you sound. This will also help to keep your eyes looking straight vs. the natural tendency to look up at the ceiling. Practice in front of someone. The idea is to quickly communicate who you are and what value you will bring to the company and the role.
RESUME TIP #4:
Support the professional information (your experience, education, projects, etc.) with both hard and soft skills. Those hard skills include the knowledge and abilities you’ve learned and acquired in school and throughout your career. These could include organizational, team, certifications and industry-specific skills. Soft skills are those interpersonal, natural and character traits that demonstrate your abilities to interact and work with others. Communications, team, listening, adaptability are some of these skills. Once identified, prepare case studies that convey these skills.
INTERVIEW TIP #5:
PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE
Map the route to the interview location so you can arrive on time whether you’re driving or taking the bus or train. Consider doing a practice run, and identify a backup plan if there are delays or closures. As to scheduling your interview ask, “what is your time frame for interviews,” and pick the latest time you can. That way, you’re fresher in their minds and your answers are more targeted based on the learning gained through other interviews. Also, avoid Mondays and Fridays given everyone’s frame of mind on getting the week’s work started and done. Last, interview in the AM not PM, to avoid fatigue on everyone’s part.
RESUME TIP #5:
We’ve said this before: A resume that is hard to read won’t be read and be careful with font types, type sizes and use of bold and italics. Consider also that your entire resume doesn’t have to be filled up to the brim! White space is friendlier to the eyes, makes it easier to be read and helps the reader to focus on your content. Of course, too much white space could imply a bland, less experienced candidate, and a cluttered resume could imply a lack of organizational skills. So, what’s the balance? Keep your margins at .5″ -1″ on both sides and look to see if your resume is balanced left to right and top to bottom.
INTERVIEW TIP #6:
A smile is one of the most important things to wear to an interview. It starts with first impressions. A big smile when you first meet people shows that you’re friendly and welcoming. A light, relaxed smile during the interview helps put others at ease. It gives you and shows others confidence in your answers and conveys a sense of calm and control in your demeanor. But, don’t fake it. Smiling as you normally do every day is a natural expression. Exaggerating your smile will be noticeable. It could come across as insecure and create an uncomfortable exchange between you and the interviewer. Smiling is a genuine emotion. By doing so naturally, you become genuine.
RESUME TIP #6:
RECENT & RELEVANT
Tailor your resume to the type of job you’re applying to with the most recent and most relevant accomplishments you’ve achieved. Prior tips talked about re-reading and using keywords from the job description so that you can tailor your resume to the job. As you do this, think of those recent tasks and accomplishments that showcase just how relevant you are for the position. As to how far back should you go, the rule of thumb is 10 years. Add prior experience if it helps present your relevancy (e.g., industry or functional expertise) and conveys your ability to do the job. By all means, consider outside experiences and volunteer activities if these strengthen your qualifications for the position.
INTERVIEW TIP #7:
TRY TO STAY CALM
Do you think Super Bowl players are nervous ahead of their performance? You bet. Half-time performers, also.. It’s natural. But, as the game and the halftime starts, preparation and practice takes over and we get to see a good game and show. The same holds true with the job interview. Preparation and practice. What you want to say should be 2nd nature and that comes with being prepared and having practiced. Research the company. Know your resume. Prepare answers to typical behavioral questions. Practice with someone. You’ll be amazed just how confident and natural you will sound and that nervousness will simply not show.
RESUME TIP #7:
A resume that is hard to read with varied fonts and sizes will not be read. But, a well-presented resume with active words stands a better chance to be read. You can make your resume stronger with active language. Power words such as achieved, earned, completed, analyzed, documented, improved or directed (there are many other words) will enhance the quality of your sentences. They more clearly and uniquely describe your experiences and accomplishments and provide instant information to the reader. These words should start each sentence. Use the action words that are in the job description.
INTERVIEW TIP #8:
During the interview, you will likely be asked about specific work you’ve completed in relation to the position. They want to know if they work you’ve done is readily transferable. Be prepared with examples. Know the projects that you’ve completed and/or led, how you’ve collaborated as a team player and/or leader and how you’ve grown in knowledge and as a manager of people, clients and vendors. While these accomplishments should be on your resume, the stories behind them is what the hiring company wants to hear. What was the challenge, how did you approach it, what were the results and how does it tie back to the position? Prepare yourself accordingly.
RESUME TIP #8:
YOUR BEST EXPERIENCES
Think of a website. You see the top part of the page, and it grabs your attention to scroll down. Resumes are the same. Hiring managers don’t spend a lot of time on a resume, so make sure your best accomplishments are visible on the top third of your resume. Grabbing their attention with relatable examples will spur their interest to read the rest of your resume. Your use of keywords from the job description can help. Tailor these first-to-read accomplishments to the top three or so roles noted in the job description as these typically are the more important aspects of the job. And, while maybe taxing, each resume should be tailored to the company and position.
INTERVIEW TIP #9:
Interviews are a two-way street. Employers expect you to ask questions. They want to know that you’re thinking seriously about the position and their company. They are also a way to present your professionalism and an initial understanding of their industry, possible company challenges that you can address and specific issues related to the position that you’re interviewing for. Take notes during the interview as questions may come up that will show that you’re listening. No doubt, you’ll want to know why the position is open (its history), its and your role in the company’s growth plans and what tasks need to be addressed, short and long-term.
RESUME TIP #9:
BOLD, CAPS & ITALICS
We’ve said this before: A resume that is hard to read with varied fonts and sizes will not be read. So, now the question is how can a resume use bold, caps and/or italics to create a well-presented resume that gets viewed? It’s called, “being consistent.” If you’ve made one of your subheadings bold – make them all bold. If you have italicized your title for one job, then italicize titles for all jobs. Here’s something to consider: avoid underlining and minimize CAPS. Underlined text and CAPS can sometimes be hard to read. Lastly, watch yourself from overusing any one style. The point is to make important information easier to find.
INTERVIEW TIP #10:
AUTHENTICITY & POSITIVITY
We’ve said this before: A genuine smile presents you in a genuine manner. Doing so helps the hiring manager and peers easily relate to you. Staying true to yourself will also help you to assess if the company’s values, work ethic and culture fits you, and if the people you meet are people that you’d enjoy working with. As for positivity, a smile, an upbeat body posture and language, consistent eye contact (don’t look at the ceiling for answers!), use of positive not negative words, no bad-mouthing prior companies or people, adding a little levity at times and letting them know what you can do (vs. can’t do) will help keep the interview confident sounding and constructive.
RESUME TIP #10:
WATCH YOUR TENSES
The past is past. The present is present. So, if your accomplishment happened, then present it as such, e.g., “Led a multi-team project that…” If it’s something that you’re doing now, then use the present tense, e.g., “Leading a multi-team project that…” Be consistent. With this said, be careful in how you’re using keywords from the job description. As best as possible, the keywords you use should be the same and in the same tense as noted on the job description as these are words that the company’s ATS is looking for. This may require you to revise the wording you used for the same accomplishment that you used for another company.
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