andreas.com FAQ: Interviewing
Why are job interviews such a mess? The fundamental problem with interviewing is that neither the interviewer nor the interviewee are good at interviewing. Interviewing is not an important job skill for them.
Nick Corcodilos, a Silicon Valley recruiter, once noticed that some of his contractors ALWAYS got the offer, while others NEVER got the offer. He tagged along to interviews and learned why this happens. He wrote a book about this: Ask the Headhunter. It’s an important books for your career. He turns the interview upside down and you learn how to manage an interview. Read this, make notes, use it, and you’ll practically always get the offer.
If you have three years or more experience, this book is highly recommended.
If you’re a recruiter, pick your top ten or twenty contractors and give them a copy of this book. It’ll increase your placement rate. (Don’t tell the others in your office.)
- Nick Corcodilos’ Ask the Headhunter : Reinventing the Interview to Win the Job ($12 at Amazon)
While we’re talking about interviewing, here’s a recruiter’s point of view. Deborah Welgoss, a senior executive recruiter, wrote the following.
Navigating Job BoardsÖ.Not As Easy As It Looks!
By Deborah Welgoss, SPHR
Of all the tools used in job searching, Job Boards such as Monster and CareerBuilder, although not the best of methods, are popular and used more and more by employers and job hunters.Using the job boards is not as easy as it looks. Sure, getting your resume posted and searching for open positions is a breeze. However, if you are not careful, you can blow your chances of ever getting that phone call from the recruiter that will get your foot in the door for that all important face-to-face interview.Remember, you are marketing yourself. Your objective is to set yourself apart from the competition. Actually, this is easier than it sounds. I’m going to show you how to do it.
Know Your Enemy
You have two of them: The recruiterÖ and all the other candidates. You don’t need to know anything about the other candidates, but you do need to know about the recruiter. You may think you already know, but I’m pretty sure you don’t (unless you’re related to one). For the time being, forget about the interviewer that sits across the desk from you at the face-to-face. Chances are, that will NOT be the person who screens you “in” or screens you “out”.
So, what are these people like who look at your resume after you hit the “apply” button? Let me tell you about them. Even if they’re lucky enough to get a job description, the first thing they do is make a list of three or four “gotta haves” and another few “nice to haves”. Then they sit down at their inbox and start to go through (possibly) hundreds of responses. They spend a few seconds on each response and either put them aside to review later of hit the delete key. Most recruiters will then spend as little as one minute reviewing those culled resumes. After reviewing about 50 resumes, their eyes start getting tired.
Large corporations will have resume software that will store your submission and the recruiter can search for keywords. The best of these software packages are pretty bad, but they have their advantages as well. They have advantages for the employer’s desire to manage and store resumes, they don’t necessarily have an advantage for you as the candidate. Most small to medium companies don’t bother with software, it’s all done by people. Most Human Resources departments don’t get the budget they need to have the latest and greatest software.
Now that you know your enemy, it’s time to focus on what to do and what not to do. You want to be in the “in” group, not the “out” group. Pay attention now! If you want to rise to the top, you’re going to need to sharpen your skills.
Let’s Start With The DO’s
- First and foremost, get an email address with your name in it, such as John.Doe@anywhere.com. Why? Recruiters who are not using resume software deserve a break. If John Doe uses, let’s say, NascarFanatic@anywhere.com, this is going to add complexity to the recruiter’s life that they don’t need. How do you remember that John Doe is Nascarfanatic? How do you find him in your email folder? Keep it simple, get noticed.
There is another reason to avoid cute email addresses. You never know when you will tap into a hidden resentment. What if the recruiter divorced her husband for being a NASCAR maniac? You can make an even bigger blunder by using a suggestive address. I swear, I got a resume from firstname.lastname@example.org for an executive position. Why would I pass that resume on to upper management and then have to listen to the lame jokes for the next six months? There was one worse than that, but I think I’ll just leave it alone at this point.
Make sure you either check this email address every day or have it forwarded to your main email address. Recruiters like to make first contact by email because it’s quicker and easier, if you don’t respond, they may call you in a few days. By that time, a whole bunch of folks just cut in line in ahead of you. Just don’t mess up and respond from your main email address. Use the one with your name on it. Remember, keep it simple.
One more point about email addresses. A lot of people list an email address when they first input their personal information on the job board. Then they change email addresses. They update their resume but not their contact information on the personal information section. Make sure the email, home phone and cell phone numbers you have listed in your profile are up to date.
- Do use an effective cover letter. Do not use an idiotic cover letter, or worse yet, forgo using a cover letter. How do you recognize an idiotic cover letter? Easy. It’s about three paragraphs long and it’s basically nonsense that you knew was nonsense when you wrote it, but somehow you got the idea that this was the right way to do a cover letter. If you thought it was stupid when you wrote it, you were right. Recruiters won’t read this drivel at all, they just scroll past it looking for those keywords.
What do you put in your cover letter? Look at the posting, pick out the three or four most important things they are looking for and the couple of things they seem to have on their “nice to have” list. Then do bullet points. They wantÖ.You Have.
Bachelors Degree = BSCS from XYZ University
5 yrs. C++ experience = 7 yrs. C++ experience.
Now you get your resume put into the “to be reviewed” pile.
Just keep in mind that an individual cover letter for each job is a little work that will pay off big time. Look at the cover letter as your first opportunity to score big points with a weary recruiter. Make their jobs a little easier and they will love you.
- Do attach a Word copy of your resume. Do make your resume simple with no exotic templates or graphics. Why? First of all, if you hit “Apply with posted resume” button, what the recruiter receives is a really mashed up version of your resume, barely readable. When they say, “click here to see how your resume will look to employers” they are more or less pulling your leg. The only recruiters that see your resume that way are the ones who are mining resumes from the resume bank, not the employers you apply to. Your best bet is to hit the “email to” button, cut and paste your cover letter and resume to the email, then attach a Word document as well. A note about how you save your resumeÖ.don’t assume that every employer has the latest version of Microsoft. Complex titles may mean that your resume can’t be opened. Keep it simple. Doe_JohnResume.doc.
Also, fancy formatting may get mashed by resume software. Using a template may cause your name and contact information to disappear. Not a good idea.
Use a .doc format rather than any other because it is so universally accepted.
- Do avoid salary issues at this stage. If the employer is adamant about it, put in a reasonable range, low to high. This will at least give them a reason to not screen you out and you still have some negotiating power. Don’t you just hate it when the employer won’t post the salary range, but expect you to divulge your salary? Well, rather than fight it and loose the opportunity, play it smart. If they require a salary history, they are probably looking to see if you have been making steady progress in your career. You can respond with “I started my career at X dollars per year and am now in the XX to XX range.” It’s not a flat refusal, yet it keeps your options open.
- Do put in a description of the companies you worked for if they were small, local outfits that might not be recognized outside the immediate vicinity. If you’re not using the company’s name for some reason, a one sentence description of the company’s main business area is important. For example, I worked for ABC Company for 10 years lies there like a dead fish, hasn’t quite got the punch of Microsoft.
- Never, ever badmouth a current or previous employer. Not in your cover letter, not in your resume, not in the interview. Keep it to: you worked hard, you learned a lot, the company had financial problems, you’re looking for a new opportunity. End of story. That goes for coworkers too. Always remember the bit about six degrees of separation.
- Never have a resume longer than two pages. Everyone tells you this, and it’s true! If you have had a long and glorious career and you really feel you need 12 pages to explain it all, you’re doomed. I have a suggestion for those of you who are now in tears. There is a simple cure for your illness. Write your resume in Power Point. This forces you to use bullet points and keep the verbiage to a minimum. Then transfer your ideas to two pages. You can use what’s left over for the book you are going to write.
- Never write a resume without thinking about keywords. Keywords are very important to recruiters mining resume banks and those reviewing your resume in their inbox. You can shove a lot into a few lines at the bottom of your resume titled Additional Information. Put in your skills, software used, hardware used and any other terms that the hiring manager might latch onto with interest. Sometimes the recruiter doesn’t know COBOL from Linux, but can pick up on a keyword in their job specifications that matches your resume. Be direct, not obscure when you do this. Don’t think, “well, a professional will know what I mean”. As you should have learned by now, you have to get past the recruiter to get to the professional.
- Never falsify any degrees, employers or periods of employment. They will find out. There are so many inexpensive ways to check backgrounds these days that you’re sadly mistaken if you think you can get away with it. There’s always that small print in the application you signed that says that if you fib your fired. Don’t go there. If they “require” a college degree and you don’t have one, face it head on and show how your experience is equivalent. That’s usually all they are looking for anyway. Not always, but usually. If you’ve had periods of unemployment, be prepared to discuss what you did in your downtime. Took courses, worked for a relative, etc. etc. Make every negative a positive.
- Never send a resume that hasn’t been spell checked. If you edit it, run spell check again. I just got a resume yesterday for a Vice President of Marketing who listed “Markating Experience”. Need I say more? Also, watch your grammar. Don’t use run-on sentences. Don’t use “big” words if you don’t know what they mean. Have someone else look it over first before you post it.