I was talking to my boss at Soap.com about being on the other side of the hiring process. After all, I just got my first grown-up job a month ago, and I'm curious to know what it's like to select candidates, interview them, schedule second rounds, and being the hirer rather than the hiree. From our conversation, I was really surprised by a couple of things that he brought up, and it made me wonder how many people stumble at the most basic level while trying to get a job.
If you're actually reading this post, that means you genuinely care about finding a job, so here's just a five things I've learned from my boss and my own experience:
1. Cut the fat
One of my more brilliant friends who was recruited his senior year of college to be an analyst told me a hiring manager spends about 30 seconds looking at a resume before he or she makes a decision to continue reading or dump it in the "do not contact" file. With that in mind, make your resume as easy and appealing as possible so that a recruiter can soak all of you up in 30 seconds and crave for more. This means a resume that can fit on ONE page is absolutely crucial. I've heard of two page resumes, but you better be a mid-to-high caliber candidate with tons of experience before you pull that maneuver. The safest bet is a detailed, single page with important information about what you did, how you did it, and what marketable skills you have.
2. Do not fear change
If you've been applying to jobs and have posted the same resume on Monster for the past few weeks and you've heard nothing, it's time to make a change. Whether it's expanding on more relevant positions you've held, going with a creative resume like a PhotoShop Resume/Final Cut Pro Video/Website, or simply starting from scratch, you're better off reassessing your resume then continually sending the same resume when results have shown that your application seems to be dead on arrival. Change isn't a bad thing, and although it's frustrating to start again, it's more frustrating to have your bank account drop to $0.
3. Use technology to your advantage
How many e-mail accounts do you have? I have 3, and all of these e-mails were responding to job opportunities and were linked to accounts on Monster. More often than not, your 1 resume is sitting in a huge database with hundreds [if not, thousands] of other names, and if there's anything I've learned from gambling, it's that even a small increase in odds can mean the difference between going home with the money or just going home. You might think that you're bombarding them with applications, but most hiring managers aren't even notified when you apply (sorry, you're not that special). They'll just open a folder on their hard drive and see names and resumes. If your name is listed multiple times, it gives you better odds for one of your apps to be spotted and then opened. And getting opened is about 30% of the battle.
4. Be genuine, be interesting, be yourself
Usually, you're going to be interviewed by someone with a fair amount of experience at the interviewing game so they can smell the bullshit from a mile away. If you don't know something and you try and fake it, you're dead. If you went a bit too far with a fib on your resume and can't back it up, you're dead. Little exaggerations are generally manageable as long as you can keep them close to the chest and use them to highlight your attributes.
Hiring managers also want someone that's interesting to work with. After all, a position you might need to pay rent is actually an investment on the company's part, and they'd rather hire someone that can have a decent conversation than a brilliant, socially inept tool for 1+ years. Do whatever you can to find a common topic and share your insights on that subject.
Lastly, I put "be yourself" because as much as you need a job and you somehow pass all interviewer's BS-radar, you might loathe the person you pretended to be. It's better to be yourself and not fit with the company culture than work at a place where you don't belong. All you'll be left with is a paycheck and a desire to go back on the hunt in a week or two.
5. Be polite and send a thank you note
I found out from my boss that there are a lot more people that don't send follow up/thank you notes than those that do. In almost every career seminar or website, candidates are told to send follow up e-mails [or, go big with a handwritten note] to remind the hiring manager who you are, and you appreciate them spending time with you. This links so intimately with my fourth point because it proves that you are in fact interesting and genuine, and it'll go a long way to set yourself apart from your competition. But you have to write one yourself. Do not use a template because it'll come off generic and forced, which is actually worse than sending no note at all.
The other great thing about sending a note is that if there was any part of the interview that you thought you tripped over, you now have the time to compose a thoughtful response with near-unlimited time! During my interview for Soap, I completely failed to answer a question correctly, but I immediately sent a thank you note with a follow up response in the body paragraph. I found out that the interviewer also was disappointed by my answer during the interview and questioned if I was capable of doing the job. A follow up answer shows that you care enough about the position to try again, and although it wasn't a make-or-break moment, it did give me bonus points when the decision had to be made.
I hope these five tips will help you [whoever you are] in the future, and if there is a demand for more pieces like these just e-mail or comment and I'll be sure to write more. I like helping, and I really enjoy teaching so sounds off in the comments if this is something of use!