Learn Stuff About Resumes and Interviews

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in June 2012 that 8.2% of our population was unemployed, which means that many American are looking for jobs. If you are one of these job-seekers, it behooves you to craft a high-quality resume and cover letter and to develop superior interview skills.

Resume Writing
A well-written resume serves one function: to show the potential employer that you are the exact fit for the job opening in question. Research shows that you have around 20 seconds to accomplish this before your resume goes into the trash with all the other applicants,’ so writing and formatting your resume perfectly is essential. Powerful language and strong action verbs are best.

After your contact information, the first thing the employer should see is an objective statement. This should always be worded so that it targets the job for which you are applying. This should be short, no more than 2 sentences, and boldly state exactly how your skills and experience can benefit the company. Vague language and statements about your own personal growth are not going to get a hiring manager’s attention.

After your objective statement, you can choose to organize your work history chronologically or by achievement, but most people choose a combination approach. Include pertinent information about each position such as your title, the name of the company, its location and the dates of employment. List information in reverse chronological order and focus attention on your most recent positions. Jobs older than 10 to 15 years in the past only require a short summary, as do jobs unrelated to your current field.

Employers are results-oriented, so highlight facts and percentages like increases in sales volume or results of a cost-savings project you initiated. Always keep your prospective employer’s needs in mind and tailor each resume to the position you seek, tweaking your job history when necessary to emphasize relevant skills. The job advertisement can give you hints on keywords to use in your employment history.

If you have professional or civic memberships that are related to the industry, you may list them after your employment history. The same is true for hobbies and published works; list them if they are related to the job. Educational information is placed last, although new graduates may make an exception to this and place it with contact information. Most human resources professionals are comfortable with resumes that are 1 to 2 pages long.

Your Cover Letter
Many people operate under the misconception that the cover letter is an outdated concept, but human resources managers disagree. The cover letter is your opportunity to capture a hiring manager’s attention in a more personal way. Some recruiters dismiss resumes without a cover letter, and some may view yours with interest because you made the effort to write one. This could give you a necessary edge over your competitors.

A good cover letter should address the hiring manager personally, so research the name of the person who will be reading it. Keep it to less than 250 words, and use pronouns like “I” and “you” to create the feel of a dialogue with the reader. In the body of the letter, take the opportunity to be specific about exactly why you are a good fit for this position and this company, expanding on the idea behind your objective statement.

Most importantly, add a tidbit of information that is not on your resume. This can create additional interest in you as a candidate. You might mention your research of the company and offer a solution to a problem, or you might expand on something in your career history that could prove useful in the position that is being offered.
Mastering the Job Interview
Prepare yourself by researching the company prior to your interview. Being able to quote the company’s recent sales figures or campaign goals impresses hiring managers and shows that you are serious about working for the company. Take extra copies of your resume, and a professional-looking notepad and a pen for notes. Dress properly for the occasion; a quick call to human resources can determine the dress code of the company. Be confident and make eye contact, but not arrogant or aggressive. First impressions are everything, as many hiring decisions are made within the first 10 minutes of an interview.
There are some typical questions that most interviewees encounter. Expecting them and rehearsing them with someone you trust for honest feedback is a good practice. Some of these questions might be:

  • Why are you interested in this company?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What is your 5-year plan?
  • What is an example of a success story from another job?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What do you do in your spare time?

Just because you are asked questions, however, does not mean you should not be asking some questions of your own. Inquire about the specific nature of the job and daily duties to make sure that the job fits your needs too. Ask about short and long-term goals of the position and any obstacles to those goals. And finally, don’t forget to ask for the job at the conclusion of your interview.


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