You’ve seen the headlines. While no one would call the job market red hot, it is warming. Companies across most industries are starting to lift their heads and are considering new talent. While many businesses may be operating leaner, they are recruiting for skilled workers in many areas.
Job candidates need to be focused on presenting their best selves for the right opportunities once they come along. So, how do you do that? According to Jana Fallon, vice president, Staffing at Prudential Financial, “First, arm yourself with a winning resume to get you in the door, and then wow them with a winning interview.”
“Resumes are the currency of jobs. It is your value to a future employer,” says Fallon who noted that there are several steps you can take to make sure you show your full value. “The reality is that your resume is reviewed in 60 to 90 seconds at best. So, boil down your experience and skills into easily understood words to help your resume land in the winner pile.”
Winning resumes have these elements:
* Contact information. Include your cell phone if that is the best number to call. It is surprising how often job applicants make it hard to reach them. Don’t disadvantage yourself – be available when called or emailed.
* Simple, succinct wording. One or two pages is enough detail, longer is too verbose. It should clearly convey why you should land the job.
* Tailoring. You need different versions for different jobs. Help the recruiter easily see the job requirements in your work history. For example, if the job lists project management as a requirement, be sure to include the phrase “project management” in your work history.
Resumes that don’t pass the test often have these pitfalls:
* Typos. A surprisingly high number of resumes have typos. They often come from cut and paste editing and simple mistakes. Typos are big detractors that often stop recruiters from reviewing any further.
* Cliche-ridden objective statements. Avoid trite sentences like “seeking opportunity for growth in a progressive company.” Everyone says that. Instead, make a winning statement that summarizes your value and relate it to the job you are applying for. “Sales executive with seven years experience in retirement sales, seeking role in sales management in a field environment.”
Fallon also notes that a winning resume will get you noticed, but the job still has to be won in the interview. “The interview is your chance to bring your resume to life. Shining in an interview is a skill, and with these insider tips and a little practice, you can get the job you want,” she continues.
* Research the company and people you’ll meet. Read recent news about the company. Find out the background of the people that you will meet. Talk to anyone you know currently working at the firm to get more detailed information about what it takes to be successful in this particular company. You are not expected to be an expert in the particular field, but you should have enough knowledge to formulate meaningful questions to present to the interviewer.
* Prepare a list of questions in advance. Nothing puts a manager off more than someone saying they don’t have questions. It shows a lack of interest. The questions you ask convey interest and enthusiasm; if you fail to ask anything of the interviewer, she might assume you aren’t interested in the job or the organization.
* Know yourself and your career objectives. Employers are not interested in applicants with undefined career goals; they aim to fill jobs with qualified candidates who have some sense of direction and know how their skills support their job objectives.
Avoid these common pitfalls:
* Being late to the interview. Leave more time than you think you will need to arrive a few minutes early. Being late can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect.
* Coming underdressed to the interview. Be sure to wear clean, well fitting, up-to-date clothes. This signals you are self-aware and pay attention to details.
* Assuming you can wing it. Interviewing is a skill that improves with practice. Be sure to practice answering interview questions aloud, rather than just thinking about what you will say. Get together with friends and take turns asking each other questions, then provide feedback on strategies for improving your answers. While you can’t anticipate every question, you can prepare yourself to make the most of whatever you are asked.