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This is a high level overview of the job search and interview process, from the insider’s perspective of an HR professional and global Executive Recruiter. The usefulness of these career tips isn’t limited to when you’re in an active job search. As you’ll read below, one of the best times to consider and explore new career possibilities is when you’re gainfully employed and not actively searching. This free career guide can be an asset to any working professional, regardless of your job status.
The purpose of the Resume is to demonstrate to the hiring manager or HR professional that you have the technical skills and experience to succeed in a particular job. The most common mistake on Resumes is to focus too much on soft skills, and to even emphasize this type of information before listing technical skills and work experience.
A small section (1/4 of a page length) can be devoted to your educational background, a brief career summary, and a few bullet points to summarize your key skills and experiences. But the rest of the first page should feature your most recent jobs, listed chronologically with the most recent coming first. This is what hiring managers look for, in almost every industry.
Hiring managers don’t want to read a career summary in paragraph format when they could view your chronological work history and read bullet points highlighting your key accomplishments in each role. It’s your job to provide these bullet points!
Let’s Recap. The first page of your resume should include:
- Contact Info
- Brief Career Summary (optional)
- Chronological Work History (this can carry over onto the second page, but should begin on the first page. This is an important point!)
Your chronological work history should include: dates, company names, job titles, and key responsibilities and accomplishments. This all needs to be bullet point format!
On the topic of bullet points, be sure to include a few specific/measurable achievements that you accomplished in each position. Hiring managers love metrics and quantifiable examples. Don’t say you helped the department cut costs; write that you reduced costs by 32% last quarter (don’t make up a number, calculate it. And be prepared to defend this number if asked about it).
For some research-based jobs, it could make sense to list research, publications, and education on the first page rather than work history. But for most positions within a for-profit company, this is simply not the case. Unless you’re applying for jobs in academia, follow the advice above!
You should also tailor your resume to the job posting that you’re applying for. View the job description before applying and see if you can add a few bullet points to you resume to match what the hiring managers are looking for. You’re not lying; you’re simply highlighting the areas of your expertise that are most relevant to the job. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and I recommend it to all of the candidates that I speak to as a Recruiter.
In total, 1-2 pages is an ideal length for most resumes, and this can grow out to 3-4 pages toward the end of your career.
Applying for jobs
Now that you have a resume you feel comfortable with, it’s time to apply for jobs. Utilize job boards on Monster and other career sites, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook. This is only half of the battle though. You need to network and talk to your colleagues. Let them know that you’re open to hearing about new opportunities, or that you’re actively searching for jobs (whichever scenario happens to be true). Catch up with former colleagues that are now at new companies.
Go to networking events, and put yourself out there. Reach out to friends and colleagues that are working in fields that interest you, and ask if they’ve heard of any opportunities that might fit your skill set. Many companies offers a referral bonus for internal employees that recommend a new hire, so you’ll find that many people are happy to set you up with an interview. You’re far more likely to be brought in for an interview if somebody currently working at the company recommended you!
If the company doesn’t have a position available immediately, they can keep you in mind if they happen to be hiring in the future.
You can’t benefit from these advantages if you haven’t put in the time and effort to build relationships with colleagues in the past. It’s okay if you’re starting at square one, but it’s important to start making connections moving forward, so that you’ll have a stronger network in the future.
So you’ve landed a job interview, now what? The first interview is usually a phone interview, and is often at least somewhat technical in nature. They’ll often want to ask about your specific skills and experience to make sure you’re qualified for the job before inviting you for an on-site interview.
The onsite interview will also be somewhat technical in nature, but will also be geared toward determining whether or not you’re going to fit in with the company culture. They’ll be assessing your personality and soft skills in addition to your technical abilities.
Remember, every stage of the interview process is an opportunity for you to interview your prospective employer, rather than just being on the receiving end of the interview. You will have more success interviewing if you treat it as an opportunity to evaluate the company, rather than only as a chance to impress them. This is another reason to listen to opportunities and interview occasionally even if you’re not actively applying for jobs- already having a job puts you in the best position to evaluate new jobs.
As mentioned above, the phone interview is usually mostly technical in nature. Prepare for the phone interview by reviewing some background information about the company. It’s common for the interviewer to ask why you’re interested in the job, and what you know about the company. Don’t forget to have reasons for why you like the actual position you applied for. Saying you love the company isn’t good enough to convince most hiring managers to bring you in.
Be sure to prepare a few questions for the interviewer. Circle a few specific areas on the job description that you can ask questions about. You can print out a copy of the job description to refer to during your phone conversation. You should ask for a copy to be emailed to you before the phone interview occurs.
You should also prepare one or two questions about the overall group or company, to show you’re thinking of the big picture and not simply concerned with the day-to-day responsibilities of this particular job. Hiring managers love people who see the “big picture”.
Avoid HR-related questions, especially on the first interview. NEVER ask about vacation days, salary, benefits, etc. Save it for later, or you won’t be getting the job anyway.
Your goal during a phone interview is to be invited onsite for a face-to-face interview. Act interested and engaged, even if you’re not sure the job is right for you. You can always decide if you’re interested in moving forward after you get off the phone.
Face To Face Interview
If you’ve made it to the face-to-face interview, you’re pretty far along in the process. For some job openings, as few as 2 or 3 people will be brought onsite for face-to-face interviews.
Before the interview date, you need to prepare. Make sure you’re properly groomed and clean. Wear a suit. Print and bring along a copy of the job description, and bring a folder to store any documents that you’re given during the interview. It’s a good idea to bring a pen too. If they provided you with an itinerary or schedule for the day, bring that with you. If they don’t offer to provide this, you can request one from whoever conducted your phone interview or whoever invited you onsite. Do some research on LinkedIn to learn about the backgrounds of the people you’ll be meeting with, based on the itinerary. This can help you build rapport when speaking with them during the interview.
Once you’re in the interview, be honest and consistent with your answers, and try to demonstrate that you’re engaged and interested in the position and company. Think about your answers if you’re not sure how to respond immediately. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “that’s an interesting question- let me think for a second about how to answer.”
If you’re interviewed by separate people throughout the day, they’ll often regroup after you leave to discuss your answers. Don’t lie and don’t be inconsistent; they’ll figure it out.
Don’t show up to the interview 30 minutes early (this makes the interviewer feel rushed), but don’t show up late either. Approximately 10 minutes before the scheduled time is ideal for arrival.
Prepare questions for each person you’ll be speaking with. Never decline an invitation to ask questions. It is not acceptable to tell the second person interviewing you that the first person answered all of your questions. Don’t be lazy. Prepare one or two questions for EACH person interviewing you, no exceptions.
I know it’s tempting, but again, avoid HR-related questions here. Don’t ask about salary. It’s almost time to find out, but not yet. Also, don’t ask questions like “is there anything that would prevent me from being chosen for this job?” This is a stupid question quite honestly, and will only draw the interviewers’ attention toward any negative aspects of your interview. Even if you had the worst interview on earth, they aren’t going to tell you to your face.
Ask each person you meet for their business card. Write a “thank you” email the day after the interview, saying that you’re excited to hear feedback and that you enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about their organization. If the interview goes well, you will most likely receive a job offer and you will have an opportunity to discuss benefits, salary, etc.
Congrats, you received the job offer! You can counter offer if you’re not satisfied with the offer that was presented. Tell them you’re excited to be offered the position and you’d love to join their company, and then mention that you were hoping for a higher salary.
Be sure to give tangible reasons for the salary you are requesting. A reason like “my commute is going to be very far” doesn’t cut it. You need to do market research and find out what the average salary is for comparable positions across the industry. Refer to your most recent salary in your last position, and say you’re looking to take a step up from that amount. There’s nothing wrong with asking for more money; just provide a good reason and do it in a respectful way.
You don’t necessarily need to leave your company to advance your career. You should show initiative and interest in advancement at your current workplace. Ask your boss if there are any new opportunities to take on additional responsibilities in your current role. You can apply for open positions within your company, but it’s a great idea just to pick up additional work opportunities “unofficially” by talking to your boss. This can lead to a promotion in the future as these side responsibilities become more significant over time. If you’re going to formally apply for an internal position in a different group, it’s common practice to let your current manager know beforehand.
Not every career move you make will provide immediate advancement. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a lateral move in order to allow for more growth in the future. This could involve changing companies, or switching to a new group within your current organization. It’s important to understand that there will be periods of intense growth in your career, as well as periods where you hold the same position for a number of years as you learn the skills required to advance.
Leaving Your Job
If you do leave your job, be sure to give a proper notice (at least 2 weeks in the US) and thank your colleagues. Connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn, and send out individual emails to your supervisors and closest coworkers, thanking them for the opportunity to work with them.