Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Get a Job

One of the things that's been keeping me busy lately has been hiring. Contrary to the overall economic environment, the particular segment of Large Corp. Inc. that I work for has been growing rapidly, and the team that I work on has been hiring for five slots over the last couple months. So much of my time has been spent looking at resumes, doing phone interviews, in-person interviews, and discussing who fits what role.

I hope none of our readers will find themselves involuntarily in the job market over the coming months, but on the off-chance that you do find yourself writing a resume in the near future, a few thoughts from someone who's just finished reading a lot:

- Keep it short. I've received resumes of up to six pages, and in no case has there actually been enough valuable information there that it needed to be more than two. Try as hard as you can to stick to two pages or less.

- Bullet. Like many others who love prose, I weep for the powerpoint-ization of modern communication. However, think of the poor soul sitting reading a stack of resumes and trying to grasp them quickly while keeping up with his other work. 3-4 well written bullets for each past position (plus bulleted sections on your skills and your highlights) makes for much easier reading than big block paragraphs.

- Pick one or two themes for your overall resume and focus everything you say around them. One good friend of mine who recently landed a job told me he was writing his resume with an eye to emphasizing "resourceful" as his primary quality. When I ran the finished product by my boss, literally the first words out of his mouth were, "He certainly sounds like a resourceful problem solver."

- Don't "google bomb" your resume. As at many large companies, we get submissions through an online interface. One person who was "resourceful" in the wrong ways took a dozen keywords and phrases out of a job description we posted and simply included the phrases as bullets at the top of the resume as "core competencies".

- Sound good, but don't lie. If you say that you were "responsible for a project which saved the company $15 million in annual expenses" and in an initial interview it becomes clear that you were a minor player on the team that achieved this and can't even describe the project all that clearly, you end up looking rather bad.

- Don't get too cute. Use a normal, readable font for your resume. Don't print on funky colored paper or put it in a special binder. Don't include letters of introduction or samples of your work (especially lots and lots) unless you're asked to.

- Personality can help. If there's something genuinely fascinating about your history which can be stated briefly, that will sometimes provide the hook which gets a second read or lands you in the interview pile. "Spent one semester in Rome where all classes were taken in Italian." "Hobbies: I am an expert cook, play the drums, and have five children." "Spent a year as a one room schoolteacher in an African tribal village." It won't get you hired if you're not qualified, but if there are a lot of basically qualified resumes it may get you brought in simply because you sound like an interesting person to meet.

When interviewing:

- Try to be as concise and linear as possible in answering questions.

And yet at the same time:

- Make an effort to explain clearly in terms that your audience will understand what your past positions involved and why they were important to the company. If you simply say something along the lines of, "A lot of it was insurance industry stuff, it's pretty different from what you do." the interviewers will take away from this the impression that you either didn't understand what you were doing very well or didn't care about it very much. We can't understand every detail of another industry, but being able to explain things in broad terms (especially if you can explain how it might be similar to what we do) is much more impressive than not trying.


Donald R. McClarey said...

I am so glad that I have been self-employed for the past 23 years. Although an essential part of any business I always found interviewing for jobs intensely unpleasant, something I have tried to keep in mind when I have been interviewing job seekers.

Cliff said...

"bullet" - burned out x-ray tech.
"bullet" - currently owner/operator tree service.

personality - 7 kids, if something gets in my way - a chainsaw does the trick.

Do I get an interview? :)

j. christian said...

I understand the temptation to "google bomb," though. Sometimes it seems impossible to get past the automated filters. If I don't have any contacts at a big company that employs this process, I'm at a loss how to get past the computer gatekeeper.

Anonymous said...

The google bomber technique seems pretty, well, resourceful.

Anonymous said...

already out there for way too long ... even getting a phone interview seems impossible ..