Win More Interviews: Show Your Value to Employers!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Intern, New York, NY
Marketing & Operations Associate, SF Bay Area, CA
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Creating value for employers even before you land the job is a way to set yourself apart from the competition. The value for you is that such a distinctive approach is likely to accelerate your successful hire! An effective strategy for showing your value is to develop a plan that identifies and solves problems for the company, using tact in case the person who created the gaffe is also the hiring manager!

Research the Company

To accelerate your job search using this approach, you must target a specific company of interest. If you attempt to concentrate on a number of companies simultaneously, your efforts will be diluted and less likely to produce the results you desire. Focus your research on challenges the company is currently facing or on the analysis of products and publications. Match the area of analysis with your strengths and skill set so that you can highlight your value for the company.

Identify Gaps or Gaffes for the Company

Your research will create the framework for your plan by identifying gaps or gaffes in the company’s current operations. Gaffes are more likely to be found in branding or publications. If you are a proofreader or marketing specialist, you can distinguish yourself by identifying confusing marketing messages or typos in corporate publications. Gaps can be identified across a number of areas, including inefficient operations, slow sales, or ways that money is being left on the table.

Create an Effective Plan

Here is where your talents shine!  Create a stellar step-by-step plan for improvement using your strong skill set and unique perspective. Explain your rationale and implementation so the employer gets a clear sense of how you created the plan from start to finish. Your initiative is only one of the strengths on display in your plan.

Examples of plans you might offer include:

  • a marketing plan to expand into an entirely new market with an existing product line
  • strategies to increase productivity
  • creating an employee communication curriculum
  • cost-cutting manufacturing processes

Present Your Plan

Gaining access to the right people can be the challenge in this part of your job search. Return to your earlier research and pull out the names of specific department managers or project leaders. Ideally, you will be able to present your plan to the person with authority to implement the changes. Once you have the right names, package your resume and your plan with a brief cover letter and send it off. If using e-mail to present your plan, be certain to create an intriguing subject line to increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. Take the key aspects of your plan and incorporate these into a concise and eye-catching subject line.

Examples of effective subject lines might include:

  • Penetrate New Markets with Existing Product Lines
  • New Strategies to Accelerate Staff Productivity
  • Better Customer Service with Improved Staff Communication
  • Smart Strategies to Reduce Manufacturing Costs

Another important consideration in e-mail communication is whether attachments will be opened. Some recipients may be concerned about attachments containing viruses or company spam filters may block your email. Include previews of salient points in the body of the email to generate interest and spur the manager to open your attachments.

Follow Up

Your contact information will be included in your resume and e-mail signature, but continue your proactive approach by following up. Try following up with a phone call so you can have a real-time conversation with the decision maker. In attempting to get through, be certain to mention the plan you provided and state your intent to clarify any questions and to tailor the plan to the executive’s needs. If unable to get through, request a time to return the call or schedule a call. Your organizational skills will be noticed.

Creating a plan to address employer’s needs before you are even employed sets you miles apart from the competition! Your emphasis on providing value to the employer and making an investment of your time speaks volumes about the value you can provide on the job. Show employers your value to win more interviews and you will soon be getting paid for your skills and expertise!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Doostang News February 7: Why a Great Interview Might Not Turn into a Job

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At times, getting your resume in front of the eyes of a hiring manager can be such a challenge, that when you finally hear back and receive an interview, it can feel like you’ve practically gotten the job.  You enthusiastically prepare for the big day, and when it comes, all seems to go well.  But later on you receive another correspondence telling you that you just didn’t quite make the cut.  So what went wrong?  Here are a few reasons you may not have gotten the job, despite a seemingly great interview.

Apparent Lack of Interest in the Actual Job

You may be sitting there thinking, “There’s no way I showed any shortage of interest during that job interview, I was exuding enthusiasm for that position.”  While that may be true, if hiring managers sense that you’re extremely keen on getting any job, not specifically the one they’re offering, they may decide to pass on you.  They want to ensure that you have a genuine interest in joining their company in this role, to know that you are a great fit and will do the job well.  If your interviewers perceive that you are anxious to land whatever job comes along, they might assume that you aren’t particularly interested in what they have to offer.  Counter this assumption by asking relevant questions during the interview, and by speaking intelligently about the position.

Someone Within the Company Filled the Role

Sometimes, in the midst of the hiring process, a candidate who already works for the company will come along. Or a current employee of the company will refer a friend for the open position.  Unfortunately, no matter how well you hit it off with the hiring manager during the interview, the company is more likely to go with a candidate who already works within the organization and knows the ropes; or a candidate that another colleague vouched for.  While there isn’t much you can do when this happens, try to nip this problem in the bud by networking with individuals in the company beforehand, so that you have a leg up as well.

The Job Description Changed

This tends to happen more with newly created positions.  As hiring managers are interviewing candidates and determining the logistics of the new position, they sometimes realize that the duties or qualifications required for the job may have changed.  While you may have been the ideal candidate at the time you interviewed, it’s possible that the job description changed even a few days later.  Again, there is not much you can do here, but if you know that you are interviewing for a new position, stress your ability to learn and adapt quickly, and your eagerness to catch up in the areas where you may be lacking a bit.

Don’t take it personally when a great interview doesn’t turn into a job.  Chances are, you will never really know the exact reason why you were not selected.  The best you can do is to take what you can from the experience, brush off the loss, and move on to the next opportunity!

Good luck,

The Doostang Team

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Ace the Resume and the Interview!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Stock Analyst, Boston, MA
Director of Human Resources, New York, NY
Junior Research Analyst, Philadelphia, PA
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Think it’s too early to consider questions you will encounter during an interview?  The answer is a resounding “NO”.  It is never too early.  In fact, thinking about questions you will be asked can strengthen your resume and create a consistent impression as you formulate your “brand” for potential employers.

Consider the first impression you want to deliver to potential employers and hiring managers.  You control first impressions by being meticulous about details contained in your resume, and that process can help you develop consistent answers to commonly asked interview questions.  The resume begins to build your brand, reflecting positive impressions of you from very first glance to final reading.

Convey Strengths instead of Weaknesses

Focusing on “duties or responsibilities” emphasizes your reporting to others.  A better presentation showcases your initiative, creativity, and ability to exceed expectations on your own efforts.  A description of your role as an “underling” can diminish the power of accomplishments. Balance accurate job descriptions with a presentation of your skills as achievements to convey strengths.

Present a Progression of Professional Growth

Using a chronological resume provides a progression of accomplishments and professional development, culminating a forecast of the next step in your career.  The progressive professional summary replaces the old career objective with a sense of how your talents can complement the potential employer’s mission and “bottom line”. Past success predicts future contributions.

Don’t Detail Reasons for Leaving Past Positions

Although most interviewers will ask the reasons for leaving your more recent positions, you don’t want to use the limited space in your resume to explain this part of your professional history.  These are definitely answers you want to prepare for the interview, but extensive explanations in the resume direct the reader’s attention away from your strengths. Prepare to provide answers during the interview, but not before.

Ask Pointed Questions About the Company

Appropriate questions can highlight research you have done about the company’s strengths and new directions.  Do not use the interview to explore salary or benefits. Avoid including salary history in your resume as well, so you don’t under-estimate the ceiling before negotiations even begin.

Highlight Unique Skills

Compare your job history and accomplishments to other likely candidates.  What skills are unique and which are considered routine?  Using common software, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, is unlikely to distinguish you from the 100 other candidates.  Analyzing current trends in the field and creating forecasts to help the employer stay one step ahead of the competition, however, are clear strengths that set you apart.

Handling Conflict

How have you managed difficult situations successfully, such as counseling or terminating an underperforming staff member?  Have you facilitated consensus among a diverse team? Quantify these successes in typical results you are likely to produce for the new employer, such as increased productivity or team cohesiveness.

Managing Competing Demands

Multi-tasking is a common requirement in most positions, particularly as companies downsize.  Have you effectively managed and delivered multiple projects simultaneously? What about directing teams remotely? Have you over-delivered despite challenges of tight time-frames and reduced budgets? These are valuable skills that deserve the spotlight in your resume.

Performance under Pressure

Typical examples of this quality include being calm under pressure, bringing structure to chaos, and rapidly responding to unexpected obstacles. Not all candidates bring these high-level skills to the interview. Demonstrating a history of consistent performance despite challenges conveys your value in being able to manage unexpected obstacles by innovating process and procedure.

Turning around Failure

None of us like to think about shortcomings, however interviewers often want to know how you perceive past failures to gain a sense of your own objectivity and ability to grow from challenges and constructive criticism.  Be cautious about how you present these scenarios.  Remember, you are not talking with your best buddy no matter how comfortable you may feel with the interviewer.  Package the “failure” in the context of how you turned it into a success by emphasizing a short time-frame or major results achieved.

Establishing Credibility

Describe how you establish authority as you take on a leadership role.  Do you use the position to create leadership or cultivate respect in leading by example? Do you unintentionally sabotage your authority by being too much of a worker bee?  Is your status as a Subject Matter Expert your basis for credibility?  Each approach creates a different type of respect, affecting interactions with your team.  Review your work history in the context of what kind of leader you have been and what kind you want to be.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

This classic interview question can provide the framework for your resume.  Your answer should build on your individual career progression by highlighting accomplishments in each position that provide logical steps toward your 5-year plan.  Be certain your plan is career-related. Your life-long goal of being on the pro-golf circuit is unlikely to help get that coveted position you seek. Ideally, your 5-year goals dovetail nicely with the mission of the company where you plan to interview.

Translating the Big Picture Produces Results

Reviewing your answers to likely interview questions and incorporating them into your resume will help you present a consistent brand to potential employers.  Your ability to condense the big picture into a practical presentation of skills and accomplishments provides an example of your planning and communication strengths to potential employers.  These skills can translate into success for you in the interview process, as you translate your big picture into positive results from your resume.


About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Doostang News December 6: Three Interview Misconceptions

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When it comes to the job search process, job seekers often have false impressions about how things work.  The interview is no exception, and understanding a few common misconceptions about the process can help you do a much better job – and hopefully put your mind at ease!  Read on for 3 big interview myths:

The Most Qualified Candidate Gets the Job

Okay, this is untrue for a myriad of reasons, with jobs going to individuals who know people on the inside, to those who simply reach out at the right time, and so on.  Bear this in mind during your interview, because it’s important to understand that you need to be professional, personable, and on your A Game at all times.  You can be the most fabulous job candidate on paper and in reality, but if you don’t bring confidence to the table, the job could go to someone who had better people skills and impressed the interviewer.  Conversely, if you know your resume may be lacking in certain areas, make up for it by giving a winning interview.

The Interviewer is Prepared for…the Interview

There are several reasons why an interviewer may not be prepared for an interview.  For example, this could be their first time interviewing a candidate and they may be nervous.  Or they could be bogged down with extra work – perhaps the reason they are hiring someone in the first place – and so they haven’t devoted proper time to preparing for the interview.  Thus, the more prepared you are, the easier the interview is for everyone, and the better impression you create.  Decide what you want to tell the interviewer beforehand, and do your best to find ways to mention your past achievements and what you can bring to the table.

The Interviewer will Ask All the Necessary Questions

Again, the person interviewing you might be distracted and might miss some important points. Or you might be speaking with a hiring manager who doesn’t know as much about the job as the person you will be working for, so the interviewer may not ask all the appropriate questions.  Thus, it is your job to bring up skills and qualifications you have that are specifically pertinent to the job, so that the person interviewing you can report these back to the individual who makes the final decision.  If they are the person who makes the final call, make the choice easier for them by addressing every aspect of the job description in a way that paints you as the perfect candidate.  There may be things that you want to bring up that the interviewer never asks about – if this is the case, don’t brush them aside.  Find ways to work these points into the conversation.

Interviews can be nerve-racking for individuals on both sides of the table.  And at the end of the day, an interviewer is just another human being.  If you can enter the conversation confident, prepared, and personable, you’re sure to impress.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Beef Up Your Job Search – Get Tech Savvy!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Investment Banking Analyst, Boston, MA
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In case you haven’t noticed, the old paper resume isn’t getting the same results it once did – even with special formatting or high-quality paper. Electronic resumes are the ones grabbing all the attention these days.  In some markets, job candidates may as well be sending out paper airplanes as submitting hard copy resumes. To avoid such disappointing results, use the following tips to check your technology use and online presence for greater impact from the job search.

E-Mail Basics

Review your e-mail address.  How professional is it? Golf4me@aol.com may be memorable, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Setting up a new e-mail account doesn’t have to be complicated with so many free sites for e-mail addresses available.  A simple e-mail address with your first and last name at free sites, such as AOL, Gmail, or Yahoo! will work well. Bobsmith@aol.com is easy to remember and emphasizes what you want the hiring manager to recall – your name!

It is also critical to avoid using your current work e-mail address.  Use of a work-related e-mail address can convey a number of potentially negative messages, ranging from a perception of impropriety to a sense of naiveté about business matters.  In other words, if you are comfortable receiving e-mails about your resume or job search while at the current job, hiring managers may question your ethics or judgment.  These are not good perceptions to create in the reader’s mind. The associations you want to create include an enthusiasm about meeting you, a feeling that you could fit nicely into their organization, and most importantly, how you can positively impact their bottom line.

Web Presence

Personal Internet sites can strengthen or sabotage a career search.  Even if the CEO or hiring manager isn’t Googling you, it is very likely someone in their office is conducting such a search for them.  It’s becoming common business practice. So, Google yourself first to see what shows up, and then make sure that what is on the web is consistent with the impression you want to convey.

Are you on Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Though a level of caution should be exercised when using these sources, you can make a positive presence utilizing social networking sites. It is not necessary to have a personal website to make a professional presence on the Internet.

Check out alumnae groups, professional organizations, or even the local Chamber of Commerce. Most of these groups have a section for members to post basic information, ranging from contact details to a brief overview of your skills. However, just as with the e-mail address, make sure posts are consistent with the professional presentation of a mini-resume.  Each of these Internet sites should build a comprehensive perception of you as a professional in your field in order to enhance the job search.

Finally, what career sites are you using, if any?  Available sites range from Monster.com to Craigslist. However, indiscriminately posting the resume “everywhere” on the web is unlikely to achieve positive results. The old “shotgun” approach of sending the resume to “everyone” typically delivers a sense of defeat. The lack of response is likely related to where and how the resume is posted.  Make sure the site has the type of positions you are targeting.  Next, review the format of the resume. Does it “translate” well or are those snappy formatting features you included to set your resume apart from the competition preventing a legible upload of the resume? Formatting the resume in an electronic version that another computer can easily read is crucial to success on these job sites.

Technological Tools

For job seekers searching beyond their geographic region, technological gadgets may be necessary to conduct a remote interview. Webcam or Skype for a distance interview may be important tools to consider. Many new computers and laptops have these options built in, but if not, explore other local options. Libraries, for instance, are expanding services available to job seekers. Check and see how extensive the local library’s collection of technological tools may be.  National copy and office chains offer these tools as well. If not, you may be able to pick up a webcam on sale for just a few dollars – definitely worth the investment to be prepared if the hiring manager calls suggesting a remote interview as an option to reduce travel while still getting the interview done.

Getting Help with the Final Review

Adding in the technological component to an already complicated job search may feel overwhelming. If you can’t manage all these issues yourself, look for existing resources – whether it’s your niece, nephew, or the local librarian. That’s the value in using “ready-made” sites, such as the Chamber of Commerce mentioned earlier.  It is not necessary to “re-invent” the wheel to create a positive presence on the web.

Finally, when reviewing the presence you have created on the Internet, try to do so with a critical eye. If this wasn’t your Facebook page, how might you respond to it?  What is that all-important first impression? The first impression is just as critical for an online presence as during the interview.  In fact, that technological first impression may be the important link in obtaining an interview.  Optimizing online tools can garner the kind of attention needed to launch a successful career search. This is the first place many hiring managers are going to review potential candidates, so make sure you get there first and have a positive resource ready.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!




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Doostang News October 11: How to Answer “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

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While many people leave their previous positions simply in search of another opportunity or for logistical reasons, such as moving or needing to cut back on hours, others leave for slightly more complicated reasons, such as an abrasive boss or an unfulfilled promise.  Whatever your reason, there are certain ways to talk about this aspect of your job history so that your experience helps, not hurts you.

Don’t Badmouth Your Employer

This seems obvious, but sometimes people are tempted to put down their previous employer in order to justify a move that seems less logical otherwise.  Some individuals feel that dealing with a bad employer is a character building experience, one that sets them up to succeed more in their next position.  While this may be true, the best candidate in an interviewer’s eyes is someone who can maintain their grace and composure in a less than perfect situation.  When you digress in your interview and start bringing up the bad blood that existed between you and your former boss, you might come across as irrational or vindictive, two qualities that raise red flags for a hiring manager.  Try to speak more diplomatically, focusing on how the company culture may not have been an ideal fit.  You might bring up how you had a different outlook than your boss, but this is still a bit risky – you don’t want to come off as obstreperous.  When you can, try to stick to more neutral points, such as the fact that you achieved all you could at your old job and now you are ready to move on to something new.

Don’t Talk About the Negative Aspects of Your Last Job

Try not to focus on how things weren’t going well at your last job.  Again, you don’t want the hiring manager to associate any negativity with you – it’s important to keep the tone of the interview as positive as possible.  It’s even advisable not to talk about how you weren’t feeling challenged enough, even though this implies that you are ready to tackle tougher projects.  That’s because you don’t want to convey that you won’t stick around when you get bored; there will be times when an employer will need you to complete a project that you may not be excited about.  Overall, try not to come across as someone who won’t be reliable if the job is less than perfect from time to time – you want to seem as flexible as possible.

Don’t Dwell on the Question

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t spend an inordinate amount of time discussing why you left your old job, but rather, should focus on why you want to enter this new one.  The less time you devote to the matter, the less the hiring manager will think about it, and the smaller the odds that your answer will raise any eyebrows.  Simply explain how you are ready to start an exciting, new chapter in your life and that you’re very happy for the opportunity to consider a position like the one they are offering.

When it comes down to it, the main reason hiring managers ask why you left your last position is to figure out if there is anything that they should be wary of in your past.  If you don’t give them any reason to question your integrity or work ethic, but instead focus on how excited you are about the job at hand, this tricky question should have little bearing on your chances of getting the job!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News September 27: Questions You Should be Asking in an Interview

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Oftentimes we get caught up in worrying about the questions that a hiring manager is going to ask us during the interview, and overlook the questions that we should be asking them.  It’s important to lob the ball back into their court a bit, because it shows preparedness, interest in the job, and it helps you decide if the company is as good of a fit for you as you are for them.  Here are some questions to consider:

Questions About the Ideal Fit for the Role

You should try to feel out what sort of person they are looking for to fill the role you are applying to.  It’s helpful to ask questions like, “What was the last person who filled this position like?”, “What does the ideal employee look like?”, “What happened to the last person that had this position?”  It’s certainly okay to get a sense for what your predecessor was like, because those are the shoes you’re trying to fill.  The company will expect you to do just as good of a job with the things that the former employee did well; and that person’s weaknesses are areas you can try to improve upon.

Questions About the Work

It’s great to know what kind of work you will be doing and how you will be doing it, to figure out whether or not this will fit with your working style. Additionally, having a better understanding of the specific work you will be doing will give you a better idea of what you need to do to prepare for the job.  Ask, “What big projects are there that might be coming up?”, “Will I be working more independently or with a team of people?”, “What is your company’s management style?”

Questions About the Company

Since you will be a part of a larger whole once you join the company, it’s imperative to know that whole as best as you can, as early on as you can.  Example questions include, “What is the organization structure at the company?”, “What are the long term goals of the company and where do you see it going in 5 years?”, “What is the future of this industry like?”

Questions Related to Your Individual Experience at a Company

If you can, try to get a feel for office culture and the company’s attitude towards its employees.  This is a key determinant in how happy you will be at a corporation, and is important to know as soon as possible.  Some questions to ask are, “Is the office culture more laid-back or traditional?”, “Does the company provide guidance on cultivating career goals?”, “How often and in what manner will my work be evaluated?”

Remember, the interview isn’t just about a company finding out about who you are – it’s just as much about you finding out who they are.  The relationship between you and your employer should always remain mutually beneficial, and that starts in the interview!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News September 13: The Importance of Body Language

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You’ve heard that body language is extremely important in an interview, as it affects how interviewers relate to you and what assumptions they make. It’s stressful enough that you have to focus hard on giving polished answers to questions hiring managers fire at you, so paying attention to the positioning of your hands or the way you sit in your chair can feel overwhelming. That’s why you should work on perfecting these small moves now, so that they come more naturally when you’re in the hot seat!

What to do with Your Hands

From the moment you shake hands with an interviewer, what you do with your hands is extremely important. You don’t want to sit there with your hands underneath the table – during the interview, the person you are speaking with should always see them. It’s also important to make an effort to gesture. Even folding your hands nicely for the duration of the interview can seem too passive. Instead, use small hand gestures to compliment the answers you give. Conversely, you want to avoid gesturing wildly, as you can come across as erratic and will distract your interviewer. Try to keep your motions within the frame of your body.

Matters of the Face

Body language includes eye contact, and you should do your best to maintain that throughout the interview. Don’t lock in on your interviewer, as you may come across as a bit too earnest or even intimidating, but try to look your interviewer in the eye for the majority of the conversation. Some experts tell you to look at a person’s nose in order to maintain eye contact; if you do this, make sure that you’re really gazing at someone in a way that resembles eye contact instead of zoning out. Also be sure not to focus on the interviewer’s lips, as this can seem sexual. Another important point is that you should avoid touching your face. It looks strange, and some people believe that touching your face while speaking indicates that you are lying.

How You Sit in Your Chair

The way you sit in your chair at an interview is extremely important. By no means should you ever slouch, as it looks unprofessional and conveys that you aren’t very interested. On the flip side, sitting up so straight that you appear stiff is a bad idea too. You want to sit up straight in your chair, but you also want to appear natural and not nervous or uptight. Also try to lean forward a little bit in your chair – again, without slouching – to demonstrate involvement. When you lean back, you convey that you aren’t very interested or engaged in the conversation.

Body language is extremely important in an interview and completes the overall impression you make on an interviewer. Unfortunately, during the actual interview people are often too nervous to keep their body language in check, and tend to fall into bad habits. That’s why it’s important to take charge now and practice these things, so that when the big day comes, it will all seem like second nature!

Good luck,

The Doostang Team

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Are You Letting “Too Much Information” Ruin Your Resume?

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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True or false? Including everything on your resume an employer will need to know about you will help facilitate the hiring process.

While it may sound like a helpful hint, the correct answer is false. In fact, including certain details on your resume can seriously damage your job search. From decreasing your chances of landing an interview to influencing potential salary, “too much information” on a resume can be detrimental for any candidate.

If your resume contains any of the following, you are putting yourself at a major disadvantage right from the beginning:

References

Your professional references should be always be listed in a separate document and provided when requested – and that usually doesn’t happen before the interview. Since the primary function of a resume is to land the interview, sending your references as part of your resume is premature.

Some jobseekers think this is a good way to take advantage of networking opportunities by dropping the name of a reference or two to impress a prospective employer. Your resume is still not the right place to accomplish this. To emphasize your relationship with a professional contact, simply mention it in the cover letter. (Be sure to do so subtly, however. For example, “My former colleague from XYZ Company, Jack Smith, suggested I contact you directly because he felt my skills would be a perfect fit for your organization.”)

Salary History & Requirements

The dinner table isn’t the only place where talking about money is considered rude. A resume should not indicate compensation requirements or salary history. Aside from etiquette, doing so could literally cost you.

If you disclose your bottom line and it’s less than what an employer was willing — or even expecting — to pay you, you’ve just inadvertently volunteered for a pay cut.

Unless a salary requirement is mandatory to apply for a position, do not surrender this important information, or you will risk compromising any leverage you may have in future salary negotiations. When a concrete figure is required to be considered for an opening, this information should be incorporated in your cover letter, not your resume.

If salary history is requested, it typically comes later in the process and should be prepared in a separate document.

Hobbies

Whether you spend your weekends as a Cub Scout Leader or enjoy skydiving in your spare time, extracurricular activities are almost always irrelevant to one’s career, and therefore, do not belong on a resume. Since your resume is a professional piece of communication, reserve the limited space to present only information related to your professional qualifications, and keep leisure activities separate.

There are exceptions, particularly for professionals who engage in outside activities directly related to their jobs. An accountant who serves as treasurer for a local charity, an aspiring gym teacher who volunteers as a soccer coach, and a construction worker who donates his time and skills to building houses for the poor are good examples. When in doubt, if an activity or affiliation doesn’t support your career objective, leave it out. Most employers are only interested in their employees’ after-hours activities when they need staff to work overtime.

Educational Details

For mid- and senior-level professionals, detailed information related to your college years is not necessary. Unless you are a recent college graduate with little career history to offer, keep the emphasis on your professional achievements and the tone at a higher level. Your grade point average and past extracurricular affiliations are far less important than your recent work highlights.

Also be sure to omit your year of graduation unless you finished school in the past 5 years. Though age discrimination is certainly prohibited by law, volunteering your age can never help you.

Reasons for Leaving

Whether your former boss threw you a going away party or had security escort you from the premises, your reasons for leaving any job should be reserved for a job application. They simply don’t belong on your resume regardless of the circumstances. If you wish to have an opportunity to explain a sticky situation like being fired, wait until at least the first interview so you’ve had a chance to make an unbiased first impression.

Overall Content

The most important issue to consider regarding the quantity of information is overall content. Employers do indeed want to know about important work you’ve done throughout your career – but they do not need or even want to know every detail. Summarize your best assets rather than inundating the reader with minutiae. You have literally under a minute to make an impression on a prospective employer, so you must be very careful choosing what content to emphasize.

Nothing will help land your resume in a “no” pile faster than making it too long, too cluttered, and too cumbersome to read.

About the Author:

Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Doostang News August 16: Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions – Part 3

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Every minute you spend in an interview is valuable, so make sure your every answer works to your benefit.  Thought you had it all down?  Well here are a few more tough interview questions if you’re still feeling a little unprepared:

Why are you leaving (did you leave) your current (last) position?

When answering this question, there’s no reason to give a long-winded answer.  Simply tell the interviewer that you are looking to advance your career, and that the company you are interviewing with can provide the opportunity you hope for while your current or previous company cannot.  There is no reason to give the interviewer any more information than they ask for.  Don’t give a list of excuses or say something petty.  If you were laid off, don’t be afraid to say so – it’s not all that uncommon.  And if you were fired, try to stay as positive as you can, again without being petty.  Perhaps you can mention that you and your former boss/company had differences that you could not overcome, but that your termination was the best thing for both you and that firm.  More than this, you can always expound upon the lesson that you learned from this experience.

Why haven’t you found a job yet?

This may seem like one of those in-your-face questions, but it’s perfectly legitimate.  If you’ve been out of work for a significant amount of time, again, don’t spend your time giving excuses.  Simply explain that you have been looking for the right opportunity, and that you want to work for a company where you can establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

Has your performance or work ever been criticized?

While you may consider yourself the perfect employee, chances are that you have received some criticism along the way – and that’s perfectly reasonable.  What an employer wants to learn from this question is how you dealt with the criticism.  So explain to him or her that you received constructive criticism from a colleague, and that you gained something valuable from it.  You can talk about how you were able to integrate another person’s suggestions into a project and make it better than it was before.  Employers want individuals who are tough-skinned and open to suggestions, so demonstrate that you are able to swallow your pride and bounce back from critique.

At times an interview can feel like a battle of wits, interviewer and interviewee each trying to outdo the other.  It’s a tricky dance, but if you learn how to use even the most difficult questions as a forum to discuss how valuable you are, you’ll soon be making history at your next position.

Happy job hunting,

The Doostang Team

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