Ace the Resume and the Interview!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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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!

Doostang News September 20: Personal Skills Crucial to the Working World

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Being successful in a work environment takes more than just the right job-specific skills and attitude towards the job.  There are also personal skills that you must develop in order to effectively handle the position and the people you work with.  These are skills that don’t come easily to many people at first, but something that everyone should keep in mind and polish up when necessary:

Public Speaking

According to some studies, the number one fear held by individuals is public speaking – it even beats out death!  Speaking in front of a room full of people is one of those things that even the most confident person can have difficulty with.  And so, even if you are a self-assured, charismatic person by nature, your charm and confidence may not translate easily into situations where you need to address your boss or coworkers in meetings or presentations.  If you don’t have much experience with public speaking, try taking a class, and if that’s too much, practice in front of friends or even in front of the mirror.  The more comfortable you become with getting up and listening to your own voice, the better you’ll be able to convey information to the people you work with – and win people over onto your side.

Diplomacy

Dealing with people in the workplace isn’t always easy, but it’s important to always do so with tact.  Losing your temper or making snide remarks are never good ways to approach situations, so its important that you learn to communicate with people diplomatically, whether this be someone that works for, above, or with you.  If you tend to get worked up over stressful situations, take a breather before you speak to your coworkers.  It’s important to treat everyone in a rational way and give them the respect they deserve.

Humility

There are a lot of egos circulating in any one office, and so in order to maintain a peaceful working environment, it’s important to keep yours in check.  This is especially true if you are just starting out at a company.  Fulfill the role that you were brought on to do – even if you sometimes don’t like it – and don’t expect everything to be handed to you.  No one gets to come in and take charge right away.  There are certain tasks that need to be done, and if they are given to you, it’s important to finish them out gracefully.

They don’t teach you everything in school, and certain skills don’t even come with experience unless you make it a point to practice them.  Bear in mind these important personal skills while you’re at work, and they should take you far.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team