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
Product Marketing Associate, Jersey City, NJ
Wealth Strategy Associate, San Francisco, CA

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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!

Hot Career Tips for the Unemployed

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Research Analyst, New York, NY
Account Coordinator, Los Angeles, CA
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If you are presently unemployed, your days are likely spent scouring job postings, emailing prospective employers and submitting your resume to online websites. Even the most dedicated jobseekers, however, probably have too much idle time on their hands. With no set hours or routine, it could be very tempting to get lazy.

Before you resort to sleeping into early afternoon or reaching for the remote control, there are several ways to make productive use of this time.

Here are just a few suggestions as to how you can maximize downtime that will not only keep you active, but will make you a more attractive job candidate:

Perform charity work where you can utilize your professional skills.

There are dozens of ways you can contribute work-related talents for the betterment of your community. Signing up for a volunteer post within an established organization is only one option. If you get creative, you can carve out your own niche.

For example, if you are a marketing professional, find out if your favorite charity needs help launching their latest awareness campaign. A teacher can look into helping a local literacy organization. A sales professional can help an organization find donors and raise money. A technology professional can assist with a nearby school’s computer upgrade.

Such activities not only enhance self-worth by aiding a worthwhile cause, but they also enrich your qualifications and demonstrate to an employer that you are keeping your skills sharp while unemployed. You’ll likely make valuable contacts as well. You never know who you will meet! It could just be the person volunteering next to you is looking for someone with your qualifications or knows of a position opening up in the office next door.

Accept a temporary or consulting gig.

With unemployment at the highest it has been in more than two decades, it could take a little longer to land that dream job. Broadening the scope of positions you are willing to consider may mean you have to make some compromises. If you are adamant about accepting only a full-time job, you could be inadvertently doing yourself a disservice.

If you impress an employer during the course of a temporary assignment, it could lead to bigger and better things. After all, what better way is there to convince a boss what you are capable of than actually showing them? The best case scenario is that you are offered a full-time position and your search is complete.

The flip side isn’t so bad, either. Even if it comes to an end, a temporary position will help you earn some money, make some contacts, and provide an additional credential to include on your resume. That will help fill in the dreaded employment gap while showing employers your skills are not getting rusty.

Take a course related to your field.

Whether it’s a college course for credits or a one-day seminar, enhancing your education sends an excellent message to anyone in position to hire you. It exhibits your desire to keep your skills current and shows you are using your time wisely.

To make the most of this benefit, be sure to enroll in something related to your work. Though taking a course for personal enrichment can be rewarding, it simply won’t carry as much weight as something relevant to your field. For example, a partner in an accounting firm will be more impressed with a candidate who learned about the latest tax codes than one who took a photography course.

If you participate in any of these activities, don’t forget to update your resume and cover letter to let employers know. Finally, remember that while these activities will keep you busy, don’t neglect your job search. Job hunting should always be considered your number one “job” while you are unemployed.

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!