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110 Job Hunting Resume, CV and Interview Tips

110 job hunting resume cv and interview tips from Jim Bright

Here are some tips for Job Hunting, Resumes, Interviews, and Testing for 2011.

As an author of job hunting books that have sold way in the 100,000s in the USA, UK, Australia, China, Vietnam, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Japan (you get the idea), with titles like Amazing Resumes, Brilliant CV, Resumes that get shortlisted, Should I stay or Should I go, StressSmart®, and Job Hunting for Dummies Australia & New Zealand, I thought I’d pass on some tips to assist in landing that job.

More tips and advice can be found in other great titles in the USA published by JIST, and the Brilliant series in the UK published by Pearson.

I’ve divided the tips into sections below.

39  Resume, Cover letter, Job Search tips

  1. The resume is just as important as the interview. When we got recruiters to rate candidate resumes and then rate their interview performance, the resume predicted the job offer just as strongly as the interview.  Don’t under-estimate the resume.
  2. The resume is the first point of contact between you and the employer in many cases. The resume is the only time in the recruitment process where you have total control over what information is presented and how it is presented. First impressions count.
  3. Make your resume a marketing tool that sells you! When you show someone around your garden you point out the beautiful flowers, and water features – you don’t dwell on the dog’s droppings and the compost heap! In the same way on your resume you emphasize your achievements rather than just your duties. (We found that resumes that emphasize achievements were more likely to be short-listed that resumes that emphasized job duties).
  4. Make a list of every single achievement you have had in life since birth. Yes since birth.  Leave nothing off no matter how trivial it seems.   You might not use “I learned to talk” on your resume, the practice in training your memory to recall personal achievements means you will recall more achievements from your school or work life that are relevant.
  5. Do as much research as you possibly can on the job you are going for.
    • Google search,
    • ask current and past employees,
    • visit the office, factory or shop if practical.
    • Call the contact to ask intelligent questions
    • Get a friend to call to ask the “dumb” or self-serving questions (like how much money, can I delay my start, can I leave early on Wednesdays)
    • Buy or hire the product or use the service if practical
    • Ask your mentors and network
    • Check out job sites, Linkedin, Facebook, Google + and Twitter for information
  6. All resumes should be be written with the Fit model in mind – the fit between you and the job on offer. Do this by:
  7. Look at the job ad, position description and any other research you have on the job you want to apply for and divide the job into
  8. Knowledge – what you need to know to do the job
  9. Skills – what skills do you need to have to do the job
  10. Abilities – how will you need use your knowledge and skills
  11. Attitudes – what kind of personal qualities are they looking for
  12. Now think about yourself in the same way – Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Attitudes
  13. To decide what to include in the resume (or say in the interview) apply these rules:
    • If it increases the fit between you and the job include the information on the resume or say it in the interview
    • If it decreases the fit between you and the job, omit it from the resume and do not say it in the interview
    • If it is neutral with respect to fit between you and the job only include it if there is room and only say it if there is time

Layout:

  1. If you are completing an online resume – type it out first into Pages or MS Word.  Get the word lengths, format and spelling correct and double-checked before copying pasting into the online form.  Also it means if the form crashes or the link is dropped you still have all your work saved in the word-processing file.
  2. If you are printing a hard copy:
  3. Use white paper of 80 gsm thickness or slightly greater
  4. Avoid gimmicks including:
  5. Clip art
  6. Pictures
  7. Photographs (unless expressly asked for)
  8. Samples of your work (unless expressly asked for)
  9. Colored paper
  10. Non-standard fonts (use Arial 11, Times New Roman 12, Verdana 12)
  11. In our research resumes containing identical content put presented in a wacky way were rated lower by recruiters and they said it included less information

Content:

  1. Leave out date of birth, gender, marital status, children, religion, smoker status, illnesses or disabilities, sexual orientation, memberships of political or activist organizations (unless they unarguably increase the fit), hobbies (unless directly relevant to the job), reasons for leaving, salary or salary expectations
  2. Include contact details, generally include an address (unless it is a long way from the place of work, has a notorious reputation, you have reason to be concerned about security or privacy)
  3. Length: School leavers 1- 2 pages, graduates and most employees 2-3 pages, senior people up to 5 pages.  Academics, and when specifically requested, the sky is the limit
  4. Spelling mistakes.  Eliminate these by
  5. Using spell checker (set to the correct language)
  6. Then printing out and reading
  7. Then give it to someone else to read and check (who has good grammatical skills)
  8. Read the document backwards – this is an old proof readers trick – it forces you to process each word and not read for meaning (which disguises typos and spelling mistakes)

Cover letter:

  1. Limit to one page.  Check all contact details are up to date.  Address the letter to a real person – do not use Dear Sir/Madam (it means you haven’t done enough research)
  2. 1st paragraph – Say what job you want to apply for, provide the reference number (if there is one) and where you saw it advertised (puts recruiter in good mood as they get feedback on their advertising)
  3. 2nd Paragraph – state why you are a perfect fit for the role
  4. 3rd Paragraph – state that you are looking forward to meeting them at the interview (for which you are available at their request)
  5. For general on-line resumes see the excellent book about using Linkedin for job  searching by my friend Aaltje Vincent Career Management via LinkedIn http://www.amazon.com/Career-Management-LinkedIn-Aaltje-Vincent/dp/9049104398/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218179&sr=1-9
  6. For general job networking and search also see my fellow JIST authors Susan Britton Whitcomb, Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib’s The Twitter Job Search Guide: Find a Job and Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes a Day http://www.amazon.com/Twitter-Job-Search-Guide-Advance/dp/1593577915/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218290&sr=1-1
  7. For more resume and cover letter advice check out my own books Amazing Resumes (JIST) USA, Brilliant CV (Pearson) UK, Resumes that get shortlisted (Allen & Unwin) Australia

26 Interview Tips

  1. The night before take your mind off the interview and go and do something else which is interesting and engaging.
  2. The night before the interview try and have as calm a night as possible. Go back through your résumé, flick through the material, go to a film, watch television. Just have a relaxed evening, don’t get too tensed up and have an early night and not too much alcohol. I would suggest that you avoid eating food with lots of spice or garlic in it. You don’t want to go to the interview the following day smelling heavily of alcohol or garlic, because that can be off-putting. Get a good solid meal and a good night’s sleep
  3. It is worth bearing in mind, that the person sitting on the other side of the desk interviewing you is human as well believe it or not. Prick them with a pin and they will bleed. (Note do not literally do this!)
  4. Take down accurate records of the time, date, and venue of the interview – so you know exactly where you are going and when (I know durrrr, but I could tell you a tale of one the leading international coaches who forgot to do this and missed a giving a presentation, or the hapless keynote called at home to be asked politely whether he was thinking of attending the conference, as there were 1000 people waiting to hear his speech – and no neither of these were me!)
  5. If there are clashes and you are already being interviewed that day for another job, you will need to consider rearranging the interview. The thing to do here is to consider which of the two interviews is the most important to you. Which job you really most want or which job is the one that you really feel you are most likely to get and then rearrange the least preferred interview for another day. You can be very polite about that and I would suggest that you don’t say that you are being interviewed elsewhere, but make another excuse such as you are unable to leave work that day if you are working, or perhaps a white lie ‘for personal reasons you are unable to attend on that day, but you would be more than happy to attend on any other day that they may care to choose’.
  6. Pull out from your work file the copy of the job advertisement and the résumé and cover letter that you sent. Study those closely and try to remember as many of the points that you made about yourself as possible.
  7. Any information that you found out about the company that you stored in your job file you should go through now
  8. Now is the time to make sure that you have your suitable attire for an interview. Whether that happens to be a suit or just a smart pair of trousers, a shirt, and some shoes that are well polished and look smart and match with the accessories.
  9. Not sure what to wear?  Generally wear clothes one notch smarter than the everyday wear in the job.  For trades roles, smart pressed button shirt or blouse and smart pressed trousers or skirt.
  10. Mindmap stories about a time when you achieved something at work, think up several examples for each selection criterion.
  11. In making up your stories organise them with these questions:
    What were the:

    • Dates
    • Names
    • Outcomes (in numbers, dollars, etc)
    • Locations
    • What Happened?
    • What is the Point?
  12. Use the common STAR formula for your stories – Situation, Task, Action, Results
  13. If you are an internal candidate, take a smarter set of interview clothes to work with you and put them on just before you are called. The contrast and the fact you have made an effort will impress. It also saves you spending the day wearing these clothes and increasing the chances of them looking tired, or worse soiled with coffee spills and the rest.
  14. Avoid strong cologne
  15. Avoid garish make up
  16. Consider removing or covering piercings and body art – yes I know they are lovely, my father was a sailor with tats on both arms, but even he covered them up when working as a Judge….
  17. The minute you walk through the door of the building on the day of the interview your interview has started. In fact, the minute you have a telephone conversation with the recruiter or the recruiter’s secretary the interview has started.
  18. Never make the mistake of patronizing or underestimating the administrative staff in an office.
  19. Don’t express opinions in the interview or where you can overheard, unless you are expressly asked to do so.  Then be careful and cautious in your answers if you do not know the background politics in the place.
  20. The cardinal rule in the interview is keep your cool. It is not the time to start arguing.
  21. If you are sure of yourself and you know where you want to go and what you want out of the job, then you should ask questions. Not asking questions at interview when invited to do so, gives the impression you are not interested in the position, or that you have not prepared properly
  22. Take your time to respond to questions
  23. If you do not understand a question ask for clarification
  24. Do not always accept the interviewers premise i.e. “So you left Bloggs and Co. pretty quickly, where did you work next?”. Why accept the interviewers premise that you left quickly? This is a typical trap, instead reply “Well I was at Bloggs and Co for a year, so I was there a reasonable amount of time, and in that time, the company restructured which removed any chances of progression in my specialist field…”
  25. Emphasize positives during interviews – do not dwell on negative experiences such as sackings, work disputes, long periods out of the work force. If you have had such problems in the past and the interviewer tries to get you to explain such events, you can try cutting this short by saying, “ I am really most interested in how I can best develop my career now and in the future, and I am positive I can make an excellent contribution…”
  26. Panel interviews (where two or more people interview you at the same time) are fairer for you, so do not be intimidated, they are less likely to be biased by factors such as personal rapport, race, gender and other irrelevant issues.

45 Testing Tips

For traditional face to face testing

  1. Ask in advance how long the test session lasts.
  2. Try to have a restful sleep the night before.
  3. Take a spare pen and pencil with you. (for face to face testing) (Stationery should be supplied, but you should bring your own in case the tester doesn’t, or the pen runs out)
  4. Go to the bathroom just before you go into the test room. (Don’t forget to wash your hands!)
  5. Now you’re ready to face the test, you can take plenty of steps to prepare yourself to do well. Once you’re inside the test room, follow these simple tips in the next section.
  6. Don’t be late arriving at the venue.

For online testing

  1. If you doing the tests at home or in the office, ensure you have quiet surroundings and a rock solid internet connection and mains power to your computer
  2. Switch off phones and other applications running on your computer like facebook, mail, twitter, linkedin
  3. If the test is not timed, consider using an open word file to compose answers to any open response questions to get the response right and grammatically correct
  4. Work through methodically, taking advantage of any opportunity to save your work
  5. If you have to provide a user name and password at login, make a record of it.
  6. When completed, if you know how to take a screen grab, take one of the final page that says you have completed, or even take a photo to prove you have completed the test

For all testing

  1. Read the test instructions very carefully.
  2. Check all the options first before deciding multiple-choice answers.
  3. Answer personality questions as honestly as possible but do have in mind the picture of an ideal employee for the role, would their answer differ significantly from yours?
  4. Go back and check that you’ve answered all the questions before you finish.
  5. Don’t have a late night before testing day or take the tests late at night.
  6. Remember to bring your reading glasses
  7. Don’t drink alcohol or take strong sedating medication (other than regular prescriptions) or other drugs before sitting a psychological test.
  8. Don’t take medication that can make you drowsy. (If you have to take medication, inform the tester in writing before you sit the test.)
  9. Don’t plump for the first choice answer without checking the other options first.
  10. Don’t worry if you haven’t answered all the questions in the time available. This is not unusual.
  11. Even if you approach a test in a positive manner, you may find that a number of the questions in personality tests appear to be either quite strange or irrelevant. In the next sections, you have a chance to try your hand at typical aptitude tests and explore how you can best handle the process of being tested.
  12. Personality and aptitude tests can work to your advantage. The trick is to understand why you’re being tested, to test the tester with questions of your own and to know enough about the tests to feel in control of the process.
  13. Personality testing is so complex, the experts find it difficult to agree on what works and what doesn’t. However, the theory called the Big Five has managed to gain a relatively high degree of support among personality test specialists.
  14. The Big Five theory is based on the fact that five broad areas of personality exist and that each of these areas reflect many different facets of personality. These five areas are:
  15. Agreeableness – Trust, compliance and modesty are signs of agreeableness. As the label suggests, agreeableness is about how well you get along with your fellow humans!
  16. Conscientiousness: Competence, achievement and self-discipline are qualities of conscientious people. The words ‘I can resist anything but temptation’ do not make a conscientious response!
  17. Extroversion: Warmth, assertiveness and excitement-seeking are examples of extrovert behaviour. Broadly speaking, being an extrovert is about enjoying getting on with with other people.
  18. Neuroticism: Anxiety, depression and self-consciousness are examples of behaviours that may fall under this heading. Neuroticism is the degree to which you’re relaxed and self-accepting (low neuroticism) or nervous, fidgety and self-critical (high neuroticism).
  19. Openness to experience: Fantasy, ideas and values can fall into this category. Creatures of habit who like everything just so and have the this is how it has always been done’ attitude aren’t open to experience!
  20. Personality tests can make people feel angry, but you can avoid this emotion by asking the recruiter or tester the following questions:
  21. How do these tests indicate to an employer how well I’ll do the job?
  22. How do these questions relate to employment?
  23. Why should I share such personal information with an employer?
  24. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, the truth is that personality tests do give an excellent indication of a candidate’s performance levels. A large amount of research has gone into this subject and documented independent evidence of the highest quality shows clearly that well-constructed personality tests are a useful tool in the candidate-selection process.
  25. A well-constructed and well-conducted test has the following features:
  26. The test contains at least 20 questions and generally many more (personality tests can contain up to 500 questions). Generally the more questions a test contains, the more likely the test can yield a reliable result.
  27. The test includes clear instructions and you’re tested in quiet surroundings where nobody else can see your responses.
  28. After you finish answering the questions, the people conducting the test are happy to answer your queries and agree to provide you with appropriate feedback.
  29. The people administering the test are able to produce evidence that your performance on the test is to be measured against an appropriate comparison group and that the test is administered according to the test manual.
  30. The people administering the test can produce verifiable evidence that the test relates to performance in similar sorts of jobs.
  31. If you encounter references to left- and right-brain abilities or handwriting analysis, be afraid. Be very afraid. Psychological tests have a bad name because of shonky practitioners who use unscientific, fad-like tests. Don’t hesitate to decline any test that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  32. Generally if a recruiter includes a personality test, he or she also includes an aptitude test. Unlike personality tests, aptitude tests are normally timed, which has become a controversial issue in the recruiting industry. One of the key international publishers of aptitude tests argues that recruiters shouldn’t be looking for people who can make snap decisions, but rather people who are prepared to mull over a problem and reach a reasoned answer. Despite this reasoning, the majority of recruiters still time aptitude tests.
  33. Numerical reasoning tests assess your ability to manipulate numbers, spotting patterns and progressions.

 

Getting Amazing Results on your resume

Extract from Amazing Resumes by Jim Bright & Jo Earl, published by Jist

This post covers issues to do with CV layout, and how to deal with your education and qualifications on your resume.  Before the extract is a short background to the book.

Background

The material comes from my book Amazing Resumes.  This book is the culmination of over 10 years of scientific research into what gets resumes shortlisted.  My co-author Jo (now Dr Jo!) Earl completed her Masters Thesis in Organizational Psychology working with recruiters on what gets resumes shortlisted. Her work and that of many more of my team is included in this book. It means the advice you get has been demonstrated empirically to impress recruiters.

Why not become part of growing international movement who have found this book to be an essential part of their job search strategy.  The sister title in the UK, Brilliant CV, is a decade old best-seller in its 4th edition just out.  In Australia, Resumes that get shortlisted continues to be a leader, and the book is now in a Chinese version too!

We are proud of this book, and if you are a professional advising others or know someone who needs some help, we invite you to get hold of a copy through Amazon as we are sure you’ll find it will support your important work and most importantly help others get that all important job..

Amazing Resumes by Jim Bright and Jo Earl

Which Resume Is for Me?

Our extensive work has found that hiring managers prefer resumes that look conventional. This has been found in studies throughout the world. Most managers are conventional people, and they have a clear idea of what they expect to see when they read a resume. Reading a resume is a bit like walking into a restaurant—we know what to expect. In a restaurant, we know that there will be tables and a menu, that we will be asked for our order, and that we will have to pay for the food. We might even expect to leave a tip! Receiving an unusual resume would be like walking into the restaurant and seeing no tables or serving staff. We might figure out that there is a food vending machine to use, or alternatively, we might just walk out. Similarly, an employer might persevere with an unusual resume, or he or she might just reject it.

Before we look at some actual examples, we will take a look at what things you should put in your resume. The following is our list of important elements of a resume.

Tip: Use our 4-S rule: Keep it Simple, Structured, Succinct, and Significant.

Essential Contact Details

Always include your

  • Name you want to be known by—for example, “James Bright” and not “James Edward Harold Bright”
  • Home address
  • Telephone number
  • Fax number
  • E-mail address

Only give contact details for places where you are prepared to be contacted by prospective employers. If receiving a call or an e-mail at your current workplace might lead to embarrassing questions from your boss, do not give work contact details. Of course, if you want to include an e-mail address, it is now very easy to get a free e-mail account on the Web from companies like Hotmail (www.hotmail.com).

You must put your name, address, and telephone number on the first page of your resume.

Education and Training

If you haven’t had any formal education, obviously you omit these elements and should be thinking of using the functional or the structured interview resume. Have a look at the ideal candidate you constructed from the job ad in Chapter 4. What qualifications is our potential employer looking for? These qualifications are the ones to focus on.

Tip: Do not bore the reader by listing every qualification you have obtained—keep it to the relevant and impressive stuff.

Go through the list of qualifications you made in chapter 6 and determine which are relevant to the job. List the relevant ones in order. Some qualifications, like a college degree, are regarded as relevant information in most circumstances. Other qualifications, such as a first-aid course, may be seen as useful for some jobs, but would look odd being listed for others.

Although we have not researched where your educational details are best positioned, we find that what works best depends on how important and impressive your qualifications are to the position. Ask yourself the questions “How important are my qualifications to this position?” “How impressed will employers be by my degree I have or the school that I attended?” “What is most impressive, my qualifications or my work achievements?” If the answers to these questions are in favor of your educational qualifications, then place them toward the top of your resume (after the career objective statement or competencies and before your work achievements). If you answer in favor of your work achievements, then place educational details after your work details.

Our colleagues agree you should take a tailored approach to positioning details of your education where they are needed most. Wendy Enelow, author of the Expert Resumes series of resume guides, recommends that you “load” the resume—upfront—with your greatest selling points. Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of Résumé Magic (2003), has an excellent three-year rule of thumb for determining where to position your education. If you received a degree that is relevant to the vacancy in the last three years, place it toward the top of your resume. If you graduated more than three years ago and you have relevant work achievements to be proud of, place these first. Louise Kursmark, author of Sales and Marketing Resumes for $100,000 Careers and many other books, suggests that education be viewed as a foundational credential rather than as a key selling point. Remember, don’t waste prime resume “real estate” on something that will never sell.

Tip: Be clear and concise, and always refer back to the job ad to ensure that you’re remaining relevant.

When you do include your educational qualifications, you should order them as follows:

  • Highest postgraduate qualification—Masters or Ph.D., the subject, and the university at which the degree was earned
  • Highest undergraduate qualification—the degree, the subject, and the university at which the degree was earned
  • College qualifications—what college you attended and your grade-point average

This point may not apply to many people at all, but should you have a Ph.D., bear in mind that the title of Ph.D. dissertations can often appear to be so obscure or trivially narrow as to detract from a great achievement. Believe us, we have heard the sniggers that sometimes accompany Ph.D. award presentation ceremonies! If you have a very specialized title that is not going to be directly relevant to the job you’re applying for, stick to the subject discipline name (such as chemistry, physics, English, or psychology). For example, if you’re applying for a research role, a title such as “An investigation into the antecedents and consequences of brown squirrel mating rituals” might be better referred to as “Biology”—unless you are applying for a job that requires you to specifically monitor squirrels.

If you have a degree, it is probably not necessary to include your high school results unless they are exceptional. A degree will lead most employers to credit you with a certain amount of intelligence.

What might be useful is to list a few subjects you covered in high school, to give an indication of your versatility. For instance, if you have an arts degree, it is probably worth listing “courses included mathematics, chemistry, and statistics” or other numerate subjects studied at high school, as this gives an indication of well-rounded abilities. The opposite applies to science graduates, who might list English and history if applicable. List any extra languages that you speak, but see our later section on bias.

If there is any special thesis topic or aspect of your studies that is particularly relevant to the job, mention it here. With all qualifications, do not assume that the reader will understand what they are.

If you are applying for a job in the same country and state in which you were trained, and the qualification system has not changed in the last 10 years, it is safe to assume that the employer will understand the meaning of your qualifications. Otherwise, do not assume anyone else will understand your qualifications, and if in doubt explain what they mean.

Tip: When applying for a job in another state or country, don’t assume employers will understand what your qualifications mean. Explain your grades and degrees in the employer’s local system.

You can buy a copy of Amazing Resumes here

Letters of recommendation or job references have a large influence on shortlisting

Just came across a study by Lynne Clune that I supervised. It followed a selection process examining the relationship between ratings given by recruiters to candidate resumes, to candidate interviews (on video) and candidate letters of recommendation (LORS) aka references. It involved about 40 recruiters judging candidate applications in a real employment setting. The results were very interesting.

First: Good quality resumes, interviews and LORs were given higher overall ratings than other combinations.
Second: Results for the ranking of preferences showed that good resumes, interviews and LORs were likely to be ranked first and the poor resumes, interviews and LORs ranked last.
Third: In order to get a good overall rating a candidate needs both a good resume AND a good interview. It seems you cant make up for a weak resume with a strong interview and vice versa.
Fourth: A good LOR will result in a good overall rating and conversely a poor LOR a poor overall rating REGARDLESS OF THE RESUME OR INTERVIEW.

Question: Are we focussing to much of our advice and coaching on resume and interview preparation when we should be spending more time coaching candidates in how to a) nurture a positive employment reputation and b) how to directly manage relationships with referees to maximise positive references. We all know about Search Engine Optimisation, can I suggest we now need Referee Engagement Optimisation?

One day I will get around to publishing the full study in a peer-reviewed journal, but I thought I’d share this with you at this time.