May 18, 2014
Over the past year, I’ve been in somewhat of a continuous recruiting process for my team. Both from growth and planned turnover, I’ve posted and interviewed for five job openings, even more postings in the past two years, and I’d like to share the following advice for job seekers.
1. You’ve got less than 2 minutes, make it count!
When I’m handed a stack of resumes from my HR team, it can range anywhere from 20-50 applicants and I might spend up to two minutes reading and scanning your resume, if that. In that time, you’d better capture my attention to not discard, but to further scrutinize.
DO include a list of skills and DO make sure they’re relevant to the job for which you’ve applied. DON’T waste my time with information that’s irrelevant or superfluous. If you’re going to include a summary, it should be more obvious than you’re looking for a job. Tell me something that your work or education experience can’t.
2. Always include a Cover Letter
Yes, these are time consuming and I know that, which is why I appreciate reading them. Your cover letter should illustrate why you want the position, why you’d be valuable to my team, and why you’re the best choice overall. It can take time to write and include in the job board, but it’s worth it. Remember, finding a full-time job should be considered a full-time job.
However, avoid creating a “stock” letter by ensuring your experience, background, and education matches effectively the position in which you’re interested. If you’re a seasoned photographer applying for a marketing position, you shouldn’t highlight your portfolio of images, but should highlight your skills that are most relevant to the job.
3. Preferred Requirements are the most important
When I write a job description, I start with the job tier’s minimum requirements and that’s what my HR team will complete the initial screening of applicants against. These usually include education and years of experience, certifications, that sort of thing. It’s the “Preferred Requirements” where I get to make the job specific to the role I’m filling and ultimately what’s going to set candidates apart.
Take Preferred Requirements VERY seriously. These should not be seen as “optional” and you should specifically address each one, if you can, within your Cover Letter, work experience, and special skills section on your resume. HOWEVER, these requirements also mean you should be able to speak to your experience. If you state you know CSS, make sure you actually have that experience and can speak to that experience in detail during an interview.
4. Expect a panel interview with structured and technical questions
I encountered this process quite a bit when I was last seeking employment, and can say it will make or break a candidate. I’m provided by HR a bank of questions and I get to choose the ones that are most reflective of the candidate I want on my team. All candidates should be prepared to pull from their experience.
When asked the questions, don’t be afraid to take a minute to gather your thoughts. The more specific you can be and related back to the question, the stronger you will fit the role. We take A LOT of notes during these panels, so be prepared for lots of writing. In fact, a lack of writing can mean we don’t find what you’re saying is relevant. Feel free to ask if your answers aren’t what we’re looking for and can pull from another example. Thinking on your feet will actually help in this situation.
5. Pull from all of your experience, and not just a one role or project
Frankly, I get tired of hearing about the same job or assignment, no matter how much you think it also applies to the next question from the panel. Again, consider taking a moment if you can’t think of a new or varied answer drawing from experience.
The structure of a panel interview is to not only gain additional insights into a candidate, but to also see how well he/she can “think on his/her feet” in answering the unknown. Several questions may ask you to pull from a negative or failed experience. You should have one example ready, and be prepared to explain how you both recovered and learned from the experience.
Overall, remember that you’re not the only candidate. Make sure you can demonstrate how you’re both different from others and the best fit for the role. The most prepared candidate for the position will always rise to the top. Keep an open mind about the experience and remember that it’s your job to win, not be offered.
Cover Letter, Job Search, Job Seekers, Panel Interview, Resume,