Maryland’s unemployment rate in 2008 was a mere 4.3%. At the end of 2012, it had increased to 6.8%! With the rising unemployment rates, ensuring your job application stands out from the other candidates is all the more important. As the owner of Zekiah Technologies for the last fifteen years, I have seen many resumes and completed many interviews. Some candidates certainly stand out from the rest. Many times they are not the most qualified; but they are the candidate most likely to get the job. Small things make the difference and taking the time to make small adjustments can make the difference between unemployment and being the selected candidate.
The resume is your first and sometimes only introduction to the potential employer. Make it count and make it easy for me to see your attributes. I will review potentially hundreds of resumes for a position and I guarantee you I will NOT take the time to read through even one thoroughly so it’s up to you to highlight what you want me to know about you.
Try to see your resume through my eyes – if you were hiring someone for that type of position what would be important to you? When I review a resume I typically have a few items in mind that I am looking for and quickly scan a resume for those items. For example, I am currently looking for a mid level Web Developer so I scan resumes looking for the programming languages that are important to me. If I don’t find those listed during my quick scan, I put the resume in the “don’t call” pile.
- Format – pull out pertinent info and bullet it so it’s easy to for me to see what matters. For example, if you are applying for a web programming position, it’s a good idea to have a section called “Programming Languages” where you list in bullet form the laundry list of languages that you know and at what level you know them.
- Accuracy – spelling errors or other inaccuracies show you don’t pay attention to details.
- Be Generous – don’t lie but don’t undersell yourself either. The resume and cover letter are your sales pitch.
- Length – resumes should be no more than one page unless you have a real reason to make it longer such as extensive experience. If it’s more than one page make sure the most important items are on the first page.
- Originality – match your resume to the actual job opening. Ensure that every item listed on the job description is listed on your resume in a clear and easy to find format. Don’t make me search to find that you are qualified for the position.
If you are called in for an interview it means that you have gotten past the first hurdle – congratulations! I usually cull the resumes down to a select few and interview only those candidates I feel I could hire based on the resume alone. Be aware that the phone call to set up the interview is an interview in itself – be sure to be polite and engaged. There has been more than one instance where we call to set up an interview and the potential candidate is either rude or obnoxious on the phone and no interview time is ever set up.
- Dress appropriately – we have a casual work environment at Zekiah but I like to see candidates make an effort and show up in business apparel for their interview.
- Handshake—handshakes should be firm but not so hard that it hurts my hand. The web between your thumb and pointer finger should touch the web of mine. A weak, limp handshake is a bad first impression.
- Cell Phone – turn it off or leave it in your car.
- Ask Questions – I like to see interest in the position and my company. Questions also show that you are a person that likes to learn and will show those same attributes as an employee. Unless it is a second interview don’t ask questions about how much time you will get off or if you can have a flexible schedule. It’s your job to impress me – once you have, then you can ask me how I’m going to make you happy.
- Don’t speak poorly about past employers – when you do it makes me wonder if you are going to be a difficult employee.
- Be honest but not too much – you NEVER want to be caught in a lie during an interview but you also don’t have to be so honest that you reveal all your flaws. This is a sale presentation and you should do everything you can to sell yourself. No one else will do it for you.
- Respect for all you meet – be sure that you treat everyone that you meet at the prospective company with respect. You may think the person greeting you is “just” the receptionist but most likely her opinion matters quite a bit to the owner of the company and if you are rude to her, that WILL get back to the person who can hire you.
After the interview follow up with an email or note thanking the person who interviewed you for their time and consideration. If you don’t anything back from the company within a week, call and ask the status and express that you are still very interested in the position. If they are waffling between two candidates, the phone call and interest may sway them towards your direction.
A final note of advice – make sure that you are a good candidate for the position. Apply for jobs where you have the skills to perform the job. Don’t hop from job to job thinking the grass is always greener. I rarely will call in anyone for interview when I see that they have switched from one job to the next on a regular basis. Once you have a job, continue to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. Be someone I want to hire!
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