The Easiest Resume In The World

Don’t have a resume? Looking for a way to create one without having to worry about formatting and everything looking perfect? Thankfully, as technology has advanced, resume building has gotten easier and easier. There are plenty of resume builders out there. There are also plenty of templates and samples that you can follow the format off of. But if you’re in a hurry and you don’t have time to make one yet, or you just don’t feel the need to (though you should), there is a solution to your problem.

LinkedIn. As you can probably tell by now if you’ve been reading my posts, I’m a huge advocate of the website. This is just another reason. LinkedIn not only allows you to create a profile that allows you to lay out your entire life, it also enables you to download a PDF version that has a very simple yet effective outline of your profile in a resume format. Is it perfect? Of course not. It largely depends how you format the data you have on LinkedIn. For example if under each job you’ve put a paragraph describing the company or what you did there instead of bullet points, that’s what you’re going to get.

But hey, it’s not a bad start. Plus it includes your skills, specialties, etc. The downside? it doesn’t fit it all on one page. Resume’s should be one page, two pages tops (and you better have reason for it). If you’re well established in the field, this might be a good way to think about getting your CV started. CV’s are essentially longer resumes for those established in fields, usually applying for grants and highly competitive positions. CVs can be enormously long (40 pages long enough for ya?). But if it’s your first time, maybe LinkedIn can at least help you get started on it.

Note: This should be a last resort. Say you haven’t worked on your resume in forever, but you just got a call for an interview and you don’t have time to update it. Well, print out the PDF of your LinkedIn and bring it in and explain the situation when you hand them this and state that you can send them an updated resume if they’d like. If you have the time, you should put in the energy to produce a really nice resume that will help you stand out.

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How to Handle That Pesky “Weaknesses” Question

What Not To Say In Response

During the interview process, you’re invariably going to be asked, “Can you tell me about some of your weaknesses?” or some variation of it. How you answer this question could very well determine whether you get another interview, or the job at all. Here are some tips on how to deal with this commonly asked, and feared, question.

  1. Be honest. Your interviewer isn’t asking for no reason. They legitimately want to know if you acknowledge your own weaknesses, and what you’re doing or plan to do about them, and how they might effect your job.
  2. Don’t be too honest. You didn’t really think I was telling you to tell them, “I’m perpetually late, have a tendency to forget tasks, and lose paperwork on my desk. Oh yea…and I take two hour lunches. When do I start?” Pick one or two small things you have issues with, generalize them so they don’t sound too bad, and most importantly…
  3. Address how you compensate for those weaknesses. If you have trouble keeping track of meetings, tell them you now put EVERYTHING in Outlook or in a planner. You set reminders for yourself on your phone for every little thing you do. Say something like, “I tend to be very detail oriented, but sometimes that causes me to lose focus on the big picture. But I’ve started taking time out of each day to step back and remind myself.” This tells your employer that you’re not arrogant, you recognize your weaknesses, and you take actions to correct them.
  4. Don’t get cute. I’ve heard stories about people using “chocolate” as a weakness in an interview. You might have a soft spot for it, but don’t you dare say this in an interview. For every person that will find this amusing, there’s another who will resent you for ignoring the question. You might as well tell them, “When I’m asked difficult questions, I avoid it like the plague.” Instant interview killer.
  5. Always Give An Answer. This may seem simple,  but don’t think for a few moments and say, “I honestly can’t think of any weaknesses.” This will tell your employer you’re either a kiss up, a liar, or you don’t admit to your own mistakes/faults. Regardless, they likely won’t appreciate it. If you really are struggling to come up with something, give the detail oriented answer in #3. It’s a good answer, it’s a common problem for workers, and you’ll at least have an answer.

“What Do You Know About Our Company?”

How many times have you been in an interview and gotten this question? Most first interviews involve this question, it’s an early screening question to see just how much you’ve researched and prepared. Interviewers use it to get a sense of what kind of worker you’ll be. How in depth will you go when they ask you to take on a task?

The truth is your answer to this question is a golden opportunity to outshine everyone else interviewing for the position. Especially for those entry-level positions right out of college. Because let’s face it, most people interviewing for that job don’t have a lot of experience. So interviewers have to gauge you more than ever off your answers to their questions.

How Not To Answer The Question

  • “Not much, really.” Are you kidding me? You better know SOMETHING about the company. If you say this, the interviewer will be counting the seconds until they end the interview.
  • “Well I know that you’re in __________ and that you have __________ # of stores and _______ # of employees. You’re headquartered out of __________ and your CEO is ____________.” Really? So you know about as much as anyone who’s ever looked at the company’s website or wikipedia page.

How To Answer the Question

  • “Well according to your most recent annual report, company profits rose so and so percent. That’s one reason why your company interests me, it’s on the rise and making money in tough economic times. I know that recently you released this new product/service, and that it’s being received well by the public. ________ Magazine said it’s ___________. And your CEO, _______ stated that in the coming years you’ll be looking to ______________.”
  • Be careful not to sound scripted. Sound like you just know a lot about the company and you’re thinking of these things off the top of your head.

I’m being vague on purpose. The answer varies greatly from company to company. But if you can cite specific examples about the company that’s been in the press recently, or bring up remarks made by the CEO in their annual report (or if you’re interviewing with someone that speaks publicly for the firm, recite what they’ve said recently).

If you can do this effectively, your interviewer will be blown away. Most people they interview will be giving them cookie cutter answers. Meanwhile here you are stating what’s in their annual report (10-k). Your interviewer is bound to have their interest in you peaked and you’ll land another interview, if not the job outright.

Professional Dress

There’s nothing more frustrating to me than someone walking into a professional setting not dressed professionally. Understandably, not everyone knows what is and what is not acceptable for dress. Below are some basic guidelines I found helpful, and a friend of mine found these images that sum it up nicely, for business professional AND business casual (men and women).

Note: Click the links to be taken to the images.

Women’s Business Professional
Women’s Business Casual
Men’s Business Professional
Men’s Business Casual
Accessories

Additional Tips For Men

  • Invest in tie clips/bars and cuff links. Tie clips do wonders for your look. Plus if you happen to be walking around outside your tie won’t be flying all over the place. Cuff links add a bit of class, but aren’t as necessary.
  •  Don’t get too flashy with interviews or until you know the company atmosphere! Don’t go in there wearing bright colors unless 1) company culture encourages it, or 2) you can pull it off. NOTE: FEW MEN CAN PULL IT OFF INITIALLY. So until you know for sure, play it safe.
  • LEARN TO TIE A TIE! And at bare minimum you should be tying a half-windsor. Go full windsor when you need to impress. Simply put, if the top of your tie isn’t flat, you’ve tied it wrong and you don’t look as good as you could and should.
  • Your tie should reach the middle of your belt buckle (unless you’re being a hipster). That’s how you know it’s the right length.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of your socks matching your shoes and not being too outlandish. The little things matter. Same with belt color/style.
  • Business casual is either a jacket and no tie, or a tie and no jacket. In most instances simply wearing a collared shirt is not considered business casual. (as always, there are exceptions, I work in an office that shuns ties and jackets).

Additional Tips For Women

  • Wear pantyhose. Always.
  • Heels shouldn’t be too high, but not too low either. Go simple, don’t get too flashy.
  • Don’t show cleavage in an interview. I understand you may be very attractive. But your interviewer may think negatively of you for it. Don’t risk it.

Sorry I don’t have much more advice for women. Obviously the above are guidelines, not rules. There are exceptions to all of these. But until you absolutely know for sure that anything else is acceptable for a specific instance or company, this should be your guidelines.

The Follow Up to the Interview

So you’ve just had an interview. It went really well, but you know there’s a ton of people they’re interviewing. What if he forgets just how good your interview was? Or someone else comes in and does just as well, but because they’re later the interviewer remembers them better? What’s the proper move here?

The obvious move is a well thought out and personalized thank you letter. If you don’t write a thank you e-mail/letter, you’re just asking to get passed over. Here’s a few pointers.

1. Personalize it. Reference topics and points that you went over with the interviewer and stress how you found it beneficial. If you discovered a personal connection with that person, throw that in there (subtly). By personalizing it you’re showing the interviewer that you pay attention to detail, that you have good memory, and you’re not just sending them the same letter you send to every other potential employer.

2. Don’t overdo it. This is probably the toughest part. You need to personalize it, but don’t go too far. If you take it too far and start diving into unprofessional territory it could bite you. What is overdoing it? Well first of all, don’t leave a thank you call, send a thank you e-mail, and then follow up with annoying e-mails asking for status updates on the selection process. Keep it professional, even if they made you seem like it’s ok to be relaxed with them. And for the love of everything good, use proper english, grammar, and NO SMILEYS/EMOTICONS.

3. One and done. Send one thank you note, whether by e-mail or through a phone call. Be really careful when doing it by phone. It’s much easier to express your thoughts through e-mail so it’s the safer bet until you become a little more comfortable. Then maybe try out a phone call and see how that goes, but honestly I would argue that you stand to gain nothing from making the thank you by phone (compared to e-mail) unless this is someone you’ve known previously. Then a phone call is appropriate.

But seriously. Don’t send an e-mail and then try and call as well. Being too persistent will make you seem either desperate or annoying, neither of which is good for you.

4. Hopefully at the end of your interview they said when you can expect to hear from them. If not, you should’ve asked.  If you haven’t heard back 48 hours after they said you would, go ahead and send an e-mail re-expressing your interest and asking for a timeline on when you can expect their decision. Remember that it’s on their timeline, so don’t be rude and seem like you’re annoyed with how long they’re taking.

Interviewing Tip: The receptionist is your friend!

I love The Office

One of the easiest ways to shoot yourself in the foot at an interview doesn’t even take place in the interview room itself. It happens in reception. You walk into the office, let the receptionist know you’re here for an interview. She hands you some forms to fill out or just asks you to have a seat and wait. She might even offer you a beverage. You politely decline but don’t realize that she’s studying you. She’s not even meaning to do it, but she could very well hold your employment in the palm of her hands.

So you’re sitting there filling out forms, kind of have this confused look on your face because you don’t quite understand what they’re asking on the form (don’t you hate those ambiguous questions). Meanwhile, Joe Schmo walks in and while he’s filling out the forms he’s asking the receptionist how her day is going. How long has she been working here? Does she enjoy it? Next thing you know they’re laughing about some random coincidence about how they both love to eat at this one restaurant that no one knows about. Tsk tsk tsk.

After both of you have left the interviewer could very well stop to chat with the receptionist, ask her how they were in waiting. She’ll gush over the other guy, who by the way was late while you were 15 minutes early. When it comes to you, “he was fine. Quiet.” Not a bad thing by any means, but the interviewer takes valuable information away from the interactions you had with the staff. Especially if open communication, energy, and the ability to work well with a team is vital to the job.

So next time you go for an interview, make the effort to get to know the staff. Even it’s just small talk, it could go a long way in getting an extra little recommendation from someone you’d have to see every day in the office. That’s a huge advantage if you ask me.

Eye Contact

Growing up I absolutely hated making prolonged eye contact with people. And by prolonged I mean anything more than a few seconds. For some reason it freaked me out, made me think they were looking through me or into my soul or some strange reason. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand it. I think it also went along with my fear of public speaking. So when it came time for me to join other student organizations, especially ones that were professional and promoted eye contact, it was a challenge.

But through practice I perservered and now I’m perfectly ok with it. After having so many interviews where I had to make efforts to maintain eye contact, it became easier and easier until now it’s just natural. I no longer have those old thoughts of, “stop staring at me!”

Why is eye contact important though? Well to answer that we must first address the huge elephant in the room that most people are thinking about, especially anyone from another culture or country. Not all cultures like eye contact. I’m reminding of a story I heard once in which a Principal of a school had two teachers come to him and complain about their students. One teacher said, “He won’t look me in the eye! It’s a total lack of respect!” The other said, “He always stares at me! He looks right at my eyes! It’s completely unacceptable and rude!” The Principal had two teachers on two extremes. One demanded eye contact, the other shunned it. They were obviously from very different cultures and upbringing.

So is it important to make eye contact? Well it depends. But what is really important is that you are comfortable doing it and you know when to do so. Whether or not you find it offensive, rude, or what not…you should be able to look across the table during an interview and maintain eye contact when it’s necessary. Work on it if you have to, but you don’t want to go into an interview and be turned down because you couldn’t look him in the eye.

Equally important is knowing how to figure out when to or when not to make eye contact. This takes just a small degree of conscious attention. When you talk to someone, especially a potential employer or an interviewer, gauge their actions. If they seem to be making eye contact, make sure that when you talk you do so as well. If they tend to stray from eye contact, don’t make them feel uncomfortable by staring at them. Find other ways to keep your eyes busy while keeping the flow of the conversation going. For example take notes, or show them examples of your work and explain while drawing their attention to it.

And please don’t make the mistake of being a creeper. Don’t STARE. There’s a difference between maintaining eye contact and staring. Staring is when you look at the person, barely blink (if at all), and just look right into their eyes the entire time without flinching. You should never do this. It’s highly uncofmortable. Instead, you should be treating it like you would a conversation with a friend, you make eye contact when making key points, but from time to time look over your notes, check out your surroundings, glance away, etc. Always come back and maintain eye contact, but don’t do so for too long. A lot of it is intuition and going with your gut feelings. Only through practice and experience will this really flush itself out and become natural though.

Just remember to make the conscious effort and it’ll work itself out. Not paying attention to what you’re doing though can really hurt your chances in an interview.

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