Brush up on your resume and interview skills

Print by Suzanna Anna

*I am writing to you from the trenches of hiring an assistant, but I decided not to post it until I had firmly made a hire.

I recently posted a position for a jewelry assistant on craigslist and thought that maybe I'd get 3 or 4 resumes, but I received dozens - over 40 in one week! I've been sifting through resumes, cover letters, and emails, and it's been difficult to narrow them down, because there are so many good ones in the bunch! I proceeded patiently and during my hiring process, I learned quite a bit about what it takes to make a good impression on your new potential boss, and I'd love to share my thoughts with you!

While looking through dozens of resumes and cover letters, I tried to pick out something that made each candidate stick out (Sound familiar? I hear my college career counselor rejoicing). Number one was jewelry experience, but after that, I wanted to get an overall vibe of the person based on where they worked, how long they worked somewhere, and their additional skills such as Quickbooks or Photoshop experience. I needed to know if they could write well and pay attention to detail by studying their cover letters/emails (and checking their spelling). Want to know what works and what doesn't? Read on.

Resume Tips:

* It doesn't really matter if your resume is beautifully designed. The prettiest/coolest resume I saw was literally too difficult to read. Stick to a basic layout - the person reviewing it will appreciate it. Add some color or some simple graphics for each header if you must, but keep it simple and legible.

* Do not write an overly fluffy cover letter. Do not get philosophical, do not get metaphoric - just be natural yet professional. I do not want to read a bunch of b.s. of how you are a butterfly just coming out of your cocoon to go on a job seeking mission. On the flip side, do not write a super short, overly simplified cover letter. Also - do not talk about your personal life unless it is relevant to the job (but it probably isn't).

* People who are hiring notice your typos. This may seem like a no-brainer, but spell check your resume and then ask a friend to spell check it, too. Print it out to do this - it's much easier to notice spelling mistakes on a piece of paper than a computer screen. ALSO check for typos in your email/cover letter/subject line. Excited about a job and want to send your cover letter immediately? Great! Just take the time to spell check before you hit send! I saw so many typos and it is definitely a strike against the candidate because it relates directly to their lack of attention to detail.

* Include where you went to high school. Who knows, the interviewer may have attended your high school or their best friend or husband may have gone there and then what do you have - a personal connection to the interviewer! Score!

* Do not make it necessary to use a magnifying glass to view your resume. I know you want to keep it short, but try not to make the font too tiny in order to achieve this.

* Do NOT submit more than a 2 page resume. It doesn't matter how much experience you have, keep it to 2 pages. Edit out the jobs you didn't have very long or didn't like very much. Major gaps in your work time line aren't necessarily red flags, so don't think it will reflect poorly on you. If you are just dying to tell more about yourself, put it online and include a link to it in your cover letter.

* If you are responding to a job posting by email, it should be just as professional as your resume. It should also include everything the job posting requested, or an explanation of why you had to omit it. Keep all of your communication professional - don't use a million !!!! or ???? or ALL CAPS to get your point across.

* Finally, think about what you want someone to take away from your resume. Do you want them to know you are a people person who loves a fast paced environment? Do you want them to know you are a diligent worker who loves a more mellow environment? Try to think of words and adjectives to get you across when describing your duties at each job you held. This is where you want to stand out. If you list that you know Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, Word, Blogger, Twitter, etc - you are letting them know you are multi-faceted. The software skills you mention are important so try not to leave any out - even if it's a random program! Think outside the box - the person reading your resume will notice. Have you been to a foreign country to work or travel? Have you done any volunteering? Mention it! Make the interviewer want to know more about you. Try to be more than your piece of paper.
Interview Tips

Lucky you, your resume was noticed and you've been selected for an interview! Sweet! Do some online research to get prepared for those behavioral questions that are all the rage these days. Beyond that, here are some do's and don'ts:

* If you are picked for an interview and you really want the job, find out more about the company. There is nothing worse than the interviewer asking you a question relating to this and you have no idea what to say. If the company has a blog, read it! Mention something you read in it during your interview.

* Look the interviewer in the eye. You don't have to stare them down, but looking at the floor the entire time is not a good idea.

* Don't fidget. Sit still, be engaged, and if you find yourself picking at your fingernails or shirt hem, etc., stop!

* Don't be late. If you're late, apologize profusely.

* I know we've been told there are no stupid questions, but in an interview, there are. Don't ask a question that could have easily been answered if you had done a tad bit of research about the company. (For example, don't ask a web-based business if they have a website. Believe it or not, someone I interviewed asked if I had a website.)

* Be yourself, albeit a professional version of yourself. If you have no rapport with the interviewer, don't fake it. You may just not be the right person. You do not want to get hired under false pretenses and then be miserable after two weeks at a job working under someone who irritates you.

I really hope that these tips help you! It's a tough job seeker's market out there - do everything you can to stay on top of the pile!

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