I’ve been in the Human Resources field for over fifteen years. My friends and family sometimes think I can give them killer advice that will land them new jobs in no time. I don’t have any secret weapons I can lend you, but I can tell you what I look at when I’m the person doing the hiring.
Do Your Homework
- It helps to know someone with a connection to us. Sounds cliche, but entirely true. I’m more willing to bet on someone I, a friend, or one of our employees trusts than a total stranger.
- We do have seasonal fluctuations, and we have used workers from temporary services. When they do a good job, we’re more likely to hire these people into permanent positions in the future – thus bypassing the need to do a search.
- Research the company. Know what jobs are open. Format your submission appropriately. If there’s an engineer position open, and your cover letter or resume states you’re applying for marketing, your resume is going to hit the “file – not hire” pile.
- Pay attention to the communication avenues I tell you I prefer. If I tell you not to call me, don’t. You are not the only candidate for this job. Never, ever just show up, demanding an interview. I won’t see you. I am much less likely to hire you if you’re on my “annoying, borderline stalker” list.
Cover Letter & Resume
- I am one of the relatively few who reads cover letters. The reasons: I want to know if you’re familiar with our company, and I want a glimpse into your personality. I hire for culture fit, and I want to know you’re not a jerk.
- Try to keep your resume to one page. Two is okay. Any longer, and it’s too much to effectively scan. Realistically, I’m going to spend 30 to 60 seconds the first time I look at your resume. Unless you’re applying for a very creative, artistic position, leave the colors and graphics off the form.
- Write and speak from a position of strength. Ideally, you’re the solution to one of my problems. Act that way, instead of assuming I’m doing you a favor.
- Make sure your contact information is correct and there are no typos. There’s nothing worse to a busy HR person trying to get a person hired than trying to contact what seems like the perfect candidate, just to get an “undeliverable” bounce back on email or a “wrong number” with the phone.
- Pay attention to your email address. If it’s cutesy, you find it funny, or it can be considered borderline offensive, think twice about putting it on your resume. It’s easy to set up a free email account with gmail, yahoo, hotmail, and others. Use your name. Don’t use years – not the year you were born, not the year your kid was born, not the year you graduated, not the year you married. Simply don’t use dates.
- I prefer seeing what you’ve accomplished in your current and past positions than seeing a list of your skills. Remember, a majority of the people applying for this job have the same skills you do. Tell me what you can do with those skills, and you’ll move up my list. Show me how you’ll use your skills to make our company better (confidently, but not arrogantly), and you’ll move to the top of my list.
- Never use text-speak in our communication. “U won’t B hired.”
- Your online presence, if you have one, is important. Does it paint you as an irresponsible party animal? If so, that’s unlikely to get you a spot as an accountant (or most other positions, for that matter).
Interview & Beyond
- Don’t show up for an interview in sweatpants, or anything similar. You’ll rarely be knocked out of consideration for meticulous grooming and attire, but I guarantee a sloppy appearance will move your resume to the “no” stack faster than a jackrabbit mating.
- People tell me I ask tough questions. There’s a reason! I’m not wondering what it’s like to party with you or otherwise hang out. I want to know how you’re going to react when we have a deadline and not everything is going the way we expected.
- I’ll probably ask you if you read in your spare time, and if so, what. It tells me if you keep up on industry happenings, if you like to continue to learn, and if you have interests that will help keep you balanced.
- When I ask for references, I mean I want to talk to the supervisors you’ve worked for in the past. Not your family and friends. Recent college grads: a professor’s reference is a good substitute. Please make sure your references will actually say good things about you. I know it seems as if I shouldn’t have to say this, but you would be shocked at how many times I’ve called a person who has laughed at being named a reference.
- When I open the door for you to ask questions, do it. Interview me. Ask about the big picture items: company culture, customers, strategies and goals. Make sure you actually want to work with us. Don’t ask me about our health insurance plan and what our deductible is. I want to know how you’re solving my problem, not how I’m solving one of yours. If I haven’t already given you that information by the time we make an offer, that’s the time to ask.
- Sell me. Tell me why you’re the best candidate I’m ever going to see for this position – and that you want it. Make me believe you want to work for our company, not that you just need or want a job. Don’t tell me you’ll wait for my call. Tell me you’re confident I will call, and tell me again why. Remember, the best candidate is not always the one with the most experience.
- I appreciate receiving a thank you note or email. It is also an opportunity for you to remind me that you’re the perfect solution to my problem.
Beyond these considerations, I can tell you I don’t believe in asking what kind of tree, animal, plant, or anything else you would be if you had a choice. I’m much more interested in the kind of person you are. I’ve only asked the tree question once in my career. I asked, because given the circumstances, I couldn’t resist (I asked what was most important to her in life; she told me trees).
Something you may not realize about me, and most people in jobs like mine: I would love to hire over half the people I talk to about positions. There are so many talented, wonderful people in the candidate pool it often makes it difficult to choose who should get the shot at the job – especially entry- to mid-level ones. The little extra effort you exert to convince me you are the right candidate may be the tipping point in the decision.
It’s imperative that you find a job you don’t hate. Life is too short to spend hours of your life being miserable. That being said, I realize bills need to be paid and groceries purchased. Ask enough questions to know if you can put in the hours without being drained, stressed, bitter and resentful. If you can’t, do me (and yourself) a favor and take yourself out of the running. If you don’t, you will likely find that the job is short-lived, anyway.
As I stated in the beginning, I don’t have any magic to offer. Use your common sense, a bit of enthusiasm, and believe in yourself and what you have to offer. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities – and be able to represent that you believe – before a company will be willing to gamble on you.