How to Make Yourself Stand Out (AKA How to Get an Interview)

First of all, let me apologize for not writing in a few weeks. My new job has been awesome and I’ve been so focused on making sure I do a good job there that a few things have had to fall to the way side. So thanks for sticking it out with me!

Now on to the good stuff =]

Recruiters, sourcers, hiring managers, etc., who does everyone you want to impress look for? Rock stars. It’s the recruiting #buzzword of the day. So are you a rock star? I bet there’s something that makes you a rock star. Whether it’s a cool hobby, some impressive expertise in a domain, or your ability to just make something look easy. I won’t write about figuring out what that special something is just yet, maybe that’ll be good for another post.

So, assuming you’ve already followed the first few common-sense steps to applying for a job… (in no particular order)

  1. Make sure you’re actually qualified for the jobs you’re applying for
  2. Follow directions
  3. You’ve got a resume and a cover letter draft ready to go (yes, you are supposed to tailor them to each job you apply to…)

…you should be ready to rock star up your resume and cover letter.

What makes a rock star? Outstanding accomplishments, deep expertise, an unquenchable thirst to learn…. oh and some crazy notion that challenges are fun and exciting. So how do you show people you’ve got a little (or a lot!) of that?

You tell them a story. Not a long, 10-pager mind you. Just enough to help them see what’s so special about you. Your story starts at the objective line.

  • Are you a recent grad?
  • Do you have 10 years of experience?
  • Do you have an unquenchable thirst for learning
  • Do you love challenges?
  • Are you just way too excited to change this industry?

Point it out! Your objective line is a great place to do that! “Recent grad with 1 year of experience in PCB design for consumer electronics looking to take on new challenges and make company XYZ’s products even better!”

Make sure whoever’s reading your resume doesn’t miss that because it’s drowned out in some not-so-glittering details about all the super technical, in-depth things you did. 

  1. Cut out the jargon. Does your mom understand what you do when she reads your resume? If yes, you’re on the right track. If not, consider changing some of your verbage…
  2. Bring out the meaning in the tasks you did. Did your technical jargon accomplish something like creating a new product for your company? And oh, you were in charge of doing everything from A to Z all by yourself? Well, make sure you write that clearly and simply! I sure as heck don’t that’s what your “oscillometer design, integration and validation” experience means.
  3. Don’t undervalue your college triumphs. Winning some cool competition or working on an electric car in college is just as valid once you graduate as it was when you were trying to flirt with the not-so-geeky sorority girls (although I would continue to do cool things after college, especially if it’s been several years since you did anything that exciting. You want to continue being a rock star!)
  4. Show off a little. There’s nothing wrong with dedicating a few lines to some cool personal/research projects you undertook or having a section where you list all of your accomplishments and awards. Heck! Have both (just stick to the 2 page rule. Less is more.)

The point is – don’t be afraid to show off, and write it all in a way that makes it easy to understand for everyone who did not sit in those mechanical engineering courses with you.

Freebie insider tip: Don’t apply to a whole bunch of jobs at one company – the recruiters and hiring managers can see the list of the 10+ openings you applied to. Let’s face it, how likely is it you’re a good fit for ALL of those roles?

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

What a Recruiter Will and Will Not Do For You

It’s been interesting getting into recruiting, because I suddenly became the go-to for all sorts of resume, cover letter, job pivot questions, etc.

One of the more interesting ones is “Will a recruiter get me a job?” Honestly, I see exactly why so many people think this, and I would love for it to work out the way we all wish it did, but…

A recruiter’s job is not to get you a job.

Wait, so if your job isn't to get me a job... what do you do all day?!

Wait, so if your job isn’t to get me a job… what do you do all day?!

You getting a job is often a great benefit of a recruiter’s work, but a recruiter is usually focused on the company s/he works for and its needs. If your needs and the company’s match up, then it’s a match made in heaven. The rest of the time though, there may not be much a recruiter can do to help. (Nope, no magic perfect job creating wands.)

So, considering that a recruiter gets paid by a company (or several) to find people and therefore focuses on getting that entity what it needs first and foremost, what kind of assistance can you expect from a recruiter?

  1. Determining whether this is a job you want. A recruiter will usually have 10-20 job openings s/he’s working on and should be knowledgeable enough about the openings and company(ies) to help you figure out whether you would like any of them.
  2. Positioning yourself. With that knowledge about the companies comes insight about what they want. A recruiter will be able to help you tailor your resume and prepare for interviews so that you can confidently showcase the skills and attributes that will be most impressive and valuable to the hiring manager.
  3. Advocate for you. If a recruiter submits you to a recruiting manager, it’s because s/he saw potential for you to be good in a particular team/position. As such, s/he will be able to argue your case to the employer (and will want to since recruiters are paid to find people who get hired.)

Here’s what a recruiter usually will NOT do:

  1. Sit you down and explore lots of different options
  2. Go out there and find jobs for you to apply to
  3. Force the employer to hire you

Now that you have a better idea as to the support and guidance you can expect, what are the things you can do to  get the most from any recruiter?

  1. Build good will by being responsive. Hate it when you don’t hear back from a recruiter for weeks on end? Well, we don’t like that very much either. If you help us by keeping us in the loop, we will want to help you that much more.
  2. Be honest. There are benefits to hiding your cards, but a good recruiter has your best interest in mind. No one wins if you leave for another company after a few months. If you let us get to know you, the improved understanding of your personality, goals and singularities will enable us to represent you more accurately and to make better suggestions regarding openings.
  3. Be understanding. It may not seem like it from your end, but there is actually a lot of elements recruiters do not have control over. Case in point: sometimes a hiring manager will not return our phone calls or reply to our emails for weeks, so we have no updates to give you, no matter how many times you ask. Or we can receive feedback that someone we submitted was not a good fit, but no details as to why, so we have no advice to offer to help you be more successful next time. As much as you may want to take the frustration of the job hunt out on a recruiter, try to remember that we can be powerful allies and that sometimes we’re just doing our best to connect you to a job but don’t have the power to hire you ourselves. 

The take homes are that recruiting can be messy, and that recruiters can help you but will not do all of the work for you. You still have to go out there, find jobs, apply to them, and give some great interviews. Oh, and recruiters are people too. Treat us well and we will (for the most part) return the favor.

Repost: How to Negotiate a Job Offer, By Upstart Blog

I came across this great article by Upstart Blog and thought it would just be way too selfish to keep this to myself. Taking credit also just wouldn’t float my boat, so please consider this a friendly share and check out the article on Upstart Blog’s page.

To wet your appetite, here’s the beginning…

“Recently, one of my mentees – “upstarts” as we call them – asked for advice in negotiating a job offer. He had two competing offers – one from a large well-known tech company, and the other from a startup. The offer from the bigger company was better financially by a long stretch, but he was more excited about joining the startup. In the end, he negotiated a significantly better offer from the startup and got the best of both worlds.

A friend suggested that I share the advice I gave him, considering the many job-seekers who might benefit from it. I hired more than a thousand people directly or indirectly when I was at Google, so I’ve seen many flavors of negotiation – some more successful than others. And I also know well how both startups and larger companies think about the hiring and negotiating process…”

Click on me to read the rest of the article on Startup Blog. Enjoy!


How to Keep Your Chin Up During your Job Search

Looking for a new job can be a little demoralizing… every single company you interview with (assuming they even contact you regarding your application) isn’t going to call you back to a 2nd round interview or hire you… and you know what? That’s OK!

So that may sound a little crazy, but let’s be honest. Would you rather end up at a job you hate or hold out just a little longer for a great company you’ll be happy to stay with a few years?

So, in the meantime, here’s how to stay cheerful, motivated, and remember your worth! =

  1. Keep trying! Sounds a little nuts, but each company that isn’t right brings you one step closer to finding the right company. Explanation: if you’re not spending your time and energy on companies that aren’t right for you, you’ve got more resources to focus on finding that perfect professional home =] Plus, the more companies you reach out to, the likelier you are to find that right fit more quickly! (Note: this does not mean spam companies you’re sure wouldn’t be a good fit.)
  2. Focus on the positive. Talking about yourself and what you bring to teams (and brainstorming when you prepare for those interviews) should have given you a pretty solid understanding of all the great things that make you a wonderful person to hire. Don’t forget all those great things! No one is perfect and we each have our individual flaws, just as we possess unique talents, so don’t get bogged down by the rejection, and remember all the things that make you a great employee (that they’ll be sorry they missed out on!)
  3. Learn. Interviews go both ways. Recruiters and hiring managers want to get to know you, but you also want to get to know them too so you know what you’re getting yourself into. As you do more interviews, you should have an increasingly more comprehensive understanding of the current state of your industry and what you can realistically expect (salary, office culture, work-life balance, etc.) Use this knowledge to make that company you want to work for that much more real in your mind (can you imagine what it’d be like?) and cement your resolve and determination to find it!
  4. Don’t take rejection too personally. Companies often have a very clear idea of the skills, experience and personality they want for a given role. Being rejected for a position does not mean there’s anything wrong with you, it just means you weren’t the person they think will be the best at doing this job with their company (and its own, special culture.) I realize this is more difficult to do than to say… so when you’re not selected for a role, try asking yourself, would I be happy working for a company that isn’t right for me?
  5. Be happy. Looking for a new job can be hard work if you put your mind to it! Crafting and sending out resumes and cover letters, doing phone screens, filling out applications, taking personality and aptitude tests, attending on-site interviews… doing this 8 – 5 everyday can be exhausting! Make sure you still make some time for the hobbies and people that make you happy.

You probably could have guessed it, but what makes me happy is walking and playing with my fuzzy little terror =]

Added benefit: sunshine makes me happy!

Added benefit: sunshine makes me happy!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

How to Apply for a Job

Professional Kitty! Photo Credit:

Been kicking around a rather mild form of writer’s block, but I’m back with more job search advice! Today’s topic: what to actually do to apply for a job in the most effective way.

  1. Update your resume. Make sure all of your recent / relevant positions are included and the start and end dates are correct, then use online tools such as my toolbox (and there are tons of other websites with great advice!) to make your resume as appealing as you can.
  2. Make a list. It won’t look like you’re organized or know what you’re doing if you apply to the same role several times. The recruiter will notice this and may think you are desperate (you never want that to come across, even if you may be in dire need of a new job.) Keep a detailed list of each position you applied for, the link to the job description (so you know what the recruiter’s talking about when they call you), as well as an updated status if you know for sure you were rejected, had a phone screen, or went in for an interview. It only takes a few extra seconds and could make you look much more professional.
  3. Read the ad carefully. Do you meet the skills and/or experience requirements? If not, by only a little or by a long shot? If you’re nowhere near what the ad asks for, you’re wasting your time applying (and most likely the sourcer/recruiter’s too.) Also, does the ad specify how to apply? Are there application instructions? Do you need to email someone your resume instead of clicking on the big red “Apply” button? Do you only need a resume and no cover letter? Paying attention to these details will demonstrate your attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, and ultimately give you a leg up.
  4. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each position. For your resume, this does not mean only add new bullet points with phrases from the ad to each position, if you do that you will end up with a 3-page resume. Instead, take out the bullet points that don’t relate to the ad (or take out whole positions — just leave the title, start and end date, and one bullet point summarizing what you did), and summarize less important points. For the cover letter, do something similar. You can probably keep your first and last line, but change the info in your cover letter to show you have the skills this specific company is looking for (not all of the others you applied to as well.)
  5. Beware of typos. Are you applying Facebook but your cover letter and resume say you want to work at Google? Small details like that aren’t going to help you position yourself as a top-notch candidate.
  6. Follow up. Didn’t hear back? Give it 4 work days and email/call/LinkedIn InMail. If there isn’t any contact info listed anywhere, then unfortunately they just don’t want you to reach out. In that case, I would assume you were not selected for interviews and move on. *Ideally, you should still have been applying to other positions while you waited anyway, and it will be an even more pleasant surprise if you hear back 2 – 6 weeks later!
  7. Research. Once you’ve applied, be prepared to get a call from someone at the company. They may ask you why you’re interested in working for them so take a few minutes to look at their website, their values, their culture… those will often showcase the unique traits that make a company more desirable to work for. Also, do take a close look at the job description. If you can sell your desire to work for the company as well as your interest/passion for the position you will be all the better off for it!
  8. Look inwards. You should eventually be invited to interview for a position, and you will have some more wonderful preparation to do. Take 20 – 30 minutes to research commonly asked interview questions (achievement you’re most proud of, strenghts & weaknesses, what you could improve on…) and come up with thoughtful and honest, but also flattering, answers.
  9. Try, try again. Very few people get hired for the very first position they apply for, so set aside 15+ minutes to apply to 1 or more positions each day. As your applications add up, you should start receiving more and more phone calls and going in for interviews. Don’t despair if you don’t hear back from the first few though, keep applying! Sometimes it takes a little while for recruiters to go through all of the candidates who applied in (especially considering most work on 10+ reqs at a time!) and you may simply not be the best fit for every position you apply for.

In short, be ready to sell yourself as soon as you are called in response to an application, and don’t despair or take it personally if you don’t hear back.

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

How to Structure a Resume

I’ve been seeing a lot of interesting resume structures in my resume/cover letter/job application coaching sessions… so I thought writing a post about the aesthetics of a good resume might be worthwhile O=]

Here are the basics of a good-looking resume

  1. Your name goes at the top – nice and big
  2. You contact info underneath
  3. Then your objective — make it short, clear and persuasive (including the name of the company and something specific to the job you’re pursuing never hurts.)
  4. Next, your “skills” if you want to have such a section
  5. Then your professional experience
  6. Bold your headings (professional experience, education, etc.)
  7. Don’t write paragraphs about your past positions, use bullet point lists.
  8. Put the name of the company and its location on the same line (city goes on the right side) see example below
  9. Then the name of your role and the dates you held that position (dates go on the right side) see example below
  10. Don’t skip lines within a job description, but do skip 1 line between different jobs
  11. Make sure you have similar line indentations and bullet points throughout your resume (sounds silly, but it does happen and it makes your resume look very unprofessional!)
  12. Keep it short: 1 page, 2 max!
  13. Don’t be afraid to modify things (break some of these rules) — just do what it takes to make it look neat and organized.

And what does all this look like?

Sophie Bousset Resume

Hope this helps!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***

How to Ace a Phone Screen (or Interview!)

Got a request from a good friend of mine, so I thought I’d go over some tips to blast through the phone screen and get yourself invited for an interview. (These tricks are also great for the interview itself!)

Quick announcement first though: I’ve started helping friends & contacts out with resumes, cover letters… everything related to applying for a job really! If you’d like some help, feel free to leave me a message here, Tweet or Facebook me. 

Now, for phone screens!

You can learn to speak “good” like me! Credit:

What is the purpose of a phone screen?

  • To make sure you have the experience a recruiter/hiring manager is looking for. Did you lie on your resume? Are your position titles misleading? Did you work on a specific task on a daily basis or do a few hours each month… These are the kinds of things that will be checked during a phone screen. 
  • To check your communication skills. Are you awkward or uncomfortable to speak with? Will you be able to communicate with customers, colleagues and managers in a professional manner? Those things are important! If you thought your English and Comm. professors were full of it… you’re going to regret it now!

Here’s how to shine:

  • Don’t lie on your resume. Sounds obvious, but a lot of people do it anyway. The truth will come out at some point, and you won’t end up getting the position. Instead, you will waste your time going through process and end up on agency DO NOT CALL lists. PS: if you do get the position, you could get fired for lying, so just don’t do it. Seriously.
  • Determine what the most important things you did are. First, identity the key tasks and skills mentioned in the job description. What have you done that is similar or helped you develop those skills? Those are the things you want to focus on to convince your interviewer that you have what they’re looking for.
  • Practice talking about the things you did at your different positions. Tell your friends, your family, your dog, your cat… hell, tell your neighbor! The more you talk about it, the more comfortable you will be telling your interviewer about it despite being nervous. This means you won’t stumble as much, or mumble…. or fill the conversation with as many “ums.”
  • Relaaaaax. Stress can make you sound less capable than you really are, so take a deep breath, do some stress-relief exercises, and make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare beforehand so you’re as comfortable as possible =]
  • Research. Doing a little research on the company is one of those important things you can do to prepare so you’re as comfortable as possible during your screen (mentioned under “Relaaaax.”) I doubt most places expect you to know everything about their company for a preliminary phone screen, but it’s still good to have some kind of understanding of what they do and be able to explain why you want to work for them.
  • Join ToastMasters. So what if you really just don’t feel comfortable communicating / feel really awkward? Check these guys out:  They’ll help you practice giving speeches in an accepting environment (yes, it WILL help you!), give you practical tips, and, most importantly, force you to practice!

Let me know if this was helpful!

*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***