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! ***

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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.

How to Apply for a Job


Professional Kitty! Photo Credit: ladydinahs.com

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! ***

New Prize Contest: jobularity!!


jobularityI’ve recently had the pleasure of getting involved with another Bay Area startup, jobularity, and am incredibly excited to share it with all of you!

I’ll keep it short and sweet: in my opinion, the point of jobularity is to be like LinkedIn, but even better. jobularity allows jobseekers to be more than a list of position titles and tasks. It gives you the opportunity to tell potential employers about your goals, your passions… give them a little feel of who you are!

Oh, and the user interface looks pretty cool too ;D

So, what does all that look like? Glad you asked! Here are a few screenshots =]

jobularity screenshot jobularity screenshot 2

jobularity screenshot 3 jobularity screenshot 4And now, the prize! A free job-search coaching session with me on how to apply for jobs, write/edit a resume & cover letter, tips on how to find jobs to apply for, apply for them, ace phone screens, interviews… whatever will help you be successful!

So  it may not be an iPad… but I do get paid $20-40/hr for this =] Or…. if you’re just that sure you’ve got it all going on (or love your job and don’t plan on going anywhere), I’ll take you out do dinner =3

How to enter the contest:

  1. Create a profile on jobularity
  2. Post the link to it here =]
  3. Extra entry into the prize drawing if you find a job you want to apply for & APPLY FOR IT!*

*Save a print-screen (of the screen that pops up after you finish applying) as proof you applied in case you’re the lucky winner.)

 Got a better idea for the prize? I’m open to suggestions O=]

Will Playing Hard-to-Get Help You Land Your Dream Job??


Well… it really depends! Let’s keep this short and sweet though.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s use a metaphor anyone can relate to: relationships. Finding a job is like dating; both process are driven by people. Can playing hard to get help you in dating? Yes. But it can also ruin your chances! So, as with just about everything else in life, it’s all about balance.

The point of playing hard-to-get is to communicate that you are wanted and have other options; it gives you value in other’s eyes. This works with finding a job. Why would a company want you if no one else wants you? If you had valuable skills then other companies would want you too, right? So whether you do or don’t, act like you have options!

Ask insightful questions, like what the work environment is like, what people like about working at this company, the reason the last person left, the kinds of tasks you will get to do in this position (you want your work to be interesting!)… Things someone who is deciding between several options would take into account.

Yes, it sounds simplistic and silly, but HR, recruiters and hiring managers are all people too. Life lessons permeat all of our actions, including what we do at work.

There is a flip side to take into account: pulling too far and losing it altogether. Just like in dating, you can play too hard-to-get. Make your interviewer think you’re not interested and just wasting their time, and they won’t take you seriously.

So how do you avoid doing that? Don’t act disdainful, like you’re too good for the job. That’s one of the biggest tip-offs someone won’t take the position in the end, and a recruiter is looking for the best person for a position, so why would s/he waste his time on someone who obviously is not interested?

Another large hint is when a candidate asks about money too early; it can foretell problems in negotiating money. Sometimes candidates try to get as much as possible, so much so that they end up asking for too much and end up losing the job. If you’re sure you can find a company who will pay you for, then great! But if not…. then you might not want to ask about money too early.

The point to remember is that this whole process is driven by people: the candidate, the recruiter, HR, recruiting managers… It’s the biggest variable to keep in mind. Keep your sights on your interactions with you interlocuteur(s) and you will be that much closer to getting that dream job!

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

Why HR is Rejecting Your Resume


Who WOULDN’T hire this ?!

Yeah, it sucks. Even worse: recruiters / hiring managers / HR usually aren’t willing to give you a straight answer since you might try to argue with them or sue.

So what are the reasons your resume isn’t getting you anywhere? Well, you just don’t fit the profile! But what is this profile?

  1. Experience: Do you have the skills asked for in the ad?
  2. Seniority: Do you have way more or less experience than they’re looking for?
  3. Loyalty: Do you skip around from job to job every 6-12 months? This may indicate to a hiring manager that you’re not going to stay at their company long. Hiring and training someone costs $$ so they’re hesitant to to spend it on someone who’s going to leave after only 1 year.
  4. Consistency: Do you have a 5+ month gap without a job? This might make who ever is reading your resume wonder whether there is an important reason you had so much difficulty finding another job.
  5. Communication: Many job ads now cite written and verbal communication as skills they want. While you can’t do much about verbal communication until you’ve got someone on the phone, the email(s) you send can have a huge impact! Do you have obvious grammatical mistakes? Use a lot of slang or unprofessional language? Type in all caps? All of these reflect on your written communication style and aptitude.
  6. Miscellaneous Requirements: Is this position only for locals (no budget for relocation)? For candidates with a university degree? All these and other factors go into the decision whether or not to consider interviewing you.
  7. Silly Mistakes: I’m not talking about grammatical mistakes here (although a very poor grasp of English grammar can be worrisome… ) Did you send a blank email with no message or attachment?
  8. Email Filter: Have you been checking your spam filter? Recruiters send a lot of emails out everyday so sometimes our messages end up in your junk folder.

What it comes down to is, someone has a very specific profile in mind and the minions reading the resumes and sending out sad rejection emails (or not — another post coming on that soon) are bound by that. So please, don’t shoot the messenger. Just read this post and ask Q’s!

Ways to counterbalance some of these are coming in another post soon =]

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

Sophie’s Job Search Toolbox


Time to become a young professional headed for the future — cheesy photo and everything!!

I’ve written several articles geared toward helping recent grads (and anyone else, really) get a job and plan on writing several more so I thought I would gather all of them neatly in one place O=]

How to Make a Recruiter Like Your Resume

Writing a Kick-Ass Cover Letter

LinkedIn Can Help You Get a Job!

How to Apply to Jobs

Why HR Is Rejecting Your Resume

Are Social Media the Reason You Can’t Get a Job?

Will Playing Hard-To-Get Help You Land Your Dream Job?

How to Ace a Phone Screen (Or Interview!)

How to Structure a Resume

Freebie from before I got into recruiting — How to Get a Job 7 Tips

And many more to come…