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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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! ***

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: whitepaintedwoman.wordpress.com

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: http://www.toastmasters.org/  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! ***

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! ***

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


Title kind of gets the point across pretty clearly, doesn’t it?

See what I mean about inappropriate photos?

Here are some of the things you may be doing unwittingly that DON’T make you look like a good candidate:

  1. Inappropriate profile pictures. It’s the oldest one in the book, but still super widespread. Pictures of you flipping someone off as your Google+ / Gmail logo? Probably doesn’t make you look very professional…. just saying. (Oh, and same goes for pictures of you looking drugged in lingerie on Facebook.)
  2. Vulgar comments. Do you want the first impression your potential future employer has of you to be a public tweet claiming women “are ho’s and good for one thing only.” ? Pretty self-explanatory, right?
  3. Iffy Humor. I once found a LinkedIn profile with this position listed: Hot Anal Sex at Over the Counter from 1969-1969. Yes, it did make me crack up since it was so out of place, but it definitely made me reconsider reaching out to that candidate!
  4. Links on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is meant to be a professional platform, so I don’t recommend including links to personal websites or social media profiles that aren’t professional. ie, don’t include your Twitter profile where your personal URL leads to a website of you nude modeling (well, unless you’re only applying to modeling gigs!)
  5. Privacy. Yes, you are entitled to is, so use it. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t need to have access to your Facebook profile (which we do if your privacy settings are set to public, ie for anyone and everyone to see), so if you even suspect there may be something in there that doesn’t look professional, you might just want to set it to “friends only.” No, this does not make you look suspicious — people are entitled to privacy. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have somehing to hide.

I know all of this sounds pretty common sensical, but it’s actually quite common and you may be sending out some of those negative signals without meaning to. Couldn’t hurt to double check just to make sure, right?

*** 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…

How to Apply to Jobs (Very First Steps)


Don’t know what you’re doing??

Applying for jobs doesn’t have to be scary!

No worries =]

So you’ve updated your resume with all your recent positions, you’ve done some research and now know how to write a stellar cover letter… So where are you going to find jobs to apply for?

Well, that depends on the kind of job you’re looking for! Craigslist is great for entry-level type tech positions, administrative jobs like receptionist… and really a large variety of other jobs! Dice is also great for all kinds of tech jobs, and LinkedIn has a wide variety of both entry-level and more advanced positions.

I recommend you do a little looking around to see where you find the most positions you find appealing.

Now what? First, you make sure you’re not wasting your time by making sure you have the required skills asked for in the ad. If you don’t have at least 75% of them, you’re most likely wasting your time (and the HR representative’s!)

Now that you know what the hiring manager wants, make sure you make it as clear as possible to them that you have those qualifications by tweeking your resume to show off key words. Not sure how to do that? Read this article. 

Then write a targeted cover letter (yes, write a different one for each position!) detailing your most persuasive experience to entice your reader to take the time to interview you. Look here for tips on how to write a great cover letter.

Now what? Wait a week or so and follow up if you don’t hear back (unless the ad specifies otherwise.)

Be courteous to whoever you’re dealing with. * Honestly, we do what we’re told. If you don’t have the skills our hiring manager wants to see then we will be wasting both your time and theirs by scheduling you for an interview even though they will not want to speak with you, so please don’t be upset with us. In a lot of cases we are simply the message-bearer.

As always, feel free to post questions and comments =]

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