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This Throwback Tool will help you ace the Job Interview

 

 

Years ago when I was interviewing for a broadcast news management position I brought along a Franklin Planner, which I took with me everywhere. Back then, it was an effective way to keep track of notes, appointments, and contact information, prioritize tasks, and get more done. Today we use apps for that.

At the start of that job interview, I asked if I could take notes. After getting the nod, I pulled out my planner and wrote down those things I wanted to remember. I also added questions I wanted to ask when the time for questions came up. The hiring manager was deeply interested in the planner itself and started asking me questions about it. I gave a brief description of how it kept my notes neatly organized and in one place. That interview started on the right note and turned into a job offer.

As technology progressed I gave up the Franklin Planner, but I often look back at how well it worked, especially when it involved a job search. There are attorneys who use black binders for keeping track of their case loads. That way they can walk right into the meeting, with pertinent information at their fingertips, along with a place to put additional notes about the case. The black binder is a great tool that will also work well in your job search.

Before you start grumbling that an app is easier solution, I can assure you that old school pen and paper is more effective when you’re face-to-face in an interview. The tabs make information faster and easier to access. Plus, you’ll be expected to turn off your phone for a couple of reasons. One, you don’t want any disruptions during such an important meeting. Two, it respects the privacy of the meeting. In other words, “please turn off all recording devices.”

To get started, obtain a one-inch black loose-leaf binder to organize all notes regarding the company and the job you applied for. Not only will it help you prepare for the meeting, it will keep you focused and organized during the interview, reduce stress, and increase your confidence. Moreover, it will show the interviewer you’ve done your homework and are prepared for your next role.

Remember, this binder is for your use. Think of it like a patient’s medical history that a doctor refers to in the exam room. Or a CRM file for notes account representatives refer to when they call on a client. It’s not a “leave behind” although you should bring along some “one sheets” about how you’re perfectly matched to the job. The sell sheet or “leave behind” can be a bio, a thumb drive, a list of references, a calling card, or anything else you may be asked to bring with you. These should not have holes punched in them. Use a pocket or add a plastic sleeve to the binder.

Within the binder, put together TABBED sections so you can easily reference the material during your job interview. Your pages will need to be 3-hole punched, with certain restrictions below. Here is a suggested list of tabbed section headers and what to include:

Directions

Include a map print out with step-by-step instructions and estimated time for your arrival. If you have an email confirming a place and time of the interview, print it out and include it, just in case there is any confusion. It also provides proof if there’s a scheduling snafu. You can present it to the receptionist. Jot down who the interview is with as well as contact information. Should technology fail, you have instant backup.

Application Materials

Print out the vacancy announcement for position you applied for. You’ll be able to refer to it during the job interview. Include the cover letter that accompanied the resume, and if you filled out an online application, print that out as well.

Company Website

Peruse the company website and social media accounts. Print out and highlight pertinent information such as:

  • The company’s profile or overview
  • The company’s core values or mission statement
  • Profiles and photos of the key officers and the people interviewing you. Note: If this information isn’t on the company website, you can usually find it on a Linkedin profile. The photos will help you remember names on panel interviews.
  • The company’s customer base
  • Current and future projects
  • Any past acquisitions or mergers
  • Annual sales projections
  • Recent media articles about expansion, new projects, or anything else of value

Notes

Include a few blank pages so you can take notes. Don’t forget to bring two pens. Just in case one loses ink.

S.T.A.R. Stories

The S.T.A.R. acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Type up a list of situations, tasks (or challenges) you were faced with to include in this section of your notebook. What action did you take and what were the results of those actions. You can put one on each page or use a dividing line so you can easily find the information.

Refer to this section when asked the dreaded question, “tell me about a time when you had to appease an angry customer,” – or – “Tell me about a time when things didn’t go as planned. How did you handle it?”  

You’ll gain a lot of confidence having these reminder notes at your fingertips.

Questions

Hiring managers expect you to ask questions. While you’re putting together your notebook, you’ll start forming your own questions. Bring a list along, and check them off as the interviewer answers them during your conversation.

Resume

Have several clean copies on nice paper without hole punches or staples. This is where a plastic sleeve will come in handy. You never know how many extra people will be called in to talk to you. Or if the online copy doesn’t look as nice as you intended due to compatibility issues or boring white paper.

References

Make sure your letterhead and contact information match your resume and cover letter as well as the paper. No holes punched.

Sell Sheet/Leave Behind

This can include a bio, or a list of what you bring to the table that tells why your qualifications closely match the company requirements. This would be the only document I would recommend having a photo on, so they can quickly remember you against all those other people they interviewed.

Pockets or Sleeves

Chances are you’ll get a copy of the job description (you should ask for it). You should also get business cards from everyone who interviewed you so you can follow up with thank you notes. This keeps it all neatly in one place for faster response.

How to use it

When you arrive at the interview, pull out a pen and your black binder and ask if you can take notes. Start jotting down information. When the interviewer begins asking questions about what you know about the company, or what you think of their website, you can quickly refer to the tabbed sections and answer with confidence. Also, when they ask if you have any questions, you can flip to that section and start asking away.

Why it Works

The interviewer will notice that you are highly organized, care about their time, and are eager to represent yourself and their company well. This alone will help you stand out among all the other candidates.

In some instances, the interviewer may try to take a peek into the black binder. As I stated before, the binder is for your use to refer to during the interview. It is not intended or required to be given to the person interviewing you.

Finally, keep this documentation secure. It contains a lot of private information that can aid in identity theft. On a positive note, it’s not hack-able or prone to viruses.

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Billboards, Radio Ads, and Resumes

How they are similar.

A common issue I see with resumes is that they contain too much information.To be really effective, a resume has to quickly grab attention, and generate interest in the candidate. The same is true for billboards and radio advertising.

My communications degree led to an interesting and fun career in broadcasting. As a radio DJ, I was required to record commercials that would air throughout the day. Many times, the salesperson, with the help of the client would write the ad and wanted it read “as-is”– as in ‘no changes’ to the copy. That meant a screaming ad, read at a fast pace that few would understand, or be compelled to keep listening. You can’t cram the business owner’s entire inventory into a 30 or 60 second ad. What gets attention in radio advertising? Long silence pauses. Short copy. Slower dialogue. Fewer Words. Just because you’re paying for 30 seconds, doesn’t mean the entire ad has to be filled with talking. What you’re seeking is results.

With Billboards it’s no different. When they have too many words, or multiple photos, no one is going to comprehend the message when they’re driving by at 60 MPH. The billboard has to be read in fewer than 5 seconds and pique interest.  Too much content and your message is lost.

Content also matters when it comes to your resume. Does it contain too much information? Does it relate to the reader’s needs? Does it get to the point> In advertising, good copy matters. On billboards, on the radio, and on your resume.

We’ve been helping career professionals get better jobs for 15+ years. If you need help streamlining your resume and cover letter, give us a call at 540-404-9175.

 

 

 

 

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Give your resume a facelift to look years younger

Don’t let your resume date you.

I review a lot of resumes, and have noticed a recurring issue with older career professionals. The resume offers up more information than it should. Those little hints that reveal your age, or make you look older than you are. When it’s time to update your resume, resist the urge to just add a new job on it, and ignore everything else. Instead, give it a facelift with these 9 tips.

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Is Your Resume 1st Rate, or Out of Date?

It’s Update Your Resume Month again, and a reminder to anyone who writes their own: There have been changes over the past several years that can now bring your job search to a screeching halt; even if that resume worked wonders in the past. Here are five simple tips to get noticed, by recruiters and keyword scanners.

1. Dates of Employment: The object of your resume is to get the reader to quickly understand what you have to offer. They will also look at how long you’ve spent with your previous employers. Don’t make it a math assignment. First tell them in the summary you have 5+ or 10+ years of experience. The vacancy announcement will always stipulate the number of years of experience, so don’t make them go through every job with a calculator. They’ll burn through that 15 second scan in no time. Also, consider what’s easier for the brain to quickly comprehend. Is it Sep 2001 – Nov 2005 or 09/2001 – 11/2005? Numbers all mashed together take more time to translate to the reader than alphabet letters. Don’t spell out the whole month either. The first 3 letters save space and are still easily understood by humans and applicant tracking software.

2. Too wordy: The reality is we are nation of scanners rather than readers. When there’s too much text to wade through, the reader will give up and slide past all of it. Is it any wonder we see advertisements for pharmaceutical products in major publications with few words and a photo, followed by the small print on the following page listing all of the contraindications? Few people read that. Keep it simple. The rule of thumb is paragraphs should be kept to no more than 5 lines. Bullet pointed lists should not exceed 9 in a row if you want people to read it.

3. Logos, fancy fonts and graphs: Pictures can and do tell a lot, but with resumes keep in mind that automated scanners can’t see them. Also choose fonts wisely. Script, underlines, or any style that allows the letters to touch one another can turn your work or art into garbage characters.

4. SMALL CAP FONT: This particular font is usually used for names and sub headers, and mostly by professional resume writers. We used it heavily about 10 years ago. The only problem is it can’t be read by applicant tracking software. That means you may be submitting a really nice looking resume with no name at the top.

5. Use Numerals: Unless you’re applying for  job as the Editor of a magazine, most recruiters don’t care if you spell out the number seven (considered the most correct) or use the numeral 7. But which one just jumped out at you? Numbers matter and they save space. So feel free to break this rule depending on your occupation.

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Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

1st Rate Resumes is marking down fees for the holiday season. We realize that money is tight and there are a lot of people out of work. And a gift certificate from 1st Rate Resumes makes the perfect holiday gift! During the Thanksgiving weekend, 1st Rate Resumes is lowering fees on resume services. These rates are 50% off our normal everyday fees.

Unskilled/high school entry level resume:  $99

Blue Collar trades:  $175

Middle Manager w/5+ years:  $225

Senior Manager:  $300

Cover letters may be purchased for an additional $25 each. Cover letters will not be sold alone, and must be included with a resume purchase. C-Level Resumes are not on special.

Stipulations:

Clients must order the service by this Sunday Nov 27th and  pay by check, PayPal, MasterCard, or Visa. Client will receive a questionnaire to fill out and return to 1st Rate Resumes no later than Dec 31, 2011. No questionnaires will be accepted beyond that date for the sale price.

Turnaround time is 5-10 days. Client will have one opportunity to request minor revisions and changes at no additional charge. All revisions and projects must be finalized by 1/15/2012.

1st Rate Resumes has the right to add a surcharge for an excessive work place history beyond 5 jobs.

Questionnaires must be completely filled out in order to produce the best resume. You don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling, but you do need to describe what you do for a living, what your working environment was like, and the difference you made in the company’s bottom line. The better the information, the better your finished resume.

Client must be computer literate in MS Word. Documents will be delivered by email.

How to get started:  Contact us at SusanGeary (a) 1stRateResumes.com. Subject Line: Black Friday Special. Make your you provide your telephone number, occupation, and an old resume if you have one. I’ll give you call and answer any questions you may have.

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Do You Have a Calling Card?

When you’re out and about during your day, you never know who you might run into, especially someone who can lead you to your next job. Surprises like these are not uncommon, however, even if you did carry a resume with you at all times, recipients don’t want to receive a paper resume, out of fear they may lose it.

That’s why you should have a calling card. You can find low cost or even free calling cards on the web or at your local print shop. Similar to a business card, the cards are easy to carry and exchange; and should include your name, job title, phone number, and email address. Don’t rule out a customized LinkedIn address.

Instead of leaving the backside blank, consider adding a few bullet points about yourself, or even a word cloud or QR code that would lead to a personal website or online portfolio of your work. Calling cards make you memorable, and are a great personal marketing tool to use in your job search.

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Recruiter Preferences

I just got done interviewing Donna Tatum from The Renick Group for my weekend radio show, Career Matters heard on Fox Radio 910. Donna provided me with insight as far as what bugs her about resumes, and how a job seeker can put their best foot forward when working with a recruiter.

Since Recruiters and Hiring Managers are my “core audience” when it comes to writing resumes, you can bet I listened closely as to how get a resume into the right hands by avoiding certain mistakes and including the right key words.

The interview will air on Sunday, Mar 20, 2011 at 11:06 EDT. You can stream it at FoxRadioRoanoke.com, or listen in if you’re in the Roanoke or New River Valleys.

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Resources for Roanokers

Here in the Roanoke Valley, we are fortunate to have numerous community resources for local job seekers. For my out-of-town readers, I’m hopeful you have a similar list to help you. Many of these resources are interactive where job seekers can ask experts in person or in online chat rooms, attend free resume writing workshops, and determine strengths for career changes through free assessment testing. You can even commiserate with other displaced workers in search of a new gig. Help is available!

Here’s what struck me about the people who take advantage of these resources. They find jobs more quickly, because they understand the multi-pronged approach is sure to produce better results. Here’s what I recommend for Southwest Virginians.

1. Visit the VEC to apply for benefits and learn how to navigate their website for job openings. They have a fairly decent list of openings at www.vawc.virginia.gov.

2. Polish your resume and interviewing skills through several free workshops offered by the Roanoke Higher Education Center, every other Wednesday from noon to 12:45PM. Click Here to find out more about the Lunch and Learn Series. You DO have to pre-register. The RHEC also offers free assessment testing if you are thinking of changing careers.

3. Watch JobQuest on Blue Ridge PBS which airs once a month. The next episode is Tuesday, May 5th with interviews, an interactive chatroom, and at least 60 job openings. I’ll be giving tips on cover letter writing on our next episode.

4. Attend a networking sessions for the unemployed. Back on the Path meets at the Cave Spring United Methodist Church, every Tuesday evening from 7:30 to 9:00PM. While BOTP is not a job service, they have helped many of its members over the past nine years find meaningful employment.

5. Another networking group worth attending is sponsored by the City of Roanoke. Every Monday, Stuart Mease moderates a forum for job seekers beginning at 4PM.

6. Online job boards such as Jobs.Roanoke.com, BlueRidgeHelpWanted.com, JobZCafe.com, and ReturnToRoots.org all offer postings of job vacancies in our area. They also host job fairs from time to time to put you face to face with your next employer.

7. Community Colleges. Employers and Tobacco Money are providing re-training programs that teach new skills for careers that are in demand. Financial Aid is still available and in some cases the tuition is paid for. Check out the various programs in our area.

8. WSLS NewsChannel 10 is offering “Resume Thursdays.” Email your resume to resumes wsls.com. You could win a free video resume package. (and probably a bunch of free TV exposure which might help you land your next job.)

If you don’t have the time or fortitude to write your own resume, or you just need to quickly “get to the front of the line,” consider hiring a professional resume writer. Find a writer, not a typist, who will interview you about your background and career. Don’t skimp on a decent resume, as it can help you get back to work more quickly. And in the long run, that’s money saved rather than a salary lost.

Susan Geary