My boss (a nursing instructor) and I are developing some handouts for the graduates to help them write resumes and cover letters, as well as giving them some basic instructions for job interviews and follow-up.
In addition to the basics of grammar, spelling, punctuation, no text-speak or sexy e-mail addresses, good grooming, appropriate dress, turn off cell phones, don’t stalk the employer, etc., what else do you think they need to know? What’s missing from the applications and applicants you’ve seen lately? What do you wish they would have done differently? Did anyone stand out – favorably? What did they do to shine? It doesn’t have to be related to the medical field.
Ditto research the company. We need to know you’re interested enough in us to have found out something about us, even if we are one of a million companies you’ve sent your CV to.
Also, whenever possible give real-life examples which demonstrate how well you meet the requirements of the job, rather than just generic platitudes. Even if you’ve never worked before, you’ll have transferrable skills which you can adapt to help meet the demands of the role.
Show some enthusiasm and keeness. You’d be amazed at the number of people I’ve seen who act like they’re doing you a favour by coming for an interview - and I’m not talking prize catches, either, I’m talking school leavers.
And don’t, whatever you do, be like one of the people I interviewed for my assistant’s role, and turn up in a mini-skirt and sparkly eyeshadow, knowing nothing about the company, not even knowing what “HR” means or what it involves, and when asked, why, in that case, she’d come, reply:
“Yeah, retail’s just getting really hectic, so I want an office job where I can just sit at a desk and have a rest.”*
*I should add, I didn’t shortlist this person, she was sent by an agency who were supposed to have done my vetting for me.
Oh, yes. “I feel I can be an asset to your company” – how often have we heard that? And when you ask “How?”, the applicant doesn’t have a response.
I’m wondering what kinds of questions are asked in interviews these days. I have a feeling that employers are asking for specific examples of how an applicant would handle a problem, rather than the generic strengths and weaknesses questions of years past.
Yes, be prepared with those specific descriptions of how you have handled problems in the past. Even if they ask a hypothetical or open-ended question, if you can back it up with specifics it works in your favor.
A couple of resume tips I haven’t seen yet: quantify what you did and translate it into benefits, not just tasks. If someone did medical collections, for example, they should quantify how large of a portfolio of receivables they managed and what improvement they achieved in payment rate over their predecessor, or compared to average for their peers. As a medical office manager, maybe they improved patient cycle time, etc.
In the interview, never, ever speak poorly of a former employer. This is very bad ju-ju.
You may find it helpful to explain that not every job needs to appear on a resume, but that in many cases jobs for large organizations (e.g. hospitals, government) will have applications where you sign that all information is correct and complete. On these you do need to list every job, possibly with some time limit like 7 years back. Read the fine print. But it’s not necessary to list stints with every fast food joint in town on the resume–that’s a marketing tool!
Also, when writing a resume heavy in one field (waitress, sales, telecommunications, etc.) simply write it down as “Service Industry” and list what was learned at ALL of the locations in a few sentences, and then, if relevant, write the locations/employers together at the bottom of that entry. For example:
Service Industry 10 Years
Staff scheduling, inventory, stock orders, customer service, cashier, bank transactions, management and food preparation. Various locations including Outback Restaurant, Applebees, Joe’s Crab Shack, Cheesecake Factory and others.
This is particularly helpful if, for instance, a student has been working in restaurants for over 10 years and is trying to list every restaurant they have ever worked in. Putting it in this format makes it look like one job (which it was, just over many years in several locations) and it doesn’t fill the resume with needless lists of the same thing over and over again. (Did that make sense?) Plus, every employer knows the applicant had to work SOMEWHERE to pay for school, but isn’t necessarily interested in seeing them all listed separately.
I meant mine more as a once they interview and hope HR people will call them back kind of thing. I’m a recruiter, and I deal with 60-100 people a day who want a job. We are a specialized headhunter, not an unemplyment commission, and it’s shocking what stupid mistakes people make.
As a hint on interviews, make them figure out a weak point, but make sure it’s a genuine point that could potentially be positive. They will be asked what their weakness is in an interview, they need an answer. It should be honest, but “my husband is very sick and my mom has lots of surgeries so I need lots of vacation time” is not one of them. I heard this one today. I can go on and on and on…
Suggest that they google themselves and see what comes up. Employers are looking at facebook and myspace these days. I specifically caution our students to look at what photos come up on their pages, and to check their security settings to make their pages the most private.
If they are trying to think of questions to ask when the interviewer says “Do you have any questions for me?” one good question is to ask about the people who have held the position previously, and how they have advanced.
Related to appropriate dress, I think most women have had the experience of purchasing a new skirt that looks very appropriate … only to realize it bunches up when you are sitting down. (I don’t know if there is anything similar that happens to men’s clothing) Remind students to “practice” sitting down when planning for an interview. Make sure your suits look appropriate with the jacket on, and with the jacket off. Having a friend check out your outfit from all angles is helpful too.