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Know the Hiring Process

The typical hiring process starts with a job becoming available followed by a "help wanted" ad or posting with a recruitment company, a first interview, a second and possible third interview, reference checks and, finally, a job offer. In this sequence, the purpose of the resume is to secure the first interview.

Most companies do not interview unless there is specific position available. Therefore, submitting an unsolicited general resume to a company you would like to work for most likely will result in you getting a nice rejection letter, if you are lucky, and your resume being filed in an applicant database where it probably will never be seen again. Concentrate on positions for which companies are actively recruiting.

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Tailor Your Resume

Your resume should be tailored to the specific job opening for which you are applying. To do this, you need to know the job requirements. Normally, you can get this from the job ad itself, but you may wish to contact the company and ask to speak to the manager of the department where the job is located, or to a potential co-worker in that department. Tell them you are considering applying for the position and you would like more information about job functions and what a typical day entails.

Now you are prepared to tailor your resume to emphasize your education and experience that most closely relates to the job requirements and to reduce or eliminate verbiage on non related education or experience. To the extent you are interested in a variety of potential jobs, occupations, or industries, you will end up with several resumes, each emphasizing a different set of background skills. In any event, the resumes should always be truthful and should not leave any gaping holes in your chronological background.

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Your Resume Format

Keep the resume to one to three pages, one page if you have only one to two positions and two or three pages if you have a lot of experience. The resume should cover your education and work experience (and hobbies or special interests if they relate to the job opening). It is customary to list your work experience in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Should you list your education first or your work experience first? You should list first whatever you think is your strong point compared to what you think the other applicants can bring to the table. Recruiters often will make a decision to reject a resume after reading only the first few paragraphs, so don't leave the best for last, lest it not be read at all.

Avoid anything controversial or negative in the resume. Put yourself in the place of the recruiter. He/she probably has 50 resumes to screen down to 3-10 applicants who will be invited to interview. The recruiter is looking for any reason to reject a resume in order to reduce the size of the stack and achieve his/her goal of 3-10 applicants. Of course, not providing any substantial information may lead to rejection as well.

Do not use outrageous graphics or writing styles or gimmicks to get the attention of the reader. Hiring is more of an art than a science and there is a lot of judgement in selecting the best candidates for interviews. Most recruiters are looking for the safe bet, an applicant who not only the recruiter will like but who the hiring manager and his/her boss will feel comfortable with as well. The recruiter will be hesitant to recommend a "wild card" who might make him/her appear foolish in the eyes of the other management. Conservatism prevails.

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Selecting References

Normally, references are not needed at this stage. However, if you provide references, list people who know of your work, not personal references. Tell the people you list beforehand of your job search and ascertain if they will give you a good reference. You are not expected to provide references that may result in you jeopardizing your current employment, such as the name of your current supervisor. Letters of recommendation are generally ignored. Most companies wish to obtain reference(s) directly, not through the applicant, and by a verbal interview over the phone, if possible.

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Follow Up

After about one week, call whomever you sent your resume to and ask if they have received it, if they have reviewed it and if they have any questions. If they have reviewed your resume, state you are available for an interview and would it be possible to schedule one at this time.

If it appears your resume has been shuffled to another person or is in transit to the hiring supervisor and the person you are talking with isn't sure of its status, offer to send another copy of the resume and cover letter. A fax copy may be appropriate here.

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Preparing For The Interview

Most often, you are not expected to do a lot of research ahead of time about the company, its competitors, its business strategy or other such areas. The interviewer will love to tell you all about this since he/she is probably proud of the company and will be selling the company to you; just in case the company makes an offer to you they want you to be primed to accept it.

Your preparations should concentrate on thinking about your answers to potential questions that may come up during the interview. Sometimes the normal expected questions like "What are your weaknesses?" can be difficult to answer unless you have thought about it ahead of time. Also, most likely there are some areas of your background that are a little weak compared to the advertised job requirements. You should be prepared to discuss this in the best light possible, even if you are not asked.

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Conducting the Interview

Many applicants think the purpose of the interview is for the recruiter to learn as much as possible about the applicant and this is the time for you to expound on all your great attributes. However, there is more happening than just this. The recruiter's goal is to find the applicants who best fit the job requirements, both the written job requirements and the unwritten requirements such as the company culture, the personality of the supervisor and co-workers, etc. So, in addition to learning about who you are, the recruiter is making assessments as the interview progresses as to your fit in the job and the organization. He/she will continue to ask questions in each area until enough information has been accumulated to make an assessment of your fit in that area. Then, he/she will want to move on to the next area of assessment, such as your technical competence, team skills, or self-confidence.

If you know the objective of the interviewer, what area of job requirements he/she is assessing as the interview progresses then you can better address and control the assessment process. The more you can help with this process, the more successful the interview will be (in the recruiter's mind) and the more favourable he/she will view your application. In fact, many recruiters leave the door open to you, during an unstructured interview, for you to bring up areas of discussion. Take this opportunity to first discuss your strengths (with regard to the job requirements) and then to address any obvious weaknesses. Mentally, many recruiters form an opinion well before the interview is over so make a good first impression.

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The Interview Attitude

The selection process involves a lot of personal judgements, so your personality during the interview carries more weight than you may think. If the recruiter likes you, he/she will look for reasons to include you in the next step. If the recruiter and you are not "connecting" during the interview, he/she will look for reasons to exclude you. So avoid things that will get in the way of you establishing a good rapport during the interview such as:

Showing your knowledge of the company by pointing out some negative aspect of the company, its products or the industry, which will only make the recruiter defensive.

Belittling the "screening" interview or hiring process you have to put up with. You are belittling the recruiter's job

Excessive bragging. That's no way to make friends.

The corporate culture at most companies these days is conducive to friendly, warm and respectful personalities. Would you want to work any place else?

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After the Interview

Always follow up to the interview with a "thank you for the interview" letter, unless you have already been told you are not being considered further. The thank you letter shows your continued interest, indicates your good customer service skills and keeps your name on the mind of the recruiter.

If you don't get the job, swallow your pride and don't burn any bridges by arguing or criticizing. In fact, write a letter stating your disappointment but state you are still interested in the company (if you are) and ask to be reconsidered for any other opportunities that may come along. Occasionally, their top choice doesn't accept the offer, or gets counteroffered by their employer and the job is open again. You may have just moved to the top of the list!

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