So you want to get hired? Best resume and interview tips
Guest Post by Patrick Yeung
Much of the job application process involves knowing and getting to know the right people. Networking is a great way to learn what a job might be like and to make an impression on people who may be involved with the hiring process. However, it is not the only thing that usually needs to be pretty solid for you to get hired. Your resume and interviewing skills, i.e. how well you can sell yourself, are potentially the most vital pieces of this process.
Your resume is often the first thing a potential employer sees about you, so it is one of the most vital components to finding a job whilst in school or post-graduation. The resume is intended to be a description of the trajectory of how you got to where you are and what you do and have done. It is your way to highlight your achievements over the years and showcase what you are capable of.
That being said, not all resumes are made equal. Most hiring managers only spend a couple of seconds looking at a particular resume, trying to piece together a rough picture of who you are to see if they should pass it along. What are some ways to get that pass-along? For this advice, I will break this up into content, style and finally design; each of these three components is vital, with the final being often neglected.
Your resume should be sorted chronologically within each section, whether by start date or end date is up to you so long as you are consistent.
Your resume, when you send it to a particular person/company, you should be customizing it to make it showcase the particular skills they want for the position you are gunning for, the kind of person you are, and that you are an interesting person.
When picking the content of your resume, make sure to keep in mind what kind of impression your experiences, activities, interests, etc. give off. What kind of person do you seem like when you say you have an interest in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as opposed to knitting, both of which you may be interested in, but you don’t have to put both on there (though you can). The highlights of your resume (how highlighted they are you can change with how you design your resume) are a major part of the first impression a hiring manager will have, so making sure you give them the impression you want them to have is key.
Professionalism with sincerity and a graceful boastfulness. Your resume is your way to sell yourself on paper (as well as a cover letter), but you want to keep your tone right—state what you did in a way that highlights what you want to be highlighted, whether that be a number of reports you wrote, percent increase in sales you helped generate, or the skills that were necessary to accomplish what you did.
You should keep each bullet to a single sentence worth of content, though you shouldn’t have periods at the end of them. It should go without saying, but double-check that your grammar isn’t confusing for someone to read through. Writing that is stylized for an academic paper is different than a creative writing piece, and writing for your resume is no different in that sense.
This is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of a resume. It is the first thing someone will notice about your resume and can be an unconscious deciding factor in whether they have a positive or negative first reaction to your resume.
Let’s talk basic format first. There are some standard formats for a resume, which makes it really easy for a reader to process it. Especially if designing is not your forte, I would recommend using one of these standard formats (if design/layout is a strong suit of yours, by all means, break the mold, make it an interesting resume, grab the reader’s attention by your design skills in addition to the content).
A standard resume is a single page, with the name at the top, centered, in the largest font on the page. Personal information goes centered below that, and then you get some options for the ordering of some standard sections: experience, activities, projects, skills & interests etc. You should have a section break for each of these that you put into your resume so that it’s easy to process what is where; from there, you should have varying formatting for positions, titles, descriptions, dates, etc.
By the end of it, you should have a resume that looks like it fills the page but doesn’t feel cramped or sparse. Left to right, top to bottom, populating the page in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel claustrophobic or, in a way, disappointed in what you’ve done (not content-wise, just design-wise) is a balance that is often difficult to walk. These design elements, though, make an impact on the reader, as do other design elements like the font choice and size, shapes should you choose to include those.
Your goal with the design of your resume should be to make the information that you are presenting favorably palatable, if not more.
Once you’ve gotten a first-round interview with your potential employer, you’ve got some prep work to do. If you know who your interviewer(s), look them up on LinkedIn—doing so can allow you to have questions prepared for them during your interview about their experiences and how they’ve gotten to where they are.
From there, look up (hopefully not for the first time) the company you’re interviewing with, groups within the company you may be interested in, etc. Go through any networking you’ve done with people at the firm and develop a good answer to a few of the standard interview questions: why so-and-so industry? Why this firm?
Other common questions fall under the bucket of what is called ‘behaviorals’. These are intended to see how you have reacted to situations in the past in the hopes/under the expectation that you will repeat these sorts of behaviors on the job. They often start with “tell me about a time when….”. My personal favorites are:
Tell me about a time when someone in a group wasn’t pulling their weight on a project.
Tell me about a time when you had to manage multiple tasks at once, and how you approached that.
What are your 3 greatest strengths/weaknesses? When have you demonstrated...?
What would you say is your greatest success/failure?
Some of these questions, if you answered them without an explanation and something I call a twist, have a strictly negative connotation—take the last question I mentioned. Answering what your greatest failure is without talking about how you’ve grown from it, or how you got back on your feet, can make you come off as someone who doesn’t learn from ‘failure’, which, by the way, you can define how you’d like. Twist it. Spin the ‘failure’ into something positive about you—showcase your ability to bounce back, your ability to learn from mistakes. We’re all human, life has a bunch of ups and downs, so highlight the upswings.
Something I should note is that interviews look different industry to industry, company to company. The finance industry often has technicals related to finance on top of behaviorals, though how those are split up interview-wise (whether mixed into the same interview or spread across different interviews) vary firm by firm. The consulting industry, on the other hand, has case interviews on top of behaviorals. You can ask what the interview process is like when talking with people from a firm; that way you won’t be surprised going into the interview.
This prep work is all aimed at making sure that you aren’t caught off guard during an interview. The worst thing you can do is freeze up, but if you know what to expect, not only will the interviewer be able to tell that you’ve done your homework and practice, but also you will feel more comfortable during the interview.
During the interview, besides being professional, yet interesting and fun, you want to be conscious of how your answers are selling you. You as a person, but also as a potential coworker or employee. Further, you want to keep in mind this idea of ABC—Always Be Closing. Why should you, the employer, hire me, the interviewee, over everyone else? Connecting back to this point can help make your interview not only seem cohesive, but it also allows you to craft an impression in the interviewer’s head about who you are and why they should hire you.
After the interview, send a thank you email to your interviewer within a few hours of the interview. Decisions for who to hire often happen rather quickly, so it is important to make sure you and your name stand out in a good way.