As a long time govie who has been involved in more hiring’s than I care to remember, I wanted to help you stand out from the crowd with resume and interview tips. Whether you are successful or not doesn’t always depend on your qualifications and experience. There are other indicators that we use to determine the best fit for a position and the little things count.
First of all, the application. The application or resume is the part of the process that gets your foot in the door and there are some things you can do and some things to avoid if you want to catch my attention. For an average entry level position, I can get hundreds of applications so it often comes down to some basic factors to make you stand out. Here are some of the things I look for:
- Include a short cover letter that explains, in a few sentences, why you would be a good fit for this role.
- Make sure your email address is professional – [email protected] is not professional and gives me an insight into how seriously you take this application.
- Make sure your work history and school history match up. Don’t tell me you have five years’ supervisory experience when your first job was started three years ago – I do look at those dates!
- Make your letter and resume specific to the job your applying for – for example, don’t apply for a job in government with a resume that has your objective as a fulfilling career in real estate sales (true example!).
- Proof read, spell check and spell check again. Receiving a resume with grammatical and spelling errors is enough to eliminate you no matter how good your qualifications – it shows really poor attention to detail.
- Don’t use silly fonts. This is a pet peeve of mine. I am much more interested in what you have to say and I don’t have time to decipher the various “handwriting” fonts that are available.
- Use bullet points and lists to describe your achievements and put the information you want me to know at the top of the list.
- Don’t lie or over-exaggerate your achievements – this is especially important when there are additional questions. If you answer a specific question about a certain skill or level of experience, make sure it is reflected in your work history or schooling.
So, on to the interview. These may seem like basics but I have been noticing a definite decline in interview skills which means the few that are really good at interviewing stand out and we are probably losing some good employees because they don’t interview to impress.
- How you look makes a difference. The old adage of "dress for the job you want" still applies. Please don’t turn up for an interview, even an internal one, in shorts, jeans, flip flops or baseball caps (all true examples).
- Do your research. When the interviewer asks what you know about the company or jurisdiction you are applying for, they are not expecting that you know everything about them. They are however expecting that you have at least been on their website and done some basic research. On these same lines, knowing a little about your interviewer can help build a connection but I would avoid talking about items you found when you were researching their social media sites, that can get a little creepy.
- If this is a remote interview using Skype or something similar, make sure that your connection works ahead of time. Be in an appropriate location (not a coffee shop, true example) and again, dress appropriately.
- Keep your cool. We expect you to be nervous and that’s OK but try not to let a bad interviewer (and they are out there) impact your performance. Take your time, remember to breath, if you get lost in an answer, ask to start again. Never be afraid to ask for clarification on a question.
- Always, always, always ask questions – but not just any question. Nothing annoys me more than questions that are all about you. Pay, benefits, vacation etc. are all things you need to know but you should start with questions about the job or the company or jurisdiction. I want to see that you are really interested in the opportunity and want to know more about the position.
Finally, even if you follow this advice, you still may not land the job. Don’t let that get you down. You don’t know who your competition was and all you can do is your best. If you don’t get it keep trying and look at every application and interview as an opportunity to learn.