My Job Search Checklist
With twenty-seven years of interviews at his helm, a Zone Leader provides his top-ten recommendations for those seeking a new opportunity.
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Not too long after I started my career, in the 1990s, I found myself on the other side of the interview table. Part of my responsibilities were to evaluate and interview candidates for the summer internships. This was quite an interesting challenge for me, since I was sitting on the other side of the interview table just months before I was given the task.
Over the last twenty-seven years, I have been involved with the new hire process — scanning through piles of resumes, interviewing candidates and even making the decision on who to hire and to not hire for a given position. During this time, I have built my own top-ten list of things to keep in mind when submitting your credentials for an open opportunity.
In most cases, the resume you provide is your entry point into the submission process. While some employment flows will utilize a form-driven workflow cycle to filter out candidates which are not truly qualified, the factors determining your chances for a phone screen or interview reside in your resume.
Here are four things to validate when it comes to your resume:
#1. Make Sure Your Technology Terms Are Correct
In the last two weeks, I encountered a resume for a candidate that wanted to be part of our Salesforce practice. On the resume, the following technologies were noted as having senior-level expertise:
#2. Your Single Chance to Make an Impression
I truly believe your resume is your calling card when it comes to applying for a position. The original composition should be an abridged version of your skills, abilities, and experience. More importantly, it should clearly note how your experience and training makes you an ideal candidate for the position.
So many times, I receive resumes for individuals with an amazing background. However, they have zero experience with the position in which I have posted. While your resume should be something to make you proud, you must consider the reviewer and how they are looking for ways in which you are qualified to meet the requirements for the position of interest.
#3. Your Job History Matters
I realize that phone screens and in-person interviews can be anxiety-driven events and that those on the other side of the table are nervous at best. In order to calm the situation, I often take a few minutes to talk about the individual's past history. I've found that people enjoy talking about past achievements. They are proud of what they have completed.
Just this year, when I took that approach, I found the individual was talking about a project that wasn't listed on his resume. The candidate even mentioned this is the most recent project. While I hoped for an updated resume to review, I pressed on and asked about the next project. Turns out, that project was not listed on the resume either.
In the end, I began to wonder if I was speaking to the person whose resume had been submitted. It is always a good idea to keep your job history up to date. If nothing else, to validate your qualifications and identity.
While having a presence on LinkedIn is not a requirement for the job submission process, it has become an expectation. Not only does LinkedIn provide another way to gain access to one's skills and abilities, it also allows mutual connections to be seen. As a result, when the cycle reaches the verification and reference stages, these connections can be quite helpful.
In the example above, I actually found the candidate's LinkedIn page — hoping to find the missing gaps in the job history. Turns out, LinkedIn didn't match the candidate at all — at least from a job history perspective.
In this case, the lack of detail led to the phone screen ending earlier than scheduled.
The Phone Screen and the Interview
If your resume meets the expected criteria, the next step is typically a phone screen and/or an actual interview. In some cases, the interview could include walking through an assignment that was provided ahead of time. As an example, at one corporation, there was a requirement to build a simple CRUD application — since the target candidate should have experience with each layer of the stack.
There are two items that can make or break a candidate when it comes to the first person-to-person interaction with the interview process. They are numbers five and six on my top-ten list:
#5. Be On Time
As logical as this may sound, you would be surprised how often I find myself waiting for the candidate to connect to the call or arrive to their interview. More often than not, the tardy candidates are late to virtual sessions (phone screen or over-the-wire interviews) than actual in-person interviews. I would expect the opposite — given unforeseen issues with traffic, etc.
When a candidate arrives late, it immediately casts a negative light on their ability to meet the demands of the position. Does this mean they will always arrive late...even when they have a critical presentation or status to convey?
#6. Have a Decent Connection
For those sessions that are not on-site, having a decent connection is extremely important. This is not limited to bandwidth, but also background noise as well.
In a recent call, I felt like the candidate was calling in from a high school lunchroom, given all the noise and commotion that was echoing through the candidate's microphone. The noise made it difficult to maintain my thoughts as I guided the interview. A bad connection is equally as challenging when the individual's responses are broken up from a frail communication line.
Consider the phone screen and interview the most important meeting of your life. As a result, take the necessary steps to be available ahead of time and with a strong connection — free of any loud background noise.
Across the Board
The remaining four of my top-ten are items that should be kept in check not only during the interview process, but with your career — regardless of the position or industry.
#7. Be Prepared
While "be prepared" might be considered the motto of the Boy Scouts of America, it is a goal that any professional to always strive to achieve. In the interview process, this translates to having everything ready for the interview.
The easiest example is bringing copies of your resume to your on-site interview. Often times, the interviewer may be coming from another meeting and not have time to pick up a copy of your resume. In those cases, it is highly valued when the candidate provides a fresh copy of the resume for them to view during your meeting.
#8. Don't Waste My Time
Years ago, I was looking for a System Administrator for the middleware tier in our data center. I was shocked at the number of resumes I received from those with an office administrator background. These candidates were looking for a job where they could manage an office or became an administrative assistant for a C-level executive.
To this day, my only guess on why I received these resumes were due to a requirement to submit a certain number of applications each week in order to receive unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, each of these candidates was doing nothing more than wasting our time — since they did not maintain a single requirement of the posted qualifications.
#9. Social Media Check
Social media is wonderful. As a fan of the NBC series Dateline (as noted in my "How Watching Dateline Real-Life Mysteries Helped My IT Career" article), I can tune into social media in order to see what other viewers are thinking while we watch the current episode. Am I the only one that thinks the person professing their innocence is guilty? Most of the time, I am on the same page with those tweeting their thoughts as the episode airs.
It is a good feeling.
Unfortunately, social media can cause havoc to an otherwise qualified candidate. As part of the background check process, employers often try to locate the candidate on social media or perform a simple Google search. Comments that are made in those venues often project a side that is not visible to the interview process. Based upon the nature of such comments, the prospective candidate can fall off the final selection list.
While it might be cool to state something controversial on social media, it could impact your job search down the road.
#10. Be Honest
Finally, I must cry out for honesty. Probably the hardest aspect of human behavior to master, honesty is something that can become challenging when dealing with unexpected situations. Perhaps someone did something to cause an outage. Human nature often wants us to avoid blame and try to deflect the reasoning elsewhere. That lack of honesty causes far more issues than if the individual was honest from the start.
I caused the system to crash. I made a mistake.
We all make mistakes.
This same request is just as important the interview process. True story about me. When I took a position in Miami (FL) earlier in my career, there was a requirement for OS/2 experience. While I had used a computer running IBM's OS/2 system, I was far from an expert. However, my resume made it sound like I knew what I was doing with systems running on OS/2.
Well, I got the job and was working with the guy who was training me before he left, when he asked me to restart one of the OS/2 servers. I said, "Sure," and walked over to the screen. I moved the mouse around the screen and was looking for a clear option to restart the system. After a few minutes of watching me, the guy said, "You don't know what you are doing, do you?"
I said, "No."
He told me to right-click on the mouse. When I did over the empty desktop, I saw the Restart option right in front of me. The guy smiled and it has been our secret all of these years.
While I don't think knowledge of OS/2 caused me to get the position (it was a very small percentage of responsibilities), I always try to be honest in my daily efforts to avoid that situation again.
Since about 50% of my career has been in a consulting role, I initially thought that these ten items weren't as important when compared to full-time opportunities in a corporate environment. The reality is that I have found myself holding those to a higher standard when they are interviewing to be a member of my team in a consulting capacity.
My rationale is that corporations are employing consulting services to provide some level of assistance. As a result, the work that is being performed should be performed at the same standards by corporate employees. In order to get up to speed and to fit into different cultures quickly, my team members must be able to adapt and learn quickly. While on the project, their level of detail and documentation should be above the client's expectations — leaving no doubt that the right decision was made to employ my team.
My experience has proven that procuring this type of talent yields team members who adhere to the recommendations noted above.
When submitting yourself as a candidate for an open opportunity, you should take some additional time to make sure every item above is analyzed and implemented to the best of your abilities. That way, when you receive an acceptable offer, you can get started with the next phase of your career...always taking your best step forward.
Have a really great day!
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