Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 3 – Career Fairs/Events

Today’s post focuses on what to do at career events and how my mentality completely changed about fairs this spring.

It was frustrating to go to a career event with huge companies like IBM and Dell, excited to strike up a conversation only to have one of the recruiters talk about “applying on our website” – yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah. It was all the same at every booth.

Then I would get to a booth and communicate with someone for about 20-30 minutes sometimes, follow up with an email if could get his/her information, and still hear nothing back! I’m sure that for anyone who has attended a career event/fair (especially college fairs), there have been these frustrations.

Well here is the truth about what I needed to do to make career fairs work for me. I re-adjusted my game plan for a major conference I went to during Spring Break and I realized some major things:

  • Regardless of who I was or how I networked, I needed to learn some things about the company BEFORE getting to their booth.
  • I needed to target companies I already applied to first, then other companies later.
  • I could not waver in knowing what I wanted for my career future and my specific skill-set.

Seems like stuff you’ve heard in a book or article somewhere before right? Well I’ll explain the psychology and practicability behind these points and why they finally make sense to me.

Learning about the company – The psychology
Well obviously anyone would learn about the company beforehand, right? This is common sense and certainly we’re not in the group of people who wouldn’t at least look through the company’s products, services, etc. However, there is strong psychology behind this that opened up a new understanding for me. Learning about the company’s products, services, latest projects (1 or 2) is usually enough to:

  • Strike up company conversation with the recruiters about a specific topic that they actually care about
  • Demonstrate that you know what the company needs and understand them to some degree
  • Save a whole lot of time

Recruiters don’t want to spend all their time delivering information to people passing their booth who were too lazy to apply for the job or study the company in the first place. These people are aware, however that not every person who shows up to their booths would already apply online, so sometimes this is okay.

However, recruiters would much rather not have to explain their department and company every single time when a new person arrives…I realized that I should have the common decency to use the World Wide Web to put in my share of work beforehand, because I’m not living in the stone age and it saves time for both of us – seriously.

Finally, beforehand research on the company (I can learn how to do that anywhere online and get a few new pointers every time) immediately cuts me out of the majority of people who go to those booths! I’m surprised that less than 50% do this, but that’s okay, because I know I will already stand out – and at the fairs, it’s not as important that I qualify for the job better than other people (right now anyway), it’s that I can stand out enough to bypass the company’s system and for someone to pull me out of their database – that I would have been in because I already applied for one of their positions!

Knowing what I want – The psychology
People nowadays (especially in the Western world and in the US) like to categorize things and people – in fact, they need to, because that’s what our brain does to process information so quickly. Knowing the 1 or 2 things a person is good at or wants is all we care about so we can categorize him/her and quickly place that person in a box. This may seem a bit crude, but it’s very efficient. Recruiters definitely need to do it, because they need to place people quickly in the company.

So when I am asked “Internship or Full-time”, I don’t say “well, I can do either,” if I’m about to graduate and also start another program, but would not start the next program if I get a job offer (which is the case, actually). I go with “Full-time” because it makes my life easier and the recruiters’ lives as well. Obviously you won’t be looking for a full-time position if you’re nowhere near graduating yet. You would be looking for internships, but stick with one thing when you get to a booth.

I realized I shouldn’t vary after I’ve already started the conversation. However, if they offer a full-time position, or internship option to me and I could do it, then I’d be open to it! It’s an opportunity. So, choose one thing but be flexible if you can if the opportunity presents itself.

Summary
Understand that applying to a position at the company, then researching the company sets you apart from a lot of the other persons going to those booths. Also realize that this eliminates the need for superficial discussion about the company. Realize that being seen as someone who is very prepared makes the recruiter more interested in talking to you, because now you know how the game is played and discussion can be about:

  • where the company is going
  • the actual position you applied for
  • getting you to a person who can better describe the position
  • talking about your resume, interests and qualifications
  • singling you out from everyone for more investigation
  • pulling you from the pool of applicants so you actually get a chance at the interview

So now I don’t ask myself, “Well what’s the point of going if they’re only going to tell me to apply online anyway?” Applying online and knowing the company IS the point. If I show that I’ve invested time in their company before showing up, they invest time and opportunity back in with me at their booth/fair. This helped me a lot in getting 3 interviews out of the 8 booths I attended and was prepared for. So for your next career fair, if you don’t do this already:

  1. Apply online and do the research
  2. Know what you want, choosing one thing, but being flexible when opportunity presents itself

Doing these has finally placed me in the ball game.

Preview: Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 4 – Real Networking
I am going through my own first set of real networking experiences since the beginning of graduate school. Just to give a little insight – I’ve learned that what I call “real networking” is done when I connect with people who are ahead of me or are in positions of influence. The purpose of professional networking is getting ahead while establishing meaningful (and hopefully long-lasting) professional relationships – to become part of the family of professionals who benefit others in great ways. To get where I want to be, I need to connect with people who are already there and that requires due diligence, preparation and courage. I’ll update on my progress in about 2 weeks.

Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 2 – What’s your objective?

Two weeks ago, I started this series and should have posted this second part of the series last week. However, I’ve recently gone through some experiences and interviews that have allowed me to hone in on the purpose of the ‘objective statement’. That purpose being: Who are you and what are you going to accomplish with us?

I don’t want to get all philosophical, but who we are and why we’re here is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. Why is an objective statement important, whether on your resume or not? It’s important because you are the only one who can have your specific objectives, goals and identity in such a unique way that can benefit others – especially your potential employer.

In our world where the best of the best are separated from the rest because they match, they are now on the same playing field as those chosen. Sure, all the candidates for consideration can do the job, but then what separates them from those on the same playing field? What separates them is their unique combination of personal goals, skills and objectives.

According to dictionary.reference.com, an objective is, “something that one’s efforts or actions are intended to attain or accomplish; purpose; goaltarget”. We will systematically tear down this definition into actions that will get our objectives on paper.

But enough talk. Let’s get into action.

THE purpose of this post is to make a simple, meaningful objective statement that does not seem canned, recycled, or empty. Here is one key to a simple objective statement that matters – matching your intentions, skills, talents and interests with the needs of the organization/position. Seems too simple, right? I know.

Formula
Here’s the formula I use for a good objective statement:

  1. What thing(s) does this position at Company X need? (a few key words will do)
  2. What experience, skills and abilities do you possess to meet the need(s) of that position? (another few key words will do)
  3. MATCH your skills, abilities and experience sensibly with the outcomes that would meet the needs of the position/company.

Action
Let’s look at an example and apply this formula immediately. Consider this Merchandising position at Abercrombie and Fitch.

  1. Needs of the company: business handling of clothing categories, product life cycle completion, maximize clothing line financial success, plan the clothing line’s business
  2. Abilities/skills/experience (that you have to help you meet the company’s needs): strong team leadership, analytic abilities, interpersonal communication skills, presentation experience, etc.
  3. Connecting what you can offer and how to what the company needs and why: So, leadership (experience/skills) -> persuasion (of others on a team that you can lead well or outside sources/investors), presentation (convincing others that your company’s clothing ideas are worth considering) -> product life cycle completion

Example statement using the 3 steps above
‘I will improve the business handling of certain clothing lines through my analytic abilities and business experience [Six Sigma, whatever tools you have in your skills toolbox]. I will ensure shorter clothing completion cycles using strong communication techniques, extensive presentation experience (over 4 years) and unique leadership qualities to swing potential investors, and their team members into supporting our products.’

In your objective statement, you’re answering a specific question for the hiring manager, “How are you going to meet my department’s needs?”

The question of do you ‘get it’?
You can get a bit creative and tie one objective you have for your position in with your long-term goal(s) of being in a similar position but in a greater capacity down the road; more on that in the Cover Letter and Discussion portions of this series. You don’t want to give them all the goods just yet, but you definitely want them to know that you ‘get it’ – i.e. what  specifically will be the best way you can meet the need(s) of their company through this position and from your unique talent/skills/experience.

On knowing what they need
Knowing what the company is looking for requires some research beforehand – yes research is such an ugly word when one just wants to apply for a position, but it’s oh so important. So before typing up a quick objective statement, make sure you slow down, investigate the company, why they have that position open and think of the one thing they would want most out of you when you start working for them – then put that as your first point (of maybe 2 points) in your objective. The hiring manager is more likely to say “That’s kind of what we’re looking for,” when s/he glances (yes, only glances) at your resume. But that’s if your resume even gets to the hiring manager, which takes us to the next part of this series…

Preview: Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 3 – Career Fairs, Events and Real Networking
The next part will talk about how we need to network, especially for college students, at career fairs. For the last few years I couldn’t make a very very important connection in my head about why attending career fairs was ever useful or what networking truly meant – until now. I’m going to simplify and break through the “what’s the point of this fair?” psychology that I (and many of my friends) had. I will reveal how my close-minded thinking it made me lose out on opportunities while others who understood how networking works were getting interviews left right and center.

I’ll be sure to post on that later this week, since I was already 2 weeks late on Part 2. So look out for Part 3!

Disclaimer: This is not professional advice, but based on my own experiences as a masters student in engineering. I am myself going through the job application process and seek to share knowledge I’ve discovered from what has been working and just what has not. As such, please feel free to chime in and offer your own experiences on what worked for you (and what hasn’t) in the job application process in comments to any of my posts!

Deep Focus.

As time winds down for job hunting and wrapping things up for school, it’s important I apply a new technique I’ve learned from a personal career course I’ve been taking. It’s called Deep Focus. This technique allows me to hone in on one thing like a heat-seeking missile and belt it out.

I focus on that one thing only and eliminate any and all distractions. Focusing on maintaining focus adds a great deal to my energy and further sharpens my concentration. Becoming inaccessible during that time as well, deep focus has, and will continue to allow me to actually finish the things I start.

Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 1 – The resume

Are you tired of trying to look for information on building a resume, only to find articles like this? Yeah, general information in paragraph format. The information isn’t necessarily wrong or bad, but we want instructions to get us from point A to point B without having to think right now. So use a good resume example, like this and let’s get to it!

The purpose of this series of articles is to achieve 1 thing – get calls for interviews when you apply to jobs with your resume/cover letter. We want to make your resume simple and effective. By the time you finish reading this post, you should be able to put together a resume in an hour or less, and apply to at least 1 job based on the walk-through I’ve written below (unless you don’t need to apply for any jobs and have things working out, then more power to you!).

DISCLAIMER: This process is not going to work for everyone in the exact way one would hope or like, but it should increase the chance at getting a call from a recruiter saying he or she is interested in setting up an interview. Also, I have gone through and still am going through the job application process. These are opinions from my own personal experiences on what works and what just doesn’t work, but without all the BS one sees on “quick tips for a good resume” websites out there. The information I’m giving also assumes that you know what not to do on resumes. Again, use the resume template I link to above and worry about the details later.

Important Psychological Point: Know that you most likely will not have a lot of success at the beginning of your job search. But know that more importantly – that’s okay! You’re only human and things don’t work out as planned all the time. It does NOT mean you’re not good enough or that nobody wants you, despite all the work you’ve put into your education, freelancing or whatever you did. The simple reason comes down to matching. That’s it! Now that that’s out the way

Let’s get started!

  1. Matchalways make your resume match the job description as closely as possible – if you have the experience to back it up, of course.
  2. Strengths – know and learn your strengths for a good objective statement. How? I recommend buying the the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. Enter the online access code from the book on their website, take their strengths test and find out your top 5 strengths. If you have no clue on this, don’t include an objective statement yet. Making one requires some skill and we don’t want to get bogged down with that if you don’t already know how to make one – but however you do it, I strongly suggest making one soon.
  3. Keep your resume to 1 page. You’ll hear that this is the end all rule or that it’s NOT the end all rule to be followed, but let’s be honest – hiring managers are people. People don’t need to see everything you’ve done or are good at – that information can come later in the interview or over the phone. They just need to see the best you have that matches the job description you are applying for.
  4. Reduce your number of applications – What? Yeah, I’ve applied to so many jobs out of frustration and the hope that someone would bite but to no avail. It hurt every time I applied for a job and got nothing back – then I started realizing, it’s not the number of jobs I applied to, it’s the jobs I spent the time to match my resume and experience with. This seems obvious right? Why apply for a job that I don’t quite fit for?Well sometimes people get desperate – like I did. If you don’t fit well enough for the job, save yourself the time and emotional energy (of rejection) and apply where you fit. We’re not trying to just apply for jobs we’d like to do, but for jobs we CAN do and that describe our talents and experiences to the letter. This will make you much more selective and force you to spend time only on the jobs that give you the highest chance for a phone call.
  5. Apply to 1 job today – Pick a company, look in their Careers section (we all know how this works) and choose a job that fits your experience, talents and qualities.

Job application walk through – start to finish:

  1. Do only this job application walk-through right now. If you can, go somewhere quiet, turn off your phone (yes off). Get away from people. Close all your other tabs. You’re only doing this right now and that’s it. Or, pick a time today when you can do this without someone wondering if you’re alive or not. It will make things go much faster, trust me.
  2. Pick a company and job. For example, let’s go with Hewlett Packard’s System Admin Engineer position. Note: If your education and experience don’t even match to some degree, apply for other jobs that do. I cannot stress this enough. So for this job, be Electrical Engineering or Computer Science.
  3. Open a new document and start typing (or copy pasting). There are many online and software word processing packages available. I’m assuming you already have a curriculum vitae (CV), and a LinkedIn profile. What? You don’t have either of those or they’re not up to date? Please make them eventually but not now. There’s no time for that now, or at least do it AFTER you’ve hit “Apply” on your prospective job. No need to get tied up in other things besides this job application.
  4. When you copy paste/type job experience into your resume, be prepared to change, add and eliminate! This means
    (1) delete things on your job that aren’t at all related to the description you’re applying for,
    (2) add descriptions from your own job that match descriptions/qualities of the job you’re applying for and
    (3) change descriptions you may already have, to make them a stronger fit for this job you’re applying for.For example, let’s go through this last step…On HP’s website, the job description says:
  • “This position requires a candidate with these attributes:

    – Passion for engineering

    – Team player

    – Strong commitment to excellence

    – Self-motivated

    – Excellent communication skills

    – Fluency in English.”

  • Make sure your short, sweet and concise bullet points for your work experience show the above qualities either directly or indirectly (If you don’t already know how to do this short and sweet technique, check out this article here. Just scroll down to the example. You’ll get the idea). The formula to use is ACTION -> RESULTS.
    So for this job, let’s make up some example descriptions  based on whatever work experience you might already have – but under your listed job on your resume of course!
    A. Self-motivated: “Initiated 3 project ideas with a team of 4 people to optimize network communication by over 50%.”
    B. Excellent communication skills – “Continually communicated during meetings with supervisors and team members to effectively change system A to system B”.
    C. Fluency in English (especially for non-native English speakers) – “Regularly and quickly established rapport with customers over the phone, eliminating viruses from over 50 different clients’ computers”. You get how this works by now.
  • Write down your job description on the resume in bullet points that match the description of the job you are applying for, as per the examples above. Keep the descriptions for each of your jobs to 2-4 lines/bullet points.
  • Include leadership or group experience. Nobody wants to work with someone who does not know how to work with other people. If you have no experiences with official groups on campus (if you’re in school) or at your current job or non-job, join one so you can put it on there. But keep this portion on the resume to one or two lines at most.
  • Include volunteer experience – Especially if you don’t have much paid work experience. Volunteering is a good thing, especially if your experience from volunteering line up with the qualities the company is looking for like in our description above. Keep this to one line (two or more if reasonable and 100% relevant matching to our application qualities desired).

Save your typed resume online to Dropbox.com or Google Drive or whatever you use. You need to be able to securely access your resume from anywhere when you have an Internet connection.

Wrapping things Up
Finally, click “Apply” on the job description and give them the information they need. That’s it! You applied to 1 job today. That’s about an hour of focusing on only one job that matches with you. Like in the disclaimer above, obviously this does not guarantee you would be chosen for the interview, but should increase your chances of getting a call. Also keep in mind that matching closely enough sets you apart in 3 ways for this application today:

  • Some people looked at this job, got distracted by a million other things and forgot to apply for the job you just finished applying to.
  • Many applicants applied to that job who don’t match well enough (or at all) for the position.
  • Of the applicants who successfully applied and who match well with the position description, their resumes may have poor formatting or errors. So that’s another group you don’t have to worry about, because the example resume I linked to is simple, bold and strong (and because you’ve proofread your resume 3 times)!

Remember – you can compete.
Let’s be honest, you may not receive a call after only one targeted application like this. But do realize that most often, multiple factors are not only working against you, but FOR you. You spent 1 hour or so applying to a job successfully but in a very very focused, targeted way. What if you applied to a job every week this way? What about twice a week with these targeted, closely matching resumes? Try this approach every time you apply to a job and see what happens after 5-10 applications (let’s say 2-3 weeks time?).

If you receive no calls, it does not mean nobody wants you to work for them. It means you need to change your process and find out the common possible threads on why the jobs don’t call you back and fix them!

Preview for next week: Increase your chances at getting interviews – Part 2 – Objective Statement

Part 2 will be tackling the objective statement. In the mean-time, look for example objective statements you can put on the resume or don’t include one at all if you don’t want to. But it is a powerful thing to have, because it is important to know who you are or at least your unique strengths. While employers want to know if have the aptitude to do the job (which only puts you on a somewhat close playing field as other candidates), they want to know what makes you special for the job. Everyone is already special, but how? The objective statement is one tool to help answer this question. More on that next week.

Resume and Interview Woes

I’m simply tired of ‘quick tips’ and ‘tricks for a good resume’ articles out on the web nowadays. It’s been a frustrating, although interesting journey so far going from no replies out of 30+ resume submissions to an interview for 1 of every 3 sent. I’m currently working on a no-nonsense guide to resume building and at least landing an interview in the first place.

The guide will touch on some obvious information one can find anywhere on the web, but that’s not the point of it. The point will be to highlight what actually works and what just doesn’t instead of just ‘tips’ that offer no real substance, so be on the lookout for that post sometime this weekend!

Opportunity

I’m sitting at a conference for the National Society of Black Engineers. Three weeks ago I wouldn’t have imagined this grand moment while thinking “I should get more involved with NSBE,” like I usually told myself.

Sometimes someone just says something and it makes me act on it and I end up going in a direction I never thought possible. A friend of mine mentioned his convention in passing and I latched on…the rest is history from there. At least I hope so. I hope these opportunities at this wonderful event allow me to begin making history in my academic and professional career.

We’re awesome!

Yesterday a good friend of mine sent a video of the famous kidpresident and he had some inspirational words to share. His greatest reminder was “You’re alive. You’re awesome. Live like it.” These words touched me in a way that I really needed yesterday morning while in bed wondering why the world kind of sucks so much. I was frustrated that despite all the ridiculousness in people’s behaviors, we’re still all human and are beautiful inside. So I can’t give up on everyone and most of all, not on myself. Yesterday was a good day. Today seems pretty awesome as well.