In today's competitive market, job seekers can't afford to take anything for granted. The resume, interview and presentation all have to be polished, professional and focused.
"Good Morning America's" week-long career series, "Good to Go to Work," kicked off by offering a resume and interview boot camp to three prospective employees.
Tory Johnson, chief executive officer of Women for Hire, along with workplace expert Steve Viscussi and Stern Business School recruiting director Lizette Hernandez, conducted mock interviews with women the day before their real interviews, and then critiqued their performance and gave them tips to wow an employer. Johnson's advice for job seekers is below.
Think of your resume as a marketing tool, and the product you're promoting is you. You want to tout all of the benefits as they relate to the needs of the buyer -- your prospective employer. Here's how to do that:
Target a Specific Position or Industry
One size rarely fits all in life, and that's true with resumes as well. The Internet has enabled us to get somewhat lazy about job searching. We can just click and apply in a flash, which means most of us don't take the time to customize our resume for positions that we're really interested in.
Resist the urge to rush. Print a copy of the job description and compare it to your resume. Make sure that someone reading both documents could easily see a likely connection between the two. Tout the skills, education and/or experience that the employer is looking for, so that it's clear that you intended to apply for this job.
This means you can have multiple versions of your resume. Maybe you have extensive marketing and technology experience. You don't want to send a technology-focused resume for a marketing-driven position, and yet people make this mistake all the time. Similarly, show your commitment to an industry. For example, a hospital looks to hire people who are committed to healthcare, not people who want any job just to pay the bills.
Celebrate your Successes
Many resumes mistakenly focus only on previous responsibilities, instead of prior achievements. The best way to demonstrate that you can do the job is focus on your capabilities and your results. Instead of telling me that you were responsible for sales in the Northeast territory, tell me how well you performed in that role. If you're in public relations, instead of telling me that you wrote and distributed press releases, tell me what kind of media coverage you've been able to secure. Go through every bullet of your resume and ask yourself if there's a way to tweak your resume to reflect a success and not just a responsibility. This shows that you're results oriented, which every employer loves.
In terms of interviewing, it all comes down to one word -- preparation. Even if you're an ideal match for the job -- even if you think they're desperate to hire you -- never underestimate the need to prepare.
Research the Company
There is so much information available at our fingertips, so it's inexcusable not to know everything you can. Start with the company Web site and look up industry publications. What's their position in the industry? Who are their competitors? What kind of challenges are they facing? Use their products or services so that you're able to demonstrate your knowledge. If you're interviewing at a magazine, you'll want to have read several issues. If you're interviewing at ABC News, you'll want to be familiar with the programming.
Anticipate the Negative
We spend a lot time thinking about all the good things we want to say, but we rarely focus enough time and thought on the negatives that are likely to come up. If there's a red flag in your own mind, assume it's going to be raised. Don't bury your head in the sand and just hope for the best. For example, why did you leave your last position? You need to have a viable answer, one that doesn't call into question your credibility. Never disparage a former employer, regardless of the circumstances of your departure.
What are your weaknesses? Clearly you don't want to offer up an example that would hurt your chances in this position. What are some of the difficult challenges you've faced and how have you overcome them? An interviewer is hoping to get you to let your hair down. They're hoping you'll reveal something you didn't mean to say, not because they want to play "gotcha" or embarrass you, but because it's their job in a short period of time to assess your character and your ability to do the job.
For Both Your Resume and Interview Preparation
Show your resume to several people and give them permission to offer their candid feedback. Ask them if there are relevant skills or experiences that you possess that might be missing from the resume. Sometimes the things we do best feel like second nature, so we don't even realize that it's an extraordinary talent that should be included on a resume. They should also check for proofreading and other mistakes.
Ask a friend or two to conduct a mock interview with you. Let them grill you with probing questions. Record your response and then review them to determine if you're really putting your best foot forward.
Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire, an organization that produces recruiting events nationwide where leading employers connect with professional women in all fields. For more tips from Johnson, go to www.womenforhire.com.