In part 1 of this series, we learned that candidates need to be able to admit their weaknesses for their strengths to shine through—someone who claims to have no weaknesses comes across as dishonest. And personality is the critical cog in any candidate.
In this article, I'll drill down even deeper into the hiring process with tips straight from a high-level recruiter from Staffing Technologies, an IT placement agency. After all, if you can impress a recruiter who is trained to pick apart your resume and answers to get to the truth in a matter of minutes, then you certainly have the skills to handle interviews with hiring managers.
Where to Look
Obviously, careerbuilder.com and monster.com are good sources for jobs. But did you know about dice.com and computerjobs.com? These are two sites that Staffing Technologies' recruiters use. Another place that you might not realize recruiters look: LinkedIn. (I wrote an in-depth piece on the benefits of a LinkedIn profile a few months back.) But, above all these things, you need to contact staffing agencies in your area.
"I don't know why people seem to think that all the jobs are available on corporate websites or job sites. Most of them aren't," said Jack Williams, vice president of national sales and recruiting for Staffing Technologies. "For a person who's out of work, regardless of what level, you need to make contact with three or four really solid technology-based staffing firms in your home town and stay in touch with them. They get new jobs every day, and those jobs get filled every day. You're not going to be in the mind of a recruiter who just got a hot job unless you do."
Resume and Cover Letter
The job application, which typically consists of submitting a resume and/or cover letter, is your first step into the door. Without a professional resume, nothing else you do matters. And according to Williams, the #1 mistake applicants make is a sloppy resume. "One of the things we see all the time is sloppy resumes—resumes with typographical errors on them, resumes where they claim they're on a job and then they're not, or a real cardinal sin would be when they have gaps in their resume and don't explain it. Or they don't include urls for the companies they've worked for, and just leave a lot of stuff out."
Oh, and this is important: modify your resume for every job you apply for. Structure it like a powerful piece of sales copy, leading the recruiter down a slippery slope that ends with you as the clear choice for the job. But can the buzzwords and lofty talk: provide quantitative, measurable data to support why you have those skills. "Employers are usually looking for a candidate that has 100 percent of the skills listed on the job application," Williams said. If someone can't look at your resume for a minute or two and have a strong understanding of your specific skills and expertise, then something needs to change.
What about cover letters? Probably not worth your time, according to Williams. "It's funny, cover letters used to be a really big deal, and used to be an expectation for most companies. At this time, I might see one five percent of the time, and I think most companies expect it virtually never. I'd even argue that it doesn't get read most of the time. Most of the time they're looking for a resume that is on the money and has everything they need."
So, one less thing to worry about—meaning there's no excuse not to get the resume down flat. (Check out this article I wrote awhile back for the top five resume tips.)
You Must Prepare and Ask Questions
This one surprised me, but Williams was as clear as day: if you don't come into an interview with questions about the company and job, your chances of getting that job are slim to none. So always, always, come prepared with questions.
"I think \\[having questions\\] is a huge deal. If I'm interviewing someone and they don't have questions, I'll usually end the interview and never think about them again. Candidates for a job interview need to realize that they're interviewing the company as much as they're being interviewed. I really think someone should have 10-12 questions at least. When in doubt, make them up. And please don't tell me that I've answered all of your questions. I couldn't possibly have. I want someone that is inquisitive and wants the job and wants to know how they can be really good at the job if they get it."
Sample questions that are good to ask include: what's the company like, what's the culture like, what's your management style, what's the job entail, what's the turnover like, what's the history, who's your audience, what's your financial position, how can I excel, and any job-specific questions you can think of.
Jump to the next page for some more awesome recruiter advice.
How to Be the Best
I often hear people frustrated with the fact that they're often a top choice, but never the top choice. They have the technical skills they need, but with so many candidates applying, how do you make sure you're the one top pick? There's plenty of chance involved, no doubt, but Williams did share this tidbit on how to be the best.
"I think \\[what sets one final candidate apart from the rest\\] is energy and sense of humor. So many people that have all the skills in the world, they're the biggest dud in the century. They don't have energy, don't engage, don't know what they're doing or seem indifferent. People do like to hire people that are upbeat, energetic, and seem like they really want the job. A good sense of humor gets someone the job all the time, just showing you can laugh about what you've done or that you enjoy having fun and not just showing up to work every day. I can't tell you how many people we've put in high profile jobs with Fortune 500 companies, and the feedback was 'They didn't have enough energy or seem to want to share anything about themselves.' That's code for: how about acting like you're in the game?"
Laid Off? Doesn't Matter
In a society where your career is who you are, being laid off is one of the most hurtful experiences you can have. But, it shouldn't be that way, says Williams.
"Being laid off is happening to so many people that it's not a stigma whatsoever. To be embarrassed is understandable, but a waste of time. Just admit it—my position was eliminated because of X. People don't bat an eye at it. It's completely understandable. Using that as an excuse not to be plugged in is avoiding a conversation about your career, so don't do it."
Any Other Questions?
Are there any other questions you'd like to know the answer to, straight from a recruiter? If so, send them my way and I'll do what I can to get a personal response back to you.