The resume is a paper presentation. Listing responsibilities
is not enough. The number one mistake that most people make
is underselling their skills. The inclusion of your significant
accomplishments will differentiate you from other applicants.
Your resume should include: assignments you created, wrote,
designed, developed, implemented, set-up, modified, co-authored,
planned, managed, invented, and any quantifiable results.
All of those activities create a positive image for a prospective
employer. (Example: If you implemented a new inventory software
system, include the financial gain/savings the new system
provided, or explain the reduction of inventory, reduction
of returned goods, reduction of staff, etc. Your resume should
be easy to read, have defined sections, have enough detail
to appropriately represent you, and have a consistent format.
Many books are available which
define resume outlines specific to different disciplines.
These can be very helpful in creation of your own outline.
The best way to begin is to brainstorm on paper. List every
task, skill, duty, project or responsibility as it comes to
mind per position. Then organize items according to category.
Write a summary for each position held and a general description
of duties and responsibilities. Under the summary, use bullets
to specify major projects, responsibilities and significant
accomplishments. See the following suggestions under "Work
Many books on the market stress
keeping the resume to one page. In the real world, resumes
are at least two pages. If you have five or fewer years of
experience, one page may be sufficient. Consulting/contractor
resumes tend to require extensive detail and are therefore
as many pages as necessary. Put your name and a page number
on each additional page in case the pages become separated.
Do not use a small font to minimize the number of pages, as
it is difficult to read. (Consider the average age of hiring
authorities.) Font size 12 is standard text. Name and headings
may be typed in font size 14 but 12 is acceptable.
Bold the headings to provide definition
for the eye. Be consistent. If you bold one heading, bold
all of the headings. Avoid underlining and italicizing, as
it will not fax well. Lettering changes can also be problematic
in conversion from one word processing program to another
when using e-mail. A full horizontal line used to separate
sections and/or placed just below your name, address and telephone,
for example, creates emphasis.
Spacing and margins should be consistent
throughout the document.
Stationary should be a light color
(white, cream, or light gray), as dark paper does not fax
well and text is harder to read. Try to match stationary and
Optional. Avoid any objective that is too general or too specific.
If the objective is too general, it has no value. If the objective
is too specific, it could negate your candidacy.
Education here or at the end of the resume. (See detail
at the end of this section)
This area would be used to highlight 5 to 10 achievements/accomplishments.
These could be columns or accented with bullets.
If this section replaces the significant achievements, it
would include both professional and interpersonal strengths.
This section could be used just for the interpersonal strengths
separate from significant accomplishments. Including personal
attributes will help distinguish you from other applicants.
For people in technical vocations, like the information technology
field, a section should be included that lists all of the
technical tools with which you have experience. If you are
entry level, then list all technology classes. Place the technical
tool list here or before education. This section could be
in columns. Although you have a list of technology in this
section, you need to include job specific technology utilized
within the text of the work history section. Another option
is to create a technology page, which includes; technology/tool,
total time using each tool, competency rating, and when you
last worked with it. The detailed technology page is frequently
part of the contractor's resume, but it is a very effective
tool for recruiters and hiring managers as well.
The work history order should be chronological beginning with
current position and
ending with first position held. Include dates of employment,
employer name, city and
state, and title. If you were promoted and /or held different
positions with the same
employer, show each position and duties/accomplishments for
each position listed. If
you have experience not related to your current vocation:
1. Combine all positions and date
range with a summary explanation of what you were doing for
2. List all employers but be brief
in your text. Highlight any skill or accomplishment transferable
to your current vocation. (Example: supervisory or project
If you have worked at a location
and the company changed names/owners, but your position/location
did not change, you may ignore the change. Your total employment
history should express your full tenure. Explain any change(s)
in the summary or during the interview.
List the name of the school, year of graduation, grade point
average (if advantageous), degree title and major(s). If you
did not graduate, list the total number of credit hours earned
and your major. If you have completed only a few classes,
list the classes and the grade point average. Include military
training here or in the section below.
Use this section for additional certifications, seminars,
training or employer sponsored classes. Some professions require
continuing education and renewals of certifications.
Affiliations / Organizations:
Use the full name of the organization alone or in parenthesis
next to the acronym. Limit this category to organizations
that do not jeopardize your individuality. Certain political
or personal affiliations could be considered discriminatory
and therefore detrimental to your candidacy.
Personal / Hobbies:
Do not include height, weight, health, children, marital status,
or anything with discriminatory properties.
References available upon request:
This is an unnecessary statement. Hiring authorities will
make the request if and when they feel it is appropriate to
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Dress for the business office environment:
a suit in a basic color (black, gray or navy), vest (optional),
white or pastel shirt, a tie (current fashion), shine the
shoes, take out any earrings, get a hair cut, and make sure
you have taken care of general hygiene. Once you are hired,
the dress may be more casual, but for the interview, get that
suit out of the back of the closet, dust it off and try it
on to be assured of a good fit and any needed repairs or tailoring.
Attend to your attire as soon as possible in the event there
is a need to purchase a new suit.
Dress for the business office environment is not limited to
the standard skirt and jacket suit for a professional look.
Select a tailored conservative outfit avoiding ruffles, frills
and large prints. Avoid wearing a lot of jewelry. Well groomed
hair is a must, as are pumps or closed toe shoes (no sandals).
Make sure your shoes are polished and the heels are in good
condition. Take care of general hygiene. If your perspective
employer is a fashion magazine and the position is for clothing
design, you would probably wear one of your own designs but,
for the average business office environment, these tips will
present a proper business image. On the day of the interview,
take your make-up kit and an extra pair of pantyhose for emergencies.
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Research the company before the
interview. If you are reading this, you have Internet capability
so begin there. Today many companies have a web site that
provides information about their products, services and often,
the future direction of the company. The library is a good
alternative and most have a business research person who can
assist you. For privately held companies, request company
literature and/or the Annual Report to be mailed to you prior
to the interview. The information gleaned from your research
may assist you in formulating questions as well. The interviewer
will be impressed that you took the time to research their
company, and that knowledge will indicate that you are a serious
and informed candidate. If the potential opportunity includes
relocation, research the cost of living to arm yourself with
details for the salary negotiation phase. See the "Questions
you should ask?" section for a list of questions
to research about the potential employer.
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The typical salary to start is
an incentive increase of 3 to 5 %. There are always exceptions;
higher/lower cost-of-living, extremely underpaid currently,
and so on. There are generally three scenarios for starting
1. The opportunity to do something you have never done before
will normally offer the least salary to start and may require
a paycut to land the opportunity. You are competing with others
at an entry level.
2. The opportunity is a lateral move (exactly what you have
done with no skill or responsibility advancement). This situation
will normally offer the greatest financial incentive because
there is nothing else to motivate you to accept the position.
3. This is the one we see occurring most often and what we
call the Awin-win" scenario. When some or all of your
current skills will be utilized, you can be productive immediately,
while opportunities for skill/responsibility advancement are
being offered. In most cases, a person can expect an incentive
increase to start.
Many universities have a bad habit
of overestimating the starting salary for entry level positions,
and many new graduates enter the job market with unrealistic
expectations. New graduates beware. Before you turn down those
first offers, talk with a couple of recruiters in your area
who specialize in your vocational arena. If you rely on university
salary information alone, you just may pass on the best offer.
If your new opportunity includes
relocation you can visit the salary calculator at www.homefair.com
and the calculator will tell you what a lateral salary will
be in the new location. This will at least give you a starting
point for your negotiation. (See: "What
salary are you expecting?")
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Communication skills can make or
break the hire. These skills may be assessed in a number of
ways: Your ability to formulate and respond to questions and
your body language. Listening skills can be further demonstrated
by the manner in which you follow instructions. Never interrupt
the interviewer mid-question, even though you may have already
formulated a response. If the question is ambiguous or has
several potential responses, reword the question or ask, do
you mean ____ or ____ ? Clarifying the question exhibits good
listening/communication skills. Answer questions as directly
as possible. Limit your yes/no responses, as they do not convey
enough information. Likewise, don't over elaborate. Try to
find the middle ground between too much and not enough. Having
prepared responses will make you feel and appear confident.
you should be prepared to answer)"
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Body language is a subtle form
of communication, but can convey much about you, and is therefore
an important aspect of your interviewing skills. Make eye
contact regularly, but do not stare. Do not gaze out the window
or up at the ceiling. Poor eye contact communicates diminished
interest, poor self-esteem and lack of confidence. You can
show interest by sitting up straight and leaning slightly
forward. Slouching may be interpreted as boredom, disinterest
or poor health. Fidgeting or continuously glancing at your
watch could send a message that you are nervous, disinterested,
or that you have something more important to do. It might
also appear that you are not being honest. What do you do
when you are nervous? Check your habits and posture and make
any necessary corrections.
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What to Bring
Take several copies of your resume
with you. If the company still uses hard copy applications,
one copy can be attached to the application for the work history
section to save time. If the company has a PC or terminal
set up, you will have a copy to reference for the work history
including past dates of employment. You may also wish to provide
additional or unexpected parties to the interview with a copy.
Producing an extra copy indicates that you are prepared and
efficient. During the interview, it is helpful for you to
access your resume as the interviewer refers to items contained
therein. It is also a good idea to prepare a list of references
to bring with you in case you are asked for them at the end
of the interview. The list should include name, title, and
contact information, and should be kept separate from your
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Dos and Donts
the company before the interview
Plan a list of questions to ask in the interview
Practice your background presentation verbally
Review and be familiar with your resume
Use favorable internal references
Rehearse answers to frequently asked questions
Have a quiet background for telephone interviews
Call if you are going to be late or need to reschedule
Wear appropriate attire
Take breath mints with you for the day of the interview
Finish the breath mint before you walk in
Take two or three extra copies of your resume with you
Use a firm handshake (check for sweaty palms first)
Cross legs at the ankles (ladies)
Maintain good eye contact
Maintain good posture
Express willingness to learn
Express interest for the position during the interview
Answer questions concisely
Take notes and document the names of the people you meet
Write a thank you letter after the interview
Use call waiting during a
Fidget and wiggle around in your seat
Keep checking your watch
Sit down until you are asked to have a seat
Slouch in your chair
Assume, ask the question
Order alcoholic beverage
Talk with your mouth full of food
Smoke, even if they offer
Misrepresent your abilities
Misrepresent your current
Use she said/he said in your explanation
Tell negative stories about current employer
Walk behind while on tour; walk next to them (when there
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you should be prepared to answer
The following questions are some
of the more frequently asked in an interview. The number one
secret for responding to any question is quite simple: provide
enough information and detail to justify the answer. Rather
than "Yes, I have", include examples of projects,
detail that includes the number of years or percentage of
time spent on that task, and where you were employed when
you performed that function. If you have answers ready for
some of the typical questions, you will not hesitate on every
response. Rehearse the answers aloud, write them down, and
read them for a higher rate of retention. If you are prepared,
you will be more relaxed and confident.
Remember that the interview is a presentation.
Why are you leaving
your current position?
The best strategy for answering this question is simplicity.
Be brief and concise and keep details to a minimum. Remain
unemotional and do not elaborate with names. Sharing too many
negatives creates the impression that you may be difficult
to manage, or that you are a malcontent. Keep in mind that
you do not need to be escaping negatives to make a career
change. The best response is to discuss your goals and how
these goals cannot be met in your current organization. Rather
than looking back, you are looking to the future.
Why were you terminated
Rehearse your response with a partner who will listen as a
potential employer would. Again, honesty is the best policy.
Give enough detail to prevent speculation on the part of the
interviewer, take responsibility (if appropriate) and share
the lesson learned. Example: If you were terminated because
you printed off the entire payroll list and passed it around,
you might say, "I shared payroll information with peers,
but I understand now the ramifications of sharing confidential
information. I have learned a difficult lesson and I will
never make that kind of mistake again". The answer should
be concise with no long stories or a lot of detail implicating
Why were you
let go (if applicable for downsizing)?
Your response should include the total number of people, or
the percentage of employees who were eliminated. Before you
leave the company, ask several people in authority (who are
familiar with your work) to provide letters of recommendation.
Having real numbers and letters of recommendation will justify
the downsizing response.
What are your
The strategy here is to define short and long-term goals that
avoid any miscommunication of your current intentions. If
you are interviewing for a position as a Programmer Analyst
and you say that your goal is to be in management, the hiring
authority may assume your goals do not match the position
he/she is offering. Split the answer into short and long term
goals. Take into consideration the potential company's ability
to meet those goals. Ask questions that identify their ability
to meet your goals. Avoid saying statements like, "I
plan to be self- employed in two years". Some acceptable
personal goals might include desires to settle down by sharing
plans to marry, start a family or purchase a home. A personal
goal concerning continuing education coupled with career goals
would be appropriate and speak to the issue of your willingness
to learn and better yourself.
What are your
The strategy for this answer is to choose assets applicable
to the position for which you are applying. Example: For a
Help Desk Manager position, sample strengths to mention might
include problem solving, the ability to calm an angry person,
asking appropriate questions to identify the problem, follow
through, communication skills, listening skills, and documentation.
You might choose an issue for which a past supervisor praised
you during a performance review. Be confident about what you
know and do well. The ability to discuss your strengths without
seeming egotistic is an important skill.
If the new position requires very different skills than those
you have used previously, try to identify a relation to the
skills of the new role.
What are your weaknesses?
This is the number one dreaded question. No one wants to expose
his/her negative side to a potential employer. One strategy
that works well for this question is to choose a weakness
that could also be considered a strength. Example: "I
am a perfectionist and sometimes I expect too much of others
and myself." "I work too much! I am so focused that
I have to make myself go home and relax."
A second approach might be to consider previous employment
performance reviews. Has a supervisor suggested some areas
that need strengthening? Have you done anything to make changes
or improvements in those areas? As you talk about the issue
mentioned in your performance review, discuss briefly the
steps you took to make improvement. This second method tells
the interviewer that you are mature and able to accept criticism
and take corrective action.
If you are weak in a particular skill, honesty is always the
best policy! Don't exaggerate when discussing your abilities.
At some point in the interview, you may be asked to substantiate
your skill responses and you will be unable to do so. If questioned
about a skill you don't possess, respond positively by expressing
your willingness to learn. Example: "I have not had the
opportunity to use that skill, but I am confident I can learn
it in a short amount of time."
What do you like
most about your current position?
Find something positive to say. Select a task or skill that
may have relevance to the new position. Example: "I especially
enjoy contact with customers."
What do you like least about your current
Be succinct. Avoid sharing all of the negatives about your
environment or management. Choose a response that speaks to
your career objectives. Example: "My current position
limits my opportunity to learn new skills."
salary are you expecting?
This is usually an uncomfortable questions. Above all, be
honest about your current compensation. How much information
you have before the interview dictates strategy. Generally,
in the art of negotiation, he who speaks first loses. DO NOT
state a range or a specific amount. On the application blank
"Salary Required", simply write, "open"
or "negotiable". That response will place the issue
back on their side of the negotiating table. Why is this important?
If you state; AI will accept between $50K and $60k",
they have no reason to offer you more than $50k. If you state
an amount that is well above what you would accept, you may
not receive an offer at all. If the amount you state is lower
than what they had in mind, they will offer the salary you
requested. So what do you say? Examples: "You are in
a much better position than I am to assess my worth to the
company." " I would accept a fair and reasonable
offer." "I will consider your best offer."
"What figure did you have in mind?" "I am currently
earning $55,000. What starting salary did you have in mind?"
"I would like the opportunity to reflect on all the information
I have gathered here today before I answer that question."
"I would need more information about benefits and incentive
plans to answer that question." Choose responses that
are most comfortable for you, depending on your negotiating
skills and confidence level about the salary discussion. Rehearse
and memorize three or more answers so you are prepared for
a hiring authority that is intent on getting you to state
a specific amount.
We all want to be paid what we
feel we are worth, or at the very least, market value. In
order to estimate market differences in locales, visit the
link to homefair
.com and use their salary calculator to learn what a lateral
salary would be in the new area. If the new location has a
significantly higher cost of living, share the disparity with
the interviewer. This will provide you with a starting point
for the salary discussion.
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The only stupid questions I ever
heard is "Honey, what time did you unplug the clock?"
If it is important to you, then it goes on your list. Your
list of questions should include anything that you need to
know to make an informed decision about an offer of employment
from that company. Create an outline to use in the interview.
Organize your questions from general to specific and by category:
company questions, departmental questions, specific position
questions, and benefit questions. You should research the
organization for your own information, but also to help you
formulate intelligent and relevant questions. Benefit concerns
are best addressed to the human resource representative or
after an offer is made. Benefits are only important if/when
you receive an offer or during offer negotiation. Address
questions specific to the position (day to day duties or departmental
environment) to the immediate supervisor/manager. Reserve
"big picture" questions (company revenue/performance,
company direction, strategic plans, products or services)
for upper management.
The following questions may help you get started. Speak carefully
and listen carefully!
Some of these questions could be
answered through your own research prior to the interview.
1. The company's primary source (s) of revenue
2. The company's annual sales last year and the disparity
in previous years.
3. Their mission statement
4. Their goals and objectives
5. The business philosophy and a brief description of its
6. The general makeup of its clientele, (businesses, consumers,
7. The key industry or industries
8. The number of employees, and whether this number is growing
9. Location of major plants and offices (national and international
10. Their standing or ranking within their industry
11. Their major competitors
12. Their general reputation
13. Any unique or innovative products or services they offer
1. What areas do you manage?
2. In which department will I work?
3. How many people are in this department and how many on
4. What are the skill levels of the team members and what
are their responsibilities?
5. From whom would I receive direction on a daily basis?
6. Will I be assigned a mentor?
7. What changes are expected in this department over the next
8. What changes in technology are planned over the next two
9. How would you describe your management style?
1. Outline for me the
responsibilities of this position.
2. What projects and/or problems would you need me to address
3. What would be my primary area of responsibility?
4. Describe the normal three-month acclimation period.
5. What duties/projects would I work on within the first six
months to a year?
6. Will I have the opportunity to learn any new technology
and what is your training process?
7. Tell me about your performance review program.
8. What criteria are used to assess performance for this position?
9. What are the possibilities for advancement from this position?
10. When would the first salary review and increase occur?
11. What percentage of time will be spent traveling?
12. In an average week how many hours of work are expected?
13. How do you handle overtime?
1. What medical plan(s) is offered?
Is it a major medical, HMO, PPO, self-insured, or is there
2. What is the cost of my monthly contribution?
3. Is there a waiting period before coverage begins? (Preexisting
conditions are no longer a concern, insurance companies must
cover it all.)
4. Does the company offer Dental, Optical, or Long Term Disability
and what is my cost?
5. Do they offer a 401k plan and is it a company-matched fund?
When would I be eligible to sign up and what do they match?
6. Is there a pension plan and how does it work?
7. How many paid holidays are there?
8. When would I be eligible for vacation and how does it accrue?
9. Are there any paid sick/personal days?
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The follow-up letter is a wonderful
tool. Thanking them for the opportunity to interview is
the catalyst for the letter, but it can communicate so much
more than just "thank you". It is an opportunity
to communicate why you are a fit for the position and why
you are interested. You may be the first candidate interviewed
and this helps to keep you in the forefront of their minds.
22 Work Way
Any City, IN 46802
Thank you for the opportunity
to interview for the Systems Administrator position. I am
confident my prior experience will allow me to be immediately
productive in this role. Having spent ten years supporting
the AIX operating system and networks, I feel I bring the
expertise to the department that you need at this time.
The strategic direction for new technology that you outlined
fits my career goals and I hope to be working with you in
integrating the new technology into your environment. If
there is any further information you need from me to complete
your selection process, please let me know.
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You do not have to share the
information about where you are going or the salary amount
you accepted. It is best to avoid sharing all of the problems
you identified with the company or the management. You may
need them in the future as a reference and it is best to
leave on favorable terms. The sample letter below will help
you avoid the uncomfortable counter offer sessions and leave
the company with a positive image. If your employer persists
in asking you to reveal information about your new situation,
you may tell them that the opportunity is advancing your
career and you will not change your mind. This sample reiterates
the positive and negates the negative. Avoid using words
like regretfully which might encourage a counter offer.
You are moving forward in your best interest.
22 Work Way
Any City, IN 46802
Thank you for all of the support
and assistance you have provided during my employment with
ABC Company. Our relationship is one that I value and I
am thankful for the opportunity to have been associated
with you and ABC Company. However, I am resigning my position
effective December 31, 1999.
I will be happy to assist however
possible to ensure a smooth transition with my departure.
Thank you for the many opportunities afforded me during
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It may be more comfortable to
stay in your current position than it is to make a career
change because of the many unknowns about a new opportunity.
A counter offer allows you to retreat to the comfort of
the familiar and escape from the fear of the unknown. The
recognition and kudos received during the counter offer
process can create a warm and fuzzy feeling and/or be emotionally
taxing. "Gee, I didn't know how much they really needed
me or appreciated me. How much more can I make and keep
my tenure?" Most often, the counter offer is a temporary
"Band-Aid" as statistics indicate that those who
accept the counter offer leave the company voluntarily or
are terminated within six months to a year later. Seriously
consider why you were originally choosing to seek other
opportunities and remember that when the current opportunity
is gone, it is gone. Some other issues to consider before
accepting a counter offer:
1. The real reason(s) you wanted
to leave in the first place will still exist.
2. Your loyalty will now be under scrutiny. (Now who will
get that great project or promotion?)
3. If the company needs to downsize, who will go first?
4. Your relationships with managers and co-workers will
always reflect your attempt to leave, and never be the same.
5. Many companies extend the counter offer and then immediately
start a search to replace you.
6. Where do you think the money comes from for that nice
increase? Usually it is your next raise early. (All companies
7. You made a decision in your best interest and now you
are allowing the company to change your decision by offering
you promises of increases, or maybe a promotion which were
only offered to you because of your resignation. If you
accept a counter offer, don't count on a resignation threat
to generate a second counter offer. (What will you have
to do next time for your contributions to be recognized?)
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Offers many resources to help with a move, including a salary
calculator, reports on local schools and side-by-side city
comparison including population statistics, a crime index,
cost of living analysis and major employers.
Locate a new home to buy or an apartment to rent.
Works with candidate to assist in the relocation process and
provides a detailed cost of living analysis between locations.
Email for information.
An online personality temperament test.
Links to 7500 web sites from 400 U.S. cities. A great place
to find out more about the city that interests you.
Interactive maps and driving directions are just two of the
many things this site offers.
Use this site for help with spelling and grammar to complete
Considering relocation? Learn about a location's climate at
This site can help you locate an address or zip code.
Register of American Manufacturers
This site can help you learn more about a specific company.
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