Alan Carniol is the Founder of InterviewSuccessFormula.com, an online training program that helps job seekers deliver powerful answers that prove why they are the right person for the job. Follow Alan and Interview Success Formula on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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Imagine sitting in a job interview. You’re already nervous. You know you have something to contribute. You really admire the company. However, when the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, you buckle. You realize telling your story in person is quite difficult. You stumble or forget the most important pieces of your personal story, potentially damaging your interview experience. Now what?
We create stories about ourselves in mere minutes online in social profiles or blog “about” pages. Why is it so hard to tell the same story in person? Perhaps the solution is to merge your two stories, your online self and offline self, together in order to optimize your image. The following are a few tips that can help you to craft a compelling personal story for job interviews.
Your Two Stories
According to Rafe Gomez, author of What’s In It For Me: A Powerful New Interview Strategy to Get Hired In Today’s Challenging Economy, the trick is to create validations.
“The online story — blog posts, articles, etc. — should validate the assertions and promises made in the offline story — resume — if you’re seeking to leave a positive and memorable impression in a job interview. For instance, if you’re presenting yourself in interviews as being an experienced sales executive who has delivered results for your employers, your online story should support this assertion,â€ Gomez says.
Further, blending the two stories will back up any career history claims you’ve made during the interview. “Online mentions of, references about, or discussion of your accomplishments will serve to legitimize your offline claims, and make it indisputable that you could be an invaluable addition to your interviewer’s organization.â€
According to TheLadders job search expert Amanda Augustine, making the two as similar as possible can make telling your story more interesting.
“Your online presence and interview responses give you a chance to provide more color to your career history. You can go into more detail and really show your passion for a particular industry or company in ways that aren’t possible in a resume. However, the bottom line is that both stories should be similarly positioned,â€ Augustine says.
Look at your interview story as a way to “sell” your accomplishments, strengths and motivations to the interviewer. By doing so, you clearly show why you’re worthy of the position.
“Remember that as a job seeker, you must develop a personal advertising campaign to tell prospective employers and recruiters what you’re great at and passionate about, and how that’s of value to an organization. Your online presence, resume, and how you pitch yourself during networking events and interviews are all components of this campaign. Each of these components needs to tell one consistent story to build a strong personal brand,â€ Augustine explains.
Be Sure Your Story Checks Out
A recent JobVite survey indicated nearly four out of five hiring managers and recruiters check candidates’ social profiles. It’s possible you will be researched online before your interview. If your offline story does not match your online one, the interviewer may challenge you.
“Before an interview, make sure you Google your name so you know what any recruiter or hiring manager will see when they search for you (and trust me, they will). If any damaging results show up, now you have a chance to try and remove them or at least prepare a response for the interview. The worst thing you can do is look surprised or taken off guard when an interviewer challenges your story based on something they found online,” says Augustine.
It’s also important to spin the conversation back to your accomplishments if things start to go sour. According to George Dutch of JobJoy, flush out concern by asking what caught their attention and if they have any specific concerns about your capabilities.
“Understanding the interview as a risk assessment exercise helps you respond appropriately to these kinds of challenges. It’s not personal — they don’t know you — it’s them doing their due diligence,” Dutch says.
Creating your interview story in a digital era means more than telling the interviewer about yourself. Merge your online and offline stories to create a more cohesive story. Doing so helps the interviewer understand why you’re right for the job.
What do you think? What are some other ways to create your interview story in a digital era?
There’s a lot of resume advice out there — and some of it conflicting. Which makes it pretty hard for you, the job seeker, to know what to do. Should you stick to the one-page format, or is it OK to veer onto the second page? Will a creative resume catch the eye of a hiring manager, or do most people still prefer the tried-and-true traditional layout?
We know it’s confusing, so we’ve broken down the five most common resume debates. Here’s what the experts have to say—and how you can read between the lines and send the best resume for the job.
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Let’s start with one of the most hotly debated issues . While one camp believes that a candidate’s story can definitely be told in the confines of one page (and gets annoyed when it isn’t), other recruiters say that a second (or third) page is fair game, as long as you make every word and bullet point count. Some even truly despise the one-page rule. (“If I had the names and addresses of every so-called expert who keeps telling professionals that you must have a one-page resume at all costs, I’d egg or toilet paper their houses in the dark of night,” says our friend Jenny Foss, founder of recruiting firm JobJenny and author of The Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit.)
What Should You Do?
Here’s the truth.What’s much more important than the length of your resume is that it tells a story to the hiring manager about why you’re the right fit for the position. This usually doesn’t mean listing everything you’ve ever done for every position; rather, you want to pick and choose the parts of your background that are most compelling, and make sure they don’t get lost in pages and pages of background information. (Fact: Recruiters spend an average of six seconds on most resumes.)
That said, if you’re applying for an upper-level management gig or a position that requires a wide breadth of skill sets, telling that story means you’ll want to opt for more detail rather than less. Translation: Probably more than one page.
In addition, it’s important to do your research and poll friends and colleagues about your industry norms. In the IT and tech worlds, for example, more than two pages is totally normal (and expected). On the other hand, I know a consulting firm that tells its hiring managers to throw away any resume that comes in over one page. Try to feel out what you’re getting into — so you can target your resume accordingly.
You’ve likely heard about applicants using videos, infographics or other creative resume formats (origami, anyone?) these days. And with good reason! Thinking outside the bullet-pointed PDF can be an awesome way to stand out from the stack, especially when you’re applying to a startup or creative company or to a position that values design or interactive skills. “Doing extra credit like a video (even if it’s an unedited webcam clip) can go a long way in distinguishing yourself from other candidates,” says Steffi Wu, PR Lead at ZenPayroll.
That said, some hiring managers really still appreciate the good ol’ 8.5×11” piece of paper. If not done really well, a creative resume could go terribly wrong — I’ve seen (and tossed) more than one resume that used bad clip art, a rainbow of colors, or unfortunate photography and did far more harm to the job applicant than good.
“If you act like a clown or do something ludicrous just to stand out, then it’s disingenuous and can put people off,” echoes Dr. Michael Woodward, an executive coach author of The YOU Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy.
What’s more, a recent study showed that “…visual elements reduced recruiters’ analytical capability and hampered decision-making” and kept them from “locating the most relevant information, like skills and experience.” Not exactly what you’re going for.
What Should You Do?
When you’re in a creative field, applying for a creative role, or gunning for a highly competitive company, it’s definitely worth considering. Margot Leong got her dream job after sending an incredible Sliderocket presentation to startup Ridejoy — and we’re pretty sure that Robby Leonardi, creator of the coolest video-game-inspired resume we’ve ever seen, landed a job offer or 50.
Remember, though, at the end of the day, your skills and experience are what matters, so make sure that whatever format you choose showcases — rather than overshadows — them. Also, don’t even think about going down this path unless you’re willing to put in the time, creativity and design work (or the money to pay someone else) to make it truly awe-inspiring. A great traditional resume will be better than a mediocre creative one, every single time.
Common resume wisdom says to stick to a legible font that everyone uses, like Times New Roman or Arial, and basic formatting: Your name at the top of the page, followed by your work experience and bullet points — you know the drill.
But some of the most compelling resumes I’ve seen think outside the norm — and as a result, really do stand out in a huge stack of basic black-and-white resumes (take a look at some of these beauties). Stepping it up in the design department can also make you stand out as a candidate who really gets and appreciates aesthetics.
What Should You Do?
First, consider where you’re applying. A traditional law firm? You should probably stick to the basics. A creative (and competitive) place like Pinterest or Warby Parker, on the other hand, might really appreciate something a little more styled.
Then, think about your own skills as well. As Ryan Kahn, founder of the Hired Group and star of MTV’s HIRED, says, you should always seek to “maximize your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.” If you’re not a designer, spend your energy on crafting perfect bullet points, and skip the fancy formatting (or hire a designer or design-savvy friend to give your page a makeover).
And again, make sure you do it right. Use fonts that are clean and legible — doesn’t matter how pretty it is if a hiring manager’s going to have to squint to read it. Your resume should feel like a breath of fresh air, not a PITA to read. Oh, and PDF, PDF, PDF (that is, save it as one). It’s the only way to ensure that the font styling will show up the right way on any screen.
You’ve probably heard — consistently — to stick to the basics on your resume: Work experience, education, job-related skills, and professional awards and accolades. “Unless the hobbies are relevant to the types of positions you’re pursuing (or amazing, non-controversial conversation starters), leave them off,” says Foss.
But “the non-traditional camp, of which I am a proud member, dissents in part,” says recruiting consultant Michael Wade. “Our view is that there is nothing wrong with an applicant disclosing some personal interests, so long as those inclusions are not bizarre or distasteful.” (True story: A friend of mine added “ice cream making” to his interests section, and it was brought up in every interview he went on.)
What Should You Do?
When it’s relevant for the position, go for it. Adding your guitar playing abilities to your resume when you’re applying to an entertainment company or your photography hobby to a social media role makes a lot of sense — and can nudge you above other candidates with similar work experience. Sharing your scrapbooking skills with a health care organization? Probably won’t have the same effect.
You might also want to get a little personal when you’re applying to a company that clearly cares about its employees’ lives outside of work. Some good cues: The company blog talks as much about picnics and happy hours as it does product updates, or it has a fun-loving team profiled onThe Muse. “I’ve heard employers say they are tired of seeing cookie-cutter candidates. They are pleased when an applicant comes along who appears to be human,” adds Wade.
“Updated” Job Title,
“Usually, job applicants list their ‘official’ job titles on their resumes,” says Sean Weinberg onSimplyHired. Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, “the problem with doing this is that most job titles are bland, and your work comes off as equally uninteresting.”
Weinberg — and many other career experts — advocate updating your job title to reflect what you actually did. Say, for instance, your official title is associate producer. That could mean a whole range of things depending on your company, your industry and your role. But adding some descriptors — “associate social media content producer,” for example, can tell a hiring manager a lot more about what you did — and catch his or her eye much more quickly.
What Should You Do?
If you have a vague or unique-to-your-company job title, this approach can be incredibly helpful. In a previous role, for example, my company didn’t use the word “manager,” so my title was “marketing lead” — a term that, as I learned, didn’t work very well in keyword-sensitive applicant tracking systems. When I edited my title and used “marketing manager” instead — I got many more calls back.
But here’s the rub: Remember that employers (very) often call previous employers to fact-check the information you’ve provided on your resume and in your application. So don’t ever update your title to something so obscure, inflated or, well, wrong, that your former employers wouldn’t be comfortable saying you did it.
Advice on your resume, like anything else, isn’t going to be spot-on for 100% of people, 100% of the time. The bottom line? Do your research, then think about what will work best for you — and the positions to which you’re applying.
When you’re starting a business—or even just thinking about it—the advice you’ll get again and again is to find a mentor. But here’s what’s more important: finding the right mentor.
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The mentor-mentee relationship is a lot like dating. You must share mutual interests, really want to spend time together, and be equally committed. It takes time to identify the perfect fit, and to be honest, sometimes there’s not a match. There are also fundamental qualities in your mentor that will determine whether or not you’ll get the most from the relationship.
While running my own business, I’ve been fortunate to have several excellent mentor relationships. Looking back, here are the three things that I’ve seen really ensure success.
The most important thing to find in a mentor is chemistry. There has to be a fit between the two of you if the relationship is going to work.
What does this mean, exactly? First, there should be at least one major interest that the two of you share. What’s more, though, it’s important that your mentor shares some of the same ideas and views that you do on that topic.
If, for example, your business mentor is a sales expert and a firm believer that the customer is always right, but you believe that focusing on customer support is a waste of time, it’s unlikely the two of you will have a lasting relationship. Even if you don’t know what your beliefs are on a particular topic right away, getting to know your mentor’s views on issues you believe are important will be key to finding the right one.
When I think about the best mentors I’ve had, it always came down to commitment—or how much time they were willing to spend with me. Because successful people are usually good at what they do, their time is in constant demand. But if a mentor is willing to carve out even a small slice of his or her day to chat with you, that can make all the difference. It shows their commitment and helps you gain a lot out of the relationship. It allows you to really learn and ask questions. And it provides a sense of support should something come up down the road.
One of my mentors today travels a lot. Although his family and home are in Silicon Valley, he travels to Europe once a month, sometimes for a few weeks at a time, to meet with his team. Despite his hectic schedule, though, he always makes time to speak with me, even if we have to do a quick Skype call at the crack of dawn. For me, that sends a message that he is willing to put in the time even if he’s on a different continent. And that’s exactly what you want.
Yeah, yeah, it sounds cheesy and weird, but it’s true: Honesty and integrity are important in a business mentor.
Maybe it seems obvious, but what I’m really saying here is that you don’t want a mentor who is going to tell you what you want to hear just to make you feel good. If you are going to get any real learning out of a mentorship, you need to have someone who will be honest with you and let you know when you’re moving in the wrong direction. Constant flattery and sugar coating will not help you learn.
This may also mean you need to build up thicker skin to take the criticism, but if it’s done correctly, the result will not only be constructive, but eye-opening. One of my mentors, for example, is great at calling me out and being brutally honest, even when I disagree. Recently, he told me it was time to stop being a founder and start being a CEO. At first I didn’t see the difference, but it was actually a great wake-up call—and I needed it.
Because of his candidness, I have a tremendous amount of trust in him and usually seek his advice on the most important topics. I know that he will always shoot me straight—and that’s invaluable in a business setting.
Many people think you can just go out and ask someone to be your mentor—but that’s sort of like proposing on the first date without buying dinner first. Really, these relationships often evolve spontaneously over time, when it becomes obvious that someone has all of these qualities and is a fit to help guide you through your business. In fact, it hardly ever comes down to “looking” for a mentor at all. Mentors are usually people you respect and have worked with in the past. They’ve given you advice and somehow manage to be a person you go to often when you’re in a bind. Nothing needs to be said about the relationship—because it’s already there.