Friday, September 30, 2011

How To Get Hired - Resume Advice from a Small Business Owner

As I would imagine most small business owners would attest, human resources is one of the most difficult aspects of owning your own business. We have had the good fortune of really putting together a great, cohesive team. Every few months, for one reason or another, we find ourselves again short staffed. (For those of you who know Andrea, this is not her position. We will always have a place for her in our company! How could you not!?) So, last week, we listed a job on Career Builder for a New Home Sales Consultant. Since posting, we have received 111 applications and we'll likely get another 150-200 before the posting expires.

Here is the link to the job posting...

I feel it is my duty to share with my friends some pearls of wisdom that I have observed this week (and over the last four years). I am by no means an expert, but have probably reviewed 1,000 resumes and I do know that there are quite a few things you can do that will truly put you miles ahead of your competition.

1. PROOFREAD!!!! I know this seems basic, but please, I implore you, do NOT have typos on your resume and cover letters. If you do nothing else after reading this post, please go do this with your resume. Read it over at least three times (OK - even once would have solved a lot of these problems) then give it to a friend or five to read. While being typo-free doesn't automatically shoot your resume to the top of the stack, it will avoid the immediate reject pile. Here are just a handful of typos I have seen...

  • City of residence spelled wrong
  • State abbreviation not capitalized along with a missing zip code
  • My name spelled wrong - this is bad
  • My company's name spelled wrong - this is really bad
  • Various words spelled wrong - spell check is your friend
  • Poor grammar 
  • Phone numbers with dashes incorrectly spaced
  • Incomplete email addresses
  • Incorrect Phone Numbers

2. Add a cover letter, but only if it's a good one and you take the time to customize it for the job. (Again, please proofread and make sure the customized fields are actually complete - i.e. name, phone, company, etc.) Don't go on and on about how good you are at XYZ accounting system if that's not one of the requirements of the listed position. I will say that probably less than 10% of applicants do actually send along a cover letter. Use this opportunity to emphasize why you would be a good fit, especially if your work experience isn't an exact match. A reasonably good and customized cover letter generally shoots you to the top of my list, regardless of the resume. 

3. Customize your objective. Fit it to the specific job to which you are actually applying. Don't tell me your objective is to work for a Fortune 500 firm as a business analyst when you're applying to my company of four employees. And, don't write, "Seeking a career in the (administrative, dental, aeronautics, or anything else as equally unrelated) field" if it's not the field of the job description. Keep it simple and just slightly specific. Here would be a perfect objective for our particular job - "To obtain a challenging position in New Home Sales with a growing company in order to best utilize my sales skills and outgoing personality." Even if your experience (i.e. - elementary teacher) doesn't lend itself to the particular job (i.e. - New Home Sales), but you think you'd be a good fit, don't leave your normal objective in the resume. 

4. At least pretend like you will actually stay at the job for more than six months. I literally groan out loud at some of the objectives I read. "To obtain a job at an optometrist's office in order to further my opportunities in the industry." My personal favorite - "To continue my education in order to pursue my career in (fill in the blank with some totally unrelated profession)." You might as well just say "To find a position at which I can milk a salary while I wait for something better to come along and, when that time comes, you will be lucky to get a two week notice." 

5. What the recruiters tell you is true - I spend less than 30 seconds on each resume. Well, that is unless it is good. I can usually tell in the first few lines if I'm interested or not. See numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4. This is not cruel, it is just a necessity when reviewing so many applicants.

6. Respond appropriately. If the listing says, No Phone Calls Please, then don't call. It's just annoying. And, always send your resume electronically if possible. Faxes just don't cut it these days. And, if possible, PDF your resume and attach that instead of a Word document. The formatting just never seems to come through correctly and it will always look right in a PDF. 

7. Obtain a professional email address. There is no excuse - they're free. Even if your nickname and personal email address is, that doesn't mean your future employer needs to know about it.

All kidding aside, please don't get me wrong, I review a lot of good resumes. And, I'm sure some of the people making these errors would make great employees. But, I haven't yet determined a way to sort those out. My time is limited and I will probably only interview 5-10 of the probable 300 applicants over the phone. I will be lucky to conduct 3 face to face interviews from those people. Your resume needs to be perfect and great, not close and good. 

I do not envy anyone in the job market these days. If I were back out there on the hunt, I would likely make a tremendous amount of changes to my resume as well. It is my hope that these few simple changes will really make a difference and send you to the top of the pile instead of just in the mediocre middle. 

Stay tuned for more chapters in this series as we've only just begun down the path of hiring. I'm sure I'll come up with more advice as we enter the interviewing stage.

No comments:

Post a Comment