What Kind of Resume Works for You?

July 31st, 2015

Traditional, business-standard resume formatting follows a time-tested set of organizational principles. This kind of resume usually extends no longer than two full pages, and it begins with the candidate’s name and contact information arranged in eye-catching way at the top of the page. The heading is followed by a brief summary of the candidate’s profile and target job, and the summary is followed by a subsection titled “education”. After describing his or her educational credentials, the candidate drafts a “work history” section, in which previous positions are listed chronologically, with the most recent at the top of the list. The resume ends with a final subsection for “special skills”.

But this is by no means a rigid format, and there are plenty of reasons why candidates may choose to vary from this well marked path. If you’re looking for work, here are some of the common alterations that might be better suited to your needs.

“Objective” instead of “Summary”

A “summary” emphasizes your most important credentials and the key aspects of your work history that employers may find valuable. But an “objective” focuses on the kind of job you’re looking for an the direction in which you’d like to take your career. Summaries document the past, while objectives focus on the future. The first may work well for experienced candidates, but the second may be the right choice for those with limited or no professional experience.

Relevance instead of chronology

While the standard work history section lists positons in chronological order, it’s also perfectly reasonable to list past positions by relevance instead. This may be useful for those who are currently working in non-relevant or stepping stone positions, paying the bills while they search for something better.

Ten pages instead of one or two

Most resumes stop after two pages. But if you just can’t find a way to tell your story in such a limited space, that’s okay. This often applies to academic positions that require long documents listing coursework in detail. These are usually referred to as curriculum vitae, or CVs. They accomplish the same goals and send the same message as a resume, but they require a little more breathing room.

Online instead of offline

Some candidates like to supplement their formal resumes with an online version, which can include supplemental material, graphs, photos, video footage, and links to completed work. If you choose this option, submit a formal resume as well. Just make sure that your contact information contains a URL that can lead employers to your online document.

For more on how to customize your resume to meet your specific job search needs, reach out to the experienced staffing team at PSU.

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Five Interview Questions to Ask a Sales Candidate

July 24th, 2015

As you sit down to interview each one of your top contenders for an open sales position, make sure you add these questions to your list. Open-ended, behavior-based questions like these can encourage your candidate to speak about her experience and skills in her own words. As she answers, you can read between the lines to gain more information about her readiness for the job.

“Describe the biggest mistake you’ve ever made during a sales call. What were the circumstances and how did the story end?”

As you ask this question, watch out for candidates who can’t seem to recall a single mistake or who claim they’ve never made one. These candidates are trouble, since they lack self-awareness and they may have brittle egos and an inability to learn from their mistakes. They may also respond poorly to criticism. Listen closely to candidates who are unafraid to share their mistakes and who demonstrate a clear ability to learn from these incidents and then place them in the past.

“Would you consider yourself more of a leader or a follower?”

The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems, because everyone leads under some circumstances and follows under others. Great candidates move fluidly back and forth between the two and can’t easily preference one over the other. But they respect the question and the intention behind it, and they think carefully before providing an introspective answer.

“What advice would you give to new sales associates who are just starting out in the business?”

Of course this question only applies to mid-career sales pros, not recent graduates or new recruits. But it can reveal plenty about a candidate’s basic philosophy and approach to client management. Again, listen carefully for signs of a candidate who knows how to take risks, make mistakes, bounce back, and learn from experience.

“What do you know about our product lines?”

This can be considered a trick question, since most candidates can’t be expected to come to every interview with hours and weeks of research under their belts. But be impressed if the candidate actually does seem to possess an understanding of your pipelines and your brand.

“Here are some of the biggest challenges you’ll face on our team: (Insert some details about your products or client base). How do you think you’ll handle these issues?”

If the candidate seems unfazed or even excited to tackle these challenges, that’s a great sign. If not, make note of how much thought and honesty she brings to her answer. You’ll need candidates who can think their way through problems and come up with potential solutions in real time.

For more on how to get the most out of your sales interviews, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

Who Should You Use as References?

July 17th, 2015

When you’re asked to submit a collection of references and their phone numbers to a potential employer, you’ll need to think carefully about every name you add to the list. Recognize that these people will be taking on a heavy responsibility as far as your career prospects are concerned; when your potential employers call, these people should be ready to pick up the phone and put themselves in your corner. And since this may not be as easy as it sounds, you’ll want to choose references with a range of overlapping skills and character traits. Start with these five.

Choose a reference who knows you personally.

At least one of your references should be a former (or current) boss or supervisor who has had plenty of opportunities to watch you work. This person should be close with you and should know you well, but should also be able to discuss your qualities from the perspective of a manager or authority figure.

Choose a reference with higher stature.

While your immediate supervisor may have intimate familiarity with your working style, he or she may not be far away from you in terms of the company hierarchy. So you’ll also want to choose someone who holds a prominent position and speaks with a level of distinction and gravitas. The CEO, CIO, or president of your company may not know you quite as well, but her voice will carry a certain weight.

Choose an expert in your field or industry.

Consider listing a former professor, a professional mentor, or someone with an in-depth understanding of your field and a long track record of experience in this industry. If you can have a specialist vouch for you, you’ll inspire confidence when it comes to your area of expertise.

Choose someone who can think quickly and solve problems.

Most employers don’t just limit their reference checks to a series of yes or no questions. Often, employers like to ask tricky, open-ended questions that can allow them to read between the lines and gain a nuanced answer that’s more than just a blankly positive blurb. For example, make sure your reference answer a question like this: “Please name one task or responsibility that would hand off to someone else instead of this candidate.”

Choose references who enthusiastically support your career plans.

Neutral, non-committal references are often considered red flags by hiring managers, so make sure your references are ready to give you a glowing review. And of course, choose references who will go out of their way to return the manager’s calls or make themselves available for a conversation.

For more on how to choose your references and create an application that sets you apart, contact the job search experts at PSU.

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How to Compete for College Hires

July 10th, 2015

When it comes to staffing entry level positions, soon-to-be college graduates usually fit the bill on several levels: They’re affordable, since they’re looking for any opportunity that can help them launch a long term career. They’re proven and tested, since they’ve just completed four years of determined study, requiring diligence, native intelligence, and follow-though. And they represent a potential long term relationship; if both parties treat each other with respect, this initial position could become an in-house promotion, and then another, and another.

So how can you position yourself as an attractive option for applicants with newly minted degrees? Here are a few ways to scoop up these candidates before your competitors get to them.

Take branding seriously.

New graduates don’t have much life experience, so most of their career decisions are based on scenarios inspired by TV, rumors, and their own imagined visions of the future. They want to work for companies that might look impressive on a resume, and they want employers who can provide experience that can be leveraged into future opportunities. What these things actually mean, nobody knows. But these are the magical factors that can boost a company’s appeal in the eyes of talented young candidates. Frame your company to fit this image, and project that image into the world using all the tools at your disposal, including social media.

Don’t neglect salary.

Ambitious, inexperienced candidates will happily work for exposure, glamour, the prospect of future opportunity, a chance at fame, a chance to help others, personal fulfillment, and a host of other factors that don’t immediately appear to include money. But look again. Scratch the surface, and these dreamy candidates are also practical adults who have no intention of working for less than their skills are worth. They may accept a lowball salary offer at first, but they’ll leave as soon as they find something better.

Move quickly.

Once you’ve attracted a pool of resumes, move quickly to narrow the pool, schedule interviews (two rounds at the most), and make your decision. Don’t drag your feet or allow critical paper work to get caught in bureaucratic bottlenecks or put on hold until key personnel return from vacation. Younger candidates make fast decisions, and if you hope to bring them onboard, you’ll need to keep up. If you leave them waiting by the phone, prepare to lose them.

Focus on your workplace culture.

Attracting candidates will only represent half of your battle. Once they’re on board, you’ll need to put some effort into retention. New graduates won’t put up with a toxic company culture, at least not for long. Shape your workplace into a respectful environment that rewards teamwork and attention to detail.

For more on how to attract the recent college graduates that can help your company grow, reach out to the staffing team at PSU.

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