Interviews and Resumes

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In this episode, Steve talks with Art about resume writing, job interviews and other aspects of finding a job.

STEVE: Hi Art.

ART: Good afternoon Steve.

STEVE: Hi there, do you mind if I come into your office and bother you a little bit?

ART: Sure go right ahead.

STEVE: Just thought I would pick your brains a little bit on the issue of people looking for jobs and what kinds of things people should bear in mind both in terms of their resume and then when they finally get a job interview?

ART: I certainly think when preparing your resume you should be clear and brief and to the point.Certainly you want to put your best foot forward. Keep in mind that most people looking at resumes; it’s not just your resume they’re looking at; they’ve got hundreds of them and so if you have a lot of volume there that sort of gets people side-tracked; it probably is not going to make it to the top of the pile. So certainly be clear and concise.

STEVE: That’s a very interesting point and I must say I agree because I have looked at resumes. Short is good.

ART: Short is very good!

STEVE: Short is very good especially if you have a lot of resumes to go through, yes you’re not impressed by 3 pages.

ART: No, resumes should ideally be one page, page and a half.No more than two pages.

STEVE: Now I know that some people, particularly people who come from a different culture, are sometimes told that in Canada you have to sell yourself; in a North American society you can’t be too modest. But, by the same token, very often if I see claims on a resume: I am clever, I am excellent, I am very capable, I am this, I am that. It doesn’t create a very good impression. So how do you strike a good balance between being too modest and or being obviously, you know, overblown?

ART: That’s a hard one, but I guess the best thing is to try to put yourself in the person reading this resume, in their shoes. Is it believable? Is what you’re putting out believable?If you’re getting a little too carried away then chances are that if you can see that, then anybody reading it can see it as well. But getting back to the point of the brevity is, you know, just try to do the highlights of what jobs you’ve worked for and what community activities you’ve been involved in and hobbies and so forth. Don’t bother telling a person that you can run a Xerox machine because in this day and age that’s assumed that you can.

STEVE: But that raises an interesting point too. A lot of people say they are good with computers because they can use Microsoft Word.Again one has to be careful, I guess a person would have to be very specific in terms of what those skills are.

ART: Well certainly and maybe just sort of highlighting what the programs you are proficient with. However that can be a double-edged sword as well if you don’t list one of the programs that your potential employer is looking for. So again when preparing a resume try to make it as personal or adjust it to the job that you are applying for so one size doesn’t fit all. You know, try to do some research. Not always possible but if you can try to find out something about the company by going to do the library and doing those kinds of searches.Sort of try to tailor it to the job specifications so that if they’re asking for a Project Accountant don’t tell them that you’re a Professional Engineer or something like that with accounting skills. Just make sure that your skills that come forward are those that one looking for a Project Accountant would match to that skill set.

STEVE: One other thing too is skills are one thing but I guess the potential employer is always looking to see what sort of personality, what sort of character the applicant has. Sometimes if a person is missing one or two specific skills but has a very good attitude, or is very positive, or makes a good impression this can be more important than the skills.How does one deal with that?

ART: Certainly make sure that you proofread your resume.Spelling mistakes on a resume are a killer as are bad grammatical usage. So it’s not just that you should proofread your resume, get somebody else that is good at proofreading resumes to read it for you because often you’re too close. You’ve spent all this time putting this resume together; you just don’t see the inconsistencies, or you don’t see the spelling mistakes or you don’t see the bad grammar or whatever.

STEVE: It certainly does, because, as you say, we get lots of applicants and we’re looking for reasons to reject people almost.

ART: You’re looking for reasons to, sort of, in your mind, get the cream of the crop so any mistake can be a death knell on a resume.

STEVE: Now how about when you get into the interview?What should you be thinking of in the job interview itself?

ART: Well certainly I think because you don’t know who you’re going to be interviewed by it’s best to err on the side of being conservative, so you know, if you have earrings you can or cannot take off, especially if you’re a guy, it’s probably best to leave those off, you never know. Certainly be well presented; I don’t say that you have to have an expensive suit on but make sure what you wear is clean and well-pressed, and that you’ve taken care to clean your fingernails and stuff like that. Basic personal hygiene goes a long way in the interview situation! Once you’re in this situation try (it’s harder for some people than others) to be as relaxed as possible.Cause somebody that comes across as being uptight in the interview situation, the interviewer doesn’t know quite how to take that. Is it because this person is just nervous or what are they trying to hide? You know?

STEVE: OK those are some good suggestions. So have you got any travel plans in the near future?

ART: Unfortunately not I just see a lot of work ahead of me for the next couple of months until we coast into April 30th which is tax time in Canada.

STEVE: OK thank you very much.

ART: OK.

STEVE: Bye.

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