What is Your Resume Writing IQ?
Most job applicants cannot pass a pop quiz on their own resume. Resume writing is not just about looking good. You better be informed about what you have included and be ready to back yourself up.
Are You Ready for the Resume Writing Pop Quiz?
Many employers will be giving you a quiz at your interview. They will have specific questions prepared taken directly from your submission. If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, most employers will cut your time short. If you do not know yourself and your experience well, you will appear that you are unprepared, not knowledgeable, or even worse; untruthful.
After years of hiring and conducting interviews, I have found that more than half of job hunters could not adequately answer questions about their own resume. I would prepare questions for each person before they arrived. Every answer was found on their resumes. Here are some of my actual questions and some typical answers I received while interviewing:
Me: “I am impressed that in your last position you helped increase annual revenues by… how much was it?”
Applicant: (looking stunned) “I think it was more than 50%, maybe 52% something like that.”
(In this case the figure was actually 5.2%)
Me: “What was your grade average at Princeton?”
Applicant: “Over 3, I believe.”
Me: “What years were you at Cisco Systems?”
Applicant: “Four or Five.”
I repeated my questions to allow for nerves and received the same answers. While those three incidents involve numbers, there were many interviews where applicants seemed to be unaware of, unprepared to provide specific examples of, or unable to answer any questions about, their own knowledge and experience.
Me: “Would you tell me about how you often took the initiative to start projects on your last job?”
(Resume stated: “often took the initiative for projects”)
Applicant: “I need to think about that one.”
Me: “How did you create a cost effective PPC campaign for your company that had a 4.6% annual sales conversion rate?”
Applicant: “Um, well, um, that involved working extra hours as I am not opposed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
That answer might give an employer the impression of dishonesty. While this applicant did attempt to turn a lack of preparedness into a positive answer, the answer ruled him out of the running.
While you might look great on paper, you better be prepared to answer questions about your statements. Prepare as many questions as you can about your knowledge, skills, ability, and education. If you make statements that cite examples, answer with one to three sentences that can explain or support your resume. Keep your answers short. One of the top interview mistakes job hunters make is talking too much.
You Can Often Cheat!
Make sure you know your own resume and have a copy in front of you at the interview (this is usually acceptable.) Having two copies is even better, just in case the interviewer asks for one.
Use your copy just in case you cannot remember something. You still need to be well rehearsed. Do not rely on reading your answers. This will make you look just as unprepared.
Being able to respond accurately and relevantly with short answers to an employer’s questions is vital for a job candidate to keep from being eliminated. Refrain from talking about anything that is not relevant to the question. This is easier when you have prepared possible questions and rehearsed answers.
Keep in mind that job interviews are not just about you, they are your opportunity to learn more about the position and the company. Having questions of your own prepared is also important.
The timing of your questions is crucial. Asking a question immediately after responding with an answer to one of their questions can put you at an advantage. In some cases, this can help your image and relax the interviewer. If the interviewer welcomes your question and spends time answering, this might reduce the number of questions you will be asked.
Interviewer: “How is your attention to detail?”
Applicant: “My skills include a highly developed attention to detail as my last job involved the calibrating of back up mechanical traffic control instruments. Does your position require this level of attention to detail?”
You should try this once and gauge the interviewer’s response. You can judge whether or not you should be asking a question on the tail of your answer by the behavior of the interviewer. If the interviewer immediately answers your question without looking perturbed you might continue asking questions after answering. If the interviewer says something to the effect of “there will be time for questions later,” refrain from this technique.
When you go to an interview, be prepared for a pop quiz. Know your own facts and figures, the dates and time periods, and be ready to provide specific examples and backup for your statements. Have specific questions ready to ask the interviewer. When you walk into an interview with confidence, you will most always do better. This is one pop quiz you should ace.
by Phil Baker
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