Categories
Career Coaching

Crafting the perfect resume and cover letter

There’s nothing worse than seeing a bright future in a candidate, then receiving a sub-par resume and cover letter on their behalf. Your resume is a representation of what you can bring to the table. Your cover letter should lead the recruiter/hiring manager to want to read your resume and learn about you as a person and employee. If one falls short, the other does too.

Crafting the perfect resume and cover letter isn’t as easy as it may seem. However, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it out to be. When crafting both, you want to remember:

  •  Maintain the same voice throughout. Standardizing your resume and cover letter to always be in the same tense is key and will keep you in the running. I’ve had multiple resumes come across my desk and if I see a lot of inconsistencies, I chuck it.
  • Include your “pitch” in both. A paragraph on who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for will help recruiters place you in the right position. You need to sell yourself, and this is the first step in doing so.
  • Be transparent. Include your social media handles, address, phone number, etc. By doing this, you are showing you have nothing to hide, that you can maintain a professional demeanor in and out of the office, and that you’re well connected.
  • Keep everything in order. If in the past you had a job that doesn’t 100% align with that job you’re applying for, keep it in there anyway. A hiring manager would rather see your honest work history as opposed to a gap in your work history. Also, having to explain in an interview that you did have a job during that time but didn’t want to include it can raise some red flags. Also, go backwards in time. The first job that should be on your resume is your most recent position. A recruiter/hiring manager shouldn’t have to scroll to the bottom of your resume to see what you’re currently doing.
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter to the market you are applying within. If you’re applying for a job as an analyst at a healthcare IT company, call out tasks that relate specifically to that industry or job-type. Too many times I get a standard resume across my desk and all I can think is, did they take the time to read the job description? Even worse, when I read a standard cover letter that has the wrong market highlighted throughout. Once again, you’re selling yourself, so put in the work.
  • Quality outshines quantity. A resume and cover letter doesn’t need to be too lengthy, in fact, a resume shouldn’t go over two pages if you have 10+ years of experience. Your cover letter isn’t your opportunity to write a memoir of your life. Remember that term “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid)? This is where it applies. Show your highlights, if you’re in sales, provide statistics. The easier it is to read your experience, the more likely you will get a call for an interview.
  • Make sure your resume represents you. You’re not writing a boring report about your findings – you’re writing about YOU. Make it sound like you, read as if you wrote it, and give it some flare. This may seem counterintuitive based on some of the bullets above, but you can convey who you are in short concise sentences while also giving the recruiter/hiring manager a taste of who you are.
  • Always include your achievements and awards. Recruiters and hiring managers want to not only know you have the experience, but you can execute as well. If you were a member of the National Honor Society and you are applying for your first job out of college, include it. It shows dedication to your education. If you completed an internship, include it, and talk about what you learned.
  • Watch your formatting. Use templates provided by Google and Microsoft. They make it so easy for you to focus more on the content, rather than the design. The templates are customizable (don’t like the color but the layout? Extremely easy change that will take five minutes once you’re done adding your information) and will save you time. It will also ensure that when you save the document and go back in, the formatting will be the same.
  • Depending on the industry you’re looking to gain employment in, you may also want to add a headshot. Most industries do not want or care about this, but if you’re a graphic designer or entering into an art-driven industry, it can definitely make you more memorable.

 This was one of the best cover letters that ever crossed my desk:

Dear Mr. Zides,

My name is Laura and I just graduated with my bachelor’s in communications with concentrations in Public Relations/Organizational Communication and Journalism from Babson College – go Beavers!

I came across the role of Marketing Strategist at CoreAxis and I was excited to see this opportunity was available. During my tenure at Babson, I interned at two major PR firms in Boston: Inkhouse and PAN Communications. During my time at Inkhouse, I was in charge of maintaining media packets for ten of their major clients, owned communication to those clients notifying them of all media that has been published on their behalf, as well as maintained and created lead generation lists for new clientele.

During my senior year internship with PAN Communications, I was able to take a more active role in research marketing. Additionally, I was part of greater discussions with the Director of Marketing and Director of Sales to find creative solutions to generate new business in outside-the-box and thoughtful ways – all while keeping costs down. I am proud to say that I led one of the email campaign initiatives, with minimal hand holding, that yielded five new clients.

I want to continue my work with lead generation and client communications, as well as learn more about marketing initiatives that can help a company grow. I am passionate about finding innovative ways to solve problems, increase sales, and create long-lasting relationships. I love to take on a new challenge and am a fast learner – you don’t need to tell me twice how to do something!

Attached, please find my resume. I am excited about this opportunity and look forward to discussing it. I am available whenever is best for you.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.

Best regards,

Laura

Why do I love this cover letter? Because I felt like I knew Laura by the end of it. I felt her passion and excitement. I appreciated her transparency on what she has learned and her willingness to learn more. I loved that she took the time to see we shared the same alma mater and she added “Go Beavers!” Did I hire her? You bet!

 When you can feel a person’s passion for the job, it is unmatched by years and years of experience with little to no excitement. Employers want to know that you are experienced, passionate, and malleable – not every company follows the same process and it’s important to show your flexibility.

I’m not going to put an entire resume on here because you can google resumes and get examples. However, here are a couple job descriptions that have stood out to me over the years:

  • Hiring a full-stack web developer:

Project Manager & Systems Administrator

  • Built numerous WordPress websites for Brazil-based clients.
  •  Liaised between the brand and upstream supply chain through the product development process.
  •  Conducted internal trade and health ministry research for international markets.
  •  Prepared in-house documentation including proposals, consultation reports, invoicing, formula spec sheets, and quoting forms.
  •  Filed for and successfully acquired numerous trademarks.
  • Hiring a technical writer:

Senior Technical Writer

  • Created, maintained, and managed (product) services Foreign Exchange, Economics, Commodities, Intelligence, and Vault Help Pages using XMetal and HDMS.
  • Created function overview and new enhancement walkthrough tours using Photoshop.
  • Managed the creation and release of the monthly newsletter.
  •  Designed the Global Product Documentation department’s summer internship program, then managed summer interns, their projects, and provided status reviews on their progress.
  •  Created the Global Analytics and Product Alignment statistics spreadsheet and process, then implemented across the Product Development department.
  •  Collaborated with Advanced Specialists to provide monthly statistics to companywide groups to maintain communication between departments and improve terminal functions.
  •  Designed and delivered training on terminal discoverability and internal function usage, including Confluence.
  •  Awards: 2014 Woman of the Year Nominee, 03/31/2014 Business and Technology Innovator Recipient
  • Hiring a marketing coordinator:

Marketing Coordinator

  • Assisted marketing director with creation of materials, such as flyers and incentives for clients using Photoshop. Yielding a 20% increase in clientele.
  • Wrote press releases and managed the firm’s social media accounts, reaching 250K followers.
  •  Edited and maintained external content on the firm’s website. Published new content weekly.
  •  Prepared proposals and scope of work documents.
  •  Tracked client survey records with an in-house CRM database.
  • Organized events and maintained guest lists. Performed event setup and breakdown. 

Why do I love these descriptions so much? Because they show versatility. Not only are they experts in the roles they’re applying for, but they collaborate with other departments, use multiple tools to do their jobs, and communicate with direct and concise details.

When it comes to your resume and cover letter, make sure they tell a story about what you can do and what you want. If you don’t perfect this part of your job search, you will have a hard time landing a position. My last bit of advice, always have an extra set of eyes take a look. With anything you create, you’re “in it” and it can be hard to see errors from the inside. No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean your resume and cover letter can’t be.

Categories
Career Coaching

The importance of having a mentor/career coach

The idea that you have to do things alone is a closed-minded concept – yep, I said it. Every great leader and businessman has had a mentor or career coach. Elon Musk has multiple mentors, including Larry Page of Google. Google and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai’s mentor is former Columbia University football coach turned business coach Bill Campbell. Campbell also mentored Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs. Warren Buffett’s mentor was Benjamin Graham.

What’s my point? Great minds lean on great minds. Great ideas stem not from one person, but the collective knowledge and creativity sparked amongst multiple people. So why wouldn’t you have a mentor or career coach?

Why you need a mentor

Here are the top reasons you need to invest in yourself with a mentor or career coach:

  • Mentors provide experience, information, and knowledge.
  • Mentors provide an outside perspective and let us know where we need improvement.
  • Mentors find ways to stimulate professional and personal growth.
  • Mentors offer encouragement to keep us going.
  • Mentors can be disciplinarians that help you create boundaries that we tend to not set for ourselves.
  • Mentors are a great sounding board and to run ideas by for an honest and unfiltered opinion.
  • Mentors are trusted advisors who advocate for you.
  • Mentors can help you connect to new people and networks to stimulate your growth.
  • Mentors have experiences and insights you can learn from, so you don’t make the same mistakes they have. Or, if you have made the same mistakes, they provide insight into how to get over the hump and back on the horse.

Someone once said to me, “Mark, isn’t having a mentor a sign of weakness?” I was taken aback by this question because the perception of what a mentor does can be misconstrued. A mentor is a benefit – a strength – a priceless commodity. Having a mentor shows you are aware that you alone cannot take on the world. Having a mentor shows you are open to other ideas, perspectives, and approaches in your professional and personal life.

Becoming Coach Zides

Early on in my career, I realized I love to help others advance. Is there self-gratification in it, of course. But there is nothing better than meeting someone early on in their career, or someone transitioning to a different career that wants to learn and grow and watching them act on their own lives.

As a mentor to a handful of millennials and gen-Zers, I take the approach of direct feedback – some may call it tough love. But like the terms says, it’s out of love and my desire to see my mentees grow. I lead by example and connect people with each other for the betterment of my mentees, while keeping in mind the network I have that can also help them grow. It takes a village.

I have even written a book on the advice I give to my mentees, highlighting how to kick off your career, maintain your career, grow, network, and even go off on your own ventures if that’s the end game. I provide support. I believe in not only self-advocacy, but advocating for people I see potential and drive in.

A good mentor possesses the willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise. They are willing to teach what they know and accept the mentee where they currently are in their professional development. We lead by example and demonstrate a positive attitude and act as a positive and influential role model.

How to get a mentor/career coach

Based on your skills, start looking around at your network and community around you. A mentor can come in the form of a family friend or member, past or current coworker or educator, someone in your college alumni network, or someone you have met at a networking or work event.

Mentors do not need to be executives of companies; they can be a few levels above you in their career. The reality is someone closer to your age in the same role who has been successful in their career growth can provide practical and relevant advice. On the other hand, someone twenty or thirty years your senior can provide a wealth of experience over decades of proven success. The goal is to be comfortable communicating with them your wants and needs, while remaining open to constructive feedback.

Remember, sometimes the truth hurts, and it’s up to you if you take it too personally. At the end of the day, when you build a relationship with a mentor or career coach, you are asking them to invest their time into your success. Sometimes the best mentor connects you with another mentor – yes, you can have more than one mentor! Multiple perspectives are only going to make you stronger and will help you learn how to work with different types of people, adjust your communication methods, and think outside the box.

To establish a relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You can ask a person directly, or you can start a conversation that leads to multiple conversations that organically fuses a mentor/mentee relationship. It depends on who you are asking and what you and they are comfortable with. Ask a potential mentor out to coffee to casually discuss work and challenges you are facing. When you do this, you may find they do not have the capacity to be your mentor. Or you may find they are exactly what you need. If you’re going with a more direct approach, be specific with what you are looking for and want out of this relationship – transparency is key. How is your potential mentor going to know the outcomes you want if you do not communicate them?

Always remember, there has to be give and take in the mentor/mentee relationship. If your career coach is going to provide guidance and feedback, self-awareness and personal growth need to be implemented on your end. No one wants to invest their energies into something or someone that is resistant to change.

Are you looking for a career coach or mentor? Mark Zides has decades of proven success helping others grow within their careers and making the right connections. Contact Coach Zides and see what he can do for you.

Categories
Interviewing

How to nail an interview

Interviews can be stressful, especially if you really want to land the job. When you interview, the recruiter/hiring manager is looking if your skills and experience align with the role, but also if you as a person fit in with the team/department you will be working with. Depending on the type of role you are interviewing for, they may be looking for a natural born leader, an outspoken thought generator, a highly effective communicator, a quiet analyst with a passion for statistics, a workhorse with a can-do attitude… it completely depends on the role, company, and team dynamic. There is no one-size-fits-all personality type for all roles, but what you can do is show them your authentic self while selling you to be the best fit.

When you go into an interview, there are questions that are standard that you will be asked, questions to see how you handle situations, questions to “weed out” toxic candidates, and questions that may throw you for a loop. I was once asked during an interview “if you were a superhero, which one would you be?” I couldn’t help but think to myself, what kind of question is that?! Why does it matter? The reality was, once I reflected on the interview, a question like that can show the interviewer how you think on the spot, the traits you admire most in a superhero, how you handle on-the-spot stressful experiences, and how you handle non-business discussions at work. I then started to ask that question when I started hiring people for my own company and it was always fun to hear what people had to say. It’s even more interesting when people do not have an answer and struggle to respond.

Here are two of my favorite answers:

  • Batman because he is an ordinary man without super powers but uses his personal wealth and political standing within the community to make it better.
  • Superman because he is overly powerful, has to control his own strengths, and always does good. He could destroy everyone and everything if he wanted, but he doesn’t because he proves people are intrinsically good. Also, he can fly!

For the record, here was the worst answer I ever received:

  • Roadrunner because he’s nonstop, fast, and always tricks Wile E Coyote.

But the point of this post is not to go over the best and worst superheroes (or cartoon characters), it’s to help you understand how you can nail a job interview and get one step closer to a callback for another round or interviews or a job offer.

Practice makes perfect

When you’re an athlete, you practice your craft. You eat healthy, work on your cardio, build your muscles, practice muscle memory, and strive for perfection. The same goes for a job interview. If you practice answering interview questions, you are bound to be more comfortable, and ultimately turn into an interviewing pro.

Here is the best recommendation I can give you: ask yourself questions and answer them while recording yourself (on your phone or computer). This gives you the opportunity to see how you answer the questions and to go back and correct the answers you know could use improvement.

Once you have completed self-evaluation and improvement, ask a friend or family member to mock-interview you. Will it be awkward at first – absolutely. But once you get comfortable, you’ll get a better idea of how it will feel when in an interview. When you do this, provide the questions to the mock-interviewer in advance, so they can review the questions they will ask and possibly add others based on their job interviewing experience. Here are some standard questions you should always have answers to when going into a mock-job interview:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • Out of all the candidates, why should we hire you?
  • How did you hear about this job?
  • Tell me about a time where you had conflict in the workspace and how you handled it.
  • What has been your biggest professional accomplishment? What has been your biggest academic accomplishment?
  • What is your dream job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • What kind of environment do you work in best?
  • What are three words people would use to describe you?

Do your homework

Would you walk into a sales meeting not knowing anything about the company you are trying to sell to? Absolutely not. The same goes for interviews. Take the time to research the company you are interviewing with. What do they do? How many employees do they have? Are they a public or private company? What is their mission statement? What impacts have they made in their industry? How do they rank within their specialized industry?

The reality is that you need to sell yourself to the people you interview with. You are the pitch. But to know how to tug at their heartstrings, pique their interest, and motivate them to acquire you, you need to know what their goals and outcomes are.

Spend thirty minutes to an hour on their website and googling the company’s name. Review the interviewer/hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile to see if there is any experience that stands out that you can capitalize on. Did the recruiter go to the university in your hometown? Do you share a love for the same sports team? Do you both volunteer your time with like-minded non-profit organizations? Did you both have the same major or minor in college? Do you have common connections that can come up in conversation?

When you interview, they want to see that you took the time to get to know the company. They want to know you are invested in the company from the get-go, the way they are working for them. Don’t be lazy and show up without information – it can be detrimental to whether or not you move onto the next round of interviews or receive the job offer.

Clean up your resume

Before attending an interview, make sure your resume is up-to-date and free of grammatical and spelling errors. From the time you applied for the job to the point of interviewing, there’s a chance your work experience or skills have changed. Make sure that is completely reflected on your resume.

If you are attending an in-person interview, print out a few copies to bring along. If you are attending a virtual interview, email your updated resume over 30 minutes before your interview. You’ll be happy you did, and the interviewer/hiring manager will see you are proactive with your approach to obtaining the job you’re interviewing for.

Give examples

During the interview, it’s one thing to regurgitate what your resume says, but people love to hear concrete examples and actual statistics. When explaining what you do at your current job, provide specific examples of what you work on and who you work with. If you work with numbers, explain how you get these numbers and the work that goes in.

Tell a story during the interview about your work experience and skills and you are more than likely to leave a lasting impression. You need to always go above and beyond the bare minimum, not only when trying to get the job, but once you have it. Also, these stories help build a picture in the interviewer’s head on how you will contribute and fit into the department/team you will be working with.

Other things to keep in mind when interviewing are to maintain eye contact during an in-person interview, build rapport, display confidence and comfortable body language, maintain an appropriate dialogue and demeanor, and finally, be yourself.

Send a follow-up post-interview

Once you have interviewed for the position, within 24 hours send a thank you follow-up email. Even if you completely bombed the interview, show professionalism, and thank them for their time. Time is money, and that applies to everyone – not just the rich. Here’s a follow-up email you can use, but make sure you customize and make it personal.

Dear [interviewer],

It was wonderful to meet you today at my interview for the [role] role. It was especially interesting to learn more about your role as a [interviewer’s role], your team, and the recent [recent project] you’re rolling out.

You mentioned needing a [role] who’s able to learn on the go and that’s a skill I’m eager to continue. Most recently, I [give an example of what you’ve done – e.g., built my own personal website for this job search] and enjoyed the process of figuring it out.

I’d love the opportunity to continue learning with an innovative team and feel confident I’d be a great addition.

I’ve attached my resume and cover letter, so you have digital copies. Please let me know if you need anything else from me. I look forward to hearing about the next steps in the interview process.

Sincerely,

[your name]

[your email]

[your phone number]

[your LinkedIn profile URL]

Interviewing for a job can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as you prepare and are confident and articulate with what you can bring to the table, you will find the right fit at the right company. When you start nailing interviews, you will gain confidence in your ability to sell yourself and how to communicate that investing in you is the best investment the company can make for themselves.

Categories
Interviewing

Don’t take it personally

When it comes to searching for jobs, it is extremely important to not take rejection personally. The reality is that there are hundreds of people applying for the same job at the same time, and you need to leave a lasting impression while having your skills, work history, and career goals align with the role. The job market is tough, there are more candidates with a laundry list of qualifications these days, and companies always want to get the best bang for their buck. Try to not take it personally.

Applying for jobs and interviewing is an exhausting process. Your time is valuable. And after going through the interview cycle and being rejected, you can feel defeated, lack the motivation to continue the process, and your ego or pride may be hurt. But here’s the deal, you need to get rid of this idea that rejection is always a bad thing. Rejection happens even after you land a job; it happens in your personal life; it’s a part of being human.

Reflect on the interview

Self-reflection is one of the best things you can do for yourself in all facets of your life. When a relationship or friendship goes wrong, you reflect, right? Why wouldn’t you do this for yourself when it comes to your career?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was I actually the perfect fit for this role? Do I lack any major job qualifications/requirements?
  • Are there specific qualifications I can gain to acquire a role like this?
  • What interview questions did I answer well?
  • What interview questions could I have answered better?
  • Did I forget to bring anything up during the interview that may have had a positive impact on the outcome?
  • Did I come off confident?
  • Did I practice proper interview etiquette?

The reality is you’re not perfect. No one is. You can always learn and grow from any experience. Being reflective on the interview experience will only strengthen you as a candidate and improve your self-awareness.

Ask for feedback

When you’ve been rejected from a job, contact the representative from the company who would be able to provide feedback on why you didn’t get the job. Companies rarely provide this information without the request. Sending an email opens the dialogue and will help you gain better insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate:

Dear [contact],

Thank you for taking the time to interview me or the [role] position at [company] on [date]. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss this role with you and you letting me know that I was not selected.

I was hoping to ask you a favor. Would you be available for a quick call to discuss how I could improve upon my candidacy for employment? Any feedback you could share would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you again for your time and consideration. If you are available, please let me know when a call works best for you.

Best regards,

[your name]

[your phone number]

[your email]

[your LinkedIn profile URL]

If and when the interviewer responds, sets up a call, and provides feedback, make sure you are open and once again, don’t take it too personally. Yes, they are providing feedback on you, but you asked for it, and when it comes to your career, it is not the time to be reactive, negative, and closed off. Let down your guard and never be defensive. They took the time to let you know what they were looking for specifically and why you didn’t fit their bill.

On this call, consider asking the following questions:

  • Were there any key qualifications for this position that were missing in my background?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how I may improve upon my resume or cover letter?
  • Were my job references strong enough for this job?Do you have any tips on how I could have better researched your company before our interview?
  • Do you have any advice on my interview style?
  • If for some reason your new hire doesn’t work out and you reopen the role, what skills do you think I should strengthen in order to be reconsidered for this job?

When you ask these questions and roll into a broader conversation with the point-of-contact, you can learn a lot about yourself and what companies are looking for with those types of job postings.

Keep in touch

A couple months after the follow-up conversation, if you are still interested in employment with the company you interviewed with, request that the recruiter contact you with any opportunities that may align with your skillset. When you send this request, make sure you highlight the new skills and opportunities you have gained since the interview, reinforcing that you are working on the feedback they provided and are committed to being the best version of yourself.

You may have not been the right fit for the role you interviewed for, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be a great fit for another.

When you take rejection personally, you set yourself back. If you look at how everything works, the saying “when one door closes another one opens” truly applies. Maybe you were rejected because you didn’t have enough experience. Maybe they rejected you because you were out of their price range. Maybe they rejected you because after the interview someone else made a stronger impression. Or maybe, if you believe in it, you were rejected because there’s a better opportunity that aligns perfectly with your skillset and it’s on the horizon.

The point is, get used to rejection. When you land a role, you’ll experience rejection while in that position. You will have ideas rejected, some personalities will not align with yours and you may feel rejection within those social constructions, and ultimately, you will always experience different forms of rejection in your personal life. Grow that thick skin, dig in, take rejection on head first, and don’t take it personally. You will find what you are looking for and end up in a role you are meant for. It just takes time, dedication, and the ability to roll with the punches.