Saturday, April 28, 2012

from our files: a real-life job-seeker's dilemma

(Here's a real-life interview dilemma. It's based on a CV and cover letter sent to us by a person looking for a job. Only the name is changed!)
Dear Jan,
You have given me an interesting situation to consider! Thank you for letting me assist you in your job search.

Here are some quick observations. Please remember that these are just my opinions, but they may have some validity, as I have been reading resumes and advising people in the job search for 27 years!
1. Your writing style is very good. It flows well, and is easy to understand without being overly simple.
2. You have a real challenge in this job ad because it is so non-specific:

Vacancy description

XXX company is looking for bright, energetic, positive and determined people to join our vibrant multicultural team!

Experience is not necessary, but we do require:

- Fluent Czech speaker
- Open minded
- Positive
- Flexible
- Driven to succeed

Nowhere can I see what kind of job they are offering. I wonder if this is just a "catch-all" ad to gather resumes and review them, at leaisure, to see who looks interesting. This makes your job much harder, as you don't quite know which skills to highlight.

3. Which brings me to your personal dilemma. Your cover letter and resume portray a highly-qualified person with extensive experence as a translator, writer, crafter, etc. But you don't know, because the ad is so general, what to stress.

4. Therefore I suggest the obvious! Send them a letter which mirrors their ad. Without being a parrot, use their language to write your letter. At the same time, severely edit your letter and resume, omitting anything that's not asked for. This is a counter-intuitive exercise, as most people feel obliged to state everything about their abilities. However, if you do, you may end up overwhelming the person who's screening resumes, and portraying yourself as someone who is a potential disturbance to the balance of the organization.
5. So, if you decide to go with point #4, you will end up with a shorter, snappier cover letter--about 3/4 page at most. It will mirror the job ad, but do so skillfully. It will also offer intriguing hints that you may have more to offer than what's being stated. Your resume will be one page, at most, with only relevant information, written in bullet points. At the bottom you can say "complete CV available upon request."
6. In all my experience, both in my own career and in helping 1000's of people in their career development, I have found four key truths:
  • your resume will most often prevent you from being inteviewed, not help you, as it will always include something that the employer finds irritating or irrelevant. You can't avoid this.
  • employers decide on whom to interview by factors that are unpredictable--usually something that's familiar or that reminds them of someone they like.
  • since you can't control most of the factors of interviews, don't take rejection personally. Just keep looking. The best way to get a job is by hearing about it from a friend, or by chance, before it is advertised. Circulating socially in a variety of situations is the best way to get an interview.
  • to get a job, you first need an interview (see above points). But people hire people, not resumes, so the interview is your chance to listen carefully, find out what the employer needs, and communicate to determine if you can help.

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