Friday, July 25, 2014

The Latest on Interviews and Resumes: New, Old, and Overrated

Three new books, one on job interviews, one on resumes, and one with sections on each, have been published.  All are highly regarded by Amazon readers.  What new ideas do they have on these two old cornerstones of job seeking?

Some trends in resumes have gone back and forth over the decades, and, according to these books, are still oscillating.  On length, one (Resumes That Stand Out!, by L. Xavier Cano) firmly advocated a one-page maximum for anyone with career time of ten years or less.  Another is the return of a career objectives section, popular in the 1990s but discouraged the decade after.  Grade-point averages, if over 3.0, and hobbies and interests, at least for new college graduates, have made modest comebacks after decades of banishment.  Both Cano and Martin Yate, author of Knock ‘em Dead:  The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2014, recommended modifying the resume itself, instead of only the cover letter, for different targeted jobs - in fact, the book more geared to mid-life career changers suggested custom documents, often extensively different, for each position applied for.  Two new resume features advocated are inclusion of a LinkedIn URL, if the page itself is complete and professional, and an International Travel section, if the countries involved pertain to what’s being applied for.

On job interviews, a few things have changed in what candidates face.  Per Yate, unusual settings, such as a restaurant or even a hotel lobby, are becoming more common.  The third author, London Porter, in Rockstar Your Job Interview, wrote that the range of questions has widened, with such old saws as “sell me this pen” joined by the likes of “how many gas stations are in the United States?”  Military service now draws its own questions, involving application of service work to corporate life and ability to handle an environment with few firm orders.  As for follow-ups, Porter recommended not only thank-you emails but multiple contact attempts, their timing and frequency dependent on the hiring timeline.

So how much is new in interviews and resumes?  Considering the differences in jobs themselves, their roles, contents, and significances are remarkably unchanged.  A good resume layout from 1980 would still be acceptable today, though, as these books’ authors point out, formatting should accommodate electronic transmission.  The role and structure of cover letters is essentially the same as when Ronald Reagan was elected.  On interviews, whatever the question, job, or venue, the guiding philosophy of being responsible, unruffled, clear-thinking, respectful, of course well-dressed and well-groomed, and more than anything else comprehensively suitable for the position, remains.

And so it is with interviews and resumes.  Ability at them is critically important, but is far from sufficient for being hired.  In interviews the first 90 seconds will usually tell the person across from you whether you have a chance, and resumes are viewed for less time than that by manager and keyword-scanning program combined.  Sometimes it is necessary to “rockstar” them or make them stand out, but in other situations they just need to be reasonable. 
Overall, interviews and resumes are overemphasized.  As valuable as they remain, getting to the point where skill at either comes into play is still the most important thing for jobseekers to address.        

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