How to Get Hired – Chapter 3: How to Write Your Resume & Cover Letter

How to Get Hired – Chapter 3: How to Write Your Resume & Cover Letter


The hiring managers that I submit candidates to for the positions that we get, they don’t want to read a book. I mean they just don’t. They don’t want to have to weed through information to find skills they’re looking for. So, time is of the essence. You know, everyone’s in a hurry nowadays. So, as basic as you can make it without taking away from, you know, you definitely want all your skill sets on there. The resume is really just something to grab my interest and I want my recruiters to say, “Hey Jackie take a look at this one.” And the reason I look at it is because I would see some bullet points or some, you know, some titles that draw my interest in are relative to the position that you’re applying to. I don’t want to have to read a whole paragraph on the experience that you have as that person or as that title, because I want to give you the opportunity to articulate that to me when you come in and see me What if you maybe worked for five different places and you’re like, “Well these ones I worked at so long ago, but they’re relevant to the field. They should be included.” Absolutely. You know, when you talk about putting it to one page, yes. I can’t sift through a six page resume. And the flip side to that is when I’m looking at this and I’m like, “Wow. This person can’t hold down a job to save their life.” I almost want to know why they’ve worked at all these places. They’re 22. You know, then we find out, you know, that maybe they’ve moved a lot or stuff like that which is is fine. Everybody has different life experience. But, you know, if you were to try to get it down to that page to make it simple, really tailor it to, you know, the specific information based on the industry you’re trying to get into. For sure. And those are things that you can also address on your cover letter. We do have minimum qualifications that were looking for. So, when you’re looking at the job description do look and see what are the basics that we’re looking for and then the desirable. The basics should be covered. It should be easy for us to just look at your resume or application and it’s there. And then they the desirable, you want to make sure to include that if you have it. Cover letter is great for that as well. Whatever you don’t think that’s going to stand out from your resume or application bring it out on your cover letter so that we can see it right away and keep it clear, like you said, very clean, simple to review the resume. Makes it a lot easier for us to say okay she’s got the minimum qualifications. We’re good. And then the desirable goes to the next stage. So, you want to make sure you have all of that. I do want to mention, there’s two very important parts of the job description. There is the education. That is the minimum. That’s mandatory. That is what you have to have to come in for a preliminary interview. And then there’s an area called preferred qualifications. That is the only area that the hiring supervisor can be more specific, detailed, to bring up the bar, to separate those from the rest of the applicants. So, looking at those areas when you go to
apply is what I would be focusing on. And seeing, you know, do I meet the minimum, the education? And do I meet some of the preferred or all of the preferred? It completely is different for each hiring supervisor. It’s, you know, for an example, it could be three years of customer service or preferred a bachelor’s plus 3 years of customer service. So, it’s whatever they’re looking for beyond the education. If it’s a resume, obviously you’re looking for a stable work history if at all possible. That doesn’t always apply though because you may be interviewing someone or looking at someone who’s a recent college graduate. So the overall format, no spelling mistakes is always nice, something simple, something short and nicely put together. While kind of balancing being relatively
self-promoting but honest at the same time. But a stable work history is number one. One of my personal pet peeves is when the objective is like three paragraphs long. Just keep it to like one sentence. Just state what you’re after. Like for me, my objective was: A leadership position in human resources. End of subject. What I don’t like is when people put these: A mutually beneficial where dadadadada… You know, that just is kind of like…ugh. Okay I’ve read that thousand times
in my career. Can I ask you a question about that? How do you feel about objectives that say to secure a position in accounting at Deckers Corporation? Perfect. Try to find out what the job description is. Most job postings will have some type of job description of showing what you’re going to be doing and then the requirements, the skills that you need to do those things. I wouldn’t say cut and paste that onto the resume, but definitely try and take some of those components, things that you’re going to be doing at the job and put them on your resume to show that you’ve done that before. Right? Where you may have thought, “Oh that’s not important to put on there.” or “That doesn’t sound that good.” Well, if the company is looking for you to do these 10 things and you’ve got 8 of them on your resume that you’ve already done, that’s going to look good. You know, I deal with resumes and review resumes all day and so over the years of doing that the best thing I see could suggest to you is to make a skills and accomplishment based resume. For someone who’s in college or getting ready to graduate there’s really no reason that you need a resume longer than a page. You know, your contact information on the top, a skills category, I would say immediately under your skills category should go your education. Skills and education is basically the first two things that a lot of employers, that I work with, are interested in. And then you can list your experience, but like I said before, more your accomplishments while you worked at those places if you have. Job history not necessarily a job description. And you also want, like say you’re going for the hotel business, well then you want to list the jobs that pertain to that if you have had several different ones. You might have a certain job description but then it’s more financial not customer service. So you kind of tweak it. You constantly tweak your resume. You always want to tweak your resume to go toward whatever position you’re applying for. I would also recommend that you maybe have more than one resume tailored to the specific industry you’re going into. You could put that you’ve been in fast-food multiple times but I’m really trying to zero in on that one time you were with the retailer. The customer service aspect is definitely there. I can get that from the snapshot of your resume, but if you were to have a second resume for a different industry, say you’re applying to food and beverage, which we all know in Santa Barbara is huge, it’s a restaurant food and beverage industry, it would be different for hospitality, it would be different for retail. So, your bullet points should reflect the things that you did really well as an accomplishment in that particular industry to help us better understand why. Because, I’ll sit down with somebody and like, “Okay, tell me about your history.” And, you know, “I wanted to fit it all on one page, but I didn’t tell you that I also worked for Kohls and Kmart.” “Okay, well let’s talk about that. I appreciate everything you’ve done for food and beverage, but let’s talk about what you did in retail.” So, maybe kind of having an extra option, so to say, that you would have ready to present if you were looking at multiple industries to try to find your niche. I would also suggest that you have somebody else read your resume. Because, you’ve written it and you’ve rewritten it and you’ve rewritten it and you’ve seen it so many times that you’re not going to see what mistakes are left on there. So, if you just have somebody, just some objective person, I mean they don’t have to be an English scholar, just somebody that can reread your resumes. I just want to say one more thing too, really quickly. You know, people do their resumes and apply and we call them. So, I would really pay attention to your voicemail messages that you guys have on your phones. Because that can cost you the ability to get a job as well. I mean if you have rap music in the background or whatever music blaring and you’re really hard to understand… I would keep it very, very simple, you know, and as professional as possible if you are seeking employment. That might be fine for your friends but not for a potential employer. I would say on a resume like that, somebody who has no job experience or maybe the only one job, yeah, you can put those things: dependable, responsible. It fills up space and also a cover letter would be very important with that to explain your situation. I mean it should be very black-and-white for someone reading it. You know, looking at the age and education and skills categories, I would suggest being a little bit longer than a normal resume just to fill space as well. But, yeah, the cover letter is what’s going to stand out… You know, ambitious person looking for work and looking for experience and someone to take a chance on them, educated and responsible. I deal with that a lot. It’s very frustrating. People want people with work experience, but you can’t get it unless somebody takes a chance on you. It’s a very frustrating situation for a lot of students. I would add to that, something that many people forget, internships, volunteer work. Put those on your resume as well. We count that. Like if you’ve done an internship for months at a particular place that is relevant to the position that you’re applying for, we count that. So, use every opportunity to do some internships and get some hands-on experience. You know, we hire people everyday that it’s their first job and one of the things that I taught a lot of the retailers here is that they don’t need a lot of that experience, because you’re moldable. You’re not set in your ways. You don’t have to unlearn things and I get to create a mini little retail monster. So, you know, I really like that opportunity. So, you know, little things just to show that you are dependable and stuff like that: walking the dog, the neighbor’s dog, if
you cleaned horse stalls for your neighbor or something like that, if you were a babysitter at some point. I don’t find any of those things silly or irrelevant because it shows that you had responsibilities. You were taught responsibility. Those things are important so that you’re willing to continue to develop those things that you got and those volunteer opportunities are huge. You know, because it just puts you face-to-face with with the public. When we see someone who’s done volunteer work, as part of when they were student or with other jobs, we value that very highly. Yes. Work experience is huge, but also it’s really personality. I mean you have to have the right personality too. Because, you could have all the skills that you need to be in this one department, but if you’re not going to mesh with the people or, you know, you really have to know how to relate with people. Diversity is huge, especially in this world. A resume is received and there’s evidence the person has been terminated. How heavily will that way on a decision to interview? It’s probably not going to be evident on a resume. It will be evident on a job application and I think most employers want to hear more They want to know why it happened and they’re probably willing to talk with you if you have applicable skills. You know, there’s all kinds of different circumstances. There’s terminations for performance and there’s termination for poor work habits, but there are also layoffs and there are just many, many circumstances. I know in my case, working for an employment service, we have to be very careful about the type of employees that we represent to our client companies, but we also understand that times are tough and people are human and there are different circumstances. So, we would probably talk with you on the phone and find out a little bit more about it and gauge your overall attitude and your skills as well and then decide if
we were going to bring you in for an interview. It’s a case by case basis because if you say that you’re terminated on an application, but I see it was a job that you were there for three months. The next, you know, job in your history, you were there for six years. I know that the first job wasn’t the right fit. So, you know, it depends on the circumstances and I think it’s review case-by-case. For us, I know that I’ve told my recruiters make sure you take a look at the whole picture. Don’t judge on one piece. We’re going to see how this puzzle fits together because every person’s complicated. We just need to see where it is in relation to your job history: Was it your most recent job? Have you bounced around three or four jobs over the last 12 month period? So there’s a lot more that kind of goes into that process for us. Actually at City College we have a very strong population of people who have returned to school. They take their time. They’ve done their get to society and it’s all taken care of and then how do they address that on a resume? I’m not sure you would. I mean I would put that on there and reserve that for the face-to-face interview. Because, that could be just a deal breaker in the very beginning and you want to put stuff on your resume people want you. There’s a reason they want to talk to you. You have a skill that they need and they need to talk to you about. So, putting things on there like, you know, the day you were born and just things that don’t need to be on there until you have a face-to-face interview. Because, that’s your goal. Like you said, you said that a lot of resumes don’t get responses. Your goal is to get a response and get in there and show them who you are, what you are and what you offer. So, putting things on there that could be looked at differently, I wouldn’t do that. I mean I can only speak for most retailers, across the board, but when we do background checks for specific roles and stuff like that, the misdemeanors aren’t going to show up. You know, it’s pretty broad. We just really want to find out if there’s any really intense information that we should know about or that you should have disclosed. And, you know, for students in particular, when I think about students that are applying out in an IV and stuff like that, I mean there are moments where alcohol has been a factor. You know, where you may have, you know, been cited or arrested or something along those lines. None of that really will come back to bite you unless there was something even more intense. I have a question for you, Scott, because I’m imagining, do you guys have an application that you either have online or that you give to people? We do have an application. I like to get the resumes too because then it allows me to kind of get a snapshot, a little bit more information about them, but we do have an application they can come in and pick up. A lot of retailers have switched to their stuff online. My specific retailer is a little behind the times technology-wise. So, we still do the old school, but I appreciate it because when I’m getting visual merchandising applicants and all these things from monster jobs, all the major job search engines that we work with as a company, I don’t get to see them. I don’t get to know them. They’re moving here from Colorado, random stuff, but I do get to look at the resume attached and their experience. So, I do like the one on one, you know, when we get to see them come in and ask for the application, especially in in our level of retail because it’s higher in fashion. So we want to see that, you know, if you look the part, then it’s going to carry a little more weight. Because, they might not have experienced but, you know, hey you can put an outfit together. That’s what we’re looking for. I need customers that want to come up to you because you’re going to be the person that gives them that fashion advice on what to wear out for their night or to that wedding, stuff like that. The cover letter is where I get to see if you’re able to write and how clearly you can present yourself. And also it’s an opportunity for you to say… A cover letter tells me that someone has applied for the role that I’m advertising and not just apply for a job because they need a job. And the cover letter is what says I read your job description and I’ve done this thing, this thing, this thing that is exactly what you’re looking for. And I think that when you have a chance to meet me and talk about my other skills you’ll see that… You know, whatever you say. But, it’s where I can tell if someone has actually taken the time to apply for this role. Things that would be important to me is I kind of will gather sense of whether or not you’ve researched the company that you’re applying to when I look at that cover letter. It’s very easy to go into our website and if you can’t find a name to address that letter to, you can at least find the phone number and call the office and say, “Hey I’m applying for an accounting position I’d like to know the name of the controller.” Or you know, “I’d like to know who in HR might be interviewing. Can I get that name?” If you’re going to go through the exercise of writing a cover letter, which I would encourage you to do, I would have one that goes with your resume. I don’t know that I would submit it to every job that you apply to. You have to try to feel it out when you look at the the application, but make sure that you have the correct spelling of the name. The importance of applying for a particular job and what you’re essentially trying to do is to say here’s why I qualify for this job. And you’re actually alleviating the pressure from the recruiter of having to go, “Here’s why they qualify.” Because your cover letter has done that analysis. It said here’s what they want, here’s what I have and here’s why I fit. So, I think that’s kind of the level of analysis that you want to put forward when you’re applying. The cover letter… What you certainly don’t want to do is just repeat what you’re putting already on your resume. You would probably just want to focus more around what it is about the specific job that interests you and the company. And maybe if there’s a way to connect, sort of, your personal interests with the culture of the organization. At Decker’s Outdoor, in particular, we really focus on our hiring. Is this person going to be a cultural fit with our organization? This person might be the best technical person in Santa Barbara county and beyond, but if they don’t culturally fit with our organization, than we’re not going to hire them and that’s a place where you can really expand on that. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by culture? The culture of the organization like how people work. Like if you’re somebody who really loves to get dressed up for work and put on a suit and tie and be really formal you’re probably not going to like working at Decker’s. No, probably not. This is what I wore to work today and this is dressed up. I dressed up for you guys. Thank you. We appreciate it. No, but I think that’s part of the culture too. Is this a place where you’re going to fit? Where you’re going to feel like hey these are my people. These are people I can relate to. Now we’re not talking about culture like, you know: Are you Jewish? Or are you Latino? Or stuff like that. I just wanted to be clear on that. So, here’s a few no’s. Don’t not do the cover letter and the resume. It looks lazy. It just looks like you’re not giving your all, best foot forward. If you do, do those. Do not, not tailor it to the job and to the college. Read the job description. Know what you’re addressing. Know what experience you have and identify it on your application. That’s the first thing the higher supervisor is going through this application and if he doesn’t see highlights about the job trash, trash. Oh this one does. Trash. So really tailor it. A big no-no is a resume and a cover letter coming from a different college or a different job. We see it all the time. We know they have not updated their resume and cover letter. It’s addressed to someone else to a different school. You’ve gotta update it and then to the
job and to the college. If you continue to take that extra effort throughout the next few weeks, next few months of your job search, you’ll end up in a good spot. I guarantee it. Cause you’re going to stand out. Alright. It’s people like you that stand out just by being here. And instead of sending a resume to a company, just blind. Actually stopping by the company saying, “Hey. I saw you have posting online. I just wanted to see if maybe I could talk to someone here do a quick interview, have a quick tour, learn more about your company.” Just showing your face. Showing up in person. You’re going to stand out from thousands of resumes that were emailed to the decision maker.

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