I think many of us spend time building our resumes and sending resumes out. We prepare for our interviews by practicing the so-called “tough questions,” such as “tell me about yourself” and “why did you leave your last job?” Later, we move on to other common questions such as “tell me about a time you provided great customer service.” Chances are, we will be asked questions like these at our first interview.
Later in the first interview, or perhaps at a follow-up interview, a hiring manager may want to discuss the statements we made on our resume. Will we be prepared to expand upon our accomplishments, and “defend” the information on our resume?
Here are some steps I suggest to make sure your resume is ready to go with you to your interviews:
- Proofread your resume carefully,
- Understand every word,
- Prepare narratives for every accomplishment, and
- Be prepared to provide your resume at the interview if the interview does not have it.
Admittedly, some of my suggestions are basic. They are easy to overlook, so I think basic ideas are worth repeating. My recommendations are based on more than 20 years of experience working with job candidates at all levels, and my own experience at interviews. If your experience or research points to different ideas, you may comment below this post. I also encourage you to click here to get on my calendar for a conversation about your specific experience.
Proofread your resume carefully.
No business document should go forward unless you carefully review it first. Nonetheless, this is the first reminder that came to mind when I thought about steps to follow before taking your resume to an interview.
First, make sure the numbers are correct. A resume I used years ago when applying for public policy jobs, for example, contained a bullet point (I don’t have the exact statement anymore) referring to “4 billion dollars in US pension fund investment.” An interviewer at an office administering a public employees’ pension fund asked me “aren’t there 4 trillion dollars in US pension fund assets?” I wanted to become smaller than the misplaced decimal point—and I did not move forward in the interview process.
Yesterday, I looked at a resume from a job-seeker that, among other things, bought office products, including stationery, for his company. We write notes on stationery while we stand stationary. Spellcheck will not catch this kind of mistake. Good grammar-checking software may catch it. Look for these potential errors yourself. Do not rely entirely on software.
Of course, we should have caught all the mistakes before we started sending out resumes. Recheck the version you are taking to interviews. It’s easy to introduce errors as you make small changes over time.
Understand every word on your resume.
It seems obvious that we should remember and understand every word on our resume. I’ve found that not everyone I speak to does understand and remember the details, though. Several times, I interviewed a new client at my desk in an employment program office, and found they could not answer questions about their resume. Some clients responded with “may I see my resume for a minute?”
It is easier for us to forget the details of our resume than we think it is. Many resumes I see appear to be pieced together over a 15- or 20-year period, so I am not surprised when the writer has to think about older entries. Re-read your resume before you walk into the real or virtual interview room to make sure you recall the content.
You are accountable for any factual, grammatical, or syntax errors on your resume even if a friend, professional writer, or career advisor helped you write the document.
Prepare narrative for every bullet point.
Interview questions are largely behavioral. Hiring managers want to know how you behaved, i.e. what you did, in your past jobs. The idea is that “if you did it there, you will do it here.”
A great resume, and a great LinkedIn profile, are based on problem, action, results (PAR) statements, per one of our previous posts. Problem, action, result statements describe just what your interviewer is looking for—what you did at your past jobs. Your challenge is to describe your accomplishments in more detail when the opportunity arises at your interviews.
You may have already done the work so you can elaborate on your bullet points during interviews. The information you need is on your PAR or situation, task, action, results (STAR) worksheet if you prepared one. You need only prepare notes in narrative form that you refer to or memorize for your interviews.
Most job-seekers I’ve spoken to have prepared their resumes without doing worksheets first. Do not despair if you wrote your current resume this way. You may have the information you should use elsewhere. If you worked at a large company, non-profit, or public agency your managers probably asked you to write-up your accomplishments for the year to be considered for pay raises, bonuses and promotions. Clients sometimes send me these narratives to use when I write their resumes. I’ve found that the information is typically quite detailed and more than enough for interview prep as well as resume prep.
You can reverse-engineer accomplishment narratives from your bullet points. Use your accomplishment-based bullet points as starting points, and write more detailed narratives for each one. You may even be able to use these narratives on your LinkedIn profile, where you have more room than you have on your resume.
Take the time to prepare accomplishment stories using one of these techniques. You will feel more confident at interviews even if you never use most of the information.
Be prepared to provide a copy of your resume.
Have your resume available to give or send interviewers when you meet with them either virtually or in person. All those involved in the interview should have received your resume electronically through the company HR system or email. My experience has been that things do not always happen the way we expect them to happen, especially in large organizations. So, have a resume you can swiftly email or screen share. Some managers, I’ve been told, still prefer a paper copy, so print a few copies and take them with you to an in-person interview.
Remember that your resume serves at least two purposes. First, it serves as your marketing collateral to land the interview. Then, the resume serves as your talking points for the interview. Prepare your resume with your interviewers in mind.We are here to help with your strategy for an interview-ready resume. Click here for a complementary 30-minute phone consultation to discuss your resume approach.