Candidate tools: resume and interview tips

Searching for a job can be a job in itself. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about how to get people the jobs of their dreams. Here at Bradsby Group, we try to provide guidance during career transitions to help you present your best self. We start with resume-writing suggestions, but also include interview tips and advice on counteroffers.

Successful candidates will need to capture the attention of hiring managers with a carefully created resume that focuses on specifics experience and accomplishments that make them well qualified for the job opening. We can’t overstate the importance of this first impression.

Once given an opportunity to interview for the job, candidates need to prepare well to authentically present themselves in the best possible light and ask good questions that show an interest in the company. Different types of interviews require different preparation.

Finally, one commonly overlooked step of preparation is how to respond to a counteroffer. We’ve seen it happen many times that the current employer attempts in this way to change the equation, and it can muddy an otherwise clear-cut decision about taking a new job.

In the sections below on this page, you’ll find some of our best job search tools and interview tips. We are confident that from them you will gain practical knowledge and a more complete understanding of how to prepare yourself to make that strong first, second, and third impression when it really counts.

If you have questions about any aspect of these job hunting strategies and interview tips, ask your Bradsby Group recruiter. Each one is an expert whose coaching can add to your confidence!

Resume writing

Resume-writing tips for Bradsby Group candidates:

Hiring managers usually spend 10 seconds or less scanning each resume. To be remembered, your resume has to show clearly at a glance why you’re a great fit for their position. These resume tips should help.

Style:

You want to impress with the facts. Be careful with elements like tone, quotes, and humor. It’s probably best to leave out pictures. Keep color, font size (10-12 point) and style (bold, italic, underlined) consistent. Use ¾ to 1-inch margins.

Format:

Chronological format lists your work history in order with the most recent position listed first. This method is preferred because an employer can easily see what jobs you’ve held and for how long. The functional format focuses on skills and experience rather than a chronology. Choose this format if your employment history has gaps or you’re changing careers.

Length:

Make your resume long enough to give a concise, yet complete picture of who you are as a candidate. Generally, entry level candidates should have a one-page resume, mid-level candidates should have a two-page resume, and senior-level executives with extraordinary work experience can have a three-page resume. Supplemental documents covering grants, consulting work, and other addenda can be created as needed.

Focus:

Include information relating to your career goal. Omit irrelevant information.

Objective:

Most objective statements are unnecessary. Instead, consider crafting a short summary stating who you are professionally and what your primary skills are.

Name:

CAPITALIZE in bold. Text can be up to six points larger than the body text.

Contact information:

Include a phone number. Create a professional and courteous voicemail greeting. Provide a reliable address. If you expect your number or address to change, borrow that of a stable friend or family member. Include your personal email address, and make sure it is one that is not embarrassing or inappropriate. To avoid identity theft, do not include information such as your social security number!

Education and skills:

Include college, degrees, and graduation years. Recent graduates should place education at the top of their resume; others can place it toward the end. Do not include high school graduation information if you have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Specify tech, language, and any other skills applicable to the job you’re applying for.

Salary and references:

Do not include salary information. Stating “references upon request” at the bottom is optional, as it is assumed that you will be asked to provide them if asked.

Wording:

Incorporate wording from the job description for which you are applying. Use concrete action verbs and descriptive nouns. Avoid repetition. Be concise. Avoid personal pronouns such as “I”. Quantify your successes whenever possible.

Work history:

Format your work history consistently bylisting each employer, job title, and date of employment. Then list your responsibilities, contributions, and accomplishments in bulleted form. Put past experiences in past tense, present experiences in present tense. Use this section to showcase specifics of your positive influence on the positions you held.

Dates:

Omit months and simply state years, unless requested to do otherwise.

Affiliations and interests:

Include only affiliations pertinent to your professional identity. Don’t include anything about personal interests or family.

Proofread!

Typos and misspellings will sink your resume faster than an iceberg sank the Titanic. Proofread it meticulously. If possible, have a friend look it over as well.

Printing:

Print on good white paper. Hiring mangers still do prefer a resume in a non-digital format, so bring multiple copies with you to every interview.

Interview tips

These interview tips will help you prepare to ace your next interview:

What to bring:

Bring copies of your resume and review it in advance of the interview. You may also bring other materials illustrating important aspects of your work, but no diplomas, letters of commendation or bowling trophies, please. Consider bringing a leather folder or notebook and pen for taking notes.

Dress:

To make a great first impression, dress one level above the person you are meeting with. And don’t neglect the small details, including an ironed or pressed shirt, polished shoes, and clothing free from pet hair.

Getting there:

Plan your route and how long it will take to get there, considering traffic and time of day. Arrive no sooner than 15 minutes prior to your meeting. Never ever show up late.

The interviewer:

Learn in advance who will be interviewing you and what their role is. Turn off your cell phone and give the interviewer your undivided attention. Before you leave, be sure to get a card or contact information from everyone you met with. You’ll be sending thank you notes to them, and it’s important to remember their names should you need to refer to them later.

Researching the company:

Walking into your interview with knowledge about the company shows that you’ve done your homework and are sincerely interested in joining their team.

  • Company personnel: Who are the major players? The founder? Upper management?
  • Company structure: What does the company sell? Who are their customers? Are they privately or publicly held?
  • Company vital signs: How are they doing financially? How’s their stock? Are they growing or shrinking?

Your questions:

Prepare questions that are specific and important to you. Don’t frame them to look selfish. Instead, take a “how can I help you accomplish your objectives?” approach.

  • Ask about the company’s organization, direction, policies, stability, growth, market share, or new products.
  • Ask about the health, growth, change, technological advancement, and personnel of the larger industry.
  • Ask about the scope, responsibilities, travel, and reporting structure of the position.
  • Ask opportunity questions about the potential for growth, advancement, and educational opportunities.
  • Ask: “Do you have any concerns about my qualifications? Is there any particular skill or attitude you feel is critical to getting the job done?”
  • Ask about the most important issue facing the department.
  • Ask for the job. Or at least let the interviewer know you are interested and excited.

Answering questions:

The most common interview mistake candidates make is talking too much. Keep comments professional, brief, and related to the task at hand. In answering interview questions, a good line to use is, “Let me give you the short version. If we need to explore some aspect of my answer more fully, I’d be happy to give you the long version.”

Questions to be ready for:

Be prepared to give honest answers to these common interview questions. Be careful on the last one; employers don’t like to hire negative people.

  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why do you want to leave your present company?
  • Where do you see yourself in one to five years?
  • What are your personal goals and interests?
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • What do you like most about your current company?
  • What do you like least about your current company?

Attitude:

These intangibles are fundamental to interview success. Your attitudes will influence the way your personality is perceived and affect personal rapport with the employer.

  • Be enthusiastic: Leave no doubt about your interest in the job. Employers are attracted to candidates who are excited about being there.
  • Be confident: No one likes a bragger, but do project confidence in your abilities, not uncertainty.
  • Be energetic: That last thing you want is to come across “flat” during an interview. It’s okay to be laid-back, but lethargy won’t get you hired.

Money, money, money:

We recommend not talking about money, including benefits, during the first interview. You’ll get to those in the second interview or in negotiations. A great response is, “My recruiter knows exactly what I’m looking for, and I’d feel more comfortable having you discuss compensation with them.” If the interviewer keeps pressing, give them your target compensation range, not a specific number. Be honest.

To sum up:

Look good, be prepared, take notes, have fun, and be yourself.

Types of interviews

The lunch interview

The lunch interview can be challenging. You must demonstrate poise and intelligence, while gracefully eating. Follow these interview tips for success:

Just like for other interviews, follow the rules for dress, what you bring, and promptness. Odds are the interviewer is meeting with you at lunch because of an already tight schedule.

A lunch interview offers you a chance to show your personable, social side. The interviewer will be assessing how you’ll fit the organization and the position. Let the interviewer lead the conversation. Ask thoughtful questions, listen to responses, and be attentive. Let conversation come naturally.

Even if it feels semi-casual, keep your manners in check: no elbows on the table, turn off your phone and don’t interrupt. Be polite and respectful to the wait staff. Your attitude toward them will show important aspects of your character.

Let your interviewer lead the ordering, too. You don’t want to order the most or least expensive item on the menu. Do not ask to take home leftovers. Usually the company you are interviewing with will pay for your meal, but be prepared to pay in case you need to.

End the meal positively. Shake hands, and if your host has paid for the meal, be sure to thank him/her. Send a thank-you note to your interviewer within a day.

The phone interview

Phone interviews are commonly used to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for an in-person interview. In today’s marketplace, 80 percent of job interviews are won or lost during the first five minutes of phone interview conversation. These tips will help you do well and move on to the next round.

If you’ve been asked to call the interviewer, call at the exact time you’ve been given. If your call doesn’t reach your contact, speak with the receptionist or leave voice mail to show that you called on time. If the interviewer is to call you, be prepared for an early, on-time, or late call.

Prior to the call, find a quiet, distraction-free room. Request that others not disturb you unless it’s an emergency. Be prepared to take notes and have your resume available for your own reference.

The second you answer the phone, you are on. Your interviewer is listening closely to your words and tone; make every effort to remain positive and enthusiastic. Smile – it can be heard in your voice! Consider standing if it helps you feel more confident and energetic. That too will come through.

Stay focused on what you offer, your key skills, and how they meet the requirements of the position. Be specific and make your background shine.

Don’t interrupt. Listen carefully to what is being said before you respond. You are gathering information as much as the interviewer is. If necessary, ask open-ended questions to clarify.

Consider practicing for your phone interview. Prepare notes with prompts about your positive attributes and questions for the interviewer. Practice specific answers to common interview questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you consider yourself a team player?
  • Describe your management style.
  • What do you know about this organization?
  • Describe your work ethic.
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Silent pauses on the other end during the interview can be unnerving but to some extent are normal. Your interviewer may be thinking or recording information. If you feel the pause goes on too long, refer to your notes and ask a question.

Before the call ends, ask the interviewer about the next step in the hiring timetable. If you’re interested in the job, say so. Ask if the interviewer has any concerns about your abilities as they relate to the job and clarify if necessary. Be sure to thank your interviewer, then follow up with a thank-you note.

Salary negotiations

Counteroffer considerations

After months of searching and interviewing, you land a new position that means more money, a better situation, and greater opportunity. You walk into your boss’s office to offer your resignation, and instead of the anger or defeat you expect, you are presented with a surprising counteroffer.

Before jumping at a counteroffer, think long and hard. Recently collected data shows that the acceptance of a counteroffer has seldom benefited the employee. If you were worth X dollars yesterday, why is your company suddenly willing to now pay you Y dollars today? The boss may be doing whatever needs to be done to keep you from leaving – until he or she is ready for you to leave.

The counteroffer was made in response to your decision to quit. You have now made your employer aware that you are discontent in your current position. If you accept the counteroffer, your loyalties will still be in question. What will happen the next time you think you deserve a raise or promotion? Statistically, 80 percent of people who accept a counteroffer are not with their company six months later.

Though the offer might seem appealing, your initial reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Evaluate those reasons, why you accepted the new position and your career goals. Accepting the counteroffer could be an expensive mistake that damages your professional growth.