5 Secrets About Resumes

I spent 40 weeks after college looking for a job and now being on the other side of the hiring fence I’d like to offer some young up and comers a few tidbits that hopefully help you land your next summer internship, job after college, new position.

Though these notes are geared toward college and young post-college applicants, they’re applicable to most scenarios.

1. Work Experience Trumps Course Work

Class and grades are good, but they’re only 3 lines on your resume: Education Institution, Expected graduation date and GPA. 2 lines…if your GPA is not a highlight.

If you are applying for any type of substantive internship/job at a decent company, the hiring manager is not a fool. They know that when you list skills that you learned in a college lab course, you probably spent 2 weeks max on the subject/lab technique. By extension, they also can easily infer that if you don’t list your GPA on your resume, you probably did not do so well in that class!

Contrast that with a research associate internship where you might be doing the same gel electrophoresis for a whole quarter but at least you know how to do it right and how to do it well. Learning a single skill with depth over a period time signals to an employer you can learn and are teachable.

Volunteer for a research lab/clinic/sales that will teach you a skill and let you hone it. That skill becomes your calling card for an internship. The internship becomes proof that you can be trusted in a working environment  for a job. That job leads to others. You pay your dues somewhere…start early.

2. A Resume is Prime Real Estate

A smart guy said the Presidential elections are won and lost on one square foot of real estate…up in the head. Resumes are like that too in that it is prime real estate. In less than 1 sq ft of real estate you have to convince someone to give you a chance. That 1 piece of papers starts the conversation to what could be a $10/hr job to a $60+K/year job. Why waste the white space?

For some this is the only “in” at a company so with the limited medium that you have, find a way to augment it. Do not waste space telling a hiring manager something that every other person will as well. “Great at time management”, “Self starter”, “team player”, “fun to be around”. These are all things that can be shown without eating up valuable space on your resume.

“Proficient at handling multiple projects at the same time” – Telling

A resume that shows a part time job/internship, a fraternity/sorority/fellowship leadership, and course work shows an employer.

3. Think Like a Hiring Manager

A hiring manager always asks themselves these implicit questions about an applicant and looks for clues in your resume:

Can I trust this person? Who has trusted this person with a task in the past?
Can this applicant learn quick enough?

An employer is looking for specific attributes in a candidate but many are universal. Imagine you are hiring somebody to do a job for you, what would you want to see on a resume? Employers are always looking for leadership, responsibility, technical skill, and honesty.

4. Your Resume Will Not Land You That Job

Resumes are like dating profiles, they exist to peak interest, get the conversation started, and remind the other person after the date who you were. From there it’s both parties’ job to find out if you are a match. Unfortunately, more than likely, the employer’s been through this process a lot more than you have.

The reality is that a resume only gets you to the door, your personality and knowledge close the deal when you land the interview. You do not often hear somebody landing a job offer with just a resume. That is because there’s more to the process than a sheet of paper. Be presentable, be amicable, be professional.

That puts some pressure off perfecting your resume doesn’t it?

5. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Every job you do, every project you complete is an opportunity to build a relationship. Over time a resume transforms from being on paper to being in your network’s minds. Your friends, colleagues, and managers become your advocates and your verbal resumes. “hey I worked with him/her on so and so project and they did a great job. You can’t go wrong with this one”. conversely, do a bad job and you get a “avoid this one at all cost, this one time…”

As an extension of this, utilize your relationships to achieve the other 4 points. Find someone who’s sifted through a stack of resumes before and has hired people to give your resume some direction. Ask former managers and colleagues to vouch for you!

Pursuing HK: And That’s The End of That

How it all started: “Kids…This is The Story of How I Pursued Her”

Welp. Guess this one gets filed under the “crashed and burned” category. No, not really.

No official word, but through the grape vine, looks like they went with someone else. This pursuit ends here. For now. A week ago the HR lady came back and said they were interviewing a few more candidates and it’s a telling sign I wasn’t their ideal candidate.  So the dream to live in HK remains just that a while longer…a dream.

Through it all, this little adventure reinforced that I’m willing to try something different. I’ve had so many great conversations over the past two months about living out our dreams and passions. This is but a minor bump on a long journey! Even though we don’t know where the path goes, I’ll take it one step at a time.

On the flip side. Things at work here have been picking up!

Over the last few months as I was confiding in my boss about where I saw myself going, we had some really good discussions.  Being affirmed and wanted here goes a long way towards wanting to stay and work harder.  I’ve been transitioning out of my robotics/liquid handling engineering role and into project management/systems analyst role which suits my personality more.

It’s funny. Sitting in front of working robots really isn’t my thing, I learned that over the last year. But here I was applying to a role in HK where I’d be doing exactly that; sitting in front of broken robots 40 hrs a week. In hindsight this might be a dodged bullet. I think more people nod their heads at that one that I’m willing to admit.

So yup. Looks like I’ll be in SD for a little while longer…and that my friends is an awesome thing.

On an unrelated note, weddings are a great place to meet people. Just an observation..

Pursuing HK: And Then There Were Two

Quick recap of the last 2 weeks on the HK front.

4/22/12: Round 2 with the FSE team

After the first round of interviews with the hiring manager I got to sit in on a call and meet the team. Over the next 60 minutes I got asked a series of questions, ranging from technical to behavior. Most of which I was able to answer to some degree and in general express my ability to pick things up quickly.

The team specifically asked me to answer the following question, “why do you want to work and live in Hong Kong, could you please answer in cantonese?”

I heard the team crack up in the background. I guess I deserved it. If you put “fluent in conversational cantonese” on your resume you better be able to back it up. So I drew a big breath and let it rip…

Even if I don’t get the job it was super awesome validation to hear from a HK-er, “your cantonese is good“. Yeah-yuh.

5/3/12: Round 3 with HR APAC

This is when I started getting a little nervous. Up until this point I still had not mentally allowed myself to get too excited. In doing so, it was still more of a pipe dream than a possible reality. Interviewing with HR from the asia pacific region though, it started to get quite real.

It sounds like we’re down to the last 2 candidates and both of us are from SD. They’re not allowed to tell me who the other candidate is. HR lady’s flying back this coming week and will phone in with the hiring manager. If they can’t make a decision there’ll be a tie-break interview, but if not…an offer decision may be made by next week.

A move could potentially be as soon as late June. Crazy.