Prepared by Mary Ann Miller,
President, Tempe Chamber of Commerce, www.tempechamber.org
I’m in the midst of interviewing candidates for an opening at the Chamber, and have been rather amazed at some of the responses I’ve received. Perhaps we’ve spent so long in a low unemployment market that career seekers have forgotten the basics of job hunting that I was taught in school. Whether you’re looking to move within your organization, seeking opportunities at other firms, or hoping to transition to a new industry, here are a few tips that can help you rise above the pack:
– Do a little research. I like to post jobs asking for replies to “President” to see who will spend the two or three minutes it would take to google “Tempe Chamber” and find out my name. It runs about 50%. At least 25% don’t even attempt to follow instructions and address it to “hiring manager” or “personnel.” And there’s always at least one person who assumes that the president must be a man and addresses it “Dear Sir.” That one doesn’t event get read.
– Pay attention to detail. You’d be surprised how many letters I’ll get saying someone is interested in a particular position, but their resume indicates their objective is something completely different. In this day of ubiquitous computers, there’s no reason not to tailor your cover letter and resume to an opening.
– Prove it on paper. There’s a definite trend toward skills-based resumes as opposed to historical resumes, but the skills listed are often very vague. Don’t say that you’re skilled at coordinating events, say that you led a committee of ten to put on a 300-person luncheon.
– Point out transferable skills. It’s rare that a candidate will have the exact experience necessary for a job, and if you’re changing careers, the disconnect can seem rather large. Tell me in your cover letter how what you’ve been doing brings value to what you’d like to be doing.
– Be ready at all times. If you’re sending out your resume, you should be hoping that someone will call you for an interview. Answer the phone as if your future employer was on the other line. Listen to your voice mail message and make sure it sounds professional. And realize that the scheduler at the other end of the phone is likely to be reporting to the boss on your conversation.
– Do your homework. One of the first questions I ask during an interview is “what do you know about the Tempe Chamber?” All I want is a tidbit or two to show me that you were serious enough about the job to do a little research. Check out the website and talk to a person or two. Please don’t tell answer by saying that your dad was a member of his hometown chamber 20 years ago.
– Ask good questions. Someone recently asked me about our organization’s strengths and weaknesses – great! Another person asked what traits I would want in an ideal candidate – wonderful! A third asked only what kind of benefits we offer – not so good.
In life, sometimes you do have more than one chance to make a great first impression, but in the job hunt that first impression is the first cut. Make sure you’re not sabotaging your own chances to find that career you want.