Advice from the Hiring Seat: Employers with Job Openings Weigh In

By Michelle Goodman

hiring adviceThe web is teeming with tips from career coaches and pundits on how to land a job in this crummy economic climate. But much of this advice comes from folks who haven't been in the hiring seat for five, 10, even 15 years

Instead, we thought it would be helpful to compile the best suggestions of managers and recruiters at companies that are hiring right now. Here's what they had to say about writing a resume that catches an employer's eye, nailing an interview, and otherwise standing out from the crowd.

Don't Just Rely on One Strategy

Just because your dream job is listed on a company website doesn't mean sending your résumé into the online application void is your only option, says Brian Toland, executive recruiter at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus.

Whether you're a receptionist, a customer care specialist, or an executive assistant, "You can't just sit back and wait for the recruiters to call you," Toland says. A better bet is to supplement your job board trolling with some good old-fashioned schmoozing, he explains.

Fortunately, social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter make rubbing elbows with hiring managers and other employees at your dream company a snap, says Jay Lehman, director of national recruiting and assistant vice president at Toll Brothers, a luxury homebuilder headquartered in Horsham, Pa. and currently building in 21 states.

"It's what you need to do to get yourself above the rest," says Lehman, adding that this advice applies to everyone from the sales reps and senior managers he hires to the construction workers and landscapers. "When I get a job opening, I go online and see who's on LinkedIn. It shows me who has the edge."

Lehman's also impressed if an applicant reaches out to him through such social networking sites -- not to beg for a job, but to ask smart questions about the company.

List Results on Your Resume, Not Responsibilities

"All the bad résumés I've seen list the person's jobs and responsibilities. But this doesn't tell me what you have done. Since I wasn't at that company, I don't have the context," says Toland.

Instead, Toland wants to see "measureable, tangible results," whether you cut project completion time by 10 percent, increased customer satisfaction by 20 percent, or managed a team of 30.

"The reason companies hire people for any job is because there's a problem that isn't a being solved," Toland says. Show how your past accomplishments benefited your former employers and "all of a sudden, that becomes more translatable to the next company," he explains.

Know Your Résumé Inside and Out

Another common mistake candidates make is not being prepared to talk about each achievement on their résumé, even those more than five years old, says Toland.

Suppose an interviewer says, "So you shortened call center wait times by three minutes at your last job. How did you do this?" As Toland warns, "If you can't answer it, then your whole resume is called into question."

Rehearse your success stories and examples illustrating your problem-solving skills before the interview, says Cynthia Wright, a corporate recruiter with defense firm Jacobs Technology, which is based in Tullahoma, Tenn.

"I'm not looking for a 'yes' or 'no' answer," she says. Nor is she looking for a 20-minute soliloquy. "I'm looking for a little story with a beginning, a middle, and a successful end."

Make an Effort to Personally Connect

It's not enough to research the company you're interviewing with, says Toll Brothers' Lehman. You also have to research the people who'll be interviewing you -- where they're from, where they went to school, any hobbies they have.

"Don't get too personal, but try and find a common interest, activity, idea that you share," Lehman says. "The thing that might put you over the edge is the connection you make with the hiring manager. People like to hire people they like."

What if you can't get the name of each interviewer?

At the meeting, "Take notice of your surroundings -- an interviewer's college diploma, pictures of the family ski trip, a book on the shelf -- anything to strike up a more personal conversation," Lehman suggests.

Show Genuine Interest in the Company

Ask interviewers about their recent expansion, product launch, press coverage, or any other business milestone your online research turns up, advises Marni Bobich, a senior team manager at Administaff, a Houston-based firm that acts as a full-service HR department for small and midsize companies throughout the United States.

"When the interview's over, they'll remember who you are," Bobich says. But just in case, she recommends tailoring your thank-you notes (handwritten, of course) to each person who interviewed you at a company.

"Remind them of something specific from the interview and say why you'd be a great candidate," she explains. "Show them you're passionate about being part of their organization, not just about having a job."

Next: Feel Like Giving Up Your Job Search? >>

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire."

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