Recently, I applied for a near dream job on a whim. I typed up my resume and cover letter, and sent it off to a person I had only met once. I didn’t hear back from him for a week. Over the course of that week, I had taken the opportunity to sit down with the only person linked to that company– someone who did sales for the same company, but in a different territory. She joined me for coffee and we chatted about the realities of the job– pay, hours worked, pros and cons. I got a clear picture of what it would be like to work for this company. Basically, I interviewed her, so I knew what it took to nail it should they choose to interview me. There was a bit of talk about myself, but this was research, and so I asked some specific and some open ended questions. What does a day on the job look like? What is the territory manager like? What skill sets make people a success in this position. What will the interviewer be looking for if I manage to score an interview? I thanked her for her time, and assured her I was still interested in the position. I counted on her bringing this fact back to her boss.
She texted me the next day saying, “Just wanted to let you know that Phil texted me to ask what I thought of you, as he knew we were going for coffee. I said I thought you’d be fantastic for the position. He wanted to get my opinion, since he said that on paper you shine.”
Excellent. How did I shine on paper? Let me tell you:
1) Layout– Be creative with your layout. Don’t be afraid of muted colour for headings. Keep it clean, simple, and concise. I cannot count how many resumes I’ve proof read where I’ve made suggestions, and people shrug and say, “It’s good enough.” If you really want that job, it isn’t good enough. It can always be better. Spending 8 hours on an application and presentation package can make tens of thousands of dollars difference in the job your land.
2) Cover letter– A cover letter is not optional! I don’t care what job you’re applying for, a coverletter is a must. A coverletter is your elevator speech. It is your chance to introduce yourself and let the potential employer get to know you a bit. Don’t just list credentials and skills. That is what your resume is for. Your cover letter gives your resume personality. The keys here? Clean, tidy, no spelling mistakes. The three minutes a good proof read takes could save your resume from the trash bin.
3) You are not writing a novel– short, sweet, and to the point. Lots of white space, and not to wordy. They need a snapshot of your life, not a memoir.
After getting the call for an interview, it was time for me to sit down and make presentation packet. The first pages were reprints of my resume and cover letter– one for each person who would be attending the meeting, including myself.
The second section presented my approach to business, and how I would manage and grow the sales territory. It included my philosophies on business and how it would effect me in the position for which I applied– if focused on what would make me a success. It included a list of all potential clients within my future sales territory.
The third section was a cost of living breakdown. It listed amounts paired with reasons that I used to create a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet became my income request. At the end of the day, I presented them with a number they couldn’t argue with, because I’d taken the time to research and understand what that lifestyle would look like and how much it cost.
When I was at my meeting and I presented the package to my potential employer his eyes widened as he flipped through the pages. He looked up at me and said, “Are you for real?”
I smiled and responded, “I believe so.”
From that point on, he was already sold. I knew that he wanted team players, so I threw in the fact that I loved playing rec. volleyball and that I wanted to make sure the work-life balance would still allow me time for volunteerism. I told him stories of my past that took the skills and qualifications I listed on my resume and turned them into something real. I spoke with confidence, even when it came to the salary request, despite the number being high for an entry level position. I believed in myself, which made it easier for others to believe in me. They need me and I know it. They know it. That makes the sell easier. But that confidence can make or break and interview. Go into all interviews believing that you deserve that job. Be personable, but not arrogant. Don’t be afraid of going off into a bit of a side-bar, but always remember to keep your focus on business. Every work that comes from your mouth in an interview counts. Think about what questions you’ll be asked, and how you’re going to answer them. Not sure how to answer them? Go to your friends and family. They know you best, and they can help you figure out the tough stuff.
Beyond all else, go in prepared. Don’t wing it. Know what you’re going to say, be ready for the unexpected. Dress the part. Kick ass.