Archive for April, 2015

How to Interview for a Role You’re Underqualified For

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

So, you applied for a job even though you didn’t quite meet the requirements, and your fabulous cover letter and resume landed you an interview. Nice job!

At first, you feel pretty awesome—it’s nice to know that someone recognizes your potential! And then it dawns on you: There will be an interview. Meaning, you’ll also need to interview for a role that’s slightly out of reach.

Thankfully, just like there are tricks for phone interviews and panel interviews, there are ways to prepare for—and shine in—a reach interview. Here’s your two-step plan.

Step 1: Know (and Nail) The Basics
Secret Weapon: Find an Inside Source

Even if you’re a little light on experience, your application can squeak by to the interview round if it has “something special.” But the interview is the time to “put up or shut up.” Yes, there was something in your letter that told the hiring manager not to rule you out, but in order to be ruled in, you’ll need to demonstrate that you could perform the tasks required of someone in this role.

How can you prove you’re up to the challenge?

Well, you’ll need the scoop on what anyone in the position would know—and you’ll need it from an insider. So, you’ll want to find someone who’s established in the field who is willing to answer three to four questions over email or hop on the phone for 15 minutes. Don’t look for just any acquaintance: If you can’t find a close confidant, search LinkedIn for second-degree connections of your most trusted contacts and inquire about an introduction.

As with any informational interview, you’ll want to do prep work in advance to narrow in on the gaps in your knowledge. Is there industry jargon you don’t quite understand? Perhaps a landmark study quoted in every article you read, but you’re not sure why it’s so important? And then, your third question should always be something along the lines of: “What would anyone interviewing for this role need to know?”; “Are there any givens that everyone should know?”; or “What am I missing?”

Worst-case scenario, if you don’t know (or can’t find) anyone, try industry message boards or even Googling the answers to your questions. (But still make it a priority to build your network ASAP.)

In a reach interview, you can compensate for being lighter on skills or experience by seeming totally immersed in the company and industry. For example, even if you’ve never used the exact software the company uses to track its emails, you’ll seem capable if you’ve heard of it, and—if along with discussing a recent newsletter (which any candidate could do)—you also discuss how it reflects the shifts in communication recently advocated by a major thought leader in the sector. A little extra research can make all the difference in looking clued in and ready to go, rather than out of your league.

Step 2: Make the Leap From Transferable to Additive Skills
Secret Weapon: Come With Actionable Out-of-the-Box Ideas

Transferable skills are a critical discussion point in reach interviews. They’re the backbone of how you’ll frame your experience for the interviewer. Transferable skills turn “zero years of formal marketing experience” into “three years in sales and two more in client relations, which inform a unique perspective on marketing.”

But sometimes—especially in reach interviews—transferable skills are not enough. Even if you can discuss them in a way that sufficiently compensates for the experience you’re lacking, that only gets you into the “could do the job” category. To advance to the “would be incredible in the role” category, you need to make the leap from transferable skills to additive skills.

An additive skill is something unique that you bring to the table—in addition to everything that’s expected. Think about it: If you’re slightly underqualified, there’s a reason why. If you spent the first two years of your career in a different sector, you bring experience from that industry. If you’re younger than everyone else applying for the role, odds are you submitted an extraordinary cover letter or have impressive networking contacts.

You have something that evens out your lack of experience or technical skills, and the interview is your chance to demonstrate how significant it would be. For example, I once interviewed for a position that would require building a program, and without prompting, I discussed impressive, relevant personal contacts I could tap. I emphasized something extra and individual to me. The other candidates — the ones with more classic experience — might not have thought to do this.

Yes, interviewing for a role that’s a bit out of reach is daunting. But we use the terms “stretch” and “reach” for a reason, because if you extend yourself and put in a little extra effort, you just may find the opportunity in your grasp.

Original from the Muse

Resume Tips for U.S. Graduate School Candidates

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

International graduate applicants should format resumes properly and include U.S. work experience.

Applying for graduate school in the U.S. is a comprehensive task. As part of the application, most U.S. grad schools require candidates to submit a resume to help them get to know a candidate better.

If we compared the graduate school application process to a person, a resume would be a person’s face. It’s how the admissions office gets its first impression of a candidate.

Schools want to know a candidate’s basic information, including educational background, academic performance, experience, and other skills. A good resume will answer all those questions in a clear and straightforward way. Here are a few tips on how to make your resume attractive in the competitive application process:

1. Sell any U.S. work or internship experience. Experience counts in graduate school applications. Some programs may say that no experience is required to apply, but the reality is that having work or internship experience will give you an edge.

It’s great if you have internships or work experience from your home country. But if you have finished your bachelor’s program and have lived in the U.S. for four years already, admissions officers will want to know what you’re doing now.

Tell your dream school what you have learned outside of the classroom in the U.S. In my journalism grad school applications, I included my experience interning for a U.S. media outlet on my resume.

2. Your GPA matters. This is another important item to include on your grad school resume. Good academic performance can tell admissions officers that you have the potential to do well in your field and that you take your studies seriously.

Your GPA doesn’t just measure your grades, but can also suggest whether you are capable of continuing your studies at a higher level.

International students might be amazed by the colorful American college life that includes parties and all kinds of organizations and activities. It’s not wrong to enjoy college life, but keep in mind that studying is a student’s most important task.

3. Include your extracurricular activities. Once in the U.S., some international students keep their old habits and routines: taking classes, going to the library, eating in the dining hall and returning to a dorm. This routine isn’t uncommon for students in many countries, where education systems were designed to solely address students’ academic performance.

In some countries, students are trained to spend the majority of their time each day studying. Many students who come to the U.S. from those places find it hard to transition to an environment where students are taught that studying is not their one and only task.

You have to show your dream school that you are more than a studying machine. Demonstrate the leadership capabilities and communication skills that you developed and improved through participation in extracurricular activities.

4. Last but not least, format your resume in an American way. A good resume must be clear and well-organized.

Put your name, address and contact information at the very top, followed by your education background, work experience, activities and skills. A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume on one page.

You should know what an American audience expects. For example, while it might be very common to put a professional photograph of yourself on your resume in China, that’s rarely done in the U.S.

In essence, a good resume tells people what you have achieved and experienced. But the best way to make it attractive is to take action ahead of time so that you have those achievements and experiences to share.

Original from US News

Cover Letters That Make Hiring Managers Call You

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

You know that next job of yours? Yes, that’s right, the really amazing one with the brilliant co-workers, cool boss, and fresh, free snacks in the office vending machine? That one.

You know how you’re going to land it? By quickly showing your future employer that:

a) You’re going to perform incredibly well in this job.
b) You’re insanely likable.
c) You’re really going to fit in around there.

These are the three primary factors that influence the selection process. The person who wins that great job will be the one who shows the decision makers, quickly, that he or she is all three of those things. And you have an amazing opportunity to begin planting these seeds right from the introduction, à la your cover letter.

Most people squander the opportunity. Instead of using their cover letter real estate to their massive advantage, they toss over bland, cliche-filled, or completely-redundant-to-the-resume clunkers. Or worse, they showcase all the things that they want out of the deal, without pausing for a moment to recognize that the company cares a heck of a lot more about what it’s going to get from you.

As a recruiter, it pains me to read most cover letters, because the vast (and I mean vast) majority of them stink. Knowing this should inspire you even further to create a brilliant one. Because, let me tell you, on those rare occasions an amazing cover letter crosses my desk? Mamma mia. It makes my day, and it most certainly influences my interest in its author.

So, how do you pull off a killer cover letter, one that conveys passion and talent and that makes the recruiter or hiring manager’s day? Make sure you do all of these things.

1. Tell Them Why, Specifically, You’re Interested in the Company

Decision makers never want to feel like you’re wallpapering the universe with the same pathetic cover letter. They want to feel special. And so, you need to make it clear that you’re approaching this organization for very specific reasons. And ideally, not the same very specific reasons that everyone else is giving.

Try a high-personality lead in like this: “Having grown up with the Cincinnati Zoo (literally) in my backyard, I understand firsthand how you’ve earned your reputation as one of the most family-friendly venues in the State of Ohio. For 20 years, I’ve been impressed as your customer; now I want to impress visitors in the same way your team has so graciously done for me.”

2. Outline What You Can Walk Through the Doors and Deliver

This isn’t you making a general proclamation of, “Hey, I’m great. I swear!” You need to scrutinize the job description and use whatever other information you’ve gathered about the opening, determine the key requirements and priorities for this job, and make it instantly clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things.

Example: Consider crafting a section within the letter that begins with, “Here’s what, specifically, I can deliver in this role.” And then expound upon your strengths in a few of the priority requirements for that role (they’re typically listed first on the job description or mentioned more than once).

3. Tell a Story, One That’s Not on Your Resume

As humans, we love stories far more than we love data sheets. (OK, I speak for most humans). So, what’s your story? What brings you to this company? Did you used to sing along to all of its commercials as a kid? Did the product make some incredible difference in your life? Do you sometimes pull into the parking lot and daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Tell your story. Just make sure you have a great segue. Random trivia can come across as weird.

Example: Say you’re applying for a marketing job with a baked goods company known for its exquisite tarts and pies. You may want to weave a sentence or two into your cover letter about how you took the blue ribbon in the National Cherry Festival pie eating contest when you were 10, and that you’ve been a pie fanatic ever since.

4. Address the Letter to an Actual Person Within the Company

Not one employee at your future new company is named “To Whom it May Concern,” so knock that off. You’ve got to find a real person to whom you can direct this thing.

This seems so hard or overwhelming, but it’s often easier than you may think. Just mosey over to LinkedIn and do a People search using the company’s name as your search term. Scroll through the people working at that company until you find someone who appears to be the hiring manager. If you can’t find a logical manager, try locating an internal recruiter, the head of staffing or, in smaller companies, the head of HR. Address your masterpiece to that person. Your effort will be noted and appreciated.

And a last, critical factor when it comes to delivering a great cover letter: Be you. Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to every dumb rule you’ve ever read in stale, outdated career guides and college textbooks.

Rules can be bent. In fact, if you truly want that amazing job with the brilliant co-workers, cool boss, and fresh, free snacks? They should be.

Original from the Daily Muse