Let’s be honest. Prepping for interviews is tough. You’ve probably read hundreds of articles telling you what to wear, what time to show up, etc. etc. etc.
While soft skills, including dependability, motivation, and communication, were cited recently in a report from Express Employment Professionals as the most important skills employees possess, hard skills still play a vital role in today’s job market. In fact, one could argue that even if your soft skills are perfect, at the end of the day, there are certain critical hard skills needed to succeed. Because Express hires and employs more than 376,000 people per year, we have great insight into what is important in landing the job. Let’s take a look at the top hard skills ranked by Express franchises as important to employers.
Work experience ranked highest on the list of hard skills. Education is great, but there’s still the need to prove that you can do the job. And if you have trouble getting a job in your career field, find a job within the industry, even if it isn’t your ideal role. Being able to list a related industry on your resume can show correlated work experience. Check out this recent post on unemployment versus underemployment supported the value of getting work experience to your overall career.
- Technical ability
To best showcase your technical abilities on your resume or LinkedIn profile, use specific versions of software you have experience with or qualifying descriptions. Be specific about your ability, not just that you have skill, but how fast or at what level you can do the job. Understand the numbers in your job and be able to market yourself with specific results.
Whether it’s conflict resolution, goal-setting training, or a continuing education event, keep a record of the training you’ve received and what you’ve learned from it. Be able to explain what you’ve taken away and how you’ve applied it. Additionally, have a plan of your own on how you’re going to stay informed on changes and advancements in your industry to stay on top of your game.
What hard skills have been your biggest asset in your job search? Share with us in the comments section below.
Throughout the year, we’ve covered different aspects of the job search through the eyes of job seekers who are introverted and shy. From networking to searching, there are strategies and methods to help bring out the talents and strengths introverts have.
One aspect of the job search that can be the most dreaded for shy job seekers and the most draining for the introverted seeker is the interview. Taking 30 minutes or more to be asked questions, talking about yourself, and trying to promote how much better your skills and accomplishments are than the competition can be enough to make anyone shudder in terror. But, take confidence in knowing that introverted and shy job seekers can shine their brightest during the interview.
Embrace Your Inner Strengths
Outgoing and assertive job seekers may seem like they’re the total package, but the more internal and quiet job seekers have talents that are just as appealing to employers, especially in an interview. Introverts often give deeper and better answers to interview questions because they tend to be better listeners and observers. Instead of rattling off the first thing that comes to mind, you can internalize the answer and insight into situations and people that the extroverts don’t catch, which boosts your presentation.
Make a List and Check it Twice
It’s important to make a checklist of everything you need to have and do when interviewing. Having it written down will keep you focused without wasting time and energy storing it all in your head.
Make sure you have your clothes, résumé, company fact sheet, route to the interview, parking spot, and traffic and travel time ready. You’ll want to leave nothing to chance so you don’t have to rush. Feeling rushed can make an introverted person lose valuable energy quickly, or cause a shy person to stumble on their confidence.
Keep Expectations Reasonable
Shy people tend to put too much pressure on themselves when doing activities or actions most consider routine or normal. When it comes to an interview, especially for a highly desirable job, it’s easy for someone who’s introverted or shy to have a “do or die” mentality. Introverts can stop listening and focus more on trying to guess what the interviewer wants to hear instead of the honest answer. You’re trying to see if the employer is a good match for you, not get an instant job offer after every interview.
Two Heads Are Better Than One
Extroverts are generally more confident when they are out of their comfort zones. Confidence is a huge issue with shy job seekers and the insecurity can make your body language appear standoffish and cold. Next time, take a good friend out to breakfast or lunch before the interview and then hang out after. Having someone providing encouragement can go a long way in helping you keep your nerves from fraying.
Out-Prepare Your Competition
A shy job seeker’s self-consciousness is often their downfall. One of the best ways to build confidence is to practice interview questions. There are several resources full of different questions that can help you prepare. Figure out answers that fit your goals, in your voice, and put them on note cards to help you remember and practice. It may feel silly, but knowing the material helps calm introverted and shy job seekers and helps you sound better than anyone else who could be winging it.
There is interview success for shy and introverted job seekers. What are some ways you have built your confidence or displayed your strengths as an introvert when interviewing?
Your work experience is an important part of why a potential employer should want to hire you. So, what does your current work history say about you? Does it make a potential manager take notice of you or does it only get a quick glance, never to be looked at again? Your work history section is the core of your résumé. As such, it has to be a strong foundation to be the focal point of your résumé. So, here are a few tips to help strengthen the work history section of your résumé.
For each work experience you list on your résumé, make sure to note your title, the name of the company, and the start and end dates of your employment. If you are still currently employed there, say so. An example would be: Construction Supervisor | XYZ Construction Company | August 2008 – Present. If you are with the same company and have received promotions, list out each job title you’ve held and specifics about the work you did in each role. Do you have a gap in your work history? Find out how to fix that.
Next, to bring life to your work history section, describe your job duties and accomplishments. Be sure to incorporate numbers and results of projects you’ve worked on. This is the area where you want to show how much of an impact you have made through your work. For example, instead of saying, “managed the budget of ordering office supplies,” say something like, “oversaw the office supply ordering process and saved the company $200 per month on purchases.” This latter option showcases what you did and just how well you did it by demonstrating the cost savings you created for your company.
It’s important to still keep these points short and sweet, but be as specific as you can by including some numbers and results. The numbers are the validation that potential employers want to see to ensure that you can do the job and do it well. Also, use power words to add some punch to your information.
So, in the end, here’s a sample of what your work history section should look like:
XYZ Construction Company | August 2008 – Present
• Oversaw employee safety procedures and successfully trained 100 team members about CPR and fire
• Won a new company contract and saved the company $3,000 in construction fees
• Managed a team of 20 construction employees with no turnover in two years
One other important note to make is to keep your work history section relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s about tailoring your information. For instance, if you’re trying to get into a professional environment, don’t include a previous summer job as a dog walker. And, if you have a long work history of several different jobs, again, just pick out the work experience that is relevant to the new job you’re applying for.
These are just a few tips to help your résumé work history get noticed. Be concise, and again, it’s OK to brag on yourself a little here. You want to let the employer know why you’re the best for the job opportunity.
You might have a great, top-notch résumé on file to give to potential employers, but that’s not all you need in your job hunting portfolio. You’ve still got more work to do! Although employers want to see background information, skills, and awards on your résumé, they also want to see a list of references. A reference list is important because employers want to know which individuals they can contact to verify your information and get another perspective of who you are.
So, here are some important tips you need to know about creating a reference list.
First and foremost, your references should really know you. Don’t list anyone as a reference who has only met you once. These individuals may speak to a potential employer about you, so you want to list individuals who know you and will speak highly of your work ethic. One negative reference can drastically impact your chances of getting hired for a job, so be careful about who you list. Choose individuals who will gladly give you a positive recommendation.
Also, when it comes to the number of references you have, the more you have to list, the better. It’s never a bad thing to list more references than an employer will check. For entry-level job seekers, it’s a good idea to list at least four references.
Keep References Professional
It’s also better to list professional references rather than personal references. Professional references may include previous employers, co-workers, teachers, professors, and mentors. Personal references are more like family members and close friends. Although your family and friends are your biggest fans and they would give you a raving recommendation, use caution.
When you’re looking for a job, especially an entry-level position, try to find references connected to the field you want to go into. Potential employers want to know how you excelled at a particular project, your ability to work well on a team, how you handle pressure, etc. So, just be sure to list references who can tell of situations and circumstances where you showcased these skills.
Before you list someone as a reference, ask them first if it’s OK for you to include them. Call or ask them in person, and explain why you want to list them. Usually, a person will be flattered and honored that you asked. This is also a great way to continue building your professional relationship with that individual. Also, by getting permission, you give them a chance to be prepared in case the employer does call so they won’t be caught off guard. Just make sure your reference hears from you first – and not from the employer – that you listed them as a reference.
Create the Reference List
Once you know who you want to include as your references, it’s time to create the list. Create a separate reference list in addition to your résumé. Include the first and last name of the reference, their relationship to you, their job title, employer, business address, phone number, and e-mail address.
Keep the formatting on your reference list similar to the format of your résumé – you want these two documents to look like they go together. Use the same font type and font size that you used on your résumé. Times New Roman, 12 point font is a good choice.
If you have a headline on your résumé, such as your name and contact information across the top, replicate that on the reference list too. Keep this document to one page in length, and list your references in order of who knows you best – not in alphabetical order. Employers usually start at the top of the list when making calls, so be sure your strongest references are listed at the top.
Distribute Your Reference List
As a rule of thumb, traditionally you don’t give a reference list to an employer unless they ask you for it. So, at the bottom of your résumé, put “References Available Upon Request,” to let employers know that you’ve thought ahead and are prepared. Most employers know that your references are available on request, but just starting out in your job hunt, it’s still OK for you to let them know you have already created a list. Be sure to have your list available on the day of your interview just in case that information is requested. Today, thanks to the internet and an abundance of search websites, employers can research your references online as well.
A reference list is a great thing to have. And who better to recommend you than those who can speak well of your work! Start thinking today about who you could list on your reference list. A professor? Intern supervisor? Manager from an organization you volunteer for? If you can’t think of individuals to list, it’s time to get out there and start making connections. Also, keep in mind that although employers might do a reference check on you, they could also do a random check and search for information about you online. Check back in to My Entry-Level Life next week to find out if your social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter could help you land a job or hurt your shot!
Do you have any other ideas for creating a reference list? If so, leave us a comment!
In a recent article featured on ABC News.com, a survey revealed that 55% of people are unhappy in their current jobs. This paired with our recent poll that showed 82% of readers would job hop in 2010 indicates that people are ready for a change in their work life. Based on these findings, competition may stay fierce as people look for new jobs. So, here are some tips to help you brush up on your nonverbal skills to ensure you outshine the competition and send all the right messages once you’ve landed an interview.
- Always Smile. When you first meet an interviewer, give them a big smile. A sincere smile communicates warmth and friendliness, and helps put everyone at ease. Also, it’s a great way to break the ice and help relieve any tension about the interview.
- Give a Firm Handshake. Extend your hand first to greet your interviewer. Doing so shows that you are a go-getter and you take the initiative – both of which are good qualities employers like to see. Be firm with your handshake, but not too firm. You don’t want to inflict any pain on your interviewer.
- Balance Eye Contact. Too little eye contact during an interview can give the impression that you lack confidence or have something you are trying to hide. Give too much eye contact, and you might be displaying aggression. During your interview, look the interviewer in the eye, but be sure to occasionally break eye contact at appropriate times.
- Lean Forward. When you sit down in the interview chair, don’t lean back too far. Instead, sit closer to the front of the chair and lean slightly forward to communicate your interest in the job. Leaning back may cause you to look too casual, making it hard for an interviewer to see your drive or passion.
- Be Aware of Your Arms. Crossed arms send the message that you are standoffish, insecure, defensive, and want others to stay away. During your interview, keep your arms relaxed on the table or in your lap to show that you are approachable and open.
- Control Your Nerves. Your nervousness can come across in an interview if you use excessive hand gestures or facial expressions, or if you are jittery. Its fine to use some gestures and facial expressions – especially if that is part of your personality – but just don’t overdo it. Tapping your fingers on the table, clicking a pen, or wiggling your feet and legs can be seen as a distraction, so try not to do them. Those cues could give the interviewer the impression that you don’t want to be there.
Now that you have these tips, try a practice interview to help you prepare for the real deal. Your nonverbals say a lot about who you are. They are part of the first impression that you make, and remember, a first impression is made quickly and you don’t get a second chance at it. Make the most of it and make it count!