Jim Reed is the manager of the Spokane Valley branch of Personnel Source, a staffing company based in Eugene with offices in Washington and Oregon. The firm is focused on finding qualified temp-to-hire workers to fill jobs in manufacturing, warehouse and distribution.
This week’s questions deal with sharpening one’s résumé and being ready for a job interview.
S-R: Are résumés still critical and important in getting a job?
Reed: Absolutely, most employers utilize the résumé as the initial screening tool. Résumés are still extremely valuable. A résumé’s main intent is to get you an interview. A lot of people lose focus and feel as though the résumé will land them a job. The résumé is simply the tool to prompt a screening call from the employer or entice the employer to want to interview the applicant. A résumé is more of a personal advertisement intended to take the applicant to the next level in the screening process for a job.
S-R: What do you look at first on a person’s résumé?
Reed: Whether the candidate has the skills or experience to do the job. If the résumé does not promote you or your skills and help you get an interview, it’s not effective. If you don’t have experience, emphasize your education. If you don’t have education, emphasize your work history. You want to insure the résumé quickly emphasizes the skills and experience you have to do the specific job.
S-R: What are the dealbreakers or mistakes that people need to avoid on a résumé?
Reed: A blank kind of page. If you can read a résumé in 10 seconds, it’s not a very good résumé. It has to show somebody you can communicate in writing. Can a human resource director or employer look through it in 30 seconds to two minutes and decide if this person can be hired? Literally within 30 seconds to two minutes, they’ll say “Yes” or “No,” or “Do I want to call this person and learn more?”
SR: Should the résumé be tailored differently to each job?
Reed: Yes. Find a way to show how you have skills that are applicable for that job.
S-R: Which job applicants present the biggest challenges in getting hired?
Reed: Those who’ve been unemployed for long periods of time. That’s the largest challenge because there is a stigma attached (to that) in the business community. I’m not saying that’s fair. But when a person is unemployed a year or more, there are a lot of business people who feel, “Hey if that person wanted to work, he could have gone to work.”
S-R: What are the three critical traits you look for in people who can be hired in the current economy?
Reed: A true desire to work, a good match between the job and the candidate’s experience and skills; and a commitment to reliability and a good work ethic.
S-R: What is your firm’s approach to drug screening before sending a person out on an interview?
Reed: We screen everyone for drugs. If someone even tests positive for marijuana, we don’t work with them for six months. We do that, because it shows a candidate is committed to go to work. That shows they want to go to work. In this day and age, it’s hard to find a solid job if you can’t pass a drug screen.
S-R: What kind of preparation do you encourage for an interview?
Reed: First, be polite. Dress appropriate for the job. Be polite and listen to what the interviewer is asking you and respond appropriately. Try not to outguess the interview. If they ask a question, there is no hidden agenda. Just answer the question and don’t sound canned.
S-R: How do you coach people who may have lost their last job?
Reed: We’re a little different. We tell them it’s OK to say you had a rough time at your last company but don’t be disrespectful of the people there.
S-R: In job interviews, do you encourage people to be personal or just very focused and all-business?
Reed: You should bring your own personality to play, within the context of the interview. Sometimes candidates try to take over the interview, but that can cause issues. A good interviewer might ask: “Do you have anything you want to share?” They may do that for lot of reasons. But that’s when a candidate doesn’t want to get too personal, talking about religion for example. Usually, the interviewer just wants to hear your response.
S-R: What questions can you always predict a person will be asked?
Reed: “Why should I hire you? What benefit do you bring to our company?” One question that burns people is: “Tell me about your last employer.” If you bad-mouth your past employer, it’s a bad sign, usually. It means to that interviewer: If you’re willing to bad-mouth them, will you bad-mouth me, too?
S-R: When an interviewer raises a question about a criminal record, what do you advise the candidate to say?
Reed: We always encourage the candidate to tell the truth. Almost 100 percent of the time if a candidate lies about a criminal record and the employer finds out on their own, the job will be awarded to someone else.
I also let candidates know that although many companies have policies or job requirements that disqualify people with criminal records, many companies do not.
In addition, some recent recommendations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have a positive impact on the hiring process for candidates with prior convictions. If you have a criminal record, be honest when asked about it and let the interviewer know what you learned from your experiences.
An employer will often be OK with mistakes in someone’s past as long as the candidate is truthful and has learned some positive lessons from the experience.
S-R: How much research should someone do before going to the first interview?
Reed: We always try to encourage the candidates to do their research on the company and the job before the interview. Employers like to know that a candidate is truly interested in their position and have some basic knowledge of the company and job.
When doing the research, understand the job description thoroughly and know the core functions or delivery of the company. Try to understand how the company produces revenue to help put the interviewer’s questions into context.
One thing to keep in mind is that the interview has a dual purpose and that purpose is for the employer to learn whether or not the candidate is good fit for the position, and for the candidate to learn if the company and position is good fit for the candidate.
The interview is not a good place to display all your knowledge of the company. Demonstrate that you have done your research, but keep it short and to the point.