Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting the Dream Job: Focus on Actions, not Adjectives

Fast Company has an article this week about the "language of hiring."   In this piece, Donna Svei, a professional resume and LinkedIn profile writer, offers some sound advice for job seekers.  My favorite piece of advice is: "Show, Don't Tell."   Here's an excerpt:

Make your middle school English teacher proud. Svei says adjectives and adverbs should be swapped out with anecdotal examples such as how you used Excel to build a model that went on to bring in XY and Z for your department.  To cater to an ATS (applicant tracking system) and a human hiring manager looking for a good collaborator, she suggests adding details such as a role you played on a team that resulted in the development of a product or process. “If they never talk about ‘we’ they probably won’t progress,” through the search process Svei says.

I see many students make this mistake.  They cite their grade point averages, area of concentration, skills, and the like... but they don't offer enough concrete examples of projects that they have done.  Employers want to hear about the work that you have done.  Of course, students will not have much work experience (perhaps only an internship).  What can they do in that circumstance?  In my view, they should turn to the applied learning projects that they have done for courses.  Talk about the project you did for a local company as part of your market research class, or the consulting project you did for a factory in your region for an operations management class.  Those projects, often conducted as part of a team, represent concrete examples of how you can accomplish a challenging task, meet a tight deadline, work as a member of a team, and interact with professionals in your field.  Actions, not adjectives, should be the point of emphasis.  I would argue that the same mentality should flow through to the interview.  Don't tell the interviewer about your courses and grades. Tell them about the projects you completed in specific courses, in which you had to leave campus, enter the real world, and actually accomplish something for a client organization.     

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