Ace the Resume and the Interview! Print E-mail
by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Think it’s too early to consider questions you will encounter during an interview? The answer is a resounding “NO”. It is never too early. In fact, thinking about questions you will be asked can strengthen your resume and create a consistent impression as you formulate your “brand” for potential employers.
Consider the first impression you want to deliver to potential employers and hiring managers. You control first impressions by being meticulous about details contained in your resume, and that process can help you develop consistent answers to commonly asked interview questions. The resume begins to build your brand, reflecting positive impressions of you from very first glance to final reading. 
Convey Strengths instead of Weaknesses
Focusing on “duties or responsibilities” emphasizes your reporting to others. A better presentation showcases your initiative, creativity, and ability to exceed expectations on your own efforts. A description of your role as an “underling” can diminish the power of accomplishments. Balance accurate job descriptions with a presentation of your skills as achievements to convey strengths.
Present a Progression of Professional Growth
Using a chronological resume provides a progression of accomplishments and professional development, culminating a forecast of the next step in your career. The progressive professional summary replaces the old career objective with a sense of how your talents can complement the potential employer’s mission and “bottom line”. Past success predicts future contributions.
Don’t Detail Reasons for Leaving Past Positions
Although most interviewers will ask the reasons for leaving your more recent positions, you don’t want to use the limited space in your resume to explain this part of your professional history. These are definitely answers you want to prepare for the interview, but extensive explanations in the resume direct the reader’s attention away from your strengths. Prepare to provide answers during the interview, but not before.
Ask Pointed Questions About the Company
Appropriate questions can highlight research you have done about the company’s strengths and new directions. Do not use the interview to explore salary or benefits. Avoid including salary history in your resume as well, so you don’t under-estimate the ceiling before negotiations even begin.
Highlight Unique Skills
Compare your job history and accomplishments to other likely candidates. What skills are unique and which are considered routine? Using common software, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, is unlikely to distinguish you from the 100 other candidates. Analyzing current trends in the field and creating forecasts to help the employer stay one step ahead of the competition, however, are clear strengths that set you apart.
Handling Conflict
How have you managed difficult situations successfully, such as counseling or terminating an underperforming staff member? Have you facilitated consensus among a diverse team? Quantify these successes in typical results you are likely to produce for the new employer, such as increased productivity or team cohesiveness.
Managing Competing Demands
Multi-tasking is a common requirement in most positions, particularly as companies downsize. Have you effectively managed and delivered multiple projects simultaneously? What about directing teams remotely? Have you over-delivered despite challenges of tight time-frames and reduced budgets? These are valuable skills that deserve the spotlight in your resume.
Performance under Pressure
Typical examples of this quality include being calm under pressure, bringing structure to chaos, and rapidly responding to unexpected obstacles. Not all candidates bring these high-level skills to the interview. Demonstrating a history of consistent performance despite challenges conveys your value in being able to manage unexpected obstacles by innovating process and procedure.
Turning around Failure
None of us like to think about shortcomings, however interviewers often want to know how you perceive past failures to gain a sense of your own objectivity and ability to grow from challenges and constructive criticism. Be cautious about how you present these scenarios. Remember, you are not talking with your best buddy no matter how comfortable you may feel with the interviewer. Package the “failure” in the context of how you turned it into a success by emphasizing a short time-frame or major results achieved.
Establishing Credibility
Describe how you establish authority as you take on a leadership role. Do you use the position to create leadership or cultivate respect in leading by example? Do you unintentionally sabotage your authority by being too much of a worker bee? Is your status as a Subject Matter Expert your basis for credibility? Each approach creates a different type of respect, affecting interactions with your team. Review your work history in the context of what kind of leader you have been and what kind you want to be.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
This classic interview question can provide the framework for your resume. Your answer should build on your individual career progression by highlighting accomplishments in each position that provide logical steps toward your 5-year plan. Be certain your plan is career-related. Your life-long goal of being on the pro-golf circuit is unlikely to help get that coveted position you seek. Ideally, your 5-year goals dovetail nicely with the mission of the company where you plan to interview.
Translating the Big Picture Produces Results
Reviewing your answers to likely interview questions and incorporating them into your resume will help you present a consistent brand to potential employers. Your ability to condense the big picture into a practical presentation of skills and accomplishments provides an example of your planning and communication strengths to potential employers. These skills can translate into success for you in the interview process, as you translate your big picture into positive results from your resume.