*This article was written and shared by Nina Mazurova on Linkedin*
The Job Seeker’s First Impression
Published on April 11, 2017
Decisions are impacted by the first impression. Those decisions could be trivial, such as what brand of eggs to buy; those decisions could also be life-changing: a new job; a life partner. This second article builds on last month’s fundamentals to help you tackle how to build and present your first impression to a hiring process that increasingly resembles speed dating.
From a phone conversation and meeting the team (the ‘family’), you could be deciding whether or not you wish to ‘marry’ that job for 40+ hours per week and however many years. The commitment to personally invest your time and capacity is significant, but the process from which we must make this decision is far from ideal.
- Mindset for Momentum: choosing your direction and pacing yourself.
- Resume Fundamentals: the “what’s” and the “why’s”
- Secrets to Approaching an Interview
- Interview Fundamentals
- Answering and Asking
- Offer Negotiation
- Exceptional Examples
Your Mindset and Your Resume
The excitement of starting or shifting your career can be daunted by uncertainty, doubt, and frankly, exhaustion. Pursuing interviews and making every step with your best foot forward is not only taxing but demoralizing when your effort elicits nothing but rejections and silence.
I’ve had a candidate receive a phone interview request six months after being submitted, and another whom I had submitted on a Thursday, confirmed an on-site interview the following day for the upcoming Monday, with an offer in my inbox before she arrived home. The takeaway for job hunters: pace yourself. From the submission’s perspective, there is little you could anticipate accurately – spare yourself the stress of guessing the possibilities and instead focus your energy on opportunism.
Burning yourself out will kill your momentum, whereas strategic consistency will keep your momentum moving for the full distance. This brings us to the job hunter’s mindset. Whether you are actively searching or passively keeping an eye on the job market, the same fundamentals apply.
1. Know your direction, and your 'why'.
“Where focus goes, energy flows.” Breakthrough artist, Tony Robbins
2. Act on what is in your control, and forget what’s not.
It's OK to have your eggs in one basket as long as you control what happens to that basket. - Elon Musk
3. Observe the results with the intention of troubleshooting, adjusting where necessary, and maintaining consistency.
There is a multitude of moving pieces in the job hunting process and only so many in the candidate's control. Motivation, momentum, and effort are all products of your answer to the question “why?” – this is directly connected to your emotions, your focus, and what ultimately drives your forward and gives you fulfillment at the end of the work week. The “how” is always secondary and infinitely easier to tackle when you know why you are pursuing that direction in the first place. This is your foundation, and if you see it has been neglected let me interrupt myself briefly to share this: rebuilding your foundation is much less costly before you’ve built the high-rise.
Figure out your driver - for example, to invent or innovate a world-changing product. That does not mean that your first job must be at Google or Genentech. That simply means that you now know what goal you are tackling and from that, you can see what skill set you will need to develop in order to perform and impact a space that is filled with individuals that have already had success in what you are hoping to achieve. Individuals that would make sense to have as mentors. The journey of one’s career is in collecting new skills and tools on the path to the endgame which would become your legacy. Let’s focus on the pieces that we have control over, and bring attention to how to navigate the fluid context in which they float.
The secret? Anchor your mindset. Your applications should be consistently flowing into the job market. Observe the results. Assess if they are the results you are looking for. If not, adjust. Repeat. Sound familiar? You’ll hear it at least once more.
The Mindset for Momentum
Assess, act, observe, adjust - do not assume, do not judge.
In the job hunting process, you have complete control over the quality, timing, and delivery of your first impression. This is your resume and source of your traction in this form of job hunting.
Resume = tool for traction and momentum
- This is what checks which doors are open and which ones have already been locked.
Mindset = catalyst
- It fuels whatever it is focused on. If you aim before you shoot and keep an eye on the long-term target, the inevitable little obstacles will not be as taxing. In contrast, if you apply with the expectation of a 100% response rate, every unanswered application will be perceived as a personalized rejection.
Resume fundamentals for a strong first impression:
Every manager has questions that the resume must answer in order to make them interested in a phone conversation: are you qualified to perform the needs of this role, and will you fit in our current environment? Hiring managers become less likely to take additional time out from their day to address any unanswered questions from your resume, as they have other profiles that present that information upfront. For example:
- Whether you are local to the role – (city, state).
- Whether you would require a relocation stipend.
- When you could be available to start after the time of offer.
- Gaps? Why? – Having them is not a deal-breaker, but not being able to speak to them would raise some flags.
- Have you jumped around? – mention which roles were contracts or temporary in nature. Some candidates go as far as specifying layoffs, downsizing, acquisitions, etc.
- Why is this role appealing over your current situation? Is it a step down or laterally?
All of these questions can be easily answered in a concise professional summary which will then be much more personalized and help your profile stand out.
Your first impression is what you can control and adjust at the time of submission. What you are trying to cater this to, though, is what the manager is looking for. Let’s go back to our speed-dating example. We’ll assume the manager knows what is going to be the best fit for them, their current team, and their project needs - we can get too caught up in the fear of rejection that we forget what we are interviewing for. The end goal is not the offer, folks - it’s the fit of the job.
Here’s how we troubleshoot:
- If you are consistently applying and not getting interviews, your resume is lacking in either content or delivery.
- If you have what the manager is looking for, catering your resume would polish the presentation of what you have and is not intended to blindside or over/under-sell your experience to make the cut.
Difficulties at this stage stem from either the strength of your experience or your timing in the hiring process. We can cater our first impression but we cannot control timing. The best tool for capturing that window is the consistency of your applications.
Excluding outliers, the sweet spot for applications is typically within 1 week of its publication (ideally 1-3 business days).
What you cannot control:
- Whether the manager is still looking at new applications...
- Whether their job description is a template or crafted especially for that opening...
- Whether the email with your application was opened…
Now, where can we shift our focus to get some traction?
You either have the qualifications the manager is looking for or you do not, but you can influence the presentation of your profile, the content, the alignment of the content (level, qualifications) and the consistency of your applications to various opportunities as they are released.
A couple of exercises:
If it’s in the job description, and I’ve done it, is it on my resume?
Recruiters often pull terminology from job descriptions for their search strings - if those same terms are not on your resume, it will not be caught in the search.
As you scan through each section of your resume, prevent your own bias by asking: am I including this because it directly relates to this job, or is just something I want to share?
We’re all proud of our achievements, publications, scholarships, GPA’s, SAT scores, winning goals, touchdowns…. are they related to the job, or just something we want to share?
What to do with your momentum.
Developing traction in the direction of interviews does not necessarily guarantee that you have the best footing. The process of applying, learning, adjusting is just the beginning to developing your ‘manager perspective’ from the candidate’s seat.
Once you start getting a trickle of interviews, the same mentality applies: observe the outcomes and adjust your approach until you get the results you are aiming for. Treat it like a learning process and accept that you will never know what lies behind the curtain.
Expecting a response from every submission as emotionally taxing as the amount of focus you devote to it. Track your applications enough to avoid duplicates and move on to the next!
As you take your next steps, know that the quality of your profile and its impression progressively escalates the caliber of your interviews. Almost any skill set could get you a call from an agency, but not necessarily a call from Google or Genentech.
Since 2016, I have had the utmost pleasure working with the Cheeky Scientist Association as a career consultant and staffing resource for a wide range of academic masters and PhDs. Bridging academia and industry, CSA and I are excited to continue sharing additional job hunting resources for the public, our Associates, and academia.