Ask A Recruiter: Resume Tips for New College Graduates

Q: I’m graduating college this year and still working on my resume. Do you have any tips?

A: Congratulations on your graduation and welcome to the workforce!

We often help recent college graduates with their resumes. One of the most common mistakes new job seekers make is not providing detail on the jobs they held during school. For instance, a candidate who worked as a receptionist in the Dean’s office might list their duties as “answering phones,” overlooking and failing to mention other valuable office experience like: planning meetings, greeting important people and organizing events.

I recommend thinking about all the work experience you have from college – including part-time or unpaid jobs, internships, work study and extracurricular activities – and the responsibilities you were given in those roles. Then think about the special achievements you accomplished during each experience. Use bullet points to call out each item.

However, don’t succumb to the other common mistake new job seekers make of writing about every detail you can think of. Keep it relevant to the job you’re seeking or the kind of work you want to do. For example, if you worked as a lifeguard during school, it would be appropriate to include the details of that experience if you’re looking for new lifeguarding jobs. If you’re pursuing office work, you should think about the aspects of your lifeguarding experience that are relevant to office employers, such as record-keeping, managing schedules, etc.

Rather than providing detailed information about special events, trips or assignments, just list them and save the big story for the interview. If the employer is interested in your trip to China during your internship, they’ll ask you about it. Conversely, if they’re not interested, it doesn’t benefit you to include all the details on your resume.

Finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to proof-read your resume. Print it out so that you can see what it looks like from the eyes of the recipient. Is it formatted correctly and is there enough ‘white space’? Employers aren’t likely to read every bullet, so you want to make sure your important information stands out. Ask a friend, family member or professor to proof-read it, too. They may catch a mistake that you’ve overlooked.

About the Recruiter
Katy-LeVeque-photoKaty Leveque is a Senior Group Manager at PSG.  Katy learned the recruiting business from the ground up. She joined PSG shortly after graduating college over five years ago and today Katy oversees the service teams that support some of PSG’s most valued clients.

Ask A Recruiter: Human Resources Jobs

Q: Can you share advice for starting a career in Human Resources?

A: The good news for the human resources jobs market is that demand for HR workers is up and jobs that had been cut during the Recession are coming back.

Human Resources professionals contribute to business viability and success through the strategic management of human capital. Jobs in this field range from HR generalists to specialists in areas such as workforce planning and development, HR development, total rewards, employee and labor relations and risk management.

In the Human Resources industry, there are a few criteria that all employers look for:

Education – There are Human Resources professionals with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. However, many HR positions require candidates with a minimum of a four-year degree. Candidates with Bachelor’s degrees and a major in business, marketing and communications can be well-positioned for careers in Human Resources, especially if they’ve taken courses that cover topics such as management, recruitment, training and compensation. Internships during college or participating in co-op programs are a great way to break into the HR field, too. A master’s degree can be helpful, particularly one that specializes in a specific area of Human Resources or in a field that can be related to HR, e.g. an advanced degree in communications, marketing, sociology or education.

Relevant experience – It’s a bit of a Catch-22 and it can make it difficult to break into the Human Resources sector, but employers prefer to hire HR staff with previous experience. If you’re trying to transition into an HR role, or switch from one type of HR position to another, consider these tips:

  • Take on additional tasks in your current job that take you in the HR direction, e.g. take on payroll duties
  • Talk to your boss or your recruiter and let them know you are interested in an HR role and ask what you need to do to be prepared when an HR opening occurs. If they don’t know, they can’t help you grow your career in HR.
  • Investigate opportunities to work part-time in an HR role and part-time in another role until you gain experience
  • Take a good look at your resume, or ask a professional for advice on making your previous experience applicable to HR roles. For instance, a background in accounting can be desirable for certain HR functions if you can show a way to bridge that experience.
  • Consider taking time out for an HR internship
  • Consider getting an HR or business graduate degree
  • Network with people who work in HR and join online networks of HR communities.

Above-average communications skills – Good communication skills are necessary for all types of Human Resources roles. Since HR professionals handle confidential information, and must be comfortable interacting with employees at all levels, companies often seek people who are mature and experienced professionals—especially for higher-level positions in HR.

Strong track record – Employers look for candidates who can show a successful career track record, which includes demonstrating longevity or loyalty to past positions and employers, as well as good career progression with regular promotions and growth in responsibilities over time.

About the Recruiter
Jess-Salerno-photo1Jessica Salerno Incerto has 10+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees career placement, client consultation and management and training. Jessica is also a member of NEHRA’s Diversity Committee.

Ask A Recruiter: Finding Work You’re Passionate About

Q: Everyone says ‘follow your passion’, but how do I do that and earn money?

The advice to “find work you love and the money will follow” refers to the belief that if you are truly passionate about your job, you’ll give it your all and work hard to become the best you can be at doing it. It would naturally follow that you’ll be compensated for being the best. Whether or not this is realistic advice depends on your passion and what you hope to do with it, and also how important it is for you to earn money.

If you can afford not to have an income for a period of time, you may want to take a step back (from traditional work and paychecks), learn all you can and set yourself up to do work that you’re truly passionate about.

However, a lot of people come to us wanting to change careers, but not wanting to take a cut in pay. In these situations we try to find opportunities in organizations that correlate and connect to their passions. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Find work that you enjoy within an organization.
Some people are passionate about event planning and would like to pursue that as a career. However, without prior experience and references it can be hard to find steady work as an event planner. It may be more realistic to find work in an administrative role that often has event planning duties so that you can build your experience in this area and leverage it down the line.

Look for organizations in an industry you’re passionate about.
If you are an avid runner and passionate about the sport, you may find fulfilling work in an office culture that supports your passion at a company like Reebok in Canton, MA. We also work with a client that manufactures and sells equipment to the music recording industry and prefers to hire employees with music backgrounds. Although the jobs in these organizations might utilize traditional business skills, the organization’s values and support for outside activities you admire, as well as the ability to work alongside like-minded co-workers, may provide the stimulation you seek to stoke your passion.

About the Recruiter
frank-gentile-2Frank Gentile is a 20+ year veteran of the staffing industry and an experienced recruiter. As a Director at Professional Staffing Group (PSG) Frank oversees the permanent placement division. 

Ask A Recruiter: Finance Jobs

Q: What advice do you have for someone looking for a finance job today?

A: Boston has always been a strong job market for finance professionals. The city has is known as a hub for financial services and insurance businesses, and other industries with a strong Boston presence – such as healthcare and technology – have a growing need for finance talent as well. Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of demand for analytical positions, such as financial analysts.

What does it take to land one of these jobs in finance?

First, a strong education background is important. Boston employers are often looking at candidates from top business schools in the area, including Babson, Bentley, Bryant, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and UMass to name a few. Some employers go so far as to specify a particular school that they want to hire from.

After checking to see whether you graduated from a ‘pedigree’ school, the hiring manager will next check out your degree and whether you have an advanced degree. Hiring managers will take notice of your grade point average and these days are looking for candidates with a GPA of 3.3 or higher. Master’s degrees, such as an M.B.A., master’s in finance or C.F.A. (chartered financial advisor), are increasingly important and sometimes a prerequisite for finance jobs. For candidates who are thinking about getting a master’s, consider that if you complete the degree right after college, you may be eligible for jobs that your peers aren’t as qualified for and you may be able to launch your finance career sooner.

When it comes to prior work experience, employers who are hiring finance professionals, and especially analysts, are looking for these things:

  • Experience – If you’re hoping to land a managerial position in finance, be prepared to demonstrate your budgeting, forecasting and financial modeling experience. We receive a lot of requests from clients who want financial analysts with experience creating financial models from scratch. Not only do they want to hire candidates who are power users with Excel and Microsoft Access, they are also looking for employees who are creative and independent thinkers when it comes to compiling and presenting data.
  • Industry knowledge – There’s a big difference between firms that sell investment funds and those that sell pharmaceuticals and their sales and accounting cycles will be very different, too. When filling analyst roles and other finance positions, hiring managers look for relevant industry experience. While a candidate may not need exact industry experience, it’s best if he/she can show an understanding of the business units and sales functions within the firm/industry they’re targeting.
  • Confidence – Finance positions are increasingly moving out of the back-office realm and becoming more forward-facing roles. A finance manager or analyst may need to work with the head of every business unit in the company to put together budgets and will need to have the confidence to deliver bad news when needed and to give formal presentations to board members on occasion. Some recruiters say they look for candidates with a “sales mentality and an accounting/finance body” to fill these positions.

 

About the Recruiter
greg-menzone-pic1Greg Menzone is a 10-year veteran of the staffing industry who has made hundreds of successful placements. Greg and the team he manages specialize in direct hire placement of accounting and finance professionals.

Ask A Recruiter: What questions should I ask in an interview?

Q: What questions should I ask during an interview?

A: A job interview is a two-way street. You want to get to know the organization and the people who work there just as much as they want to get to know you. Asking the right questions can help you do this.

There are four types of questions to bring up during an interview:

Questions to help build rapport – Interviews are more than just an exchange of information. They should operate like a good conversation. To start that conversation off on the right foot and keep it running, you will need to build a rapport with the interviewer. Asking questions like, “How long have you been here?” and “What brought you here?” or “What are the main motivating factors that keep people here?” are a great way to start the conversation.

Questions to better understand the intricacies of the role –Naturally, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the job you’re being interviewed for. Presumably, you’ll know most of the basics from the application process or, if you’ve worked with a recruiter, they will have filled you in with as much information as possible ahead of time. You should also do your homework on the company by searching online for information about the organization, people you may know who have worked there and ‘inside’ information about the internal culture of the firm. If you don’t already know the answers, or want to validate the information you’ve uncovered, here are a few questions that will help you better understand the open position:

  • Why is this position open? i.e. is it a brand new role? Or did someone leave the position and, if so, why did they leave?
  • What did previous workers in this position do well? What could be done to take the position to the next level?
  • What are the top three skill sets necessary to be successful in this role?
  • What type of exposure/interaction is there with other groups from the organization? What types of skills are important for those occasions?
  • What are some challenges I might anticipate in this role?
  • Can you describe the personality or culture of this group in the organization?

Sometimes, even if you know the answers in advance, it’s a good idea to ask the questions anyway. For instance, if you’re meeting with multiple people it can be a good way to gather and compare information.

Questions to better understand the company –Finding out about the company and its culture will help you understand the best way to position yourself to be hired there. Much of this type of information can be found by doing research online or by checking with connections who work at the company or in the industry. In fact, the interviewer will expect you to have done some research ahead of time so try to avoid asking questions with answers that could easily be found on your own, e.g. asking about the sales figures or overall health for a public company.

However, you may want to ask about the company’s management strategies with detailed questions that demonstrate your understanding of the company and its place in the market. For example, if you’re interviewing for a job in commercial real estate, you may want to ask about the firm’s strategy for selling properties and making acquisitions over the next 6-12 months. Or, if you’re interviewing for a position in healthcare management you may want to ask about the company’s hiring initiative in light of new healthcare reform mandates. For an interview with a private equity firm, asking about the firm’s involvement with specific industries or the risk associated with certain companies would be expected.

Questions to ask to understand what will happen next – Nothing is worse than feeling as though you aced an interview and then not hearing from the interviewer again. To ensure you’re on the same page, ask the interviewer about the process moving forward and what their timeline is for making a hire. You can also ask whether the interviewer has any further questions for you or if there are any areas that you didn’t cover or on which you could elaborate. If you feel really good about your prospects with the company you could also ask the interviewer if they think there’s anything that could disqualify you for the job. The key to asking this question is being comfortable enough to handle their responses and turn it into an opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself for the role. Asking these questions also gives you an opportunity to express and reiterate your interest in the position, so ask them even if you’re working with a recruiter.

Feel free to write your questions down in advance and even to take notes during the interview (as long as you don’t let it detract from the meeting). I also advise candidates not to ask questions in an initial interview about compensation range, benefits or growth potential. I’m not naïve and wouldn’t suggest that compensation isn’t important to your decision, but other motivators – such as company culture, the job opportunity, the challenges and satisfaction it’s likely to present – rank slightly higher in determining whether the job is right for you. Sometimes the interviewer will volunteer information on compensation but, again, I recommend not dwelling on these topics in an initial interview. If you get the sense that the range being offered is not right for you, you can ask about it in a later interview. There are also other ways to get this information without asking for it directly.

About the Recruiter
Image
Greg Menzone is a 10-year veteran of the staffing industry who has made hundreds of successful placements. Greg and the team he manages specialize in direct hire placement of accounting and finance professionals.

 

Ask A Recruiter: Explaining a Gap in your Resume

Q: What’s your advice for explaining a gap in a resume?

A: A gap in your resume, i.e. a period of time that isn’t filled by employment, is usually perceived negatively by employers and typically will generate questions from the interviewer. Therefore, it’s important to have a logical and credible explanation for the gap.

The explanation will depend on why you have the gap. Is it because you were unemployed and spent that time looking for a new job? Did you take time off on purpose to care for family or to travel before settling down? Or were you relocating and didn’t have a new job lined up before the move? These are all plausible reasons for gaps and I hear them every day.

The most important thing to consider when you are explaining why you have a gap in your resume is the message you are sending. For instance, if you decided to travel after a job ended and before looking for another position, you’re sending the message that you prioritized personal pleasure over work. This might cause the employer to wonder if you’re serious about working now. It’s important to be truthful in your explanation, but think about your response from the listener’s point of view. If you have a gap on your resume because you were unemployed, explain your job search and details on how you spent that time. Did you have goals and a structured approach to your job search? Did you volunteer, intern or work temporary or contract positions in the meantime? Even if they weren’t in your field, they could show that you were motivated to get back to work.

If you’re living through a gap period right now, I recommend trying temporary or contract work. Not only are you keeping your skills up-to-date, but each day you are working will expose you to new contacts and experiences that may lead you to the job you’re looking for. Many times temporary and contract positions turn into offers for full-time work.

About the Recruiter
frank-gentile-2Frank Gentile is a 20+ year veteran of the staffing industry and an experienced recruiter. As a Director at Professional Staffing Group (PSG) Frank oversees the permanent placement division.