Wednesday, April 05, 2006

That don't impress me much!

Last month, I was at my company's booth in the NUS recruitment fair. This guy came to speak to me, and asked many many questions about my job. Then he asked for my business card, and said that he would email me if had any more questions (which did not seem possible to me at that point in time).

Some time ago, I got an email from him. Simple email, introducing himself once again as the guy who had asked me the million questions. And the reason for his email? To ask me another question. "What do I do in order to be hired by your company?"

Apparently, he had applied for an editorial position, but was probably rejected in the first round when HR shortlisted the resumes. He wanted to know what it would take for his resume to make it to the next round, and for him to get an interview call, and finally for him to land the job.

Well, I'm gonna send him a formal and a diplomatic reply soon. But there are some informal and undiplomatic answers to his questions, which I thought I should put down here, on my blog.

Firstly, I believe getting your first job has little to do with how good you are academically, or otherwise. This is something I can't put down this bluntly in my reply to him.

In my final year at university, I created my resume with much love and care. I thought I had the perfect resume - a beautiful balance of scholarships and extra-curricular activities, that fabulously showcased my oh-so-impressive 'talents' and 'creativity'. Who would not give me a job?

Bah.

This false illusion of mine was further strenghthened by a career counsellor provided by my university, who was engaged to review our resumes and give us comments on how to improve them. When I submitted mine, it came back with a 'Good' marked in the margin.

Sheesh. 'Good'? What did he think it was? A term paper?

But back then, I was happy with the 'good'. It further underscored my false belief that employers were queuing up in the streets to hire me.

Anyway, so I set out in the world with my 'good' resume. True to its impression, it landed me my first job offer way before I had graduated. Or at least that's what I thought.

But in reality, that resume never got me anywhere.

1. I was hired by my first company because crazy companies will hire just about anyone.

2. I was hired by my present company because of sheer thick skin.

And so it's my belief that one's first job is a lot about luck than we would like to believe. It's a frustrating journey for fresh grads. People in the industry are looking for experience. But if you don't give me a job, how the heck am I supposed to get experience? And so, all the fresh grads that actually get hired just have sheer good luck, yes, even those who are recruited on campus. It's only when you stay at a job and prove yourself, hone your skills and acquire relevant knowledge that you actually become valuable enough for someone to want to hire you.

If you put it down correctly in your resume, and do a good job at the interview, that is.

I always thought I had a turbulent job life. I thought I had seen a lot - resignation from first job in three months, being jobless and penniless for yet another three months, sending out 50 applications a day to random companies I had not even heard of, shamelessly reapplying within two weeks to the company that rejected me.. yeah, I've done quite a bit. And yet, if I think that this is as extreme as one's job situation can get, I would be really naive.

Our jobs and careers are unpredictable. Anything can happen to anyone. Anytime. Often, we have no control over what happens. Perhaps that's why -
wherever we can have control, we should.

I understand the true importance of resumes and interviews
only now, when I'm sitting at the other end, and ruthlessly rejecting applicants.

Moving from being an applicant to being an interviewer has opened my eyes in ways more than one. And here, I'll list down my experiences of what being an interviewer has been like, along with tips that will make, at least me, want to hire you.

1. Your resume tells me straightaway how serious you are about getting the job. I can tell at once if you prepared this resume to apply for my company, or if it is one of the twenty copies you made to send out to different companies one morning. It is evident from your career goal 'To use my skills in an environment offering maximum growth'. That line can be used for any freakin' job on the planet! Believe me. 'Cos I have used that line. And got nowhere with it.

2. Every time HR sends me a stack of resumes, I have to take time out to look at them. Remember that you're taking up someone's time. Make that time worth it for the person. Keep your resume short. Remember, it's a resume, not a blog post by Sayesha. Two pages is just nice. Not more, not less. And when I say keep to two pages, I mean delete stuff. I don't mean point size six.

3. Be relevant. I really don't want to read about stuff that has nothing to do with anything that will make me hire you. I know you're applying for many different types of jobs using the same resume and probably think that it would be good to show what an all-rounder you are. But do remember that an extra-curricular activity that's considered relevant for one type of job may not sound that great to another type. For example, if you have worked with children (including giving tuition), I will regard that as a valuable asset, but it may be worthless information for, say an investment bank, even if it was Maths that you taught.

4. Be concise. I know you're glad to have won the inter-HDB-block badminton championship six times in ten years, but do you really have to use six bullet points and half a page to tell me that? Commas are for a reason, use them.

5. Nerds, I'm sure you have a non-nerdy side. Bring it out. Show me the other side. Non-nerds, I'm sure you have a nerdy side. Bring it out. Show me the other side.

6. Don't for a moment think that just because you are seven feet tall, with rippling biceps, and weigh 110 kgs, I'll be scared of you in the interview room. (Actually I will be, but I won't show it.) So don't use your bulky bod to try and intimidate your sole female interviewer. I can kick you out in a second. (Yes, this happened to me last week.)

7. Just by your handshake, I can tell a lot about you. Do not under any circumstances think that if you make gelatin out of my hand, I will take it as a sign of confidence. No one, (no, not even you, Virdi), is entitled to shake my hand using that kinda grip.

8. If there's anything worse than a fist-crushing handshake, it's the limp handshake. That itself is enough to create an impression so bad, that no impressive resume or answers to my questions can remedy your situation. Your handshake says a lot more about you than you think.

9. Overconfidence is a big turn-off for interviewers. Don't tell me you want to change the Singapore education system by yourself. You can tell me what you have in mind, but don't go over the top. In case you've forgotten, I know exactly what book publishers can and cannot change about the education system.

10. When you come down to sit for the editing test, we ask you to write a paragraph to describe why you want to join our company. This is not just to know the obvious, but also to study your writing skills. Please don't give me an answer like 'personal interest'. Duh! (Yes, it happened recently.) For a start, look at the number of lines given to you for your answers.

11. A sense of humour is good. But don't crack bad jokes during the interview. Bad jokes can (and will) come in only after you've joined us. If you're attempting to be funny during the interview, you're not. I once interviewed a girl who was a volunteer for the Red Cross. She was describing to me why there was a Red Cross booth at rock concerts. Apparently, some fans get so hysterical, they have to be taken to these booths to calm them down, before they are allowed to go back. Her description was hilarious. And she was funny without trying. What a pity she was not interested in joining the Science team, but was more into History. I recommended her for immediate hiring in the History team.

12. Try not to freak your interviewer out. In the column marked 'Relationship of applicant with referee', we expect you to write something expected, such as 'friend' or 'supervisor'. Please don't write 'platonic'!! (Yes, this is a real-life example I came across two weeks ago.)

13. Don't use a job interview as an opportunity to get your book published. If you want to get published, go through the proper channels. Don't waste my time. I'm not looking for an author, I'm just looking for an editor for my team. I once interviewed a guy who sounded more interested in getting his book published than securing a job as an editor. He even showed me his manuscript in the middle of the interview. The bloke had written an academic book on terrorism! I politely reminded him that we publish books only for children, and promptly got rid of him.

14. I don't really care how interviewees dress, as long as it is evident that they take the interview seriously. Many female interviewees dress up really glamourously when they turn up for an interview, but the moment they realise that my magazine is not one of those glossy female magazines, but a Science magazine for kids, their disappointment shows through. I guess simple formals are the safest choice. Nothing too crazy maybe. You can dress crazy after you join us.

15. Don't even think that you can charm your way into getting the job. Don't try to flirt with your interviewer under any circumstances, no matter how hot she is. And oh, don't flatter me by telling me how great I am. I know how great I am. Why don't you tell me how great you are?

16. When I ask you to ask questions, please do so. Most interviewees, especially fresh grads feel that a company is doing them a favour by offering them a job, and so the company must find out all it can about the candidate by asking as many questions as possible. But it works the other way round too. Maybe you are so good at the job that it's you who's doing the company a favour by taking up the job offer. Wouldn't you want to know everything you can about the company you're about to join? More importantly, shouldn't you?

17. When you ask me questions, I will not paint a pretty picture. I will tell you things exactly as they are. Children's book publishing is not as easy as it sounds. There is no author who will come to you with his/her manuscript which you simply edit and publish. It's you who has to develop the idea of a book, source for authors, juggle the Ministry of Education, the designers, the illustrators, your seniors, your authors and what not, to come up with a book. You have to go to schools and talk to teachers to find out what they want. You have to go to bookshops to observe buyer behaviour. You have to 'sell' your package to your customers using just a 15-minute presentation. Frankly speaking, some people find the job so stressful, they quit within a few months. Are you really up for it? If you are, welcome to my world. It's not an easy world to live in, but I believe it rocks. Kind of.

18. When I interview someone, I use my sixth sense a lot. I try to figure out how serious the person is about a job like this, where what you produce at your desk is used to develop young minds across the country and beyond. Two great dialogues will illustrate my point. Preity Zinta's father said in the movie Lakshya, "Whatever you do, do it well. If you're a scientist, be a good scientist. If you're a grass-cutter, be a good grass-cutter. Otherwise there is no point doing what you do." Naseer said in the movie Iqbal, "Each one of us is sent to this world to do one thing exceptionally well. Many people spend their entire lives looking for that one thing, and never find it. Some people are fortunate to find it sooner. If you have found it, cherish it."

I found the dialogues stunningly true. We spend most of our lives on our jobs. Shouldn't it be something we are really good at? Shouldn't it be something we really love to do? Shouldn't it be worth waking up at 6 am for?

So after all this analysis, I dug out my own resume to study it.

I did not quite like it. It has a lot of info, but it is not a true representation of what I believe I am capable of.

And so, I have decided that once every few months, I'm gonna review my own resume and ask myself a question.

"Would I hire myself?"



45 comments:

Vikram said...

FIRST!!!!!!!

Will read in a while... hmmm... a couple of hours maybe....:D

Deeps said...

Silver to me :).

So true. After coming to US, I have realized the shorter and the concise a resume is, the better.

Very nice points for a person being interviewed by you, Why don't you send the poor guy the link to your blog so that he can prepare? ;-)

sriniketh said...

Silver...

The post was really interesting....
I have a doubt. Does the sex of the candidate play any role in his/her selection (knowingly/unknowingly).I am asking this in general as u seem to have some experience in hiring.
For example if a guy is taking the interview I have seen quite some instances where he shows a small inclination to hire somebody of the opposite sex (though he is not supposed to show any bias)

jade said...

damn third! a good post:) thanks for the tips!

jade said...

ya think silver get bronze .. think bronze... err... is there a copper?

Vikram said...

Don't listen to Sayesha guys, the real interview tips are here

:P

I saw a resume with a photograph on it. It was a different thing the candidate was a woman and she looked good. If I was the HR manager, would have definetly hired her.

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Let me declare that I'm here before that Ipanema girl and before Rohit too.
Now, I shall read the post...brb.

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

AAARGH! Must you talk about career at such a time when people like me can't even decide what to do in life?! AAAAARGH! *The girl tears her hair in frustration*. Careers and jobs suck, suck, SUCK.

*The girl glares at the post one more time and walks away fuming.*

Kais said...

Interviews hmmm .... been at the recieving end of a few.

The question that always cracks me up is, "What in your opinion is your biggest weakness?". Im thinking weakness ... yeah right... "Sometimes after the interview, I like to cut the interviewer up into tiny pieces, stuff the juicy ones in my duffel bag and roast em over a slow flame at home...its not so much a 'weakness' as it is a...anyways you guys dont seem the type who would hold that kinda thing against a bloke, would ya? *quizzical look* *guffaw* *backslap* "

Never had the guts to try that for real though. Courage. Maybe thats my biggest weakness...

:P

Cheers
Kais

Ravi said...

The list is comprehensive with some unique points thrown in. I find a very easy way to make a resume is to get into the shoes of the interviewer and then decide what is it that the interviewer would like to know about you.

I'm commenting after a long time but I was regular in reading your posts.

American Pi said...

to sriniketh - if a guy and girl are equally qualified - and the person hiring is a guy, and if the girl is good looking - the girl will get the offer.

Oh, and I think one page resumes should be the norm unless you have 10 years of experience. My resume (which I thought was good because it got me into BSchool) was slaughtered in the first three weeks by career counselors here. Now it is much better.

And there definitely should be a non-relevant section (3-4 lines at most) in the resume where you talk about any additional stuff. It makes for interesting conversation - which might differentiate you if you two people are similar.

In one of my recent final round interviews with the partner of a firm I was interviewing with, we spoke about scuba diving. He wanted to know which was the best dive spot in the world.

Aslam said...

Good post Sayesha. I've been through a lot of interviews and god knows I hated them. I used to be someone I'm not in those interviews. I used to put on this veneer of the perfect guy. Let me elucidate. I would smile till my jaw hurt and be polite to the point of being cloying. I would have an answer to the most ridiculous of questions. Example(remember this is a question to a guy straight out of college):

'Describe an instance where you inspired your peers to achieve something fantabulous.'

Who the hell do they think I am? Bhagat Singh? Anyway, I would think of something mundane that I had done and would embellish it with such lies and come up with such an apocryphal tale that it would defy belief, if you knew me beforehand that is. But of course, to the interviewer, I came across as the perfect candidate.

But I guess everyone has to do that to get through an interview. After that, the facade crumbles and the real 'you' comes to the fore. And that's when you start to love or hate your work.

Jeevan Baretto said...

Great insight about the interviews.. I still have a lot more of them face..
good one..

Anat said...

hi sayesha, i am graduating in 2 months and nowadays sending out my resume everywhere, yeesh i hope i dodnt make those mistakes {rechecking my CV....}

Siddhu said...

Thayetha, that wath thcary! :P

Theriouthly, conthidering I may have to look for a job in one and a half yearth.

Siddhu said...

I bet that lithp elminated any chanceth i had of being a hit if i attempted to get a job at your company.:)

Siddhu said...

Now, I really wonder why I have been posting nonsensical comments for the last two posts.

If i may say so without offending Virdi, I guess I have Virdi-itis, though I'm admittedly not a fraction as funny.

Rohit Talwar said...

YOU ROCK!

I identify the most with the part when you wrote about the grads fresh in the industry.

But if you don't give me a job, how the heck am I supposed to get experience?

HOW TRUE! We feel the same!

I'm saving this. This is awesome. Thanks. This would be a lot of help, in an another year's time for me. [If I get my degree, that is!]

Prayank said...

well most part of this post feels like my own story ... very nice points about resume n interviews ... moreover a very diff topic to blog on ...

Prayank said...

well most part of this post feels like my own story ... very nice points about resume n interviews ... moreover a very diff topic to blog on ...

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Funny to think a guy who asked you a million questions at a career fair dint ask what he needs to do to get hired by your company.

and the job advice, sounds so unbelievably real!

HOTWINTER said...

Sayesha,

After reading the post I feel like sending my CV to you so that you can tell me what is wrong in it. Ha Ha. I myself got my job after 1 year of passing my B.Tech. in Information Technology when my friends got their job imeediately when they passed the degree. Ya, it was quite sad. I know, I had some limitations.

Another thing I am feeling after reading this post is asking your permission to write an article or two on scientific experiments for children and seeking your permission to get themselves published in your magazine. Ha Ha.

Reading this post I could really see the employee recruiting job from the eyes of a recruiter. Good going. Great post.

satish said...

quite informative post! I will be in my final year after some months and i know its gonna be difficult to do gud on an interview. I made my resume to submitto the companies which came to my college for taking interns. And its full of crap. but what was i supposed to do?? submit a blank sheet with a title 'CV' on the top and my name written little below that! wel really during my stay at my college i think a have done absolutely nuthing. my 'extra-curricula' is absolutely zero and the worse part is kee i didnt even study hard enuf to score a gud CPI. wel i dont know why i am telling you all these but i feel kind of sad. And being in the IITB(yup :( ) makes it worse kee what wud ppl say if i didnt get a job at the end of my four yrs of endless 'lukhkha-giri'(wen u are lukhkha u do inconsequential thing bcoz u dont know what else to do.) wel i think i will send you my resume before applying for a job so that u cud proof read it.

anyways..thanks for a nice blog.

Somya said...

very intersting sayesha...another mistake people make while giving interview is trying those weird accents...one of the applicants for a post in my team actually had the austerity to put English and English with UK accent in the Spoken Languages category...some funny guy he was overconfident despite the fact that he could'nt land up with a decent Job in UK even after spending 6 months there and even tried to flirt with me...no wonder I took special pleasure in writing rejected on his application.

Shruthi said...

Very good post... I particularly liked the description of the job you do!

Bhaarat said...

U know the world is a simple and straight forward place. Just that we create complications. The advice that you have given is universal which nobody can deny. I assume that you have written this blog without referencing from any literature or websites. It surely reflects that you are doing your job really well.

The last question raised by you is I always ask myself before sending my resume. Thankfully I have invariably lot of advices given by you already in my resume. But I dont have that Nerdy-NonNerdy and viceversa coming up in my resume. Whether one can pen something which does not have any objective evaluation or certification available. Say for e.g. I am a good story teller... I think it can only appear in others/interest/hobbies only though it is the strongest part of my personality. Any tips.

Bhaarat said...

U know the world is a simple and straight forward place. Just that we create complications. The advice that you have given is universal which nobody can deny. I assume that you have written this blog without referencing from any literature or websites. It surely reflects that you are doing your job really well.

The last question raised by you is I always ask myself before sending my resume. Thankfully I have invariably lot of advices given by you already in my resume. But I dont have that Nerdy-NonNerdy and viceversa coming up in my resume. Whether one can pen something which does not have any objective evaluation or certification available. Say for e.g. I am a good story teller... I think it can only appear in others/interest/hobbies only though it is the strongest part of my personality. Any tips.

Gaurav said...

hmm......
..........
.......................

(the above spaces show the lack of words for this wonderful blog...lovely)

Raj said...

That was just great!

Even i've read quite a few resumes (even tho im not an HR guy) and they are hilarious. I tried to learn from their mistakes when I was writing my resume.

//'platonic'

ha ha :D

virdi said...

hi i am hockey player... Do i impress you???

V...

Lalit Singh said...

//It's not an easy world to live in, but I believe it rocks
This line rocks!!!
And the most important thing about one's job is that you should like it.

Regarding interviews...I have the least exp one could have. Just one. :-)

Abhishek said...

one thing that strikes is how da hell do u get so many comments....
:):)

Utham said...

wow soo big lah, got bored in the middle and stopped reading

why dont you consider him in the state that you were earlier.
i mean without PR and just out of NUS.

i too met you in same NUS fair in the same mercury state. but i m not guy with million Q.

gr8 blog lah ;)
Utham

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Oye Sayesha, I just noticed that you're Aries. Budday-wudday aa raha hai? :D

tcr_79 said...

Well written...

U r a great writer and have a good flow of thoughts...

Most of your points abt resume writing are relevantt, some not so relevant abt the resume - I used to do part-time resume consulting in my college...

Ah and yes, both the dialogues are awesome...

Sayesha said...

#Vikram,
Hmmm... give up yaar... it's too long a post for your attention span! :P

#Deeps,
Thanks, dear. :)

//Why don't you send the poor guy the link to your blog so that he can prepare? ;-)

Hahahaha! :D

#Sri,
//Does the sex of the candidate play any role in his/her selection (knowingly/unknowingly)

This is a very good question. I think that gender does play a part, knowingly or unknowingly, and unfortunately so do looks. For example, in my company, female editors have always outdone the male ones, and so if there are two candidates who're exactly level on everything else, one might be inclined to pick the female. However, when I was forming my team last year, I insisted that I need a guy in my team, just to get a 'father's voice' in the making of the books for children... and the guy I hired turned out to be brilliant! :)

#Jade,
Thanks! :)
ps: Copper, aluminium, brass, everything! :D

#Viks,
Wow you actually read it? Impressive! :D

#World Girl (yaar tera nick bahut lamba hai!),
Achha baba, you're first among the three nutcases. Ab khush? :D
ps: Abhi toh tu bachi hai... time lagega career figure out karne mein... I'm 25 and I still haven't figured it out :P

#Kais,
Sheesh! :O

#Ravi,
Achha aap ho yahan par? Chupke chupke padhte ho mera blog? :P

//I find a very easy way to make a resume is to get into the shoes of the interviewer and then decide what is it that the interviewer would like to know about you.

It may not be 100% possible, but I totally agree with the strategy! :)

#Am Pie,
Wow, one-page resumes! I can't fit mine into one page! :P So I will continue to accept two-pagers! :P

#Aslam,
//Who the hell do they think I am? Bhagat Singh?

HAHAHAHAHA! :D

Achha you have a nice front too, huh? Hamare saamne toh kabhi nahin dikhaya? ;)

//After that, the facade crumbles and the real 'you' comes to the fore. And that's when you start to love or hate your work.

Couldn't agree more! :)

#Jeevan,
Thanks! :)

#Anat,
Honoured if my post helped :P

#Siddhu,
Omg what the hell happened to you man? :O Sthoph lithping! :O

#Rohit,
Aah the dard bhari dastan of the fresh grad... been there suffered that :)
ps: You're welcome! Mera pani puri treat?? :P ~ ~

#Prayank,
Thanks yaar! :)

#Anon,
Thanks! :)
ps: Perhaps he emailed after he got the rejection letter from my company?

#Hotwinter,
Well, I can only advise on resumes for my job area, but if you really think I can help, do send it over! :)

#Satish,
Welcome to Sayeshaz! :) Like I said, I am not authority on resumes, but if you feel I could be of help, I really don't mind proof reading your resume :)

#Somya,
Eeesh! Accents are the worst! I can't stand pple who change accents at the drop of a hat! :O

#Shruthi,
Thanks! Wanna join my team? ;)

#Bhaarat,
I think it really depends on the kind of job you apply for. Your story-telling skills may be picked up as something valuable, even though it's in a small corner of your resume. If you feel it's your strongest point, you should pick the companies to apply for, accordingly.

#Gaurav,
Welcome to Sayeshaz! And thanks for commenting! :)

#Raj,
Hahaha... the "platonic" thing had me more freaked out than laughing! :D

#Virdi,
No.

#Lalit,
Thanks! :)
ps: Arre I know someone who didn't get any of his jobs thru an interview. Head-hunted every single time! :O

#Abhishek,
I wonder that too! :P

#Utham,
Welcome to Sayeshaz. I wonder if you really met me or you're just kidding.

//why dont you consider him in the state that you were earlier.

Isn't that what I am doing? Alerting him of the mistakes that I made?

//gr8 blog lah ;)

Thank you. Are you a Singaporean or just picked up the 'lah'?

#World Girl,
Hehehe... :P

Sayesha said...

#TCR,
Wow, you were a resume consultant? Perhaps you should offer to read the resumes of pple who're asking for my help. I'm sure you'll add more value than my 'learnt-on-the-job' resume-analysing skills :)

chandu said...

should be submitting the resume in a few days!
thanx for penning down the experiences. :))

Utham said...

i agree. u did alert him

was just kidding

i hate 'lah's.

Sayesha said...

#Chandu,
ALl the best! :)

#Utham,
Hahaha... there's a way of saying 'lah'... I don't like it either, but I believe some people can pull it off better than others... especially those who say it just cos they're desperatly trying to 'fit in' :)

Shiv Shankar said...

With respect to interviews i feel food resume and prepare to talk confidently comunciate with the person , have a normal conversation and make ur self comfortable.

Come up with real world examples , and try solving impossible problems as they will appreciate your approach more than your ability to arrive at the final conclusion .

Sayesha said...

#Shiv Shankar,
Yeah, well said.. it's important to be yourself, and show your thinking process more than the solution :)

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