In the last few years I was regularly involved in hiring students for a number of co-op and internship positions. Round after round of such hiring process I keep seeing the same mistakes that people make while writing their resumes or going through the interview, so I decided to offer some tips from hiring perspective…
1) Customize your resume. Seriously, do that. I know that when you apply to any position that is related to your knowledge it seems like a good idea to have a multipurpose resume. It’s wrong. Last month I had to review couple of dozens resumes within fairly limited time, and if the first thing I see on the resume is “circuit design & assembly knowledge” while I am looking for strong software developer with Java and XML knowledge, I am very likely not to read it any further.. On contrary, if I see the objective in the beginning of the resume that is specifically customized for advertised position, it tells me that person cares about this position and I am more likely to spend more time looking at the resume.
2) Be reasonable. I know that resume is an ultimate tool to brag about your knowledge and experience, but you have to be reasonable with your claims. When I see something like “deep knowledge of SQL server, DB2, Oracle and MySQL” on the resume of the second year university student, it raises my suspicions.
3) Relevant experience. I know that this contradicts many “how to write a good resume” manuals, but I really don’t see the value of listing some totally non-relevant work experience on your resume. When I am shopping for Java developer, I don’t see why I need to know that you worked as landscaper for two summers. Said this, it is good to list the jobs which are not related but allowed you to develop some relevant skills, for example being a math tutor for high school students improves your problem solving and customer facing skills.
1) Know your resume. I know that this sounds obvious, but in my experience 3 out 4 people whom I interviewed had very vague idea about some technologies or products listed in their resumes. I didn’t go deep into technical knowledge, it was just very “101” type of questions. (My favorite example is about the person who listed “deep knowledge” in Web Servers and Application Servers and couldn’t describe to me the difference between them)
2) It’s OK not to know everything. Quick on the spot thinking is good to have, however if you hear the question to which you don’t know the answer, just say so, don’t try to wiggle your way out of it with some generic talk. If interviewer asks you something, it is very likely that he or she knows the answer really well and being honest about the boundaries of your knowledge creates much better impression than trying to conceal your lack of knowledge (what else are you concealing.. eh? )
3) Do the research. Normally I start the interview by describing the organization and position for which we are hiring. If person already knows it, it creates really good impression, it tells me that this person cares and interested in this job.
4) Have answers to pre-canned questions, answers that are relevant. Again, during many interviews I ask such “101” questions as “what was the most interesting project you have been involved with”, “where do you see yourself in 2 years”, etc. And of course I expect some answers that correlate with job posting. However if I am shopping for Java developer, and the interviewee tell me that the most interesting project he was involved with was assembly programming and he sees himself as a hardware designer in 2 years, that raises red flags in my mind.
5) Ask questions, but don’t be pushy. It is important to ask questions during the interview, especially if you did some research about the position. It tells me that you are very interested. However don’t go overboard with asking questions, remember this is interview for YOU not the interviewer.