An HR Manager Gives Resume and Interview Dos and Don'ts

Betsy Gallup
Mike Yeater

In 2006, the job market has opened up considerably. Companies everywhere are looking for the right people, both experienced workers and recent graduates. What will give you the competitive edge through the resume and interview process?

Resume and Interview Dos and Don'ts: An Interview with an HR Manager

To get the answers, LoveToKnow asked Mike Yeater, an expert in organizational management and the human resources manager for the First Western Trust Bank in Denver. First Western Trust Bank is a banking and investment management services company.

Resume and Interview Dos and Don'ts

Some people refer to HR managers as "gatekeepers." Please share a few tidbits as to why a company needs HR to handle the introductory phase of hiring.

It's very important that HR make the high level decisions of weeding out people who clearly aren't qualified, so the hiring managers can focus on what they do. It's also incumbent upon HR managers to understand fully the needs of the hiring manager: providing tools for them to select the right people into the organization.

Is answering an ad the only way to get to a company?

A company can always find good people, but they may not necessarily be a good fit. We rely on networking and associate contacts.

Everyone should be a recruiter for his or her company. It's something I call "being engaged" by putting forth discretionary effort. If you work someplace that treats you well and keeps you motivated, find others that fit. A company finds the best quality people through recommendations.

Applicants hear a lot about resumes being sorted by keywords. Is this true, and if so, how can a resume be structured to make it through this first gate of the interview process?

Larger companies that get higher volume of applicants do this. Go through the job description and look for keywords regarding responsibilities, duties and education requirements and include those in your resume.

What top things should applicants adhere to when crafting a good resume and cover letter?

  • Make it easy to read - formatting is important.
  • Include dates, locations and company names.
  • Include a broad statement of your position and most importantly, what you achieved in that position.
  • In the cover letter, demonstrate a focus - show yourself as someone who knows what they want to do.
  • Provide evidence that you've read the job posting and understand the type of person needed for the position.
  • Show interest in our company.

Should a resume contain objectives?

If the objective reads "obtain a position with…" then no. However, if you clarify how you intend to apply your skills to help the company, that might be better.

What primary mistakes should applicants avoid in resumes and cover letters?

  • Typos, as it demonstrates an overall attention to detail. If someone has a stellar resume and I found a typo I wouldn't throw it away necessarily, but it is telling.
  • A mass produced application is very evident. Throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks is not a good method. Tailor the cover letter and resume specifically to the position, even if it means having five different resumes.
  • A resume may be just the piece of paper, but a lack of dedication to it still may be an indicator of overall job performance.

Does the color of paper or style of resume really matter?

No. End of story. I don't want resumes on a cocktail napkin either, but stick to the basics. Most applications are online anyway.

Applicants need to worry less about the resume and worry more about their careers. I want to see someone who's focused, has stability. I want to see their dedication. I want to see someone working in the mailroom for six months and then promoted to another position within the company.

Entry-level people think they're ready to be president the next day. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule, but it says a lot about someone's character that they're willing to take a lower level job and have the confidence that they're going to be able to work up and develop relationships to make it through a company.

What really shines during an interview?

  • Poise and confidence.
  • A certain degree of enthusiasm without being obnoxious.
  • Not appearing to be rehearsed. We can see right through the pat answers.
  • Don't be afraid to talk about areas you think you need to improve upon and don't be threatened by that question, because it's how you answer, not what you answer. Be forthright - know what you want to work on.
  • Ask questions about the culture.
  • Actually answer the question that is asked. Many don't do this.
  • Preparedness. For example, it's okay to ask for the dress code during the screening process to know what to wear to the interview, so if you have a question about anything, ask. Know your industry and again, know the company.

What if an applicant is nervous?

I think people are a little nervous, sure, but the good ones are looking for a fit for themselves, too. If you don't fit at one company, that doesn't mean you're not a well-qualified applicant for someone else. If you're doing something you feel passionate about and want to do it in an environment that suits you, it will show. Take all the interviewing books you have and throw them in the dumpster.

In what ways do applicants botch an interview?

  • Trying to sell themselves without learning about the company and the job.
  • Attempting to be all things to all people: "Oh, I can do that."
  • Not answering specific questions directly.

If you could pull a qualified applicant aside five minutes before the interview and whisper the exact things to do or say that will definitely land them the job, what would you say?

  • Be aware of yourself and ask probing questions about the company.
  • Demonstrate some genuine curiosity.
  • Tell the truth. If you put on a false front, we're going to find about it sooner or later.
  • Evaluate us as much as we evaluate you: it's to the benefit of both of us.

I look for:

  • Commitment. 50 percent work ethic, 50 percent passion.
  • Personality. Nothing will derail a career like a personality. If you're dictatorial, for example, you're probably difficult to work with. A good career is based on developing relationships.
  • Technical skills. If someone is committed and smart, we can teach him or her the skills the company needs. Our clients are very savvy and educated, for example, so they need someone to guide them through their financial decisions. The right person can be given that ability.

Tell us one thing an interviewer notices that we wouldn't know.

If someone itches their face, it's often a sign that a question made them uncomfortable, because blood rushes to their face.

Thank you notes: expected or not really noticed?

I think thank you notes are noticed. However, it's not going to sway my decision, but we do pass them around the hiring team at my company. The interviewee should have asked the right questions of the interviewer already, so the note should reinforce the key issues and the fit. A handwritten note or e-mail is fine, but either way, it's a nice courtesy and proper etiquette.

~Tracey L. Kelley

An HR Manager Gives Resume and Interview Dos and Don'ts