Ever wondered what recruiters are looking for on a resume? Or what is the email protocol after a job interview? Whether you are a recent college graduate, switching careers or on the job hunt, it’s important to know the functions of HR. We wanted to get inside the brain of someone in human resources.
Matthew Togart*, a seasoned human resources manager, spent many years recruiting for a legal staffing agency. Matthew sat down with Ninetofivehell.com and shared some insight into the world of HR.
*Name was changed due to “Matthew’s” current position. He wanted to refrain from representing his company but still share his experiences and helpful tips to our readers.
Editor’s note: After conducting this interview, we came away with some very helpful tips and we hope you do too!
What is your advice for new graduates entering the workforce?
It’s really important to be mindful of the culture of the office and to identify the expectations of your role. A lot of people are hesitant to ask a lot of questions because they are concerned about what people may think. You have to ask questions so you understand the big pictures. Continue to ask questions until you know how it all fits together. Any good supervisor will prefer you to ask more questions so you will be confident in what you are doing than to be unclear and make assumptions and do the wrong thing.
Any tips for someone who is older and switching careers?
Be prepared to start back at the bottom of the career ladder if you are switching career fields and to speak to the concern that many employers will have about being “over-qualified”. Focus experience in your resume that relates to the field you are interested in – don’t include things that aren’t relevant unless they demonstrate a particular strength that you want to highlight.
One of the worst things you can do is to apply to a position that you have no relevant experience and you’ve not tailored your resume to mirror the position. Those resumes will most likely be ignored.
Where are the best places to find jobs?
Indeed.com is my favorite job board but the best source is by networking (associations, alumni groups, and your personal network – also, you have to sometimes ask for something from people or they won’t offer it).
Should I email after an interview?
I tend to think that handwritten notes still make the biggest impact but they take a day or so to arrive. Email is sufficient to say thanks. I’d definitely recommend following up an interview with an email at the very least. The purpose behind it is to express your continued interest and to thank the interviewer for their time. Don’t get upset if they do not respond though. It’s pretty common to not respond (either due to volume, workload, or the person not wanting to appear biased – there are so many unknowns that it’s not worth getting upset about).
Out of the many resumes you see, what stands out to you?
Many HR people will discard a resume immediately for grammatical and spelling errors. I tend to forgive one or two if I’m interested in the experience. Another huge negative for me is paragraph format on a resume. I never read a whole paragraph in a resume. Bullets are much more effective.
Positive factors are good tenure with an organization, experience from more than one employer but not too many, career progression through the roles, bulleted and easy to read sentences, language that is not obviously inflated, lack of hyperbole, basic and clean look (some people try to get too fancy), information appears chronological, doesn’t leave me guessing or wondering, concise and highlights relevant experience.
What makes a good resume?
I recommend to have a template where you start from. With each position you are genuinely interested in, it’s important to tailor your resume for that job. The best way to do that is to think backwards. Look at a job description, identify what they are looking for and try to relate that in your past roles and include it in the description of your previous roles. You have to get creative. Think about it from a hiring manager’s perspective. If you are looking at your resume and then the job description, see if it is a strong match.
What are your thoughts on cover letters?
The cover letter is secondary to me. I never thought negatively of someone who didn’t include a cover letter. It would make more sense if your circumstances were unique and you had to explain something like a big gap, traveling abroad or not being a U.S. citizen. If it’s a standard position, focus your energy on your resume. I don’t even read the cover letter unless the resume is appealing.
What are don’ts for interviews?
When an applicant gives short answers, it’s a put off. Short answers don’t give me information for me to assess. If I have to, I will err on the side of caution and I won’t proceed with that person. They want to be able to picture what you will be doing for them or the company. If you don’t provide good enough descriptions, it makes for a bland interview. Even if the interviewer is giving yes or no questions, elaborate. But don’t ramble. It’s hard for an interviewer to tell them to stop. Just be mindful of yourself if you ramble or give too short of answers.
Any other helpful tips people may not know about?
If you decide to take a break in working but know that you are going to try to return to the workforce later, try to stay relevant in some way. I’d recommend working part time or volunteering – something that keeps your skills sharp that you can use as leverage later. It’s very challenging for people to stop working and then return to the same level of position because the work environment is so dynamic, especially in regards to technology.
Many people have to take breaks in their career, often for medical needs, to care for a loved one, or to have a child. I’d recommend to anyone confronting that decision to try and stay involved in some sort of capacity. Also, if you do work part time, it’s not required that you put that on your resume. You can just list the employer name and dates of employment – you don’t have to indicate that it was part time. That way, a person could be working maybe 10 hours a week, but they are keeping something on their resume so that they don’t have gaps and they don’t get behind in software skills.
When I’m looking at hiring somebody, even if they have all the skills on paper, the two things I look for are aptitude and attitude. Everything else can be taught. No one was born knowing how to be an accountant, a lawyer or doctor. Those are skills you learn along the way. If you have the right attitude or bright enough, those are the skills I can’t teach you, you just have them. If you have a positive attitude, you are half way there.