Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Applying for Water Jobs: Tips from a Hiring Manager

On WaterJobs we have written about careers and the future of jobs in water.  But how do you actually land a job in water or any other field? As the assistant director and de facto HR rep for IWRC, I have done a lot of searches – 13 in the last 3 years if memory serves. I can usually say yes or no in the first 10 minutes of an interview. Here are a couple of my observations about what to do and what not to do when you are applying and interviewing
  1. Write a good cover letter. I like a good letter. I put more stock in cover letters than I do in resumes. If you get my name wrong or the job title messed up, I don’t go any further. If your generic letter could be sent to anyone, I am skeptical. Even if you will take just about anything, you have to show me that you want MY job, and your letter is the place to start. (For more advice on how to write a good cover letter, check out these posts from Ask a Manager and Engineer Jobs).
  2. Don’t call unless you have a real question. I have had more than one well-dressed person show up at my office to “turn in their resume” (we do it all electronically these days) or introduce themselves around the time applications are due. Maybe it is different in the private sector, but visits don’t get any brownie points from me. In fact, I usually just get annoyed. Of course, if you have a legitimate question that will determine whether you apply for or will accept the position, then please ask, but otherwise, I’ll call you.
  3. Don’t try to hide things. If you have something funky on your resume, I will notice it and wonder about it. I once received a resume that didn’t have any dates on it. Had the person been out of work for a while? Were they really young, or really old? Was their experience in our area in the distant past or really minimal? We can’t and won’t discriminate, but all things being equal, I will interview the people who don’t leave me wondering. That said, you can go too far. I read a cover letter that discussed the candidate’s arrest history and why it was really nothing to worry about. Maybe so, but I probably wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t mentioned it. I guess the moral is: tell me if I will wonder, but don’t open doors that don’t need to be opened.
  4. Follow the instructions. In a recent search, a candidate submitted a resume and many very impressive, but unsolicited transcripts. Nice, but this person didn’t submit a cover letter as per the very clear guidelines. Case closed.
  5. Do your homework. If you get an interview, be sure to do your homework. I can’t stress this enough. I will ask you about our organization. I expect you to have thought about my job enough to know basically who we are and what we do. And I expect you to have questions for me about it. And not just generic “what’s your management style” questions. Ask me about what research we have funded lately or how things really work or what I like about my job. Or whatever. I need to know you want MY job, not a job.
  6.   Think before you post. When I was young and not making the best choices, only my friends knew. With social media, now everyone has the potential to know. And while I may not be in my 20s any more, I use social media too, and I usually do look people up at some point in the process, just to see what’s out there.

And just so you know, when I look at a resume, I am interested in committees you are on, your leadership roles outside of work, international travel, languages, honors and awards and/or other things that show me that you achieve beyond your day job. Don’t waste a lot of resume space on non-work related things, but people who achieve outside of the workplace usually do really well within a workplace.