Recruiters reveal their deal breakers

I am old enough that most of my friends have become bosses in their jobs.  So, they make decisions about who will work for them.  Recently, I got to learn more about what they consider to be deal breakers in a job application. Here are four of them:

Deal breaker: Resumes longer than one page. This is a bigger issue for the corporate employers than the nonprofit employers.  To be safe, keep your resume to one page at least until you turn 30.  If you need help choosing what to include on the resume, meet with a career counselor in Career Services.  Exception: resumes for positions in the federal government are often 2-3 pages long because they require more detail.

Deal breaker: Not showing understanding of what the job entails. Apparently, employers can spot generic cover letters in 10 seconds and eliminate a quarter of applications this way.  How to get your application to the “interview” pile?  Write to the employer about the job and how you will use your skills and experiences in the position.
– Deal breaker: Apologizing for not being able to do the job. I come across phrases like this a lot in cover letter critiques: “While I don’t have a lot of experience in the field, I ….”  Since you’ve only got a page to cover a lot of ground, focus on what you have done and what you can do.

– Deal breaker: Not dressing up for an interview. It seems obvious that we should wear a suit to a job interview, yet Penn grads have reportedly shown up for an interview at a nonprofit organization dressed in khakis and polo shirt. It did not make a good impression with the interviewer, who had already interviewed three suited-up candidates that morning. Lesson learned: Score some easy points by dressing the part.

I hope that by sharing these insiders’ tips, you will avoid some common job search mistakes.  Good luck!

Navigating the federal career maze

During my time at Penn, I’ve noticed that there’s an increasing interest in government careers.  The number of College undergrads who succeeded in finding a job in the government after they graduate nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009.

It’s fantastic that Penn students are getting jobs in the public sector but I know that finding federal job postings can be a bit of a mystery.  Everyone knows about USAJobs, but most college students actually get their jobs by applying directly to the federal agencies and into one of their student programs and by networking, just like people do in the private sector.

That means you have to do thorough research of opportunities that interest you.  For instance, if you’re looking to work abroad, don’t just apply to the State Department, but also include other agencies that have an interest internationally, including the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the International Trade Administration.

Here are a few websites that I’ve found useful for researching federal agencies and opportunities beyond the usual suspects:

(1)  In the Partnership for Public Service’s Federal Careers by Field of Interest guides, you can find by major or career field lists of federal agencies hiring in those fields, top position titles, sample internships and jobs, and geographic distribution of those jobs.  This is how I find out that the Department of Defense is the biggest federal provider of communications positions and that you have to search for public affairs specialists if you’re look for a PR job in the government.

(2)  To find federal agencies located near where you want to live, try the new, the good old blue pages of the phone book, and the local Federal Executive Board‘s agency lists.  When I typed “San Diego psychology positions” into, a bunch of jobs for psychology graduates in San Diego area federal agencies appeared in the search results.

(3)   If you like numbers and can tolerate a less friendly interface, you also might like using Fedscope to research which federal agencies are located in your state and what and how many positions they have in your field.  When you’re on this website, click on employment and the most recent data (month/year) to access a wealth of federal employment data.

    Our wisdom on this topic is kept on the Career Services’ Make an Impact resource website. Check it out. And please share your tips with us in the comments section.

    Airport Test

    by Helen Cheung

    Would you be interesting company in an airport for four hours?
    Would you be interesting company in an airport for four hours?

    “What was the last book you read?”
    “Tell me about the worst team you were on.”
    “How did you choose your major?”

    Underlying these innocent and common job interview questions is a bigger question that either makes or breaks the deal of a job offer: “What is it going to be like to be stuck with you for a 4 hour layover in an airport?”  Your job might not require travel or social skills, but managers would prefer to hire interesting people who get along with others.  Also, they want coworkers who fit the culture of the organization.

    If you search for “Airport Testonline, you will find tons of great advice for job interviews you can use to help you pass the test. You can also do practice interviews with a Career Services counselor to get feedback on the impression you make on others. However, this isn’t a test you should cram for.  You can’t simply memorize some answers and come across as likeable and interesting. You can work on storytelling skills but you have to have stories to tell in the first place.

    How do you prepare for the Airport Test then?  For starters, practice your team skills in your daily life.  Whether coordinating a meal schedule with your roommates or going on a camping trip with friends, you have to deal with people and overcome challenges.  Second, you can read widely and live fully.  It is much easier to talk to someone who cares about something than someone who doesn’t so get comfortable discussing your interests.  Third, learn to be interested in people and learn to make life easier for them.  The Airport Test is not just about you; it is about the interviewer, your potential coworker.  So, the more you practice caring for others in your daily life, the more you naturally put your interviewer at ease so that they won’t wish for an “eject” button.