The resume was fabulous. Then he started talking.

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Mar 14

The purpose of the resume is to get an interview. Nothing more — which is a lot — and nothing less.

But then, you come to doing the phone or video interview. It’s a completely different skill set then getting the resume right, submitting for jobs, and then securing the interview.

And, before I forget, it’s really disconcerting to see a great resume…and then have the person talk and totally blow the interview.

There is context, of course. Fortunately, I have access to both resumes and interviews in my day job. That privilege keeps me on top of how candidates are presented, their resumes, and their interviews. And while I don’t consider myself a hard interviewer, I know the work that needs doing and I know the job skills that need to be demonstrated before you could get hired. I will continue to ask questions until you either demonstrate that you have the job skill…or I conclude you don’t. Seems like I would need some hashtag here. Like #sorrynotsorry or something.

The sad part is this: most candidates eliminate themselves from contention. They do so by not understanding the purpose of the first interview done after submitting the resume and securing the interview.

Today, a most fabulous resume was reviewed before having that first phone interview with the job candidate. And the resume was really good. Not as good as the best first-page of a resume I talk through when you sign up for the resume support, but really good. Going through what we needed for the job and how the resume matched up…very hopeful this candidate was right for the job.

But, he wasn’t.

What he said on the resume he didn’t perform on the job.

When asked questions, he went on and on with the answer. And on and on even more. To the point where I consistently interrupted him to ask the next question. Which I hate to do, to be clear.

And multiple times he didn’t answer the question. Not by a little bit. By a whole lot.

Perhaps this sounds harsh. Maybe it is. But a job search is a serious thing — and most people don’t know how to do the right things in a job search because it has been so long (even if it is like only two years since the last one) since they have done one.

As my mission here at CubeRules.com is to help Cubicle Warriors in their career transitions, this kind of performance provides a clear example of what needs improving and, at the same time, is heartbreaking because in the end, the person may have major skills and would be right for the job but can’t show it. And loses the job.

If you’ve followed my advice and created the most awesome first page of the resume, you have a good shot at an interview. But the interview is a whole different skill set focused on quite different objectives than that of the resume.

What are those objectives? Let’s take a look.

The entire objective of the first interview is to prove you can do the job

If the objective of the resume is to get maximum check marks between your job skills and the job description, the first interview is all about proving you can do the work – check marks confirming you know how to do what you said you could do on the resume. Been there, done that. Prove that and you can get to a second interview — or a job offer.

The resume says you can do the job — now you have to show how you did it during the interview.

And this is one place where people fail — because their interview answers don’t match the resume.

For example, in my case, the candidate’s resume said that he managed the software defect list. When asked how he managed the list, the answer was all about how developers were assigned  the defects, went and fixed the defects, then had the updated tested, and then rolled out to production.

It had nothing to do with managing the list, but how the defect was resolved. Like after the defect was identified, he would assign it to a developer. Then he would maintain status on the defect through drop down menus and manage it through the various stages of the defect resolution — assigned, root cause identified, placed into test system, tested, promoted to production, closed.

And while there are lots of ways to manage a list, he never identified how the list was managed.

Just as you need check marks to the job description to get the interview, to move on, you need to get the check mark that identified managing the defect list and then the check mark that shows you know how to do it. The more check marks you get confirming what you say on your resume is what you actually did, the better your chance of moving on.

You need to show you have a considered, structured approach to your work

This is a cumulative thing. If the vast majority of your answers take the long, rambling road to what you did without demonstrating organization or structure, you won’t succeed.

Think of your audience. They will never know all the details you know about what you did. Your job, besides showing you can do the work, is to create the narrative or story that shows how you did the work in a logical, concise way that shows you can do the job.

While I don’t want to minimize the story to bullet points, it’s not a bad analogy. You did these five things to manage, analyze, or move something forward and you have the story of the context, the actions and the results — a CAR — to prove it.

You need to demonstrate what YOU did, not what the overall effort did

It is important that your audience understands the context of the work that was done. You need that to establish common ground with your audience.

But you need to show your role in the work to show how what you did contributed to the overall effort.

My guy would describe a process for the effort and — if you didn’t ask the follow-up — you would assume he was doing this work. But when asked what his role was in the process…most of the time he didn’t contribute anything to the effort around that process.

I’m not saying he tried to take credit for the work, but if you didn’t ask the follow-up question….

You need to answer the question. Then shut up.

One of the most interesting lessons from this interview was that his second bullet point on this particular job was “identifying risks associated with application migration.” The second position implies it was important to the role.

When asked what risks he found while working the application analysis, he went on and on and on and on. And, to be fair, not just on this question. The amazing part was he went on and on not about the actual question, but on the whole risk mitigation steps that were done — which had nothing to do with identifying the risks.

So long that I eventually had to interrupt him and ask, “What risks did you find for this effort?”

The answer was a list of incredibly generic risks that could happen on any application, project or subject. Clearly, no risks were identified for particular applications or subjects.

Even though it was the second most important bullet point for that job.

The answer was too long — and the follow-up clearly showed he didn’t know how to do this work, the second bullet point on the job.

Most of all this post is negative. But typical. Interviews are completely different skill sets then building a resume or doing your work. If you don’t know how to do an interview — no matter how great your resume — you won’t get the job.

I’m going to do a little exploring of this subject going forward, so check back for updates.

In the meantime — if you have read this far, thanks! — make sure you sign up for my 3-part series on building a killer first page of your resume. Without the killer resume, you won’t get the interview in the first place.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.