Searching For The Next Job

Management Matters

Searching For The Next Job

Resume and interviewing tips

By Brandon Battles

August 2004

Brandon Battles

As we have established in previous articles, an organization, regardless of its type, for-profit, governmental, or private, has only so many financial resources to accomplish its objectives. While financial resources may be the lifeblood of the organization, its success or failure can be measured in a variety of ways. Financial measures such as budgets and accounting systems let an organization know how efficiently it is accomplishing its objectives. Availability measures let the aviation department know how effectively it is meeting its operational objectives. There are many other types of systems that measure the progress of an organization's objectives but it is important to remember that measurement systems alone do not get the job done.

Every organization has another essential ingredient that determines its success or failure, its people. Unfortunately, as with anything critical, people are also one of the most expensive elements of an organization. And as we know, even in our personal lives, anything expensive attracts attention. In two previous articles, we discussed the steps a manager would take on behalf of the organization to identify and ultimately select employees.

Each of the previous articles approached the hiring process from the perspective of the organization and, more specifically, from the perspective of the manager that would be involved with the process. Often, though, you find yourself on the other side of the process. You are the one looking for the job. You must decide what makes you look more attractive to the hiring organization. How do you become part of the short list that contains the names of the best candidates? If you make the list and will interview with the organization, how do you prepare for it? During the interview, what can you do to communicate clearly and to present yourself in a positive way? What can you do that will make the organization want you?

As with most of the subjects that I write about, the following information represents a summary of my ideas on the subject based upon experience. As a result, I may not mention everything that you might do to prepare yourself for the next job application and interview, but the ideas should represent a good starting point in your quest.

Two-way street
The job search is a two-way street. Too often we forget that the process that helps the organization find the right candidate is only part of the equation, albeit an important one. Just as important is that the organization must also be right for the individual. If both parts of the equation are not present, the organization will not find a solution that helps it accomplish its objectives, and, more than likely, you will be going through the process again soon. When the job market is tight, as it has been recently, the equation swings in favor of the organization, but it is still important that the organization satisfy some of your more basic needs.

If you accept a job knowing that it is only a temporary solution and that you will be searching again soon, you should remember that you are building a history on your resume that future employers may eventually view with skepticism. The organization may question your sincerity and commitment to the new job. Worse yet, you may not make it past the organization's initial parameter for culling its list of candidates. If this happens, you may not get a chance to explain your history during an interview.

Weigh your decisions to move carefully. Ideally, moves should represent a step-up in your career or that satisfy other aspects of your personal objectives, such as cross training. Each change should complement your career objectives, not just satisfy the organization's objectives.

The resume
The resume may be your only chance. If you consider the steps that were outlined previously, an organization will make some early and important, as far as you're concerned, decisions based upon information that is normally contained on a resume. Certainly, for those of you that know individuals within the hiring organization, additional opportunities exist. However for most of you, the resume is your only opportunity. The following are important points to keep in mind about your resume.

First, what message should the resume send to the individual that is reviewing it on behalf of the organization? If possible, design your resume so that it answers issues raised in the job posting or advertisement. Unfortunately, most job postings and certainly advertisements are not very specific. In this situation for maintenance technicians, the technical aspects of your experience become very important. These types of items need to be emphasized. What aircraft types have you worked on and for how long? Do you have a specific system expertise on an aircraft type? What training have you received that is related to the technical aspects of your job?

If you are moving from a technical job into a management position, then certainly the technical aspects are important but so too is anything that reflects a more well-rounded experience. Have you taken training courses in local schools or from your organization? If so, mention them because it shows that you are interested in broadening your job skills.

It is important to remember that your resume should change to be specific to the job you are applying for. The focus of the summary of your qualifications that is appropriate for one type of job may not be for another.

Second, make sure the physical presentation of the resume reflects quality. Remember that you will be judged on both what you include in your resume and how you present it. The following items are qualities that have or have not appealed to me when I have reviewed resumes. Simple things such as the quality of paper say a lot about you. The color of the paper should not be distracting or eye catching. Maybe that works when applying for a creative position but most jobs in the maintenance arena involve conservative organizations and conservative managers.

Do not use fonts that are difficult to read. The person reviewing your resume does not have time to decipher the message hidden by the font. State your name clearly at the top. As hard as this is to believe, some resumes do not do this. Let the reviewer know how to contact you. Include your address, phone number, and e-mail address. Again, this is critical information but some resumes have omitted it.

Third, and probably most importantly, your resume cannot contain misspelled words or improper grammar. While the mistakes are unintentional, they will distract the person who is reviewing the document from the message that you are trying to send. Careless grammatical mistakes also may suggest to the reviewer that if you are not careful in this area then you may not be careful in more critical areas of the job. Have someone or many individuals look over your resume draft.

The interview
The interview is your final chance. If your resume has done its job and the organization has identified you as a candidate that it would like to interview, then it is likely that your remaining competition is comparable to you. You must differentiate yourself during the interview.

Prior to the interview, do your research. Learn as much as you can about the organization. If possible, learn about the person that will be interviewing you. One good source of information is the organization's web site. The web site normally will give you basic information about the company, its objectives, and sometimes its key personnel. If the organization is publicly held, then annual statements and mandatory published documents are available. These documents will give you more insight into an organization than the web site alone. These sources of information may not reveal a great deal about the maintenance department, but they will certainly tell you more about the overall organization and its objectives, which will certainly influence the maintenance department. Also remember that this type of research will help you determine if the organization is a good fit for you.

More than likely, you will have the opportunity to speak on the phone with the person who is hiring before the interview. That person will want to set up the arrangements for your visit. Use this conversation to learn more about the specifics of the job and the maintenance organization. As in the previous step, you want to learn more about the job, but you also want to learn more about the organization and how it fits into your objectives.

When you go for the interview there are a few things to keep in mind. First, your appearance is important. As the old saying goes, you only make a first impression one time. It's true, and whether people want to admit it or not, it does influence how they view you. Dress appropriately and err on the side of conservatism. Facial jewelry? I'll let you answer that question.

Second, show up for the interview on time. Better yet, plan to show up before the scheduled time. That way if anything goes wrong, you have given yourself some flexibility. Remember, the person that is interviewing you is doing so in addition to his or her regular daily schedule. Keeping them waiting is not a good idea.

Third, have some questions prepared to ask during the interview. The answers to these questions will help you evaluate your opportunities, but you also will convey an interest in the job, which should make an impression on the person interviewing you.

Fourth, as the interview draws to a conclusion, if it has not been done already, establish what the next step is. Understand clearly, if possible, what the timing is for the organization. When does it plan to make a decision? This will give you a reason to follow up if you have not heard from them. Also, determine if there is anything else that the organization needs from you.

After you have completed the interview, send the interviewer a note acknowledging the opportunity that the organization gave you. The note not only shows your appreciation for the interview, but it also lets the person who interviewed you know that you will follow up on items, not only in this situation but also on the job.

Switching jobs is normally not easy to do, even if it's an internal move within the organization. Most times it means learning new skills and interacting with new people, both of which take time. More importantly for you, any change represents another piece of your work history. Make each piece fit the overall picture that you want your professional career to convey.

Brandon Battles is a partner with Conklin & de Decker. He has spent more than 15 years in aviation working with maintenance organizations in the areas of cost collection and analysis, systems review, inventory analysis, and management training.