A lot of my friends are currently navigating the world of interviews and/or leaving their current jobs. This can be pretty scary, especially since most of my peers are still at their first job out of college. I’m no expert on the subject, and I’m not going to pretend to be, but luckily I know someone who is. Adam Anthony, the executive director of William & Mary’s Washington Center, is a wizard when it comes to the job world. He’s the guy you turn to when you need advice on networking, interviewing or building a resume. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and getting some pretty great advice on navigating this crazy thing we call employment.
Adam, what can someone do to make their resume stand out when applying to a new job?
The most important thing to remember about a resume is that it’s actually a marketing brochure for you. Think about it as telling a story about you. You don’t have to jam it with every single thing you do in your whole life though. All of those experiences end up canceling each other out or telling a really muddy story about yourself. If you are very careful about putting on only what’s directly relevant to what you’re applying for, it will stand out. Just tell a story about yourself and what you’re capable of.
What about a cover letter?
The number one mistake that younger alums and students make is that they fail to tell me, the employer, how they’re going to benefit me. It’s all about the hiring manager. Telling them how you’re excited about the position or what you can learn, won’t help. They don’t care. They’re selfish and they have a mission that they want to achieve. Tell them how your experience and skills match up to meet their mission, as clearly and as short as possible. Write an extremely persuasive letter. Here are my experiences, here are my skills I’d love to help you.
What’s the best way to stick in someone’s mind after a first interview?
The thing that I react to in terms of being memorable: I’m looking for composure. I can sense when someone comes in and they’re not composed, when they’re anxious. If I’m interviewing five or six people, the person that comes in who is visibly sweating or seems relatively desperate, that’s not good memorable, it’s bad memorable. Composure is something that is memorable.
When we hired one candidate a few years ago, we’d done a phone interview with her and then decided to fly her up from Georgia. She was a very strong candidate based on her experience. There were a lot of ice storms, but she still got herself to the airport. To get to D.C. she woke up at 3am, drove for two hours to Atlanta and got in at 9:00 am. I remember going to get her from the conference room and she was as composed as you can imagine someone being. She and I are going to be working together and we’re going to have stressful times together, so if someone can come in and be that composed sitting in my conference room then that can be very memorable. It was four years ago and I still remember it.
Sometimes when I’ve interviewed, even though I really want the job, I’ll think of all of these things that make me not want the job and I end up tricking myself into being calm. You wouldn’t have the interview if you weren’t qualified, but part of what they’re looking for is connection and chemistry. I am looking for somebody that I have a good feeling about.
When is it time to break the news to your current employer that you’re looking elsewhere?
I think it’s really important to take a read of your supervisor and what kind of person they are. Look and see what other people do when they leave. If you’re in a situation where you feel like your supervisor would react positively to it, it should be a conversation. Don’t let them be surprised. If it’s been on your mind, go talk to your supervisor and say “Hey listen, I’m not feeling challenged in my job. Is there something that we can do to help me?” They’ll respect you for coming to them. If you go to them a couple months later and they don’t have anything for you, I think it is fine to say “Just so you know, I have been looking and I’ve been interviewing for it and if I get it I’ll take it.” In marriage terms I want you to tell me about “the one.” Give them warning so they can look into replacing you, and always read the room.
How do you give your notice without burning any bridges?
What I would want to see then is a written out plan of all the things that you have to do with checklist to say “okay, this is outstanding and here’s my plan to get it done.” Assuming that you’re not going to cross over with your replacement, I would love to see a briefing or something for your replacement telling them how to do their job. When you run the D.C. Summer Institute program, three people before them have updated the private wiki. A lot of people don’t do that, so I would love to see you write a detailed letter or memo telling them how to do everything and where it all is. If you do that then I don’t have to, and I can just take that document. More than two week’s notice would certainly help.
There you have it folks. Expert advice from someone who not only has a vast array of knowledge in the wonderful world of employment, but also has been on the hiring end of the interview. I’d like to take a moment to send out a HUGE thank you to Adam Anthony not only for allowing me to interview him for this post, but for always helping out William & Mary students and alumni. Good luck with your job search, wonderful people, and until next time!
*Bonus points if anyone caught the title of this post is a reference to the song “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line.