As a human resources professional, one of my major responsibilities is recruiting. I’m part of a team that reviews applications and resumes before we decide to bring someone in for an interview, making us the company’s first line of defense. Once a resume gets through the review process, we bring that candidate in for an interview. I’ve looked at more resumes than I can count and have had the pleasure of interviewing many interesting people. Between resumes, applications and interviews, slip-ups are bound to happen. Below are some tips to help you correct some common (and not-so-common) job search and interviewing mistakes. Proofread your resume and cover letter. The last things either of those should have are typos and incorrect grammar. Have someone else proofread them to be safe, but if you do and they use track changes to comment, make sure you delete the comments before submitting them. Look it up. Candidates make mistakes that could easily be avoided just by researching what not to do on an interview. Show up on time, dress nicely, don’t chew gum, and turn your phone off (vibrate doesn’t count). Build a network. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” While you still need to know what you’re doing, this industry is incredibly tight-knit and everyone seems to know each other. Be sure to utilize applicable member organizations such as AIA, NSPE, or AIHA. Dress appropriately. If you dress nicely for the interview, follow through with it.
For example, don’t wear a button-down shirt and then leave half of it unbuttoned so your undershirt is showing. Also, if you’ve been asked to interview for a field job, the expectation is that you will still dress nicely. Show off your work. If you have experience and are applying for an architectural role, bring a copy of your portfolio. If you’re applying for an engineering role, bring a copy of your project list. Keep it brief. When you’re asked a question in an interview, only answer what you’re being asked. Nothing more. Read carefully. Know the location of the job you’re applying for. I frequently run into this because of our different office locations, even though we make a point to state the location that each position will be working from. Don’t apply for a role in one office when you’re looking to work in another. Read the job description carefully so you aren’t surprised when I tell you the position isn’t where you thought it was. Don’t reach for a role. Make sure you somewhat match the qualifications of the position you’re applying for. For example, if we post for a sales/marketing position that requires over 10 years of experience, don’t apply if you’ve just graduated, or if you have over 10 years’ experience in HR.
If you just want to get your foot in the door, I suggest writing a letter to the company. You can say something along the lines of, “I see this position advertised and, while I don’t fit that position, I do have xyz experience. Do you have any positions that are suited for me?” We all start somewhere. Understand the difference between confident and cocky. If you’re applying for a staff level job, don’t think that you can immediately start out as a Project Manager. We already have a number in mind. Don’t ask about pay unless we initiate it. We will have all the information we need from your application, which is why you should fill that section out. If you’re not in our salary range, we will let you know. While some of the issues listed above may seem like common sense to some, I have run into them all at least once. Hopefully you’ll be able to take some or all of these tips and incorporate them in your job search to help you land your dream job in the AEC industry. Amanda Vardakas is a Human Resources Generalist for H2M.