Updated: May 25, 2020
Quickly into dedicating a large part of my career to helping clients find employment, I realized that a fully optimized resume is only half of the battle. The other 50% consists of an effective job search strategy and how you perform during the interview process. To provide an effective resource that will help with the other half, I interviewed a highly qualified professional that shared valuable insight and gems regarding the job search and interview process. Steven Rondeno is an accomplished Human Resources Manager that strongly impacted numerous Fortune 500 companies in Houston, Texas, throughout his two-decade career in the HR realm. Without further ado
Ross: Thank you for taking the time to sit with me today to provide readers with some valuable knowledge that will help advance their careers.
Steven: I appreciate the opportunity.
Ross: Human Resources is truly a great niche to be in. What is the best way to break into the HR field with no pre-existing HR experience?
Steven: The best way to break into the HR field truly depends on the company, as it relates to their HR department's structure. Recruiting is an entry-level role within the HR function, but some companies separate their recruiters from the HR team. If you come across an entry-level HR Recruiter, Coordinator, or Specialist position, then this is an indication that these roles are likely included within the HR team. These roles will touch on various aspects of HR, which will allow you to learn and develop while contributing in your position.
Ross: We've both seen a good share of resumes in our day. What is a common mistake that you see on most resumes?
Steven: Applying for a job is a full-time job within itself. Whenever you apply for a job, your resume must align with the requirements of the job description displayed for that role. Many applicants look at the job posting and immediately identify that their background and skills are a fit. However, their resume doesn't highlight those aligned skills. Although you may be a fit and have the right experience, if your resume doesn't clearly highlight it, then your resume will get overlooked. It takes most recruiters less than 30 seconds to quickly scan through your resume and determine if you're a potential fit. If those skills aren't clearly highlighted in comparison to the job description, there is a strong chance your resume will get rejected.
Ross: What is your biggest personal pet-peeve regarding resumes?
Steven: My personal pet-peeves consists of reviewing a resume that has misspellings, improper/multiple formatting, and different font sizes. This truly gets under my skin because it is evident that the applicant didn't take time to prepare their resume. Your resume is a silent salesperson representing you. Many people think the first impression is the interview, but it's really when your resume is being reviewed upon initial submission for consideration.
Ross: I've worked at a company that instructed hiring managers to throw away resumes that don't come with cover letters. I know that might not be a popular practice, but how important are cover letters?
Steven: Some companies use this tactic as a tool to immediately weed out applicants, especially when they receive overwhelming responses to their job ads. Cover letters are very important to have, as it will likely highlight some of your experience and accomplishments that may not exist within your resume. Imagine if you had 30 seconds to introduce yourself to a potential hiring manager to quickly give an overview of your experience. What would you say? A cover letter gives you that 30 seconds of opportunity to present your qualifications before your resume is reviewed. You want to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance for your qualifications to get the attention of the recruiter and/or hiring manager for further consideration. The cover letter may give you an advantage.
Ross: Does a resume have any correlation with how a candidate presents themselves in person?
Steven: A resume doesn't have a correlation to the way a person presents him/herself, but it does have a correlation to the hiring manager's perception of you before you walk through the door. Wrong, right, or indifferent – hiring managers usually create a perception of you based on your name, education, the companies you worked for, current residential community, and the list of biased configurations gets longer. In most cases, an image of you is already created before you walk through the door. As an HR professional, I stay away from pre-judging, but I've heard the reactions of colleagues after images created in their minds were completely opposite of what they expected. In some cases, they were disappointed, and in other cases, they were pleasantly surprised.
Ross: What is the average amount of resumes you look through before choosing who goes to the second round?
Steven: The number of resumes selected for the next round varies from job to job. I can receive an overwhelming response of resumes for a certain position and others I don't receive as many. If I receive 100 resumes within the first day of posting the position, then I would go through 30 to 45 unless I'm not finding suitable candidates. In this case, I would go through all 100 resumes. Although reviewing 100 profiles may appear very time consuming, as I initially mentioned, it takes less than 30 seconds to scan a resume. This is the reason a resume must be tailored and aligned to the specific job a person is applying for. It only takes 10 seconds to quickly eliminate a person's resume.
Ross: What are some of the biggest things you look for on resumes?
Steven: When reviewing a person's resume, I immediately scan over it to ensure there is an objective, consistent fonts, grammar, and a format that's easy to follow. Although cosmetic, this is an indication that the candidate took the time to prepare this document. Afterwards, I match the resume against the job description. I specifically look for buzz words on the resume that should align with the buzz words and skills listed within the job description. If there aren't any clear matches between the resume and job description, then this person is eliminated from further consideration. It doesn't take long to eliminate and move on to the next resume.
Ross: You've been in the HR field for about two decades. Has anything changed regarding expectations for resumes?
Steven: After two decades of reviewing resumes, the HR profession is continuing to evolve into strategical business partners within most organizations. As a result, the responsibilities within the function requires us to be true business partners with the stakeholders in organizations to align HR practices to support the vision and goals of the company. Recruiting is a crucial piece of the department, but this isn't HR's primary focus. This is the force behind hiring managers and HR professionals wanting to be able to quickly identify potential candidate resumes and moving on to the next task.
Ross: Recently, phone interviews have found a middle ground between applying and in-person interviews. What are the most common mistakes people make on phone interviews?
Steven: Preparing for a phone interview is vital. It's imperative to get familiar with the history of the company so you can exhibit your preparation. You must visit the company's website to understand the company, headquarters location, number of employees, how long the company has been in business, etc. Understanding this information will also allow you to create questions pertaining to you potentially joining the company. One of the most common questions asked during a phone interview is, "What do you know about our company?". I've worked alongside colleagues that would end the call immediately if the candidate wasn't able to answer that question. It shows that you didn't take the time to do the research, which reflects your level of interest and motivation to join the company. Do your homework.
Ross: What are some ways to stand out during phone interviews?
Steven: The best way to stand out on a phone interview is to research the company, develop and create questions on gaps that may arise from this research, give examples of things you've done in previous roles to align with some of the highlighted requirements in the job description, research the hiring manager's profile on LinkedIn so you can learn a little about their background, and research a list of common interview questions so you can be prepared for the difficult ones. The most difficult question many people struggle with is, "What are your weaknesses?". That question catches a lot of people off guard because they aren't prepared to answer it.
Ross: What are your biggest tips on helping someone secure the job in an in-person interview?
Steven: The strategy doesn't change. An in-person interview will likely engage people you haven't spoken with on the phone. Prior to an in-person interview, be sure to get the names of the individuals you will meet with and research them on LinkedIn as well. Create and develop questions regarding the interaction of their role as it relates to your role. You need to determine the frequency of engagement you will have with this person on a day to day basis. Although this person may not work in the same department you are applying for, your function and theirs obviously depends on one another. As a result, this person must understand your qualifications are a true match for this position. You must sell yourself to everyone you meet with, just as you do with the person you may report to. In most cases, the person you will report to won't have the biggest influence on the decision making to hire you. Hiring managers must depend on their colleagues' feedback, especially when they are directly involved in the interviewing process.
Ross: What about the biggest tips on what not to do?
Steven: Never speak negatively about your previous employers or managers. This is a red flag for most hiring managers. Although you may not have had a positive experience, it's never a good idea to bash them.
Ross: What are the best rebuttals if an interviewer asks why did you leave your last employer?
Steven: Everyone isn't a good fit for every company, and hiring managers understand that. There are also times when a company changes direction as a result of internal and/or external forces. It's also very common for employees to want more development and growth, and some organizations may not have that ceiling of acceleration for various reasons. Although hiring managers would ultimately like to see extensive tenure within a resume, they understand things happen. Generally, this question is being asked to ensure that the organization can offer you whatever it was that drove you to leave the previous company.
Ross: For those who are thinking about getting into the HR field. What are some reasons you would encourage them to do so?
Steven: First and foremost, you must have a passion for people. The role of a human resources professional requires a person who is compassionate, has integrity, process-driven, structured, well rounded, big picture thinker, listens well, understands how to break down problems, conflict resolver, and the list goes on. An individual's personality must reflect (at a minimum) these traits because HR advocates for both employees and the employer. If any of those character traits are undesirable, non-existent, or a struggle, then HR isn't for you.
Ross: Many people view Human Resource professionals as the corporate police, but in all actuality, Human Resource specialists and managers can greatly enhance employee experience in many ways and are a great resource in the corporate structure. Could you explain to the readers how to utilize the Human Resource professionals at their company?
Steven: Although HR professionals may be viewed as the corporate police, it's the department's role to establish and align goals to protect the employee and the employer. Human Resources has a responsibility to educate leaders within the organization to apply policy where applicable. HR is on the backend to support and guide leaders to ensure the company has consistent ethical practices aligning with the policies. HR also positions itself to provide guidance to employees. With an open-door policy, you should be able to speak to your HR person in confidence regarding guidance in your workspace, career planning, development, continuing education, providing ideas to enhance productivity and motivation, coping with your manager, personal problems, whistleblowing, and the list goes on. It's the responsibility of the HR department to understand a little bit of everything about the business and every department. Good Human Resources professionals are working hard every day to elevate employee satisfaction. You would be surprised at the positive reaction you would receive by approaching your HR person with ideas and/or feedback about improving the work environment. HR has a major responsibility to provide a safe and comfortable workplace for all, so engaging HR in this discussion is very relieving and fulfilling to us. Human Resources professionals aren't the bad guys; we strive to create passionate employees and provide the support needed for everyone to be successful.
Ross: I can't express how thankful I am for your time and insight. Where can the readers best reach you?
Steven: You are welcome. Instagram: @stevenrondeno Email: firstname.lastname@example.org