Getting Hired Takes More Than a Resume

by Randi Garrett on February 9, 2011

in Media Two

A few of us here at Media Two Interactive had the privilege of participating in the Poole College of Management Career Fair at NCSU on Thursday February 3. We met several hundred students perusing internships and full-time positions.

Woman with confidence

Too much confidence?

Overall, I’d say everyone there did a tremendous job representing themselves in a professional manner.   However, aside from having a polished appearance and resume, there is something else that should stand out – YOU.   How do you make yourself stand out to a potential employer when they are talking with so many candidates?   Here are a few of my to-dos and not-to-dos:

  • Do your homework.   Before attending a job fair, or any other interview situation.   Find out which companies will be there ahead of time.   Identify those that interest you and then visit their website.   Write down points of interest on each company and questions you’d like to ask their representatives.   This shows initiative.  It is easier to remember someone that already knows a little something about you.  During the fair, the majority of those who engaged with us started off with “What opportunities do you have available?” To which we responded, “What are you interested in?” To which we heard “What do you do?” … It was so much easier to talk with someone that came up to us, said they looked at our site and had an interest in (fill in the blank here) and would like to discuss opportunities.
  • Avoid nonversations.   Your conversation should be memorable.   Be sure to share information about yourself that can’t be found on your resume.   Bring up interests or projects you’ve worked on that tie into services the company you’re meeting with provides.
  • Put strength in your shake.   Limp handshakes are the worst.  Don’t be afraid to put some power behind your handshake – just be careful not to break bones either.
  • Organization is key.  Carry a pad-folio with resumes and space to take notes and store information provided by the potential employers.  You don’t want to pull out folded or bent resumes or shove a handout into your purse.
  • Hold it together.  Specifically at a job fair, if your resume is more than one page (one page is preferred), make sure all pages are attached together.  Often hundreds of resumes are piled together and sometimes the pages get separated.
  • Dress the part. Most students we saw came in suits, which was refreshing.  However, I did notice a few gentlemen that must have been wearing very new suits.  Be sure to remove the thread stitching (usually white or tan) that holds together the vent on the back of your jackets.
  • Smile. Upon your approach, you should already be sporting a sincere smile. Make eye contact and try to smile as you talk. You’ll come across as friendly and confident.  When you don’t make eye contact, smile or shake hands during the greeting and departure, you may become memorable for the wrong reasons.
  • Skip the team approach. You wouldn’t bring your Mom to an interview so don’t bring your friend to the table at a job fair. You may be tempted to chit-chat about weekend plans or who said what in a fight. We are listening to everything and will be judging you on your side conversations so use caution. Additionally, great jobs are not currently abundant so why introduce us to your competition?
  • Follow-up.  In an email to a company of interest, remind them who you are. If you followed the steps above this will be easier.  Remind them you were the one who asked the question about – fill in your question here – and make additional comments about the response you were given.  Make it easy for the employer to picture you in the position – explain how you can’t wait to put your skills/experience to work helping the employer elevate a certain area of need.

Basically be confident in who you are and what you can bring to an employer.   We’ll like you all the more for it.

Photo by Esther Simpson


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil Buckley February 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Good advice Randi, I would add the following:

  • Make eye contact and hold it, you’re not bagging groceries at Costco anymore
  • Give them a reason to remember you. You want to be the one they talk about on the ride home.
  • Ask an intelligent question – about anything!
  • Floss & brush before the event


    Hunter February 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Good post, I hired a few people a year ago, and most of these reasons were why I hired. One additional tip – Don’t just hand them a traditional resume! If you have an online presence (which I hope college kids are building today), make sure they know about it. A personalized business card with your personal site, blog, Twitter, and other social channels can go a long way! Thanks for posting – Hunter (@EHunterYoung)


    Randi Garrett randi garrett February 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Hunter,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree with you that resumes should break the mold. I’ve seen some extremely creative printed version and, of course, an online portfolio site opens up even greater methods of expression. Perhaps also include a photo on your resume or personalized business card. When meeting applicants in mass, it can be hard to recall faces and later match them to names.


    Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard February 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I’m the first to admit that I rarely read resumes – rather I look for the above characteristics and something that hasn’t been done before. If you were at the job fair – don’t worry that your resume was filled with a bunch of meaningless jobs or student activities – we’ve all been there before. What you need is a chance. So think big. Some hires that stand out in my mind here at Media Two include:

    1) Hiring someone who asked a lot of intelligent questions in a MeetUp group and wasn’t afraid to look “uncool” by doing it. It showed they wanted to learn – but weren’t given the right opportunity yet.
    2) Hiring someone who had lots of big ideas but noone to give them a chance.
    3) Hiring someone who reached out to us in video and showed they had the expertise they listed on their resume
    4) Someone who sent us beautiful design examples, then tweeted and corresponded as if it were a secret mission (yes – a little cheesy – but beautifully executed).
    5) Someone that presented a strategy for one of our clients and the formatting, thought process and particulars were all dead on – but needed real-life experience to fine tune them.

    Or… Go out and drink too much with a client and have the client vouch for you over drunken voice mail messages while showing up around noon the next day. I’m not saying that would actually work, but I think Jon is coming up on a 5-year anniversary soon…

    We all have our stories – just make sure you work on the approach that is best for you and proves you can stand out (in a positive way) in a fast paced environment.


    Stacey Alexander Stacey Alexander February 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I think just showing up at a job fair is a good tip. Things like that, and industry and networking events, where people can meet you in person will give you a leg up over the people that are just known from resumes. As long as you’re not creepy or obnoxious.

    These are good tips for engaging with anyone in a professional setting, from potential employers to clients to vendors and other contacts. Great post, Randi!


    Barbara Maloney February 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Great tips Randi! For someone that is still on the college/job fair/resume building side of things, these tips are much appreciated :-)
    I have come to find that networking in today’s economy is one of the best things you could ever do for yourself… You never know who will be hiring and a job fair is a great way to meet potential employers as well as seeing what is available to do post college.


    Jeremy Smith February 10, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Good post. I have to agree with Michael on some of his comments above as well. After running a smaller sized agency and getting literally hundreds if not thousands of resumes for positions, I rarely read resumes either. Most of what caught my eye was the cover letter. It was a chance for the person to really stand out creatively and show personality. Experience was only half the battle, literally half the battle. And if this was their first real job out of college, it became even less relevant. I think at the end of the day, originality in personality goes a long ways (which supplements Phils comment about being original and being the only one talked about on the ride home).


    Jon Kenney February 10, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Great post Randi, and great additional tips from everyone else. All I want to add here is that it’s important to show some passion and enthusiasm when you talk with a potential employer. Do you just want a job or do you want a career? Also, I wouldn’t recommend going about being remembered the way I did it, although we are still laughing about that story almost 5 years later.


    Morgan Siem February 10, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Spending the day at the job fair was very interesting because it became so obvious who the standouts were. For the most part, everyone had an excellent resume and professional attire, so the key differentiator became personality and originality. The people I enjoyed meeting the most were those who demonstrated a nice balance between friendliness, confidence and intelligence.

    As far as I’m concerned, a resume will never get you the job. People only really look at your resume once they’ve already decided they like you. The resume will just be used to weed people out.

    @Michael – I can name 2 of the 5 :) And I love the story about Jon.


    Randi Garrett Randi Garrett February 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Wonderful additional ideas from everyone. Jeremy, I agree that strong cover letters are a must. I especially like them when they include proof of problem solving skills. Most everything else can be taught and developed on the job. The ability to concept successful solutions quickly to an issue usually can’t be picked-up. Barbara, you’re right on with networking. I’d also add to be friendly to everyone. You never know when that person might end-up being your boss or client.


    Melissa Adams Melissa Adams February 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Having participated in a lot of job fairs when I worked in education and the nonprofit world recruiting for both interns and entry-level hires, the other thing I would add to this discussion is to work LinkedIn afterward. Make sure that you have a professional profile and photo to compliment your resume and include the link on your anything you take to hand out at the event. Look for those professionals and companies you met and connect with the ones you liked most.

    First impressions do count, but having a continuing visibility online that can be linked to the professionals you meet is an extraordinarily powerful resource!


    Gary Alan Miller February 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    What a great article! Hat tip to Jessica Lam for tweeting it to me.


    Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard July 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I know I’m commenting again months after the post – but it’s still relevant, as frequently people contact me asking why I haven’t responded to their resume they sent me (typically with no cover letter explaining what they’re even interested in doing). It’s not that I don’t get around to looking at all of them, it’s just that between everything I have going on, I’m typically looking for some that jump off the page at me. So again – this article is great, and job searchers, I encourage you to read all of the comments. Here’s a couple more examples of how to be original rather than just sending a resume:


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