Sunday, June 30, 2019

Should You Include Your GPA on Your Resume?

To add the GPA or not to add it... that is the question. Over the summer there have been many recent graduates applying to jobs and I have reviewed hundreds of resumes while working to fill entry level positions at the company I work for. I understand that when looking at entry level job applications it can be difficult to find ways to make your resume stand out, even during this very "employee friendly" job market (unemployment rates are extremely low across the US, you know).

What Should Be Added to the Resume? 

Awards, honor programs, volunteer experience, etc. can all be very positive attributes. But essentially employers want to know from your resume what knowledge and skills you have that you can bring into the company. Your resume is a first glance at what you might bring to the table, or should I say the office

I notice that many recent graduates will include their GPA alongside degree/education details. I think this can be a great way to brag about yourself on paper. When adding GPA, there is one main thing to ask yourself:

Will my GPA number look average or excellent among others applying to the same position?

Rule of Thumb 

Here's a rule of thumb to follow. When your GPA is above a 3.4 you should be sure to highlight that and include it to your resume. Unfortunately, too many students will include GPA even when it is  at or below a 3.0. Please understand me, a 3.0 GPA is not a bad things, in fact it shows that a student is in good standing with their college or university. However, keep in mind that that GPA number is typically the minimum required for most internship and fellowship programs. Very large companies often require a rate of 3.2. 

A 3.2 or 3.0 may not make you stand out much, however, a 4.0 shows a company that a student is well above average and has outshined other students academically. In an employer's mind, if the student has done extremely well during their school program, they will also do well in the work environment. 

What If Your GPA is Less Than a 3.2? 

Recently I have even seen students list more average and even sub par GPA numbers on their resume. Just for the record, GPA's of 2.4, 2.8 and 2.9 should absolutely not be included onto your resume unless for some reason the GPA is required. Now, I have nothing against those with lower GPA's, in fact, my overall GPA was only at a 3.2 when I graduated undergrad. Because of this, I refrained from listing my GPA on my resume and job applications. The few times I was asked about my GPA I made sure to describe some factors that contributed to my GPA. I mentioned a few difficult classes (Economics and Survey of Calculus to be exact) where I had some trouble and seeked out tutoring to gain a "C" passing grade. I also would sometimes talk about my personal situation along with my work life. This was very helpful and gave employers a better idea of me as a well rounded individual that was able to achieve balance while working through academic challenges. 

Trust me, if you have a lower GPA, it is very important to be ready to discuss it and be able to turn it into a positive. So Jess, if I have my story prepared can't I go ahead and add my GPA to my resume? 

Answer: Absolutely not. Here's why. When you offer the GPA on the resume upfront, there is no chance for you to provide any context outside of a cover letter (which may not be reviewed). Overall, the likelihood of you moving forward in the recruitment process is lessened. I don't want that to happen. And I know you don't either.  

For questions or information on other topics you can reach out to me directly at or find me on LinkedIn. You can also check out my newly created YouTube page for short videos where I provide advice to job seekers based on my experience as a corporate recruiter. 

Happy Searching! 

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Behavioral Based Interview Questions - How Should You Prepare?

Many people have trouble with interviewing. It can be nerve-wracking and even scary to present yourself in front of someone. Group interviews can be even more intimidating. Presenting yourself well while responding to questions you know will be used to determine whether you receive a job offer is a challenge. However, there are many ways to interview well and I'm here to help with that!

Many job seekers see behavioral based questions to be some of the most difficult to answer. So what are behavioral based interview questions and why are they used?

Behavior-based interviewing is a technique used to determine how a job candidate may perform in a new role by sharing examples of how they handled situations in the past. An example interview question is, "Tell me about a time when you worked with a group of people to accomplish a task?"

I have worked for over 7 years within the Human Resources field as an HR Generalist, Corporate Recruiter and Talent Adviser at multiple companies and in a variety of industries. Each company had some level of behavioral based interviewing and one multinational corporation relied heavily on using the questions to asses and hire talent. I've seen first hand just how many people are unable to pass the assessment, even when they feel that they have prepared sufficiently.

How do you prepare for your next behavioral based interview? Keep reading to find out.

#1. Understand The Job and Company

Understanding the position you are applying to is extremely important in making sure you are actually pursuing something that is aligned with your specific career experience and goals. It is particularly helpful when thinking about the questions you may be asked.

When reviewing the job description, ask yourself these two questions:
"What key behaviors would be needed for me to be successful in this role?" 
"Which behaviors appear to be valued at this company?"

Answering these questions will help you determine whether you have the key behaviors to do well and are able to demonstrate them during the interview. The behaviors you identify will be the ones you'll need to specifically highlight with examples of how you've showed them in past roles or experiences. For example, if I were to interview for a role as a Systems Engineer/Testing Architect at AT&T and the job description was described as below, I would be able to determine what qualities are most desired in the person that will fill the role.

Look at the below job description. Can you find a few keywords that describe the person that AT&T is looking for to fill the Systems Engineer/Testing Architect position?

Seeing that the "Systems Engineer/Testing Architect" will be "accountable for the continued adoption of leading industry testing technologies", you can assume that you may be asked to provide an example of when you have led an innovative idea or process. Also knowing that the position "includes cross-functional interaction with developers", collaboration and teamwork will be important and you should be able to give examples of when you collaborated with a person or group. 

Do you see how this works? Great, let's move on.  

#2. Learn From Past Interviews  

Another great way to prepare for an interview is to search as much as you can about the company online. I always suggest finding the company on Glassdoor and Indeed if possible to review what others have shared about their past interviewing experience. Sometimes you're able to get a great deal of info from anonymous interviewees. I also suggest reviewing these sites to find out insights into the company that are not available from the company's direct page. You may see that multiple employees are saying that the company does not have a good work/life balance, this will be something to ask about during the interview process if it is a concern to you. And if multiple people said that they were asked questions about being responsible or reliable in the workplace, it would be good for you to have some examples to talk about on the subject.


#3. Prepare Details in Your Examples

Now that you have an understanding of some of the behaviors needed in the role, it is time for you to  prepare. You will want to be able to quickly recall good examples where you have shown the behaviors required. Now, I would not rely solely on the examples to the point that you are unable to answer something that is not what you prepared for. I would also not want you to seem like you are reading from a script when talking though your examples.

Preparing the examples are to help you to have some cases that you can talk to regardless of what is being asked. With preparing the examples, I recommend having recent examples because it will be easier to recall specific details. You will most likely be asked follow up questions and should provide enough details so the interviewer understand the situation, tasks, actions taken and the result. answering question in this manner is call the the Star method. You should prepare at least 5-10 examples for a phone interview and 10-15 for a face-to-face interview.

One model to think about when talking through your responses is the Star method. Using this method, you will provide the situation, task(s) to be completed, your specific actions to address the task and the result or outcome. Let's look at each section of the STAR method.
  • Situation
You should describe one situation and provide details around it. Many people have challenges with providing one specific example, and instead will begin speaking in general terms. I've heard a number of interview responses where the candidate says things like "this situation happens a lot", "I would normally do" or "we would do".  
  • Task(s)
Typically one of the easiest areas to discuss during the interview are the tasks at hand. What actually needed to get done? Was there a deadline? Why was it important. These are the things to include when explaining the tasks.    
  • Action(s)
Some candidates also have difficulty stating what they themselves actually did and will instead talk about others on their team team. Some using terms like we" in place of "I". This is difficult for the interviewer to determine what you actually did in your example over things that you were just a part of or contributing to within a group. ole. 
  • Result 
Discussing the result is something most people do not seem to mess up. I suggest you showcase something where there was a positive turnout. If you decide to use a situation that did not have a great outcome, be ready to share information on things you learned or would do differently. Overall when talking about the result you should show that you saw the situation through to the end and can sell the great thing you did within that.  

#4. Bring Your Notes 

This one should probably a no-brainer. Being prepared and having your notes with you during the interview is comforting and helpful in case you need to refer to something. Some candidates do not refer much to their notes, while others reference them throughout an interview. Bringing notes to an interview always shows the candidate as being prepared and serious. These are qualities you are already showing without even opening your mouth. One thing to note, however, is as previously mentioned, do not just rely on your notes. Looking down at your notes and proceeding to read your example is not a good look. And yes, I have seen this before. This also applies to phone interviewing, because even though I can't see you reading, I know when something sounds more like a script than natural.

#5. Practice Makes Perfect 

This one should go without saying. Anything done well has to be practiced. This includes talking about yourself and answering interview questions. Prepare to give an overview of your experience and answer questions about your background and interest. When being asked the behavior questions prepare to actually listen to questions being asked and answer them aloud. Grab a family member or friend to practice with. If you have a pet dog, talk to them. The point is to get the practice you need because studies show your first time doing something is not the best. Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, but is does make better which results to a more prepared and confident you.

#6. Be Yourself and Get Professionally Comfortable 

I remember an interview where the candidate was too dependent on their notes. The person sounded like a robot and it was obvious that during the phone interview they were reading from their notes. In other situations, I've noticed candidates act differently. My advice is to get "professionally" comfortable with the interviewer by building some rapport. Rapport can be built with casual introductions and finding a commonality. This can help you be more comfortable and able to be yourself. People can tell when you are not natural, or acting phony.

These are my tips to having an effective behavioral-based interview. Now go out there and get that dream job!

Your Pretty Little Career Guide (Jess)

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