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While highlighting a skill on a resume that’s relevant to a job is important, don’t bother including it if you can’t offer concrete examples during an interview, according to HR expert Barry Drexler.
“Make sure you can back up whatever’s on your resume or take it off,” says Drexler, who has over 30 years of HR experience at notable companies like Lehman Brothers and Lloyds Bank. “That’s where people get stung.”
He tells CNBC Make It that interviewees will often place a skill on their resume and not expect a question about it from the hiring manager.
“I catch people with this all the time,” he says. “You don’t think I’m going to ask a follow-up question? Are you crazy?”
For example, if you put on your resume that you’re excellent at collaborating, says Drexler, an interviewer will likely ask “What made you so good at collaborating?” or “Give me an example of a time you had to collaborate with others?”
The same logic goes for more technical skills, he says. If your resume notes that you’re proficient at PowerPoint, a hiring manager may ask “How often did you use it in your last role?” or “What type of information did you present?” or “In what situations did you utilize PowerPoint?”
Although Drexler says that follow-up questions about skills cause applicants to struggle the most, he also says people find it difficult to answer simple questions about their resume. For example, he says new grads sometimes can’t answer the question: “Why did you choose your major?”
A common response, says Drexler, is “Um, I don’t know” or applicants will pause to think it over.
“I’m like, are you really thinking about your major now during the interview?” says the HR expert. “Don’t be thinking about something during the interview that you should know the answer [to].”
The final section of your resume that you should know in and out is the description of your previous roles, says the interview coach. For example, if your resume says that you exceeded revenue targets at your prior job, an interviewer will ask for specifics: “What were the numbers when you got there?”; “What was your target goal?”; “What did you do to exceed that goal?”; and “How long did it take?”
To properly prep for these types of follow-up questions Drexler says that you don’t have to memorize your answers. He says to follow a simple 3-step approach:
First, explain the situation: “When I joined my previous company, the revenue figures were 4 percent, which was below the market starting point.”
Second, explain your action: “Over the course of a year, I implemented these specific marketing strategies to implement change.”
Finally, discuss your results: “After a year, our revenue figures increased by 10 percent and I exceeded our targets by this specified amount.”
By following the above steps, Drexler says that you can avoid such a common interview pitfall.
“You can’t imagine how many times [this] happens,” he tells CNBC Make It. “So don’t say it if you can’t support it.”
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