Your resume is the gateway to your future. Do not underestimate a good resume. It can immediately eliminate you or get you an interview. I like to look at career paths from a bird’s-eye view. When looking at a resume, each position move should be self-explanatory. What I mean by that is that there should be a progression that either involves a move for experience or a move for growth. For someone with little experience, a resume should not exceed one page. Ideally, the resume should be action-based wording with clear, concise information. The goal of a resume is to give the employer a clear picture of you as a professional. Refrain from lengthy paragraphs and instead post bullet points for each quality that you have. Depending on your experience, adjust it for your strength. If you lack experience, put the education and certification part at the top with the job experience below. If your job experience is better than your education or certifications, then put the job experience first as you will want your biggest strength to be the first impression. Ultimately, list your best “you” so that an employer cannot wait to meet you.
Always be honest and ready to speak on anything and everything about your resume. Put nothing on your resume you can’t directly speak to or speak in depth about. Anything you put on there is fair game for an interviewer to question and ask about. Make sure you know specific dates and times about your resume. I have been in countless interviews where candidates did not know the basic dates or times of their resumes!
Something else I have seen a lot is putting every acronym possible on your resume. I do not recommend this as it becomes redundant. Every network uses TCP/IP. You don’t need to put TCP, IP, ICMP, DNS, FTP, etc. on your resume. This also gets into awkward territory where you may have used a software program such as a VPN client, but you do not know how to configure a VPN. Setting up remote access or site-to-site VPN is different, yet some individuals will put “VPN” on their resume. Remember anything you put on your resume is fair game to the interviewer.
For some, interviews are easier than others. I tend to get a little nervous. I have seen it all when it comes to interviews. I’ve had one on one, a group or panel, technical/hands-on, and even in the room with 50 other candidates and had to pitch myself. The key is believing in yourself and making sure you can communicate effectively. Communication is huge in entry-level roles as you will work closely with others.
Before you attend an interview, there are a few homework items that you should attend to. This will allow you to better prepare for the interview. Make a bullet point list of the main qualifications that you possess that mirror the job posting. If you do not own a professional outfit (I always recommend a suit), purchase one. While it is possible to underdress for an interview, you will rarely be penalized for over-dressing. Learn as much as you can about the company you are interviewing for. You should know the company's history, mission statement, and overall structure before an interview. A common question is to ask the candidate what they know about the company. Doing a little prep work will make you appear detail-oriented and professional. While learning about the company, do not forget to learn about your career. Study your resume and know the dates and specifics to recite them quickly. I cannot describe the number of people who cannot remember the specifics of their qualifications. As a person involved in the hiring process when a candidate forgets about dates and specifics, I question their credibility. Lastly, compose a set of 2-3 questions that you have for the company at the end of the interview (see below for examples).
Before you walk in, tell yourself, “I’ve got this; I’m the perfect candidate”. Feeling confident and trying to smile no matter how nervous you are will help you give off a more successful vibe. While most interviewers will have a printout of your resume on hand, bring enough copies of your resume printed on resume paper just in case. If you have a business card, bring a copy for each interviewer. In addition, almost every interview should also include the following:
Firmly shake the hand of each person and introduce yourself before sitting down. Due to COVID, this can be a simple acknowledgment of each individual on the call.
Maintain eye contact. If there are multiple interviewers, try to scan the eye line of each person as you answer each question.
Don’t be afraid to take a brief pause to compose your thoughts before you answer. They know you are nervous, and you don’t want to answer incorrectly because you rush the answer.
Pay attention to the questions. Your answer should be concise and answer the question they have asked. If possible, provide detailed examples of your experience when answering.
Don’t exaggerate your qualifications. This is common and blatantly obvious to an astute interviewer. Be confident and sell yourself but be truthful.
When prompted, ask questions that have not been answered during the interview that pertain to information you are interested in. Example questions are:
What is an example of a typical day like? (the position you are applying for)
How is your IT department structured?
Do you offer continuing education opportunities?
What is the next step in the hiring process?
Don’t psych yourself out too much. Most entry-level positions are merely an exercise to meet you in person and get a better understanding of your communication skills and thought process on troubleshooting. You very well may be asked how you would handle a situation when everything is down. Or how would you troubleshoot an issue.
One tip I recommend in these scenario’s is to go back to basics. No matter how senior an engineer is, when you tell them a host is down, they will check the power, network connectivity, and ping it. Don’t overthink the interview scenarios. Again, most of the time the interviewer is trying to get a picture of how you communicate and handle stress or how you think about technical issues.
At the end of the interview, make sure you know what the next step will be. Shake the interviewer’s hand and thank them for their time. This is important: when you get home, make sure to send a thank you email to each person that you interviewed with by midnight of the same day. This can be a simple email saying thank you for their time but can also be a great way to reiterate why you are the perfect candidate for the job in a few quick sentences. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement for the position. My wife was a recruiter before she met me and had many managers eliminate candidates just for forgetting to send a thank you. This is one of those things that will only help you and can never hurt.
Thanks for reading! I wish you all the best.