Job hunting in today's market
You only have one chance to make a good first impression. In today's highly-competitive job market, you cannot afford to make mistakes. In this feature, top executives from Residential Finance Corporation share tips on how you can make the most of that first impression to stand out and get noticed. Today, many thousands of mortgage professionals are unemployed and seeking work. If you are among them, you face challenging odds, whether you choose to remain in the mortgage business or seek a position in another industry. But there are concrete steps you can take in order to increase your odds of getting noticed and making a noteworthy first impression. Like any company hiring in today’s market, Residential Finance Corporation receives hundreds of resumes for its available positions. In this article, Residential Finance Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Isaacs, Vice President of Sales Obiora Egbuna, and Executive Recruiter Russell Jipson discuss what they believe makes candidates stand out as they offer concrete suggestions on how to make your application convey the very best first impression to help move your resume to the top of the pile. Look sharp Like the Academy Awards, there is always an air of expectation when the envelope—or the electronic file—is opened. The first glance can leave a lasting overall impression, so make sure that your presentation speaks well of you. Michael Isaacs: The first impression we get of a candidate begins with the overall look of your cover letter, resume and any accompanying documents. Give your application good visual appeal that will help make a professional impression by being well organized, laid out in a visually appealing manner with a balance of copy and bullets that highlight your achievements and qualifications. Russell Jipson: Include your contact information—not only on your cover letter, but on all pages of your resume and any accompanying documents as well, in case anything gets separated. Make sure that you have a professionally appropriate e-mail address, i.e., [email protected] rather than [email protected] Cover letters should always be customized to the company and the position for which you are responding. In the letter, address your interest in the position for which you are applying and include specific reasons why you believe you are the best candidate for the job. Be sure to carefully research the company and explain why you are interested in the position and how you believe that your skills and capabilities will add value to the position and to the company. As for the resume, there are many formats from which to choose. But the one that would serve an applicant best is one that features achievements and accomplishments specific to the position being applied for whenever possible. Be sure and customize your accomplishments and capabilities to be very specific to the job for which you are applying. Obiora Egbuna: Always be honest—never exaggerate your skills, achievements or education—but do relate how your skills, achievements and education make you a great fit for the position. Use facts to tell an enticing story Stick to the facts and let them tell your story. Create a “laundry list” of all your accomplishments and their overall impact in terms of benefits to others and your company. Then customize a best-fit resume by cherry-picking the types of accomplishments that are most pertinent to the specific position for which you apply. Describe your accomplishments in terms of dollars, percentages and return-on-investment for the greatest impact. Isaacs: What gets attention fast is your record of achievement—words like increased volume, grew business, top producer, expanded lines of business, get us to stand up and take notice. Be sure and include details, such as dollar volume or percentage of growth. Cite any awards or recognition you received that would be appropriate to the position you seek, such as “consistently placed in Top 10 Producers for the past 14 months” or, “received citation for processing efficiency.” Jipson: Provide concrete, “action-to-benefit” examples of your achievements relative to the position for which you are applying. Never brag or exaggerate when discussing your accomplishments, but do communicate with sincere enthusiasm, and use facts and figures to make your story compelling. Instead of saying, “Negotiated to trim 30-percent off with vendors,” use statements such as “Negotiated with vendors to gain a 30 percent cost reduction, resulting in overall monthly savings of $55,000, which was reinvested into revenue-generating activities that yielded an additional $4.4 million revenue, for an overall 325-percent return-on-investment.” Egbuna: Your actions will always speak louder than words, and one picture speaks a thousand words. When you provide a clear picture of your achievements—and the net impact on the business, you demonstrate the value you can bring to a potential employer. Don’t discount your related experience outside the industry, but explain why this experience would bring value to the position for which you are applying. For instance, the fact that you sold life insurance may not initially interest a mortgage company reviewing your resume. However, if you mention that you were consistently the top sales performer in your division, and that you believe your experience and success in selling life insurance could enhance your success as a loan officer, the employer might be very interested in your qualifications. What's more, if you could provide statistics showing how you increased the volume of your sales or those of your department by a set percentage each quarter, you would demonstrate that you are a motivated individual with valuable closing skills. Go the extra distance Isaacs: We recently received a package from a candidate who included quotes from co-workers, employers, business partners and others, and included contact information for each. These testimonials helped illustrate the individual’s character and capabilities, making them a real stand out. Jipson: If you have sufficient experience and accomplishments, consider creating a resume package with your customized cover letter and an achievement-laden resume. Egbuna: Consider including a short list of your favorite books, and/or the organizations you belong to (as appropriate) in the package. Explain why these books and/or organizations are important to you, demonstrating your motivation, career focus and interest in personal development. Communicate your enthusiasm: Show your interest Isaacs: People who communicate with sincere enthusiasm and show their interest in a position tend to stand out during the interview process. Jipson: Enthusiasm makes an impression after your interview, as well. Follow up promptly with a personalized card via mail and e-mail. Egbuna: Make your follow up note extra effective by taking this opportunity to reiterate why you are interested in the position—why you believe you would be a great fit and the value that you could bring to the organization. This can be especially helpful if you are applying as a loan officer or for another sales or customer service-related position. The follow up Isaacs: Following up shows how interested you are in the position—and it also demonstrates how you may follow up on the job with customers or coworkers. Jipson: Enthusiasm makes an impression after your interview, as well. Use a personalized card—and send an e-mail. Be careful about calling, however. Follow up promptly with a personalized card via mail and e-mail. Egbuna: Make your follow up note extra effective by taking the opportunity to reiterate why you are interested in the position—why you believe you would be a great fit and the value that you could bring to the organization. This can be especially helpful if you are applying as a loan officer or for another sales or customer service related position. Selling yourself: Tips to ace your interview Making a strong positive impression with your resume can get you an interview. But you really have to shine during the interview process and “sell” yourself to “close the sale.” Isaacs: Emphasize your strengths and capabilities and demonstrate an upbeat, can-do attitude. Ask thoughtful questions that demonstrate your interest in the position and the organization. And ask for the job—communicate your interest clearly that you would like to be a member of the team and why you believe you would be a great fit for the position. Jipson: You should be prepared for a phone screening prior to being invited to interview. Make sure that you can communicate a succinct message about your strengths and capabilities. Make it short enough to pique our interest in 30-sec. If you believe you’re a perfect fit for the position, tell us how and why you think so from the start. Egbuna: Borrow a technique used by many sales, customer service and call centers—practice in advance. Record yourself and use a mirror to hear, see and fine-tune yourself to measure what you will say and how you say it. Create scenarios and practice fielding questions. Be sure to ask about next steps before you leave. Stay motivated A positive attitude communicates a wealth of information about you and attracts positive attention toward you. Work to maintain a positive attitude throughout your job hunt. Isaacs: Today’s job hunt can be an arduous and frustrating task with so many talented professionals now seeking work. But nobody wants an Eeyore on their team. Present yourself as upbeat and motivated throughout the application and interview process. Jipson: Never lose sight of your capabilities and your goals. Review your “laundry list” of accomplishments and allow yourself to recognize the value of your achievements, and use that as a buoy between interviews. Egbuna: Network and help others in their job hunts, as well. Branching out In today’s market, the competition for open positions is intense. Many are considering employment in other fields. The advice in this article can apply to job hunters universally. Isaacs: Attitude and skill sets are transferable across industries. If you consider looking to another field, take inventory and create a “laundry list” that defines the skill sets and accomplishments you have to offer, then cherry-pick key elements to custom fit each position for which you are applying. Jipson: If you apply for a position outside of the mortgage industry, cut the industry slang and abbreviations to more clearly explain your skill sets and accomplishments. Egbuna: Remember, customize your resume to the position you are applying for and make it a stand out by including concrete examples of your skills, accomplishments and successes. The tips in this article can help you stand out in a crowded field of job hunters and put you in contention for the position you seek.