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Friday, February 13, 2015

Character - Showing it in the job interview and on the resume

Our kids are all fantastic.  We know that, we see them every day and remember all the little examples in their lives of generosity, gumption, courage, responsibility.  Any employer would be lucky to hire our kids. Unfortunately the interviewers do not always see all the positive character traits of our awesome offspring.  To be fair, it is not entirely the fault of the interviewer. It is easy to check an applicant's ability to code in JAVA or put together a coherent sentence (you can just give them a test) but it is much harder to evaluate someone's character based on a one page resume and an hour of chatting. What traits would an interviewer want to recognize in our kids? There are many but let's focus on these three and how to get them into the resume and share them in the interview:

  • Integrity (honesty, ethics, your son will not destroy the company as a rogue trader)
  • Loyalty (your daughter will not quit 6 weeks after finishing the training program to move to another firm across the street for more money)
  • Persistent (the tough get going when the going gets tough!)

I like definitions, they help me to break down the big ideas into manageable (smaller) items (see my article on ambition). Starting with integrity, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Maybe the most obvious way to show this trait on a resume is not to lie. Lay out your experiences, education, interests, and other details without stretching the truth like many of us might be tempted to do.  So what if I was not really a manager, I occasionally told people what to do so that counts as managing right?  I can put Manager as my title rather than Staff, right? The interview is a little easier. I recently asked a candidate about his Japanese ability. He knew that speaking with a high level of fluency was necessary for the job but he honestly responded saying that he had not been studying very often in the last year and was therefore a bit rusty. Rather than being turned off by the lack of that skill I was impressed with his integrity. The other example of moral fortitude I have seen is the strict adherence to business ethics. A student of mine is working in an internship where the names of her client's are considered to be highly confidential.  In an interview for a full time job following graduation, she can show her integrity by not bowing to pressure from the interviewer to tell them the names of those companies.

Loyalty, faithfulness to commitments or obligations, can be seen in the resume where your daughter returned 3 summers in a row to the same part time job. Interviewers may also consider graduating from just one college (rather than moving around and changing majors often) a sign of faithfulness or commitment. While it is difficult to put more personal experiences into a resume which is often a dry and boring document,  they can be shared in the interview. A time when your son or daughter promised to help the elderly neighbor weed their garden and remembering the promise later had to forgo an outing with their friends would show loyalty. As parents we can help our kids to remember these examples and point out to them how they demonstrate the traits they want to showcase when applying for jobs.

The last of our big three, persistent, lasting or enduring tenaciously, will have some crossover examples from loyalty above. In the interview, any example of our kids not giving up will usually do the trick. It is important to use examples that have a happy ending though. Explaining how he spent hours, day after day, studying for the SATs and then your son only achieved a mediocre score shows persistence but may hurt our kid's chances for the job if their skills or abilities are questionable. Some good options for the resume are related to achievements that are known to take time and energy to receive. Eagle Scout is one, a black belt in karate (or other martial art) is also understood to have taken years to reach. Sports or musical instruments can fulfill this requirement as well if there is something that can be shared on the resume like becoming captain of the varsity soccer team or playing the oboe in Carnegie Hall(!).

Knowing the value of having these examples to relate on their resumes and in the interview, we can and should encourage our kids to actually practice these character traits so that when the interview and job application comes along they will have something relevant and valuable to share. Oh, and while our kids are acting honest, loyal, and persistent, hopefully they will actually become, honest, loyal, and persistent. Wouldn't that be great?