Fortune magazine ranks Target No. 22 on its 2013 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies.” Renee Bilotti, the executive team leader from Target, RI had a one-on-one session with me and shared some of her advice for college graduates seeking jobs.
1. How long do you usually spend reading a resume? Do you use resume-scanning software?
We don’t use any resume-scanning software. Those systems usually spend 30-40 seconds on each resume. At Target, we have several rounds of the preliminary screening process before we decide to conduct a phone interview or one-to-one interview. For me, personally, I only spend 10-15 seconds on a resume. To judge whether a resume is qualified, there are two things that I will look at the first sight: A. How long your resume is, and B. How much white space the candidate has on his resume.
DEGREES2DREAMS TIPS: For recent graduates, resumes should be no more than one-page. Therefore, it’s very important that you fully utilize that single piece of paper to present yourself, your qualifications, and your achievements. Also, use verbs to start sentences. For each job application, you need to understand its specifics and then incorporate as many of its keywords and requirements as possible in your “Profile” at the top of your resume. Where possible, include your achievements that relate to their requirements in the descriptions of each job you’ve held.
2. What kind of people will you most likely to hire?
I always tell candidates that it’s not a problem if, for example, you don’t know how to use Target’s inventory database because I can always teach you. If you don’t know how to run the logistics at Target, I will teach you that as well. However, there is one thing that I can’t teach, and that is who you are. We are looking for someone who has the potential to be the team leader in the future.
DEGREES2DREAMS TIPS: If you can establish in advance what a hiring manager like Renee is looking for (in this case leadership), you should tailor your cover letter, resume, and interview answers to those needs she is trying to fill. Resist the urge to talk about skills and achievements that are important to you and focus on what’s important to her and how you meet or, better yet, exceed those requirements.
3. What are the typical questions you ask interviewees?
We like to ask applicants behavioral questions. For example, give us an example of a mentoring experience. We had a candidate answer this question like this: “I remember when I was teaching my sister…” Even though it is a mentor example, I don’t think it meets our expectation. Aren’t you supposed to teach your sister? The answer we would like to hear needs to have a high scope such as coaching your teammates, classmates or friends.
DEGREES2DREAMS TIPS: Renee’s answer points out the need for two things: First, internships so you can collect professional experience and achievements and not have to fall back on irrelevant examples, and, second, pre-written and rehearsed answers to as many potential interview questions as possible. There are several places to go to collect these questions (here is an example of the 25 most common job interview questions).
4. What do you pay attention to when the interviewee is answering questions?
We pay a lot of attention to details: the way you dress, the way you talk and the way you behave. Take me as an example: I know if I am wearing jewelry, I will unconsciously play with it such as my ring or my bracelet. So I will make sure to take them off when I go to an interview. Voice tone is also very important during the interview. If the candidate keeps talking in a flat tone, I will fall asleep soon.
DEGREES2DREAMS TIPS: You know yourself. Think of how you behave when you are under stress, and then act to minimize that behavior if it indicates anything other than confidence. After you’ve reviewed the typical job interview questions and written out your responses, practice saying them so you’re comfortable with your answers. Don’t try to memorize the answers (you never will), but just capture the gist of your answer. Modulate your voice tone, sit up straight (preferably on the edge of your chair, not leaned back — one shows eagerness and energy, the other disconnectedness and disinterest).
5. What kind of questions do you expect the interviewees to ask at the end of the interview?
Ask genius questions. You should show the employers that you did the research on the company. But don’t ask more than two questions because that may leave them with the impression that you are not well prepared. One of the questions I like to hear is: What is your favorite part of the job? That question is work-related but at the same time is more leaning towards personal opinions as well. That helps the hiring manager start to have the emotional bond with you and open themselves up. It also shows your concern for others instead of just asking what the company can do for you.
DEGREES2DREAMS TIPS: You should go into a job interview with questions you want to ask prepared in advance. At the end of almost every job interview, the hiring manager will say, “Well, that’s all for me; do you have any questions?” That’s when you should hit them with one or two questions and then a closing statement. Renee’s suggested question is a good one, as well as “What does it take to succeed here?” or “What would you look for this new employee to achieve in the first year?” The closing statement should start out something like this: “I don’t have another question, but I’d like to tell you a story about one of my achievements that I think illustrates why I’d be the perfect candidate for this position…..” and then succinctly tell her about a great example of something you did that is relevant to their needs. You could close by saying, “I think that demonstrates how I could make your life easier, help X company exceed its goals, and contribute to a positive, profitable future here” (or something like that). That will be the final impression they have of you, and because it’s a story, it will be memorable.
(Creative Commons photo at top of post by bpsusf)