She shares some amazing best practices for resumes and job interviews as well as what recruiters and hiring managers are really looking for in top candidates.
Learn how to succeed at getting hired!
Mike Montague: Sheila, welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about getting hired and really, who should be paying attention today? I imagine job seekers, but there’s probably more in there for people actually doing the hiring, too, right?
Sheila Musgrove: Absolutely. Both, absolutely. So, yeah, on how to get hired. The stat that I think surprises everyone is that 80% of resumes are rejected within the first 11 seconds. So, that’s what I tell job seekers, that you really need to make your 11 seconds count in order to be that stand out in the big stack of resumes. So, it’s interesting. People think that we do read resumes word for word. In fact, we don’t; we skim. So, we skim—in those 11 seconds—for five things only. So, it’s super … I’ll share with you what is read and what isn’t read.
Five things. Number one, company name and title. We’ll always take a look at those. We’re not at all reading the long list of mind-numbing bullets—more on that one in a second.
Okay, number two, we’re looking at start and end dates. Ideally, of course, when one position stops, another one starts. If there are gaps, and if we end up in an interview, we’ll be talking about that.
Number three, I’m looking at education. Does it align with what I need, or what the hiring manager is looking for? Number four, where are you located? If I’m in Calgary looking to hire a position and you’re located in Abu Dhabi, chances are we’re not going to be a fit. So, that would be where it ends. And then, numbers and percentages will always get read. So, kudos to you if you do have any of those on your resume.
And then, very quickly, six things that don’t get read in those 11 seconds. Number one, cover letters. I haven’t read a cover letter in a decade. So, I’m not going to-
Mike Montague: I worked hard on that!
Sheila Musgrove: I know. Everyone does. Everyone does, but they don’t get read unless they are specifically requested. If not, assume it will not get read. The second thing, target position, doesn’t get read. And the reason, Mike, is that most people write something to the effect of, “I’m looking for a rewarding position within a growth oriented organization where my contributions will be recognized.” I have no idea—do you want to be the receptionist or the president? So, target position doesn’t get read.
Mike Montague: I’ve heard that one a few times.
Sheila Musgrove: Yeah. Number three is career profile or summary. So, most candidates spend hours going through Thesaurus.com to pick the most eloquent words to describe their background. We don’t read any of those. And then of course, these lists that everyone does. Everyone was taught to make a long list of mind-numbing bullets that describe your functional responsibility. We don’t read one of them. We are interested in what your role was. And I created a formula that allows you to do so without using those bullets. But we certainly don’t read them.
Interests don’t get read because typically, they’re not that interesting—reading, hiking, sewing, wine tasting, running. Interests will get read if, in fact, they’re interesting, if it’s something that I haven’t read before. One of my recruiters put on his resume that he was into competitive dodge ball, which made me laugh, and I’ve never seen that on a resume. So, make your interests interesting.
And number six, references should never appear on your resume. But if they do, they’re not getting read. So, there you go. So, that’s what 11 seconds gets you on your resume.
Mike Montague: Wow, that’s amazing. So, maybe we should roll this back, then. Because I saw a lot of great stuff there that we could dive into and talk about what your attitude should be when you’re writing a resume. Because I’ve always found it to be a delicate balance between completely over inflating what you have done on your resume, but also, if you just told the truth, you wouldn’t look that impressive. So, the person reading it is assuming you’re over inflating. So, how do we get our attitude around this? What should we prepare within our head as we go in and try and get hired somewhere?
Sheila Musgrove: Oh, my goodness. That’s such a great question. I talk about that in my book. So, what I wrote in the book is that 99% of all hiring managers want to find every single reason to hire you. And you just simply have to help them to be right. So, the mind … Candidates are not usually that excited about doing interviews. They think, “Oh, they’re going to ask tough questions. They’re going to ask curve ball questions to try and trip me up.” Not so. Most hiring managers just really … What they’re after is, “What was your job? Help me understand what it is. But more importantly, I want to understand: how successful were you?” And that’s the formula that, after interviewing thousands of candidates, I ended up coming up with this two-step resume formula. And I think once you perfect the formula and create a resume that is a stand out, then interviews, walking into an interview … I’ve had candidates tell me that it feels like I’ve handed them the secret. They now know what the heck to talk about in an interview.
So just really quickly, Mike, the two-step formula. Step one, I want you to get rid of all of those bullets on your resume. There are really only three questions that I need you to answer. And that is: What level did you report to? What is or was your job? What was the scope? So, what is the scope—if you’re in sales, that means, what’s your territory? What’s the landscape? And then how big was the team? How many people were doing the same job as you? If you answer those three questions, I’ve got a really good idea of what your job was. Are you an account executive, business development, sales manager? What is or was your job?
Then, step two is the magic. And this is where the confidence comes in. In step two, I want to know how well you did your job. So, I want you to think about how big? How much? How many? And I want you to measure everything. Measure attendance, punctuality. Of course, in sales, what are your results? What percentage were you over target? How many new accounts? What was the revenue? So, numbers, percentages. I want you to measure absolutely everything and put that on your resume under a heading that says, “Key Successes.”
So, can you imagine how dynamic your resume would look if under every single position, you had a list of validated, measurable key successes? So, then the other part to that is that walking into an interview … The big “aha” happened when I was writing the book. We all as hiring managers have a version of, “Bring your resume to life for me. Walk me through your resume. Walk me through your positions.” And then we leave the candidate to answer, attempt to answer, that really big question. Well, here’s the funny thing. When I was writing the book, I realized as a hiring manager, we’re actually looking for you to answer five things when we say, “Bring your resume to life for me.”
I’m looking for: What level did you report to? What was your job? What’s the scope? How many people did what you were doing? And ultimately, were you successful? So, of course, what that is, that’s the two-step resume formula. So, part of the challenge and part of the walking into an interview to be successful is knowing, what the heck do we want to talk about? So, if you write the two-step resume formula, you’ve got the answers to the test. Because you’ve got everything written on your resume and you know what to talk about. And then, the finishing touch is just rehearse answering those questions out loud, same as in a sales presentation. We would never think to go into a board room or to a big pitch without having rehearsed what we want to say or even thought about it. The same holds true with interviewing. I want you to rehearse and be confident with those answers. And as we know in sales, by rehearsing out loud, that commits to your short-term memory. And if you walk in and it’s a little bit more stressful than you think, your short-term memory will never fail in a stressful situation. If you don’t rehearse out loud, everything’s sitting in your long-term memory. And when I say to you, “What were you doing five years ago?” And you can’t remember, the interview is so over at that point because you said you don’t have any memory.
Mike Montague: Yeah. So, I guess that’s interesting. And you give us some really great tips. And now that we’re in the interview … I like what you said about, that first question is, you know, “Tell me a little bit about you and your background.” That’s always the opener. Are there other questions that we should be prepared for? Or things that we should specifically do in the interview?
Sheila Musgrove: If you write successes on your resume, be prepared to talk about, “Well, if you over achieved 150% over sales goals in 12 months, how did you do it? What did you do?” So, when talking about successes, it is so rare to see two pages of successes on a resume that you’re going to blow that hiring manager away and they’re going to want to know, dig deeper. They’re going to set aside those silly behavioral based questions, or those, “Tell me about a time,” questions. Because you’ve already given them more golden information that they’re not expecting.
Mike Montague: Are there any good questions? I always come up with this as a Sandler Training salesperson. We kind of teach people not to answer questions the first time, but reverse and get more information. Is that a good idea with interviewers, or, if somebody does something cheesy in an interview, like, “Sell me this pen”?
Sheila Musgrove: Right.
Mike Montague: What’s the best way to respond to that? Is there a way to kind of make it real and not like an interview?
Sheila Musgrove: That’s a great question, “Sell me this pen.” Very common or, “Sell me this coffee cup.” You’ve hit on it, Mike. Be real. And it is just to relax and have a conversation. Let your personality come through. Make it more like a conversation, and let the hiring manager or interviewer get to know you. At the same time, do prepare for those questions, the, “Tell me about a time,” questions. “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond; when you didn’t hit your sales goal; when you didn’t win that particular client.” So, prepare for all of those. I’ve got loads of questions in my book. I ended up interviewing 14 senior executives for my book and asked them what their favorite interview questions are. What makes candidates a stand out for them? And what would you like to see more of from candidates? So, there’s lots … There’s chapters on favorite interview questions and things to prepare for your next interview.
Mike Montague: That’s awesome. And I think, as we move to technique here, you have a ton of tips and tricks and hacks that you can share with us. Do you have maybe just a favorite or a set of favorites that you recommend to everybody?
Sheila Musgrove: Take the time to write about your successes on your resume. That’s the number one. Ultimately, what a hiring manager is after is your previous successes. So, in the old days, we would ask behavioral based questions because past behavior is the best indicator of future and how you’re going to perform. If you’ve taken the time to really nail down your successes on your resume, then that’s going to put you far ahead of most any other candidate that’s just walking in cold, with a list of functional responsibilities and bullets. So, take the time to write the resume. Take the time to rehearse and be ready for your interview.
Mike Montague: And how much should we be asking questions or interviewing about the job? I always find it interesting. I’ve seen people that reject candidates completely if they ask about compensation in the first interview.
Sheila Musgrove: Yeah.
Mike Montague: However, I’m not taking a job that pays less than what I currently do, most likely, so isn’t that important information to get? How do we balance what we should be asking or how much we should be talking versus asking questions in an interview?
Sheila Musgrove: Sure. And salary is a great one, and in the book, I talk about what a proper pre-screen should look like so when you get that casual call to say, “Got your resume. Let’s have a further conversation.” At that point—and what I always recommend with salary—is when the interviewer asks you if there’s … And there’s always two questions I ask. “Where are you at now from a compensation standpoint, base plus commission? And then, ideally, where do you want to be, base, total income?” And so that should be a very transparent initial conversation before you even get into an interview. So, salary should be wide open and in the initial conversation.
But it’s interesting, I also write about in the book, what are kind of the interview killer questions at the end? At that point, it is … The questions that are not great questions to ask at the end are, “Tell me about benefits. How many weeks of vacation? When can I take my first vacation day? Do you close during the holidays? When are sick days? When can I take my first sick day?” Because those are all about you. All of those questions will get answered, but use that time to ask some really smart questions. You know, turn to the interviewer and say, “What do you love about working here? What is your career within the organization look like? Tell me, why is the role vacant? What would my training look like if successful? What would be my biggest challenge in this position?” So, ask questions that are a little bit more conversational and not necessarily all about you. Again, those are important ones, but use the end of interview questions as an opportunity for you to be a stand out.
Mike Montague: Yeah. I like that a lot. So, is there anything else that we missed or key take-aways when you were writing the book? Or, you know—you’ve done years of recruiting as well—that you just … You know, common mistakes that you’ve said, “Man, if I could tell anybody this,” it jumps up?
Sheila Musgrove: Absolutely. It was interesting. In surveying those 14 executives, I asked them, “What would you like to see more of from candidates?” And again, these are senior vice presidents/presidents of big organizations. And you know what it was? It was doing the old school handwritten thank-you card after the interview.
Mike Montague: Ah, I agree.
Sheila Musgrove: So, having those manners that moms and dads taught us years ago. Do a handwritten follow-up card. And it is shocking how many clients will keep those cards—my recruiters are the same—it’s so rare for someone to take the time to do that follow up. That can be golden for you.
Mike Montague: I like it. Once again, we are talking with Sheila Musgrove. She is author of the Amazon best-selling book, Hired!: How to Get the Zippy Gig. Insider Secrets from a Top Recruiter. And you are founder and CEO of TAG Recruiting Group in Canada. And I know that you’ve made like all kinds of lists, like, the top 100 list for female entrepreneurs and business growth lists and stuff. At this point in your career, how do you define success?
Sheila Musgrove: Oh, my goodness. That’s a great question, Mike. It’s just continuing to build. I mean, writing the book was a big must-do for me. So, it’s continuing to find innovative ways to write books, increase business volume with my organization and continue to grow. It’s a competitive landscape that I work within. Throughout North America, there are thousands and thousands of recruitment firms. So, finding ways to stand out amongst a very, very crowded market place and continue to be noticed—those are elements of success for me.
Mike Montague: And what was the biggest hurdle or lesson learned you had to get over in your career?
Sheila Musgrove: Oh, my goodness. Many of them. Getting through recessions is a big one. When you’re in staffing and recruitment and you’re in the middle of recession and no one is hiring, being in recruitment at that point is not for the faint at heart, for sure. So, it is continuing to be innovative and creative in how I approach business development within my organization. So, reaching out to an executive in the middle of a recession to say, “Hey can we meet and talk about staffing?” That’s going to be a big fat “no,” so it’s being really creative with my marketing and my sales strategy to continue to get on the radar. Get the appointments with senior vice presidents and presidents of organizations who, eventually, will be hiring again.
Mike Montague: And I feel like these are my interview questions. Like, I’m hiring you, but, if you had a superpower and an origin story about how you got it, is there a go-to move or something that you lean on when you need to be successful?
Sheila Musgrove: Absolutely, I do. For me, it is creativity. So, when you think about staffing and recruiting and interviewing people, it’s not that creative. But, in working through—for an example—a recession where, in the middle of a recession, I decided I’m writing a book. And that’s something that is a unique door opener. I’m the only Canadian recruiter to have written a book. So, I can reach out, and rather than reaching out to an executive to say, “Can we chat about staffing?” The answer would be “no.” Rather, I can reach out to say, “I’ve written a best-selling book. Can I bring you a copy, and can we just meet over coffee?” I’m going to get a “yes.” So, being really creative in looking for ways to get noticed in a … We’re all in sales. We’re all in competitive industries. So, reaching out and doing things that no one else is doing—that’s the way to get noticed. So, for me, writing books.
In the middle of the summer, I brand barbecue sauce for the Calgary Stampede. And one of my vice president clients—I saw him yesterday—he’s extremely busy but any time I say to him, “You know what? The weather is getting nice. Do you happen to need barbecue sauce?” He will always give me time on his calendar. So, we have a good 45-minute conversation about his staffing levels just by dropping off barbecue sauce. So that’s creative.
Mike Montague: Well, hey, I’m in Kansas City and we’re like the barbecue capital of the United States here so, I think that would work, hands down, in my territory.
Sheila Musgrove: Absolutely. But it’s something that’s completely unexpected. It’s branded with my company logo, TAG Recruitment, Recruiting Calgary’s Sauciest Talent. And then, we went to the further challenge of creating a Caesar recipe. So, a Canadian Caesar recipe that includes that barbecue sauce. But even better, I found a brand of vodka called TAG Vodka that’s distilled on the other side of the country. I have it shipped to my office. And then, of course, as well, I give out vodka and barbecue sauce throughout the year. So, who doesn’t want to see me when I’m offering a book or vodka or barbecue sauce?
Mike Montague: That’s true. Those three should cover just about everybody.
Sheila Musgrove: They cover every situation. So, for me, creativity is key. Boring marketing doesn’t work. It doesn’t help you to get noticed. And when you’re in a competitive sales landscape, you need to be noticed and you need to do things that are completely different.
Mike Montague: All right. Based on what we’re talking about today, “How to Succeed at Getting Hired,” what’s one key attitude you would like people to have?
Sheila Musgrove: Walking into an interview, know that you have every opportunity to land that gig. Mike Montague: And one key behavior to do?
Sheila Musgrove: Take the time—do the work—to create a resume that’s filled with results. It’s difficult to do. It is, I guess it would be a behavior of discipline, in order to really ensure that your resume is a stand out. Mike Montague: And what’s the best technique to use?
Sheila Musgrove: Drill down on those successes. Get those successes—measurable successes—on your resume. And then, once on the resume, rehearse out loud to be able to walk through your background seamlessly.
Mike Montague: Awesome. Anything else you want to add or tell people how they can find you and reach out if you might be a good fit?
Sheila Musgrove: Sure, absolutely. My website is hideseekfind.com. You can find me, Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are curious on reading more about these tips and strategies on how to get hired, my book is available on Amazon, both in print and Kindle format.
Mike Montague: Sounds good, Sheila. Thanks for being on the show. Again, for more on this topic, her book is at Amazon. It is Hired!: How to Get the Zippy Gig. Insider Secrets from a Top Recruiter. And she is the founder of TAG Recruitment Group at hideseekfind.com.
The How to Succeed Podcast is a public and free podcast from Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales, management, and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations around the globe.