If you haven’t landed one of your A List jobs, you may not be responding to a weakness in your resume. Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask you about the issue, it’s on her mind so you better deal with it or she may politely write you off.
Yesterday I spoke with a recently graduated MBA who had a great looking resume but no job. I asked if he received an offer from the bank where he spent his last summer. “No, “he said,” the V.P. I reported to left the firm and no one else really knew me.”
Hmm…if I were hiring, I would think…this doesn’t really stack up. The business student worked at a reputable bank, someone should have taken the associate under his wing. As a busy hirer, I would nod politely and tell the candidate we would get back to him. But since I was helping, not hiring, I pushed him on the topic and found out some important information. The vice president left with little notice the day before his group’s officers met to select which summer associates received full time offers. The process included bankers stumping for their associates in an almost competitive round-table discussion. No banker could speak sufficiently to the accomplishments of the MBA who had worked with an officer no longer there. Importantly, though, I discovered that the departed Vice President has offered to give an excellent reference for his summer colleague.
By just adding an extra sentence or two to his explanation, including the timing of the officer’s departure relative to the hiring decision, and the offer to act as a reference, the business student could have changed the outcome of some of his previous interviews. After our conversation he changed his response the next time he was asked about his summer job and added the V.P. as a reference on his resume.
Brevity, modesty and a lack of defensiveness are key when you are discussing a negative aspect of your resume; just make sure not to leave the hirer assuming the worst.