Career Advice from technical recruiter and SLUUG member

Elisabeth Laspe says that we should cheer up, because employers once again seek our skills. However, she cautions that some common advice and outdated expectations will not serve us well.


Today's employer usually has a short-term focus. So, the resume should honestly, accurately, and completely show your pertinent skills and knowledge. A modern resume comprises five or six elements: a professional summary, the technical summary, employment, professional activities, personal activities, and education. The professional summary supplants the career objective. Personal activities should be relevant to the resume, such as speaking a foreign language, repairing older technical hardware, or similar items.

The first read of your resume is likely to be a spider or similar software. Its objective is to find key words or phrases. Your resume should itemize an important skill in the professional summary (e.g. Six years PL-SQL scripting experience). Similar phrases should appear in your technical summary, and again with each employer where that item is relevant. Excessive bulleting, framing, bolding, or special characters can confuse the spider. Most importantly, use a large sans-serif font so a human reader does not have to squint.

Your resume should be factual, and succinct, but it need not be brief. Elisabeth submits in excess of 200 resumes each week, and resumes two pages or less in length seldom yield an interview. Elisabeth explains that, "Reviewers want to know what you did, what software or equipment was involved, and which specific skills you used. Take the space you need to completely explain those details."

Guard your credibility. When replying to a requirement for SQL Server, it is perfectly acceptable to note that you have six years' experience with PL-SQL which has many commonalities with SQL Server. You err, however, in claiming six years' SQL Server experience, while your only experience is with PL-SQL.

Be flexible. A successful candidate will revise the resume to address specific requirements. The moments required to do a search and replace to change “LAN administration” to “LAN administration in a UNIX environment within a pharmaceutical laboratory” may yield an interview.


The interviewer generally speaks to references for about three minutes. The interviewer wants to know how you work in a team, what type of person you are, and your habits within a work environment. Choose references who can corroborate significant elements of your resume from a different perspective.

The interview

Anticipate being interviewed by more than one person. Prior to the interview, review the published position requirements, comparing them item by item with your resume. Visualize yourself addressing requirements with your strong points, and overcoming any technical weaknesses. Visualize yourself saying “I am a member of a team that ....” If you can demonstrate leadership through collaboration and team building, weave that into your talk.

Most interviews last about 35 to 40 minutes. Role playing in front of friends or talking out loud are good strategies. You are evaluating, and at the same time, you are building confidence by hearing your own voice. Your warmth and interaction are as significant as technical knowledge. Be direct, accurate, and honest, but avoid a terse or cocky demeanor.

Summarize the interview. Try to address each person's concerns, and to greet each person at the conclusion of the interview. Get the name and email of the interviewer in order to send a thank you note. If you feel the environment is a good fit, ask for the position.

Elisabeth Laspe is a long-time SLUUG member who is affiliated with AJILON Consulting, a long-time SLUUG sponosr.