Resume Preparation

Your resume should provide a brief employment history that outlines your responsibilities and achievements for each of your prior positions. Always include your education, professional certifications, honors and achievements. Make your resume a thumbnail profile, not an epic novel. …this is your passport to the interview.

Steps to Success - Resume Writing


Your resume should be no longer than one page per 10 years of experience. The shorter your resume, the more of it that can be seen at a glance and a glance is all that some managers will have time for. Include just enough information necessary to create an interest in meeting with you. Quality, not quantity, is the key here. Ask your FirstPRO consultant for an objective evaluation on the current version of your resume.

The position and industry you are interested in should determine your résumé’s appearance. For example, when seeking a professional position, employ a more conservative approach. Generally the best resume is laser printed on a white or off-white high quality stock paper with traditional typeface.
Detail and format are critical. Neatness counts. Typographical errors, misspellings and faulty grammar are completely unacceptable. Resume appearance and quality will have a significant impact when your FirstPRO consultant obtains an interview on your behalf.


Your resume should present your professional background in the most favorable light. Use strong, confident language to describe your achievements. For example, “As the Senior Cost Accountant, my financial analysis redesigned our assembly-line process, cutting production time by 20 percent, thus increasing profits by 15 percent.” Or “As Senior Account Supervisor, I developed over $500k in new business and increased my existing client base spend by 25 percent. These efforts grew the agency’s profitability by more than 15 percent over the previous year.” Use action-oriented words such as directed, established, created, designed, produced and developed throughout your resume to better market yourself. Think of your resume as a sales brochure for the most important product you have to offer – You!


Never include age, height, weight, marital status, hobbies and other extraneous details that will distract from the more critical content. Military service, however, is important even if it is not related directly to the position you are seeking. Salary requirements are not appropriate either. This sensitive issue is best left alone and should be negotiated on your behalf by your FirstPRO consultant.


It may take a couple of drafts to get your resume into its ideal format. Examine your first draft carefully, and then refine it again. Incorporate your revisions, and have someone else review it as well.

Make sure it answers “yes” to the following important questions:

  • Does it effectively describe your background?
  • Does it quantify your strengths and accomplishments?
  • Is it accurate?
  • Is it complete, yet concise?
  • Is the format clean and attractive?
  • Is it a successful sales piece?
  • Does it reflect the value you have added to your employer in prior roles?
  • Does it give you the edge to differentiate yourself?

Successful Interviewing

Don’t leave anything to chance. Use this section to learn more on the latest in resume preparation, engaging interviewing techniques, the importance of research, winning the job offer and more. We suggest you print and read this section prior to interviewing.

Additional interviewing tips:

The Preparation

Rest assured that your FirstPRO Professional Search consultant has the skills, contacts, experience and desire to help you find the new career opportunity that’s perfect for you. Our client companies expect their search assignments to be filled as quickly as possible, and they depend on FirstPRO Professional Search to meet their executive search and staffing needs. When your FirstPRO Professional Search consultant locates a position that matches your goals, skills and cultural fit, you will receive our critical data and special services.


  • A complete analysis and overview of the interviewing company.
  • A comprehensive description of the specific position available.
  • An understanding of how the position will benefit your career.
  • A professional presentation of yourself and your background.

Also, avoid negotiating your own salary objectives. Instead, persuade the management at the interview that you are the ideal candidate for their need with one of the following statements:

  • “Money is indeed an important factor, however, my objective is more about finding the right company fit where my skills and focused commitment will allow me to contribute significantly for the long run.”


  • “If you agree it makes sense to go to the next step, I would seriously consider your best salary offer, whatever that may be.”

Finally, do not leave the interview without closing for the next step in the process. Never exit the interview while leaving any stones unturned. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough question:

  • “Based on our brief discussion here today and your new understanding of my skills and background, are there any reasons in your mind why I would not be the perfect fit?”

If you do not ask this hard question, you may never know if any yellow flags exist. The initial interview may be your only window to uncovering these lingering concerns or hesitations on the part of the interviewer. Address these issues while face-to-face. Otherwise, you may lose the opportunity for the second interview.


Before engaging in the search for an even stronger position than the one you currently enjoy, conduct an objective self-evaluation. This is vital in making the most effective presentation possible during your first interview. Beyond needing your professional skills, companies have differing corporate cultures and look for employees with personality types that fit best.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your work attitude?
  • Am I a self-starter?
  • A team player?
  • Assertive?
  • Ambitious?
  • Do I take directions well?
  • Do I listen and communicate effectively?
  • Am I a natural born leader?
  • Do I prefer others to take charge?
  • What direction do I want for my career?
  • What drives me?

Next, make a list of your strengths and skills. After studying it carefully you will feel at ease in describing both the experience you bring and the contribution you will make to the organization. This attribute list is also a powerful tool in helping you to write your resume.


Once your FirstPRO Professional Search Consultant schedules an interview for you with a prospective employer, it is critical you be well prepared. Extensive preparation instills superior confidence, elevating your ability to conduct an impressive interview, and to receive an offer.

This brings you back to the strategy of “Selling Yourself.” You may have mastered the skills in your chosen profession, however, in a competitive situation, your interview style is paramount. More often than not, the job offer is extended to the candidate with the stronger interviewing skills.


By thoroughly analyzing the company, you will be better prepared for a more in-depth interview. Read financial statements, recent news releases and recognize historical economic trends for both the company and industry. Know the nature of their business, office locations, their divisions and number of employees. Learn about their competitors, study their corporate leadership (you may find a name you know from a prior experience) and learn as much as you can about their corporate philosophy.

If the company is publicly traded, useful information is readily available. Check online for a Dun & Bradstreet listing or a Moody’s summary. Also, Hoover’s, Yahoo Finance and other public databases contain valuable information. Most importantly, read the company’s website. Try dropping their name into one of your favorite search engines and see what pops up. These resources will provide comprehensive background information that will be invaluable to you in the interview process.

Interviewing managers expect for you to be familiar with who they are and what they do. Be conversant about their industry.

Make a list of 10 specific questions to ask during the interview. Remember, the interview should be an exchange of information between you and the interviewer. Be prepared to answer and ask pertinent questions. Practice these responses. Through this interrogatory process, you will discover whether the position is right for you.

Some probing questions could include:

  • How would you describe the corporate culture and what is your department like?
  • What are this position’s primary responsibilities? (compare this information with what was provided to us and given to you by your FirstPRO Search consultant.)
  • If you don’t mind me asking, why is the position available? (Newly created? Vacated? Termination?)
  • What skills, personality and other attributes are you looking for in the person you hire for this position? (take notes and explain later in the interview how you fit these!)
  • If you agree it makes sense to proceed further with these discussions, whom else might I be interviewing with prior to the final decision?
  • How soon do you expect to make this decision?
  • How do my skills and experience match your ideal candidate?
  • Do you have any concerns or hesitations about recommending me for further consideration for this position?


During your interview, you will likely be asked a wide variety of questions. Be prepared for some surprises and, maybe, some curve balls.

Anticipate the following:

  • What are your professional goals?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What is your major weakness?
  • What has been you favorite responsibility in previous positions?
  • Tell me about your last managers, what were they like to work for?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • How did you handle a recent difficult work situation?


If your resume reflects a lot of “job-hopping,” be prepared to answer questions about this. Remember that a positive explanation is both plausible and appropriate. Perhaps a prior employer relocated or went out of business. If you were asked to relocate and stay on, this is worth mentioning. Try to stress the beneficial aspects of each move but be careful not to justify short tenure as a “better opportunity, higher salary or shorter commute.” Employers do not want to be next on your list of brief stays for any reason. Keep the focus on seizing an opportunity, without appearing to lack loyalty and dedication. This can be indeed tough to balance, but it can be done and we can show you how.

You may be asked about your “worst” position or supervisor. Phrase your answer carefully. For instance, if a previous manager tended not to follow through or delegate well, you should emphasize that you learned to get the information you needed to accomplish the task for yourself.

You may also be asked about your ability to deal with stress and conflict.

Try using this statement:

  • “Although conflicts will inevitably occur in a dynamic work environment, good communications can quickly resolve most problems due to stress.”

When it comes to interviewing, the fewer negatives the better. If you have had an unpleasant manager in the past, or the company’s work environment was especially difficult, it is always best left unsaid or neutralized.


Once your FirstPRO Professional Search consultant has secured you an interview, it’s up to you to sell yourself to the prospective employer. As a result of your diligent preparation and rehearsal, you should feel totally confident and prepared.

The following are just a few things to keep in mind before and during the interview:

  • Make a winning first impression at the interview. Be prompt, make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Making eye contact establishes your confidence. Dress one notch above what is expected.
  • Look for some common ground between you and the interviewer to help establish a positive rapport. You may have the same alma mater or past mutual experiences.
  • Your physical appearance is initially as important as your interviewing skills and credentials. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so dress attractively, but conservatively.

    Men should wear a well-tailored, solid colored suit (preferably dark blue or gray), a solid, neutral shirt, a striped or solid tie, and dark well-polished shoes. They should also get a good haircut.

    Women should wear a business suit or a tailored dress with a jacket, medium-heeled, closed pumps and hose in a neutral color. Avoid frivolous jewelry, and always style hair conservatively.
  • Be punctual. Arriving ten minutes early is fine, but no earlier. Arrive too early and you can put undue pressure on the interviewer. If it seems you might be late, even if it’s only five minutes, you MUST call with a credible explanation. Traffic is not an excuse. Also, should you be running late, please call your FirstPRO consultant for immediate advice.
  • If feasible, make a test drive to the interview location before your meeting. Familiarize yourself with the parking facilities, correct entrance to the office, etc. If your interview is during a rush hour, allow generously for extra travel time.
  • If you complete an application before the interview, remember that salary should NEVER be discussed until after an offer is made or one becomes imminent. Leave that section of the application blank or “negotiable.”
  • Remember that the interview is your opportunity to expand upon your résumé’s information and sell yourself. Say enough to get your point across without over answering. Do not ever inquire about benefits (vacation time, benefit plans, bonuses, etc.) directly with the company. Your FirstPRO consultant will negotiate these details. Instead, concentrate your discussion on the position’s responsibilities and future growth potential. The interviewer will mention benefits when he/she feels it is appropriate.
  • When you are offered the position and it meets your expectations, ask to sleep on it anyway. Accepting too quickly can leave negotiating points on the table and this may be the only time to determine whether you start with one or two weeks vacation for example.
  • Allow your FirstPRO consultant to extract their best and final offer on your behalf. If you’re ambivalent, don’t refuse the offer outright either. Thank them enthusiastically and ask for some time to consider. Your consultant can often negotiate in your favor on conditions that might prevent you from accepting the offer or we may be able to open other doors you may prefer at this company, but only if the “turndown” is handled with class and respect.

If you’re not offered the position at the interview, be realistic. Frequently, other key people must be consulted before the offer is extended. The hiring official may also want to discuss your candidacy further with your FirstPRO consultant. Other candidates may be scheduled for interviews, and the hiring official may want to complete that process before making a decision.

After your interview, follow up immediately with an email or letters to the interviewer (or interviewers). Whether you have been offered the position or are still under consideration, this serves to strengthen your position in terms of professionalism.

Also allow us to discuss your approach and content BEFORE sending as we oftentimes have the advantage of prior dealings with this manager. We know what they look for in this regard.

The letter should thank the company for the opportunity to interview and emphasize your enthusiasm for the position. Include any thoughts about the position’s responsibilities and what additional contributions you can make to the organization that may not have been discussed in the interview. Close your correspondence by stating that you look forward to further discussion about the opportunity. Get your letter in the mail the same day or the day following your interview.
If a second interview was mentioned, indicate how pleased you are to schedule that meeting and that you will review your calendar with your search consultant.

Immediately following the interview, call your FirstPRO Professional Search consultant to provide comprehensive feedback on how the interview went. This will give your consultant an accurate recap to help plan a follow-up approach with the hiring manager.

Your consultant will then coordinate the hiring process by arranging any subsequent interviews, salary negotiation and relocation requirements, establishing a starting date, and resolving any open points in terms of questions on either side of the process. Before the “marriage” takes place, we will stay in the middle of these discussions so that neither side has any negative feelings associated with negotiations. This makes for a much better “honeymoon.”

In the end, these strategies can be your key to a more successful and satisfying professional future.

Compensation Terms


A 401(k) plan is a tax-deferred retirement plan. You invest pretax dollars in an investment vehicle provided by your companies. The investment grows tax-free until funds are distributed. Distributions are taxed as ordinary income.


A 403(b) plan is a tax-deferred retirement plan for employees of certain tax-exempt organizations such as schools, hospitals, and other non-profits. The investment grows tax-free until funds are distributed. Distributions are taxed as ordinary income.


A retirement plan that provides periodic payments, usually monthly. A straight-life annuity provides payments during the retiree’s life. A joint-and-survivor annuity provides payments to the retiree during his or her life and, at the retiree’s death, to the surviving spouse.


An employee’s non-wage compensation.

The U.S. Department of Labor lists group benefits into five categories:

  • Paid leave (holidays, vacations, sick leave)
  • Supplementary pay (e.g., overtime or holiday pay)
  • Retirement benefits
  • Insurance benefits
  • Legally required benefits (Medicare, Social Security, workers’ compensation, etc.)
  • Bonus
  • The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s National Compensation Survey considers production bonuses to be part of an employee’s wages and nonproduction bonuses to be part of the benefits component.


Extra payment based on exceeding a quota or completing a project in less time than scheduled.


A cash payment not directly related to an employee or group’s output.


A plan that provides a number of options for several different benefits. They often consist of core benefits that an employee must choose (such as vacations, low-option health insurance) and additional benefits that they desire (such as additional vacation days or high-option health insurance).


A severance agreement that protects the executive financially in the event of a sudden dismissal.


A trust established by an employer to pay future benefits to executives and employees. It’s often called a “rabbi trust” because of an IRS letter ruling in the early 1980s that let a rabbi receive retirement benefits from a trust established for that purpose.


A retirement plan with fixed employer contributions that are allocated to individual accounts established for each employee. This money is used to purchase an annuity or provide some other kind of retirement income.


An agreement made by the employee that he or she will not compete with the employer once the employee terminates employment. It is usually not considered a part of compensation, but could greatly affect compensation if the agreement is broken. The terms usually require that the executive keep certain information confidential, as defined by the employer, and not compete with the company in certain specified ways within a certain geographic area for a set time period.


A plan that is funded by the employer. The employee cannot make contributions.


A deferred compensation plan that does not receive favored tax treatment, usually because it does not meet the IRS rules concerning who is allowed to participate in the plan or because they offer more benefits that allowed by the IRS rules.


Stock that is not owned outright, in that the employee could be asked to forfeit the stock. There are also restrictions on whom the stock can be transferred to until the restrictions are lifted. Once the restrictions are lifted, the owner of the stock is taxed on the stock’s value above what he or she paid for it at the ordinary income tax rate.


A defined contribution plan with contributions by the employer only or by the employer and employee. Contributions are put into a separate trust fund. Once the employee retires or leaves the company, eligible employees receive distributions in the form of company stock or cash.


Stock options are an employer’s promise that the employee may buy at a future date a set number of shares at the price set today.


Options in which the strike price is less than the market price.


Stock grants that do not have favored tax treatment. Unlike with ISOs, the employee pays taxes at the ordinary income rate if the NSOs are sold for a profit (a price higher than the strike price).


Exercising an option means paying the company the strike price, at which point the option is traded as a stock. For example, an employee buys the stock at the strike price and then sells it at the market price. An employee can exercise only vested options.


The price that the employer guarantees to the employee when the options were first granted. Once a strike price is set, the employee can buy any of the vested options at that price, regardless of the market price for those shares.


A plan that lets employees buy shares of the company stock, usually for less than the market price.


A defined benefit plan that supplements an executive’s other retirement benefits according to a set formula determined by the employer. The employer makes the contributions to the SERP for the executive.


“Compensation” is a concept that is sometimes used to encompass the entire range of wages and benefits, both current and deferred, that employees receive from their employment. “Total compensation” includes all types of employee compensation combined: wages and salary, non-wage cash payments (such as bonuses), and benefits.


The amount of time it takes for an employee to own the employer’s contribution to the employee’s plan. Generally the employee does not own 100% of the contribution immediately; instead, the employee vests (or acquires ownership) of portions according to a vesting schedule set by the employee.


The employee vests over a set number of years (not to exceed seven years). For example, an employee who is on a four-year vesting schedule would own 25% of the employer contribution after one year, 50% after two years, etc.


An employee receives 100% of the contribution after a set number of years, but receives nothing if the employee quits before that term. For example, in a four-year cliff vesting arrangement, an employee would receive 100% after four years, but 0% if the employee leaves the company any time before the four-year anniversary date.


Some events will generally cause contributions to vest 100%: – Retirement – Disability – Death – A merger or acquisition of the company.


Some contributions might vest after a performance goal, as defined by the employer, has been met.