The First Step: Preparing Your Resume

By Pamela Alton

For one reason or another, the time has come for you to begin seeking new employment. You have searched the newspaper classifieds, contacted the employment agencies and asked other people in the industry. Now what? Before you go any further, you must be prepared to seek new employment.

The First Step: Preparing Your Resume

Twenty seconds is all you get. This is the average time an owner or property manager takes to scan a resume and determine if the applicant should be granted an interview. It's true--you have perhaps spent thousands of hours in training and working at a facility and all you now have is 20 seconds to sell yourself to a prospective employer. For this reason, it is essential for your resume to project a professional image. Your resume and cover letter must encourage the reader to take a closer look.

As an owner of a nationwide, manager-placement services, we receive resumes daily. Some resumes we receive are handwritten, some in crayons, others contain misspellings, dates don't match up and they run on and on, making no sense at all. Remember, you only have one chance to make the first impression.

Tips for Designing a Successful Resume

  • Know your audience. Use the vocabulary and speak the language of the self-storage industry.
  • Present your job objective from the standpoint of what you can offer your perspective employer and company.
  • Describe your experiences from an accomplishment point of view.
  • Utilize strong, active works for emphasis, such as action verbs: achieved, expedited and managed. Use concrete nouns: ability, capacity and leader. Use positive modifiers: actively, substantially and effectively.
  • All information should be positive. If anything could be interpreted negatively, either don't use it or rewrite it with a positive perspective.
  • Test your resume for relevancy. All information should directly support your job objective or work abilities. If it doesn't, leave it out.
  • Develop and maintain a separate list of references, and have it available upon request.
  • Ensure the information included in your cover letter (areas of interest, software experience, position applying for, children or pets, non-smoking) is complete and accurate.
  • Be extremely conscientious about proofreading your resume.

Always include your name, address, phone number, work experience and education, if applicable. Job objective, if used, should appear at the beginning of the resume after your name and address. At the bottom of your resume, include "References Available Upon Request," or some such wording. Remember, your resume will be scanned, not read. Short concise phrases are much more effective than long-winded sentences. Make sure everything is easy to find. Avoid paragraphs longer than six lines. Reorganize and condense information if paragraphs become too long. Be specific about your skills and responsibilities. Slant your past accomplishments toward the type of position you hope to obtain. Omit information that is not relevant and be factual; don't lie about dates or addresses or supervisors' names. It is grounds for dismissal if you are hired and they find out your information is false. Be positive. If you achieved something, then say so. You are selling your skills and accomplishments. Lastly, and probably most importantly, have your resume done on your computer or professionally typeset, making several copies using high-quality resume paper.

Preparing for the Interview

Once you have your professional resume in hand and submit it to the job openings you've found, get prepared for the actual interviews. Leave plenty of time to get to the appointment and be early, if possible. Have your reference list with you, and if you or the past facilities you worked at have been highlighted in one of the national self-storage magazines, bring them along also. Many owners are now requesting a credit report and background check. To save time, bring your current credit and DMV reports with you. If you can't obtain your current credit report, or you have had some problems in the past, be honest and up front about it. If you try to hide your past problems, it could reflect negatively upon you.

Dress professionally. Ladies should wear a dress or business suit, hose and heels. I recommend that men wear dress slacks, dress shirt, polished shoes and, perhaps, a tie and jacket. You should be well-groomed, including finger nails and neatly trimmed hair. Leave jeans, sweat pants and running shoes at home, along with the children and pets. Remember, the first impression is most important.

Bring a note pad and a list of questions you may want to ask the perspective employer, such as,

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How long was the last manager with you?
  • Why is he making a change?
  • What sort of training program do you offer?
  • What software do you use?
  • Who is the direct supervisor?
  • Do you have a company policy and procedures manual and, if so, can I see it?

Think before you answer the interviewer's questions. We all tend to be nervous during an interview, but try not to blurt out answers to questions. Be positive. An employer doesn't want to hear about how bad your last job was, how the last employer was so cheap he wouldn't fix anything, how you hated the software they used or how small the apartment was. This only shows the interviewer that you are inflexible, possess a negative attitude and are probably hard to work with. This type of attitude could possibly lose you the opportunity to work with that company.

If you have children, have a daycare plan. Children do not add to the office atmosphere at most storage facilities, and owners feel more comfortable in hiring people with children if they know children will not be in the office during business hours.

When the interview is over, stand, shake the interviewers' hands and thank them for the opportunity to interview with their company. If you are interested in the job, tell them so. If you are currently employed, make sure you let them know you must give at least two weeks notice. That way, they know you would give them the same courtesy when you leave them. If they can contact your current employer, tell them so. If not, make it perfectly clear that you would prefer they not contact your current employer until the position has been offered to you and you have accepted it.

After the Interview

The day after the interview, send them a thank-you note, thanking them for taking the time to interview you. State that you are interested in the position. Let them know that if they choose someone else for the position, to please keep your resume on file for future reference. Or, ask them to pass your resume along to another owner. If you aren't offered the position, ask yourself what you could have done differently or do better at the next interview. Then, follow through and make those changes.

Just remember, don't wait until the last moment to search for a new position. It takes time to find the right position and you don't want to accept a job in haste, only to move on to another facility in a few months. Don't accept a position you aren't interested in. It costs an owner thousands of dollars to find, hire and train a new employee, and it is not fair to them to have you move on in a few months.

When it comes to job hunting, be prepared. Gather your job history, reference information and have your resume professionally typeset, making several copies on high-quality paper. Remember to dress professionally at the interview and keep a positive attitude during the interview process.

Pamela Alton is the owner of Mini-Management, one of the industry's largest nationwide manager-placement services. Mini-Management also offers policy and procedures manuals, sales and marketing training manuals, inspections and audits, consulting, telephone shopping and training seminars. For more information on the services offered by Mini-Management, call (800) 646-4648.

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