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Earlier this week we had the opportunity to interview a current employee of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Michelle Kavanaugh is the Director of Human Resources for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. She has been with the company since 2011. We asked her about her career experience and what HR departments look for when selecting candidates. She provided us with tips about resumes, interviewing, and what to do (and not do) when applying for jobs!



Indiana INTERNnet: What is the screening process like when people apply for positions?


Michelle Kavanaugh: First I have to sort applicants out and see if they meet the minimum qualifications. This helps me find out which applicants are worth talking to based on their background. After that I sort them by skill sets and whether they fit the position. Once they are categorized into yes’s and no’s then I phone screen them.


IIN: What do you look for in a resume and cover letter when people apply?


MK: Someone who can show quantifiable results from previous roles. For example, a sales position – showing or stating, “Increase in sales by X amount”. They need to be able to highlight what they were able to do at their previous job and how it applies to the position they applied for. Cover letters are tricky! Because it depends on hiring manager preference. Some like it, others don’t. Usually they’re required for higher level positions. But for an entry level position where you might not have enough experience, a cover letter allows you to showcase skills and eagerness to learn. A cover letter can also help you stand out among applicants, so it doesn’t hurt to do one. Also, don’t use a template or example! Make one tailored to the position and use specific experience and terminology related to the position.


IIN: How is the interview process like?


MK: Usually the manager and HR do a face-to-face interview first to get a better feel and understanding of the candidates. After that you know which candidates to you want to move forward and bring back for another interview with managers, division heads, etc. But it varies by industry because some positions might require a board decision, VP, or another manager.


IIN: What are the deciding factors when hiring someone?


MK: It depends on the position, but I look for someone who will be successful in the position and meets the requirements. There are things that can make them stand out and boost their stock such as: doing their homework on the company beforehand, knowing some key players in the market, and being able to articulate what they know about the company. For example, an applicant can say, “I saw that your company is going in xyz direction, is this because the organization did ________ recently?” Come with passion about the position and company. Show this with your soft skills and how you interact. Even though it is common sense to do these things many applicants don’t do it! This will help you out in the hiring process, especially when the hiring managers get together and decide which candidate to make an offer to.


IIN:  What are some issues or obstacles that Human Resource departments are noticing in recruiting?


MK:  There aren’t enough people in the workforce right now because employment is at its all-time lowest. This means that there are more job openings than people looking for jobs which limits the talent pool. Also, many people are retiring or going to retire in the near the future which will create an employment surplus. Companies are making frequent changes or adjustments to jobs to try and retain staff, but people are still jumping from job to job. This is a great time to apply for jobs!


IIN: What would suggest to someone searching for a company to work for?


MK: Find an organization you are going to like and perform well at.


IIN: Should applicants follow up?


MK: Yes! Follow up with a brief thank you because it’s becoming more infrequent and they are a great way to continue to show the recruiter you are interested. Email is becoming more predominate but a hand-written letter works too. Some managers prefer a written thank you notes versus an email.


IIN: What way should people follow up?


MK: It really depends on the hiring manager therefore you should always ask first to follow up in an interview and what method they prefer.


IIN: Do companies look at social media profiles?


MK: Yes! Some companies look you up on social media and do a thorough search, so make sure your social media channels are cleaned up. You don’t want to have something embarrassing on it and it could potentially affect you in the hiring process.


IIN: What other things can hurt a candidate in the hiring process?


MK: Initially a poor resume or applying for a job far off from the skill set you have. You wouldn’t apply for a research assistant position with only culinary experience and expect to get hired. In an interview process it could be based off appearance. Not being groomed or having wrinkled or dirty clothes can be deciding a factor. Not being able to articulate why you applied for the role by asking wrong questions or no questions at all. Also not taking enough time to research the company is a big turn off!


IIN: What should people research about the company?


MK: Go to the company website first and look over the about us, mission, resources, and services offered areas. As you look over those materials, make notes or memorize them. If they offer a tool or software, try and play with it and get familiar with it so that you can talk about it in an interview. Some companies might have a lot of info available and others might not so, your research can show if you did enough homework. Take an interest in learning about the company and make it relevant to the job. Everything you did research on, articulate it in the interview!


IIN: What work experience would suggest applicants put on their resume?


MK: Anything that relates to role in some way that is relevant, but what is more important is pointing out success and what you did. Whether it was contributing to the overall sales, or the growth of customers, or a volunteer role, put it on your resume and highlight it in the interview. If you have had multiple jobs, point out those jobs in the interview and on your cover letter, but don’t list or mention anything that is non relevant to the position such as your massive video game collection.

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