Master the Most Tedious Part of Your Job Search with Advice from Our HR Experts

By Justine Figueroa

SheSays Chicago’s Who’s Your Momma Mentoring program is designed to facilitate real, honest conversations about some of the biggest struggles you have throughout your career. Whether you’re working your first post-grad job or have long since climbed the ranks and are a senior level employee, there is a breakout session that will appeal to you.

During the latest SheSays mentoring event, hosted on July 28, 2016 at Ascend Training, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Resumes, Cover Letters and Job Searching” breakout session was devoted entirely to the nitty-gritty details of landing the job you’ve always wanted. The conversation was moderated by SheSays Chicago founder and director Jen Lemerand. Our diverse group of panelists spoke about their experiences as internal human resources practitioners, working at recruiting agencies and navigating the hiring process as a creative. We heard from Tom Bogdan, Director of Client Services at Onward Search; Jim Conti, Director of Talent at Sprout Social; Cyndi McVicker Lambert, Talent Scout for OKRP;Alyssa Low, Senior Designer at The Office of Experience and Kerri Schoonyoung, Partner at Dept. 11.

On working with a recruiting agency versus in-house HR department:

Kerri Schoonyoung: “Ask ‘what’s your style?’ Interview your recruiter.”

Cyndi McVicker Lambert: “Find someone you work well with and build that relationship. Be open with your recruiters. Tell them where else you’re interviewing. They can’t help you, if you go behind their back.”

Tom Bogdan: “You have to tell them where else you’ve applied because a double submission doesn’t look good for them or you. In the end, the candidate loses out, if they’re not honest.”

Jim Conti: “Internal recruiters are hiring for the organization. Sometimes you won’t hear from them about what’s going on with your application. You won’t always have insight as to what’s really going on in the organization.”

The resume from a human resources perspective:

Alyssa Low : “We have no formal HR department. All new hires come from other designers. Details are so important. Make it clean and legible. Think about the order. They only have a few minutes.”

Jim Conti: “Even 30 seconds is a little long for me to look over a resume. Write out every job and responsibility you’ve ever had. Then take that information and look at it against the job description. Find what fits and condense based on the description to show that you’re the best match.Your bullet points should answer these questions: What did you do? Why did you do it? What was the result?”

Kerri Schoonyoung: “Proofread! It’s amazing how many people don’t. Make sure your resume is printer-friendly and think about user experience. Resumes should show key accomplishments, achievements and skills.”

Tom Bogdan: “Keep it brief. The resume is just supposed to get you the interview. You don’t need to say everything.”

What makes you stop reading and move on to an interview?

Jim Conti: “I focus on previous organizations, titles and the skills section. Do they have Adobe, WordPress or coding experience? It really varies per role. Think about your keywords. And don’t be afraid to apply for jobs that might be a stretch.”

Kerri Schoonyoung: “What clients did you work with and what did you do? What’s your story? You need a narrative.”

On proprietary projects that you can’t put in your portfolio:

Cyndi McVicker Lambert: “Show proprietary work in person during your interview or password protect it with permission from your clients. I look at your portfolio first and then your resume. If your job doesn’t let you show your skill or ability in your portfolio, do it pro-bono or freelance.”

Alyssa Low: ”I used to take old school projects and redo them in a new way. Showcase them as conceptual work.”

Jim Conti: “Take your projects to the next level and work on them in your spare time. Tell your interviewer: ‘This is the work I did for the client. This is the next iteration, if we’d had the budget for it.’”

On cover letters:

Kerri Schoonyoung: “This is your highlight reel, your elevator speech. The human side of your resume. It’s a snapshot of where you’re at right now. Show that you’ve done your research on the company — mention awards they’ve won.”

What to do when your recruiter leaves you hanging:

Cyndi McVicker Lambert: “Make sure they aren’t sending your information to places you aren’t aware of. The recruiter also can’t always give feedback or an update, if they don’t hear from the company. If you don’t hear from them, but have an internal relationship with someone at the company, be honest. Say ‘I know XYZ person at this company. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to reach out to them for more information or an update.’”

Where to find jobs:

Alyssa Low: “I use the AIGA job board. I’ve found a lot of my jobs through a friend or freelancing from old agency relationships. Be patient. Keeping up with your relationships will work out in the long run.”

Site and portfolio design:

Kerri Schoonyoung: “Showcase your industry experience and the type of work you do. Keep your site or portfolio simple.”

Alyssa Low: “Curate the pieces in your portfolio. Show that you know the difference between a case study and portfolio piece. It should be 6-8 pieces that show off what kind of designer you want to be.”

Using Linkedin:

Cyndi McVicker Lambert: “Linkedin can be very beneficial, but very sterile. Personalize the message that you send to your desired connections.”

Alyssa Low: “Connect with your interviewer right away. Maybe you’ll cross paths with them again.”

SheSays Chicago like to thank both our mentors and mentees for attending and contributing to the productive conversations in each of the breakout sessions. We’d also like to thank our partner Ascend Training for providing the space for this event and encourage you to consider attending an Adobe training session to brush up on an old skill or finally take the design or coding course you haven’t yet found the time for. We hope to see you at our next event!

If you have an idea for an event you’d like to see SheSays host or you have great insight to share with our mentees, drop us a line at chicago (at)

Back to news