SharePoint pros, don't make these resume and interview mistakes

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So you've done the studying, gotten the certifications and now you're ready for that SharePoint job. Before you run out there, let's look over your resume and talk about interviews.


The sentence, "I am experienced in SharePoint 2013" is used a lot on resumes, but unfortunately doesn't tell your potential employer anything. Are you an engineer, developer, or did you just upload a document one time? The truth is, just saying you're experienced doesn't mean anything unless you get a little more specific. So rule 1: be as specific as possible regarding your experience, education and skills.

Where should you get specific? That is a hard question to answer because there's really three areas where you can put this info. You have the education section, work experience section and, of course, your cover letter. So, let's add it to each one.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter shows the employer your knowledge and experience in a quick overview but it also shows a bit of your personality as well. This is a great place to demonstrate not only what you know about SharePoint, but also your excitement and enthusiasm.

So make sure you write your cover letter in your own words. Pretend like you're talking to the employer. Natural language stands out a lot in a pile of template cover letters. Tell them exactly what part of the application you love working with, and mention some of the great things you have gotten to do. This demonstrates your knowledge in the field, and that you love the work. It is a win-win.


Don't let anyone convince you that certifications are pointless. Employers use them to quickly gauge your knowledge base. Remember, most employers don't know how SharePoint works, so they need a way of verifying that you do. This is where certifications come extremely handy. Make sure you mark your certifications down in the education section of your resume.

Work experience

This is the most important part an employer looks at because this is where you demonstrate how you've performed on the job. When writing your SharePoint experience, be clear and concise. A great thing to remember here is that currently SharePoint has one of the largest ROIs (Return on Investments), which means most of the work you did actually saved the company you previously worked for money.

“People hours” account for the majority of costs in most companies. SharePoint streamlines processes, increases productivity and just makes things easier and faster, which results in huge savings in “people hours.” Yes, you will save them a lot of money with your SharePoint skills, and it is a great selling point. So how much money do you think you saved your previous companies on the SharePoint projects you worked on?

So you've listed your work experience on your resume and showed how you've saved your previous employers money by streamlining and increasing productivity. But this is all for nothing if you walk into that interview you just landed and make some common mistakes.

Interviewing for the SharePoint Job

I would definitely suggest reading through some online articles on how to have a successful interview. In this article, we are going to focus only on common mistakes made in SharePoint interviews. Don't feel bad if you made a couple of these errors, because I have made every single one. Let's look over the three biggest mistakes.

Using the word “expert”

This is a big one and it WILL back fire on you. Whether you say you are an expert, or they say it, the moment “expert” comes up in an interview your interviewer will expect you to know everything. This is SharePoint we're talking about, and I promise you there are pieces that you will not know. The problem is you can never know the extent of their SharePoint knowledge and you don't want to look like an idiot. I know Microsoft Certified Masters that have failed an interview when the wrong question was asked, so set the appropriate expectations for your skill level.

Lingo is not your friend

Clearly you want the interviewer to believe you are the most qualified for the job, and sometimes we try to accomplish this by using SharePoint lingo. We start using acronyms for BI and W3WP, and boy, do we sound smart. However, the employer may not know what those terms mean, which is probably why they are hiring someone who does. Speaking a different language to the employer only alienates them.

Instead of using lingo, use natural language. Explain things like you would to anyone who is not familiar with SharePoint. Let's look at a quick example.

Lingo: “The ECS in the BI suite allows us to display data from an ECT for all of you users.”

Natural language: “In SharePoint we can pull external information and display it to users directly on the front page of your site. SharePoint can show this information just like Excel, and we can include charts or graphs that would best portray the information.”

Yes, it takes a little longer, but it fleshes out what you're trying to say in a way that makes the employer excited about what you bring to the table because they can actually understand what you're saying. If you find that the interviewer is more knowledgeable, then feel free to speak at a higher level, but never just jump way ahead and lose them, or you may just lose the job.

Never answer questions about their SharePoint environment

When an interviewer asks you a question it's hard not to answer, but some questions are better left unanswered. Of these are questions about their SharePoint environment. Truth is that you don't know their environment, you don't know the history, the setup or configuration, and you definitely don't know the policies and governance. We can't give a proper answer because we just don't know.

“What if I just give them my opinion?” You can, but be warned that your opinion may conflict with another employee, your interviewer, or the policy defined by the company. You will also be stuck in a position where you're asked your opinion but you have nothing to back it up.

The best answer here would be to say that unfortunately you don't know their environment so you can't answer that question. If they ask you about previous environments you've worked on, then go ahead and answer because you know those environments. They can even ask you about Microsoft best practices and you can confidently answer with what you know about Microsoft. In all of those situations, you're completely safe.

Creating a good resume and having a good interview aren't easy. Truthfully, we never know what the employer is looking for exactly, so we just try to increase our odds. I hope that this will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I myself have walked into, and increase your odds of landing that perfect SharePoint job.

Editor's note:Editor's note: Check out Part 1 in the “Landing a SharePoint job” series, which will discuss SharePoint job roles, and part 3 on SharePoint consulting.

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Jeff Adkin

Jeff Adkin is a TrainSignal instructor. Jeff previously worked at Microsoft for over eight years in MSIT, going through multiple release cycles of SharePoint, Exchange, Groove, Office and Lync. As an avid fan of education, he graduated with his Bachelor of Education and began working between his two loves of teaching and technology. He has taught at multiple fortune 500 companies and government agencies and spoke at numerous tech events. You can find him on Twitter @jeffadkin.