Applying for Jobs

Applying for a new job can be a daunting task for anyone, but it can be especially overwhelming for students that are new to the job market. Below we’ve compiled some useful information regarding the three most common hiring practices: the resume, the cover letter, and the interview. Click on each section for some general tips & tricks, helpful information, and additional guiding resources.

Resume

Creating a successful resume is all about keeping your experiences and skills relevant to the job at hand. Even though you can’t change your past job experiences, you can choose to highlight different aspects of them, depending on the new job you are applying for. So, while you may create one general resume, expect to tweak it slightly with every new job you apply to.

Use this template to format your general resume: Resume Format

Things to include in a resume:

    1. “Key Skills” or “Qualifications Summary” Section  – this section should be 4 bullet points or less and be featured at the top of the page. Include a mix of “hard” skills (ex: specific software knowledge) and interpersonal skills (ex: team player). These bullet points should summarize you as an applicant– only include the most relevant and important information!
    2. Relevant Past Job & Internship Experiences (Paid & Unpaid) – Make this part easy to skim by utilizing bullet points. Use bullet points to list the tasks you performed and to highlight the specific results you achieved. For example, by answering phone calls, you assisted the company in providing exemplary customer service to clients.
    3. Relevant Awards, Positive Feedback, & Community Service – You can also use bullet points to describe awards you won at school (honor roll, scholarships etc) and positive feedback you received at work (employee of the month). To round yourself out as an individual, you may choose to include volunteer and community work– just make sure to include why it is relevant to the job you are applying to.
    4. Neat & Easy-to-Read Subsections – Keep your resume reader-friendly by dividing it into digestible subsections and chunks. Subsections may include: key skills, education, experience, involvement, and awards. Remember: you can add as many subsections as you like, but make sure everything you include is relevant to the job.  Organize your subsections by order of importance – the more important or relevant a section, the higher up on the page it should be. Your resume should never exceed 1 page in length.

Cover Letter

What is a cover letter? A cover letter is a persuasive argument and an opportunity. The goal of any cover letter is two-fold: (1) to persuade the reader to hire you and (2) an opportunity to show the reader a quality or skill you have that may not be apparent just by reading through your resume.

The most important rule to remember about cover letters is that they should be specifically tailored to each job you apply for. Before writing, think about the ideal candidate for the job– what experience would they have? What skills? Then, using your own experience and skills, explain why you are the ideal candidate.

Remember: you should always write a cover letter, unless specifically asked not to.

The 4 Parts of a Successful Cover Letter:

      1. The Header – this is where your name, contact information, and the date go. This is also where the name of the person you are addressing the letter to goes. Always address the letter to a specific person. If the job listing does not give a contact name, do not be afraid to make a polite phone call and ask, ” Hello, I’m calling about the open position. To whom should I address my cover letter?”
      2. The Opening – this paragraph should be short, but attention-grabbing. Tell the reader why you are contacting them, how you heard about the job, and briefly summarize why you are the ideal candidate.
      3.  The Evidence – This is the most important part of your cover letter. This paragraph or paragraphs should be devoted to answering the question, “why should I hire you?” Discuss past job experiences and skills, giving brief examples of specific things you’ve done or accomplished that make you the ideal candidate now. If appropriate, also connect yourself with the company in this section. Don’t just explain why they should hire you, but also explain why you want to work for them.  Hint: it’s a good idea to look at a company’s mission statement for this part. 
      4. The Closing – this paragraph should also be short. Thank the reader for considering you as a candidate and say you look forward to hearing from them soon. If there is no clear deadline listed, you can let them know you will follow up in (x) amount of weeks. Tip: a cover letter should never be longer than 1 page in length. 

Cover Letter Resources:

Interviews

Job interviewing is tough. Not only are you entering an unfamiliar environment with people you’ve never met before, but you’re also expected to impress these people with your positive attitude, intelligent demeanor, and masterful skills.  Sounds intimidating, right? The good news is there are ways to make the interview process less stressful. The techniques below are designed to help prepare you in the days beforehand, ensuring your interview process goes smoother and easier. By following the advice below, you are one step closer to landing your dream job!

The first thing you need to do is research the company thoroughly. Dive into their website and mission statement, making sure you understand exactly they do. It’s also a good idea to google the company. Look for newspaper articles about new projects, growth, and initiatives. Additionally, refer back to the original job listing and look closely at the language and descriptions used. What kind of individual are they specifically looking to hire? Identify this information and make sure you can talk about yourself in a way that fits the bill.

After doing this preliminary work, it’s all about practicing. Review some material, like this guide to the most frequently asked interview questions, and practice giving strong answers. Remember, strong answers are specific and concise. Don’t be overly wordy, but give concrete examples for every claim you make. For example, if you say you are comfortable in a leadership position, give an example of a time you took control of a situation or showcased leader-like qualities. With every answer you give, try to emphasize skills you know the company is looking for. Again, this is best done by thoroughly reading over the job listing and matching your own experiences with the desired skills.

Even the best response will fall short, if you don’t directly answer the question posed. Avoid this by carefully listening to the questions asked of you during the interview. Equally as important, have questions ready for the interviewers themselves. Most interviews will end with the employer asking if you have any questions for them. Always have, at least, one or two questions ready to ask at this time. These questions are important because they demonstrate a true interest in the company. Employers want to see that you are curious and thoughtful, as well as invested in the company. If you don’t ask any questions, you run the risk of coming across indifferent and/or apathetic.

Another tip is to try to build a rapport or connection with the interviewer. People tend to hire those they like so smile, joke, and be polite. Try to remember and use the interviewer’s name during the interview. Additionally, any personal connection you can make (favorite sports team, alma mater etc) is beneficial!

During the interview, try to show that you have done your homework. Remember all the prior research you did? Now is the time to show it. Bring up the company’s new initiatives or programs to demonstrate you have a thorough understanding of the company and its future direction. You can work this information into your responses or ask questions about it towards the end. However, do not rely on using this information for one of your final questions, as “what do you know about this company?” is a common question asked by employers.

The best way to ensure a stress-free interview is to prepare ahead of time! This goes for more than just your questions and answers. Pick your outfit out the night before and don’t wait until the last minute to print your resume. Make the morning of your interview as seamless as possible. The fewer logistics you have to worry about, the more relaxed you will be for the actual interview.

Always make sure the clothing you wear for the interview is neat, tidy, and office appropriate. Never show up in clothing that is wrinkled, stained, or torn. Make sure the outfit you wear not only fits you well, but you’re also comfortable wearing it. While every company is going to have different office culture, it’s always better to dress up rather than down for an interview. Additionally, bring a nice portfolio with you to the interview. The portfolio should include a few print copies of your cover letter and resume, as well as a pen and some paper for note-taking.

Never be late for an interview (this means you should plan to be early). The best time to arrive for an interview is actually five to ten minutes before the scheduled time. To ensure you make it your interview on time, don’t be afraid to drive the route a day or two beforehand. Make sure you know how to get there, what floor the company is located on, and exactly how many minutes it takes to drive there. To account for traffic patterns, it’s always best to do this test drive around the same time you will be making the real drive on the day of the interview. If you are feeling particularly nervous, give yourself even a few more minutes so you can hit the restroom, check your hair one last time, and calm your nerves.

During your interview, it’s important you remain calm. Body language is exceedingly important during an interview. To appear confident, give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact while answering questions, and sit up straight. Actively listen, nod occasionally, and avoid cutting off the interviewer. If you need a minute to formulate your thoughts, that’s fine. Remember, a slight pause sounds more thoughtful than a series of “umm’s” and “uhhh’s.” For additional help with body language, follow this link.

A great tip is to always follow up your interview with a thank-you email. Not only are they a considerate thing to do, they also keep you fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Reiterate your interest in the position, thank your interviewer for their time, and include any details you may have forgotten during the actual interview. If you interview with multiple people, send each person an individual note. Thank-you emails should be sent within 24 hours of the interview.

Ultimately, the key to acing any interview is to stay positive, project confidence, and be able to succinctly share examples of your workplace expertise. The better you prepare, the better your interview will go. Focus on staying stress-free and you’ll pass the interview test with flying colors. Strive to make a personal connection and always be courteous. Even if the interviewer informs you on the spot that you did not get the job, send a thank-you note. Thank them for their time and let them know you are still interested in working for the company if any other positions open up in the future. Your kindness and persistence in a moment of failure may just land you an even better job later on.