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Your résumé is your first introduction to a potential employer. It should efficiently and effectively demonstrate who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. It is often your first opportunity to showcase your skills, experiences, accomplishments, and qualifications to a potential employer.
Start with a profile rather than an objective statement. The objective of a résumé is to obtain the job for which you are applying—and everyone knows that. Starting your résumé with an objective statement is boring and outdated and it doesn’t give the employer much information. Instead, start your résumé with a brief introduction and a summary of your relevant skills and strengths.
Every résumé should include your name, contact information, and education. Beyond that, include a combination of relevant work experience, coursework, class projects, specialized skills, and leadership roles. Any experience that will make you stand out to an employer should be listed.
When describing previous experiences, always start with a strong action verb and focus on specific accomplishments rather than a list of duties. This will demonstrate success in your previous roles.
Your résumé should constantly be evolving. The experiences you list should directly relate to skills the employer has identified as important in their job description. What you include in your résumé may change based on the specific position you are applying for.
It is always a good idea to include a cover letter when applying for jobs, even if it is listed as optional. Résumés and cover letters go hand-in-hand. They should work in tandem to secure interviews and, ultimately, job offers. Address your letter to a specific individual, and start by stating why you are writing. Explain how you heard about the company or specific opening, and why you are interested.
The body of your cover letter should showcase the most relevant experiences from your résumé. This is a chance to get a little more in-depth and provide additional background information that you can’t fit on a résumé. Relate your experience to the top two or three skills listed in the job description. Your goal is to clearly demonstrate to the employer how your experience has provided you with the skills they require.
Be Specific and Stay Focused
You should be picking up on a common theme—tailoring your résumé and cover letter to specific employers and positions is a must. This may require additional work and research on your part, but it will pay off in the end. And remember, space on the page is limited! Stay focused and be as concise as possible. Every item you include should provide new, relevant information to the reader.
Have your Work Reviewed
Have questions about formatting? Having trouble deciding what information is most important? Not sure where to even start? We’re here to help! Your career advisor can help you review your résumé and cover letter and create the best version to submit.
Writing your résumé and cover letter are just the first steps in the employment process. Now that you have landed the interview, it is important to prepare. Interviews are the most important, and often most stressful step in the whole process. Follow the advice below to improve your chances of success.
Make sure you spend ample amounts of time getting to know the organization before you arrive for your interview. It is important to have a solid understanding of both the company and the position for which you are applying. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want the position, why you want to work for this specific company, and how you will benefit the organization. Start by researching the employer’s website, reading industry news, and contacting those in your network that could add valuable insight.
Not only should you know the organization, you also need to know yourself. Spend some time thinking about your past experience and how you can relate it to the job in question. Think about what types of questions you might be asked and how you will respond. You should also come up with a few questions to ask the interviewer(s). Try to think of questions that demonstrate your interest in the position or organization.
First impressions can play a big part in hiring decisions. Make sure to arrive in plenty of time and always be dressed appropriately. Appearing calm, confident and professional at this stage will go a long way with employers.
Similar to your résumé and cover letter, the key to a great interview answer is specificity. Your answers should draw from previous experience that directly relates to the question at hand. Employers want to hear specific examples that demonstrate how your actions produced positive outcomes. Remember the S.T.A.R. method while preparing and answering interview questions:
Task at hand
Action you took
Some other helpful interview tips to keep in mind:
- Smile and make eye contact with everyone you come in contact with
- Be clear and concise
- Appear interested and alert. Remember, body language can play a big part!
- Be positive at all times, even when discussing previous employers
The process isn’t over once you leave the building. Follow up and thank-you notes are a lost art in the interviewing world. Never leave an interview without business cards or contact information for those you met. Thank-You notes, emails, or messages should be sent out the same day as the interview, if possible. This is an easy way to make a positive, lasting impression with potential employers.