Résumés, References, Interviewing, and More
- Cover Letters
- Skills Employers Look For in a Candidate
- Placement/Reference File
- OBU Business Cards
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Thank You Notes
The goal of a resume is not to get you a job. Seriously. The goal of a resume is to land you an interview! The interview is where you get the job. Keeping that fact in mind can help relieve some of the pressure usually associated with creating a resume. Also important to keep in mind is that many times a resume will be the employer’s first impression of you. Optimal Resume will guide you step-by-step in creating a great resume. Once you are finished, a copy can be sent to the Career Counselor for proof reading and approval.
Some general things to keep in mind while creating a resume:
- Use high quality resume paper.
- Use strong action verbs to describe your skills.
- List your accomplishments, relevant coursework, volunteer work, organizations, internships, and professional affiliations.
- Arrange your resume in such a way that shows off your assets.
- Make it perfect. If you have one mistake, even the most minor, the recruiter will put your resume in the trash.
- Keep the resume to one page—two if you’ve had extensive experience.
- Use short phrases, simple and to the point, starting with an action verb.
- Proofread carefully. Again, one mistake and your resume is in the trash.
- Use professional type and layout. Don’t make your resume “cutesy” or “artsy” (unless, of course, you are applying for a job where your design abilities will be judged). Don’t use colors or crazy fonts. One thing to keep in mind is that most people that do the hiring within a company tend to be conservative.
- Be sure to highlight any accomplishments you have. These can be from internships, volunteer work, as well as from any occupational achievements. Companies want to see how hiring you can benefit them. Past performance is indicative of future behavior.
- Don’t exceed one page unless you’ve had the experience to merit the additional pages.
- Don’t be wordy.
- Don’t use the word “I”
- Don’t use abbreviations, except for the most common ones.
- Don’t handwrite your resume or cover letter.
- Don’t use unusual paper, type, ink, or formats unless you’re trying to make a special statement about your creativity.
- Don’t include any personal data such as height, weight, health, or marital status.
- Don’t include any information that could possibly carry any negative connotations or unnecessary personal information.
- Don’t ruin a great resume by using a low-quality printer or reproducing on a dirty copier.
- Don’t keep your resume to yourself!
Keywords in your Resume
Many companies, especially larger ones, are using special software to scan incoming resumes. What these programs do is look for keywords in your resume that match their job descriptions. Most of the keywords they look for are nouns, not verbs. Let’s use the word “management”. They are looking for a person that has previous management experience, so that’s the keyword that is used. But, most likely, you have used it in a verb form “…managed a team of 3 people.” This means that you could be qualified for the particular position you’ve applied for, but if the program does not find the keywords it is looking for in your resume, then you’ll most likely be passed over.
Here’s how to handle this: research the words used to describe your field or the position for which you are applying by scouring job descriptions, reading the Occupational Outlook Handbook , visiting company websites, and reading employers’ mission statements and annual reports. Notice which words are used most frequently, and develop a list to use in your own resume, assuming they apply to your work history. Some use a “Skills Profile/Summary” section on their resume so they can list out the keywords needed in noun form. If you need help in how to evaluate your skills and experiences in order to develop your best resume, cover letter, or interview, then go to the Optimal Assessment program for guidance.
Cover Letters are extremely important. Many times a cover letter says more about the applicant than just a resume itself. Employers will look at your cover letter as an indicator of your writing skills, which is one of the top five qualities they look for when hiring new employees. Optimal Letter will help you generate an impressive cover letter. As you put together your cover letter keep the following in mind:
Tips on writing cover letters
- Make sure the letter is addressed to a specific person if at all possible. Call the company and find out who will be doing the hiring for the position and address your letter to him/her. If you are unsure of whom to address it, then use “Dear Hiring Manager” or something similar.
- Remember that a company looks to hire employees that will benefit the company. State in your letter the reasons why you would be a great addition to their organization, but be careful of using the word “I” too much. This is about what you can do for them.
- Cover letters have three main elements: Introductory paragraph, body, and closing.Introductory paragraph : This paragraph mentions the position you’re interested in and how you learned of the job opening. This paragraph is normally two to four sentences long.Body : This is one to two paragraphs. This is where you sell yourself. Tell them why you’re the perfect candidate for the job, and mention at least three of your strong points.Closing : This is where you “ask for the sale.” State you’ll call the employer on a specific day. The tone should be polite yet explicit.
- The best cover letters reveal your enthusiasm for a particular job and the employer. Be sure to tell the employer why they should consider you for their position.
- Keep your letter to one page.
- Remember to ALWAYS send a cover letter with your resume! For a more in depth look at writing cover letters and resumes, be sure to attend one of the career services Resume Workshops.
According to the NACE 2008 Job Outlook study, the following are the top skills employers look for when hiring:
- Communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Teamwork skills (works well with others)
- Interpersonal skills (relates well to others)
- Problem-solving skills
- Analytical skills
- Computer skills
- Technical skills
When writing your cover letter and/or resume, look for ways you can highlight your abilities in these areas. Experience is always key, so be sure to find an internship in your field of choice whenever possible to give you a boost in all of these areas.
References are an important part of the job search process and at some point you will be asked to provide them.
- Open a placement file with the Career Services office!
- Put together a list of people you would like to have serve as references. It’s good to have a variety of people, if possible. An example of this would be one or two professors, a boss, a colleague, and a personal reference. But, some employers will ask you for specific types of references (i.e. all employers, etc.), so keep that in mind.
- When putting together your references, it’s important to be polite and considerate when asking (and you should always ask first) someone to serve as a reference. It’s also wise to ask if they will be able to give you a good reference, as well.
- Keep in mind that not all companies will allow their employees to serve or give references. Due to fears of litigation, some will only provide your dates of employment and whether or not you’re eligible for rehire.
- When asking for written references, be sure to give those you are asking plenty of time. Two to three weeks notice is best.
- Before contacting your references, a prospective employer should ask your permission. It is acceptable to tell a prospective employer that you’re not comfortable with them contacting your current employer, if you so choose. If that is the case, be sure to have a list of alternative references available.
The interview is probably the most important part of the job search process…so be prepared! Here some thing to keep in mind. (For more in-depth training, attend the next Interview Skills workshop or make an appointment to see the Career Counselor.)
Before the Interview
- Research the company and the position for which you are applying.
- Be able to give a two minute short “speech” about yourself. This is to prepare you for the inevitable question “Tell us about yourself”. Include your career aspirations and facts about yourself that you feel would make you a great fit for the job and for the company. Write it down first and then practice it with a friend. This will help you get your thoughts together and help prepare you if you become nervous during the interview.
- Have answers prepared for the “standard” interview questions. Again, writing potential answers on a piece of paper, so you have an idea of how you’ll respond, will help you organize your thoughts. When possible, give examples of real life situations where you performed the action(s) in question.
- Have a couple of thoughtful questions ready that you would like to ask the interviewer about the company, working environment, etc. This shows interest in the company and that you have a choice in whether or not you want to work for them. Coming across as desperate or that you “just need a job” is a real turnoff for employers. Here are some questions you can ask:
- What kind of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?
- Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
- Does your company encourage further education?
- How often are performance reviews given?
- What products are in the developmental stage now?
- Do you have plans for expansion?
- What are your growth projections for next year?
- Have you “downsized” your staff recently?
- How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
- Do you offer flextime?
- Is your company environmentally conscious? How?
- In what ways is a career with your company better than one with your competitors?
- Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
- What is the largest single problem facing your staff?
- May I talk with the last person who held this position?
- What is the usual promotional time frame?
- Does your company offer either single or dual career-track programs?
- What do you like best about your job/company?
- Once the probation period is completed, how much authority will I have over decisions?
- Do you fill positions from the outside or promote from within first?
- What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
- Has there been much turnover in this job area?
- What skills are really important for this position?
- Is there a lot of team/project work?
- Will I get to work on special projects?
- Where does this position fit into the office structure?
- How much travel is involved in this position?
- What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you or should I contact you?
- No salary questions during initial interview!
- Determine the travel route and time to your interview. If you are unfamiliar with the area, make a practice run a day or two before. This will allow you to plan your travel time more accurately and will prevent you from getting lost the day of your interview.
Dress For the Interview
First impressions are paramount in the interview process, so making sure you look professional is essential. Most hiring managers tend to be more conservative in nature, so dressing accordingly is a necessity. You don’t need to have a lot of clothes to interview, but you do need quality. Even if the job you are interviewing for allows its employees to wear casual dress in the workplace, you should never dress as such for an interview.
- Make sure your clothes are clean and neatly pressed.
- Check for holes and/or stains!
- Nails should be cleaned and well-manicured (this goes for women AND men!).
- Clothes should fit well.
- Be conservative with the perfume/cologne.
- Shave and have a well-groomed, professional looking hair cut.
- Wear only a quality dark blue or gray suit (avoid brown suits or sport coats).
- Shirts should be white or blue cotton or cotton blends. Avoid other colors or stripes. For the second interview, observe other employees' shirts during your interview. When in doubt, wear white!
- Wear over-the-calf socks that blend with your suit, preferably the same color or darker.
- Well-shined black or cordovan shoes.
- Match belt with shoe color; no belt with suspenders.
- If you wear an earring(s), remove for the interview.
- Select a conservative tie that coordinates with your suit and shirt.
- View guidelines at www.menswearhouse.com
- Wear a conservative tailored suit or suit dress.
- Wear a conservative, frill-less blouse (white or cream).
- Skirt length: Top of knee down; avoid extreme slits.
- Basic medium/low-heeled pumps, shined; neutral hosiery.
- Handbag: Small and appropriate to outfit.
- Wear conservative jewelry coordinated with outfit and avoid dangles. Females that need help with clothing for interviews should contact Dr. Cynthia Hanchey.
What to Take With You
- Extra copies of your resume and references.
- A professional looking portfolio or folder to hold your resumes.
- Your OBU Business Cards
During the Interview
- Look your interviewer in the eye. If you have a difficult time doing that, focus on the top part of the nose in between the eyes. It may help you feel more comfortable and the person with whom you are speaking will feel as if you are looking him/her in the eye.
- RELAX! This will be difficult as it is always a little nerve wracking to be in an interview, but you want to come across as assured, self-confident. The interviewer will expect some nervousness on your part, but try to keep that in check. You want to give the impression you are capable of handling a variety of situations.
- Also keep in mind that the main point of the interview is to see if you are a good fit with the company and vice-versa. In many ways it’s like dating…not every guy/gal is the one for you.
- Be sure to state your interest clearly. Ask for the job!
After The Interview
- Collect business cards from those in the interview.
- Write a thank you noteto each person involved.
What Recruiters Look For in a Candidate
The Career Development Center at Auburn University came up with the following list of things recruiters look for in a candidate.
- Professional/appropriate dress and appearance
- Eye contact and body language
- Good handshake
- Fit and image
PREPARATION FOR THE INTERVIEW
- Knowledge of the company
- Understanding of the job expectations
- Demonstrated preparedness for the job
- Able to ask pertinent questions
- Related work and academic experiences
- Persuasive/passionate in presenting ideas
- Quickly grasps concepts/questions
- Responds directly to questions
- Uses correct grammar and vocabulary—articulate
- Ideas presented logically and succinctly
- Well-defined goals and confidence in abilities
- Proactive and self motivated
- Demonstrates diligence and the ability to produce quality results in timely fashion
- Held leadership roles and responsibilities within competitive organizations
- Moves others to action
- Decisive and demonstrates judgment
- Passionate about his/her pursuits
- Sets goals and follows through
- Identifies opportunities and takes responsibility
- Genuine attitude, honest and sincere
- Enthusiastic, energetic
- Motivated, mature and has initiative
- Comfortable and confident around multiple personality types
- Open, engaging and candid demeanor
- Listening skills and empathetic
- Achieves goals in face of adversity
- Not easily discouraged and strives under pressure
- Develops effective alternatives for achievement
- Initiates constructive change, challenges status quo and continuously looks for better ways to do things
- Resolves problems with logical approach
- Comes to reasonable conclusions
- Enjoys and demonstrates problem solving
- Effectively combines diverse information
- Shows common sense and inquisitive
- Thrives under high pressure
- Successfully manages multiple priorities
- History of high productivity
- Examples of positive recognition in the past
- Works well on a team, ethical and responsible
- Effectively informs, inspires and influences others
- Computer literacy
- Language skills
- Written and verbal communication skills To learn more about how to prepare for an interview, attend one of the Interview Skills workshops.
The Career Services Placement File service is a great deal for students who are going to be looking for jobs and interviewing. This service allows you to keep your written references in one place, and safely, for 10 years! Here is how the program works:
- Go to the Career Services office in GC 101 to open up a file. This is free of charge.
- Fill out the paperwork provided, giving contact information for those you would like to use as references. (Don’t forget to ask their permission first!)
- Sign the permission slip allowing us to send out your references to employers who request them.
- Career Services will send out the evaluation forms to your list of references.
- Once your evaluation forms have been returned, they will be kept on file in our office for 10 years.
- If you or an employer needs a copy of your references, just call our office at 878-2416.
OBU Business Cards are available to Seniors. These are the same cards university faculty and staff use. They add to your professionalism and are great to have on hand if you come upon an unexpected networking opportunity, etc. Cost: $5 for 30, $9 for 60. To order, go to GC101.
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is very similar to a resume, but there are some distinct differences. A CV focuses more on education, publications, and other accomplishments and is used mostly when applying for academic, education, science or research positions. Many countries outside of the U.S. use the CV, as well.
The following are sites to aid in developing your CV:
Writing a thank you note after an interview is a must. You want to express thanks to the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.
- The note can be handwritten, typed, or emailed. (Handwritten lends a more personal touch.)
- Write and mail within 2 days of the interview.
- Thank the interviewer for meeting with you.
- Reiterate your interest in the position.
- Review or remind the interview of your qualifications. This is also a good time to list something you may have forgotten to share in the interview.
- Follow up with any information the employer asked you for in the interview.