Job Hunting Tips

Whether you’re searching for a job, or researching employment options, this is the place for career advice, tips and strategies for making your next career move.

  • Getting Started
  • The Resume
  • The Cover Letter
  • The Interview
  • Follow-up

Getting Started

Look for the Right Fit. Don’t just look for a job; look for the best match for your skill set and experience. When looking at potential jobs, ask questions that will help assess whether you and the company are a good fit.

Stand Out. Before creating your resume, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your strengths? How would these strengths be helpful to a potential employer?
  • What accomplishments or responsibilities have your held in your previous positions? Did you suggest and/or help launch a new program? How successful was the effort?
  • Did you suggest and implement a new way to increase revenue or productivity? Do you have numbers to demonstrate your success?
  • Did you improve communication—either within the organization or to target audiences? What was the result?
  • Did you participate in the recruitment or training of other employees? What did you contribute to the process?
  • Which of your suggestions or recommendations have been accepted or implemented?
  • What professional awards have you won?

Resumes

Resumes are an opportunity to catch the interest of readers, by “advertising” your skills to potential employers. They may be presented in many different formats, including chronologically and functionally, or by combining both. You might list your job title, employer and dates of employment chronologically, then describe your job and provide bullet-points of your accomplishments in that job.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Incorporate key words in your resume
    Include words from the employer’s job posting in your resume and cover letter. Most potential employers are skimming resumes quickly, and this will ensure that yours stays at the top of the pile. Use bolded headings to bring attention to important categories and make them want to keep reading.

  • Jump off the page
    Within 30 seconds or less, the employer should be able to get the most important information about you. Include a career summary at the top that gives a quick snapshot of skills and accomplishments, and whenever possible, include quantifiable results, using bullets to highlight them.

  • Use strong and concise language
    Use short phrases to describe your accomplishment. Stick with strong descriptive verbs such as “marketed, slashed, established” rather than vague verbs such as “worked, helped, assisted.”

  • Don’t exaggerate
    Although you should emphasize the positive accomplishments, remember that you will have to explain your resume when you are interviewed. A gross exaggeration could get you in trouble at the interview stage.

  • Highlight tangible achievements
    Mention your contributions to your current employer’s bottom-line, such as percentage of increase, number of new clients, or number of students served.

  • Proofread
    Read it, read it again, then ask a friend to read it.

  • Don’t exceed two pages

The Cover Letter

Don’t Be Generic. The cover letter is where you really focus on the connection between your resume and the specific position (and employer) for which you are applying. Because the cover letter is tailored to the specific job and organization, you should write a new letter for each position.

To begin, read the position description carefully, and then describe what you have to offer that matches the needs of the position and the goals of the organization. Emphasize how you can benefit the employer, not what you want from the position. Consider using bullets to highlight these relevant experiences that are elaborated on your resume. Just like the resume, the letter should be concise, appealing, easy-to-read, and free of errors.

The Interview

This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you know about the company and the requirements of the job, and that you are the person for the job. Come to the interview prepared to ask insightful questions and make substantial comments. Convey to the hiring manager that you want this job, not just a job. Ask what constitutes exceptional performance in that position and how the company measures that performance. The hiring process costs companies a great deal of money. They want to see a significant return on their investment. Let the manager know that you are committed to contributing significantly to the success of the company.

Spend time researching the company’s Web site, look at recent press releases and how they position their products and work experience. Make sure to ask good questions about the company’s growth potential, competitive threats and how they envision your role specifically contributing to the success of the organization.

Stand out with ideas

A great way to stand out is to show the employer you’re already thinking like an employee. If you’re applying for a marketing job, propose three ideas for marketing campaigns the company can run. If you’re applying for an operations job, offer up ideas for increasing efficiencies or cutting costs.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Although you should not memorize the answers to anticipated questions (you don’t want to sound like you’re giving a speech), you should consider answers to some of the most common interview questions.

Common interview questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Why are you interested in this job? Demonstrate some knowledge of the organization and explain why your background and strengths are compatible with the needs of the position.
  • Why did you leave your last job or why do you want to leave your job? Be brief, truthful and as positive as possible about why you left or why you want to leave. Avoid negative statements about your former boss or employer.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Discuss strengths that you think will match the jobs—skills that you enjoy using. Be prepared with several examples to demonstrate each strength you want to emphasize. You can also choose examples in non-work settings as long as they support a skill or knowledge area that relates to a work function required for this job. Remember that personal qualities as well as knowledge and skills can be strengths.
  • What do you consider your greatest weakness? This is a tough one. You might answer that you cannot think of any weaknesses in terms of the job. You could describe an example of a work function that you do well enough, but that isn’t your favorite (as long as it’s not required for this job). You could also be prepared with a “weakness” that can also be seen as a positive attribute.
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in the work place? Be specific about the outcome and what you did to make it happen. If you are an entry level candidate, you can also talk about accomplishments in other settings, such as extra-curricular activities and community service.
  • Can you give me an example of a crisis or mistake you made and how you dealt with it? Be prepared with a good example and be sure to explain what measures you have taken to be sure it won’t happen again. Mistakes are humbling but you want to demonstrate that you learn from them.
  • Tell me about yourself. This is a broad open-ended question. You will want to focus your answer. Emphasize information relevant to the strengths, experience, skills, and knowledge and interests you would bring to this job and this employer. You may wish to rehearse this answer to make sure you are concise and focused. The interviewer will likely pick up on something you say and go on from there.

    Asking the right questions can also reveal your interests and knowledge. You’ll want to ask questions that will help you understand the requirements of the job and help you decide whether or not to accept this position if it is offered. It is in your interest—as well as the employers—to find a good match.

    Possible questions you might consider asking:

    • Can you give me details about the position’s responsibilities? What skills are you looking for, ideally?
    • Can you describe a typical day’s work or long-term projects that might be assigned to the position?
    • Within the areas of responsibility, what are the two or three most significant things you would want me to accomplish?
    • What are the biggest challenges associated with this position?
What not to do

Get too personal. Mentioning things such your messy divorce can be an immediate turn-off, and is not appropriate during the interview process. It may lead a hiring manager to remember your “baggage” rather than your experience. Instead, focus on the task at hand—demonstrating your skills and proving that you are the best candidate.

Dwell on the negative. If you were laid off from a job, don’t focus on the difficulty of the experience during the interview. Focus on what you learned and how it helped you to grow personally and professionally. Talk about things you did to add to your skills such as taking a class, volunteering, reading business books, etc.

Follow-up

Thank-you Notes

Thank you notes—either handwritten or via email—are not only a courtesy, they’re a great way to remind employers of your interest in the position. The message should be brief but should include a statement about why you are interested and what you could bring to the job. Be sure to send the thank you within 24 hours of your interview.

References

If you have not been asked to send references in advance, be prepared with a typed list of professional references and complete contact information that you can hand to the interviewer if you are asked. Be sure to contact your references to get their permission and tell them about the job so that they are prepared to speak about your strengths in relationship to that position. You don’t want your reference to be surprised. References are strongest if they are professional, not personal, so that the person has some knowledge of the strengths you would bring to the potential position.