Tips to Land a Job
Unless you have more than 10 years of experience, your résumé should fit on one page. Use a simple, clean, and professional layout.
- Know what you want. Compose a clear and focused job objective. State what you want to do, for whom, where, and at what level of responsibility.
- Stand out from the crowd. Instead of just listing names, dates, and job skills, describe the benefits and results of your performance. For each entry, list your major accomplishments, emphasizing recent achievements. What problems or challenges have you faced? What actions did you take to overcome them? How did your actions benefit the company? Most companies value workers who boost profits, reduce costs, save time, and implement other efficiencies.
- Sell yourself. You only have one shot to make a great impression. Highlight your strengths and outstanding skills or abilities. List your education, training, and any relevant awards.
- Remember that keywords matter. Recruiters use keywords to search résumés in their prospective candidate databases for open jobs. Select some of the most important keywords in your field and pepper them throughout your résumé and cover letter.
- Keep it positive. Refrain from listing the reasons for termination or leaving a job. Prospective employers may find negativity in even the best reasons. You’re far better off explaining employment lapses in person.
- No typos! Ensure the résumé is error-free. Proofread, and have others proofread, too. Make your résumé understandable by avoiding jargon and using plain English.
Before applying for a job, make sure that your skills match the company’s job description. If a match exists, prepare an effective cover letter and send it to the prospective employer along with your résumé.
Use a cover letter is to emphasize your strengths and assets to interest employers in interviewing you.
- Get their attention. Make sure that the cover letter looks professional and is easy to read. Pay particular attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, spacing, paragraph length, and margins. Address it to a particular person by name, and ensure that the spelling and title of the individual are correct. A good cover letter should not be too long; try to limit it to a single page.
- Get their interest. In the first paragraph, include any knowledge you have of the reader’s business, or comment on a timely issue relating to the company's operation—but don’t make it forced. Indicate the position that you are applying for and your interest in being considered for it.
- Market your strengths. The cover letter should explain what you can do for the company. Put yourself in the employer’s position as you write it. Present facts that will be interesting and that accurately describe your skills and qualifications. Your prospective employer will be interested in your ability to make or save money, conserve time, and effectively assume and delegate responsibility. Do not stress or try to compensate for weaknesses, such as lack of experience.
- Request action. In the last paragraph, request a response or interview. In all circumstances, be courteous, but be direct. Restate your interest and always say thank you for their consideration.
- Close graciously. The letter should end with the formal sign-off, “Sincerely.” Below the sign-off, add your signature above your typed name.
- No errors! Proofread, and have others proofread, too. Make your cover letter understandable by avoiding jargon and using plain English.
It’s important to have an electronic cover letter and résumé ready to send at the click of a mouse. Here are some steps for converting your cover letter and résumé into email-friendly formats.
- Convert your documents to PDFs. Your computer likely has a utility to convert your Word document. By sending PDFs—one for your cover letter, one for your resume, or both combined into one PDF—you’re ensuring that your recipient will see properly formatted documents with the fonts, margins, etc., that you chose.
- Open the files on multiple computers, and email them to yourself and some friends to make sure the files display properly.
- Write a short email note and attach the files. Resist the temptation to paste your cover letter text into the email; your cover letter is more likely to stay with your résumé if it is sent as a separate file.
If you are selected for an interview, preparation is key. Note that you may go to several interviews for the same job. For example, your first interview may be with a staffing agency and your second interview with its client.
- Confirm the appointment. Do this one day before your interview. Know the location of the interview. Try to find out how long you'll be there. And make sure you have your contact’s phone number(s) in case you need to call.
- Clear your calendar. If possible, keep your schedule free of any other commitments that day. The interview might run over or you could be asked to stay longer during the appointment. Explaining that you have to be somewhere else could create an awkward situation that should be avoided.
- Say the interviewer name(s) correctly. If you know the names of interviewers in advance, confirm the pronunciation and spelling prior to the appointment. If necessary, ask the receptionist to help you with pronunciations. It’s a part of his or her job.
- Be on time. Arrive no more than 10 minutes early but whatever you do, don’t be late! Arriving late will create an impression that you are unreliable. If unforeseen circumstances arise and you must be late, do everything you can to call ahead of time.
- Dress to impress. If possible, learn in advance what attire is appropriate for the interview. If you’re still not sure, dress conservatively in a dark suit.
- Let them know you’ve arrived. Walk to the receptionist, smile, shake hands, introduce yourself, and state that you have an appointment with your contact’s name.
- Shut off the cell phone. Unless you are experiencing a bona fide crisis, turn off your cell phone upon arrival.
- Use your mouth only for talking. Unless the interview is scheduled with a meal, nothing should be in your mouth but words. Drinking, eating, smoking, and chewing gum must be avoided.
- Prepare a short statement about you. Be ready to answer the question, “Tell me about yourself and your background.” This is your “stump speech” and should include some information on the types of companies and industries you have worked for, your strengths, transferable skills, and some personal traits. Practice saying this statement until it feels natural.
- Be prepared to talk about your successes and experiences. The prospective employer will want to learn about your past experience—successes and failures (as learning experiences), work ethic, and professional track record. Be able to amplify every item on your résumé.
- Be nice. Everyone you meet during your interview—from the receptionist to the interviewer(s)—should be treated with the utmost respect and courtesy. The receptionist might not be conducting the interview, but his or her opinion of you might be solicited.
- Promptly follow up. Decide if an email follow-up is appropriate. If any documents were requested, such as references, employment application, or samples of your work—all are reasons for an email, assuming you have them in electronic form. In any event, it’s always a best practice to send a thank-you letter or note—on paper, mailed in an envelope—within a day of the interview. In some cases, an email thank-you note may be appropriate (e.g., if the ternaround time for a decision will be very quick).