Interview and Resume Tips
The Job Postings or Advertisement — What’s Required?
These are the results of your job search. You will learn what the job requires and see if your education and experience meet those requirements. Before you write your cover letter and resume, study the job description carefully. Do your skills reflect the requirements outlined in the posting? Do you have skills that will transfer well to that new position?
Cover Letters — Getting Your Foot in the Door
Often overlooked by job seekers as an important part of the application process, the cover letter can make—or break—your chances of getting an interview. Even before they review your resume, recruiters look at the cover letter to see how you express yourself and describe your achievements. This is your chance to highlight what you bring to the table; brag a little, but not too much. Cover letters should be about three paragraphs, but no longer than a half page.
- Paragraph #1 – Write an introduction that includes the name of the position for which you are applying. Include the name of a mutual contact if possible–e.g., “I spoke to John Smith regarding the position, and he encouraged me to apply based on my qualifications.”
- Paragraph #2 – Describe how you added value to each of your positions.
- Include your key accomplishments and any awards you may have received.
Paragraph #3 – Summarize why you are right for the job, mentioning any further insights that explain why you would be a good fit.
Dos and Don’ts
- Address the person whose name is included in the job posting. If the posting does not have a contact name, it is acceptable to say “Dear Hiring Manager.”
- Address the company’s needs specifically. Show you are a good job candidate by presenting a solution to a current problem or explaining how you would use your knowledge, skills, and abilities to help the company achieve its mission. Be constructive, not critical.
- Be concise. No recruiter wants to read a two-page cover letter. Explain clearly, why you’re the best applicant for the position, in one page or less.
- Be positive. It is not appropriate to mention a horrible boss or that your coworkers do not work as hard as you do. This information is irrelevant and puts you in a negative light.
- Ask someone to read your cover letter to you, or read it aloud yourself. It is a helpful way to make sure your message is flowing properly.
- Create a generic cover letter to use repeatedly. Tailor each cover letter and resume to the position for which you are applying.
- Be obnoxious. You may think you are the best applicant for the position, but don’t talk yourself out of a job by sounding arrogant.
- Talk about how the position at your prospective organization can help further your career. It is not about what they can do for you; it is about what you can do for them.
- Repeat information that is already in your resume. Cover letters reflect how you communicate and allow you to market your skills in ways a resume cannot.
Resumes — Getting to the “Yes” Pile
You have written an effective cover letter. Now you are ready for the “meat” of your application: your resume. Most recruiters use a poorly written resume to “weed out” undesirable applicants. Each line in your resume should push you one step closer to the “Yes” pile and make a prospective employer want to meet you.
- Make sure your resume has NO spelling, grammatical, or formatting errors.
- Keep your resume to one page. If your credentials warrant it, your resume can be two pages. For example, you have had a successful, lengthy career at one firm, or several jobs directly related to the position for which you are applying. Include a “Summary of Qualifications” at the top of the page to give recruiters a “snapshot” of what you have to offer.
- Write the same keywords listed in the job requirements to maximize “hits” on your resume, because some employers use online keyword searches to find qualified applicants.
- Explain how you achieved your goals – do not just list what you did in your previous positions in bullet point form.
- Use action words (e.g., managed, performed, created, analyzed) to explain specific duties in each of your jobs, achievements such as cost savings and process streamlining, or awards that resulted from your efforts.
- List information only applicable to the job posting. Avoid mentioning hobbies unless they are directly related to the position requirements.
Contact Information — Keep it Professional
It is important to include a current phone number and a professional e-mail address in your resume, since this is how employers will get in touch with you. Voicemail greetings should not have music or humor. E-mail addresses with jazzy names – Rockstar77@ilovemusic.com or personal information – Jasonsmommy@coolmoms.net are for social networking sites.
Before the Interview — Do Your Homework
Arm yourself with background information about the company to make the interview less intimidating. Read the ad or job description again to re-familiarize yourself with the requirements. Research the company by visiting its website and getting a sense of its culture. Find out:
- What products and services they provide.
- Their competitors.
- Their financial status.
- Their marketing campaigns.
- New technological developments in the legislative and economics of the industry.
- The health of the industry in general.
Dressing for the Interview — Look the Part
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For both men and
women, it is safest and best to dress conservatively. Wear minimal body piercing and understated jewelry, including a simple, but professional wristwatch. If you have tattoos, make sure to cover them.
Men: Wear a dark suit, white shirt, tie, dark dress socks and dark shoes. Keep your hair neat and facial hair neatly groomed. Avoid using cologne.
Women: Wear a dark suit, collared shirt or shell (no cleavage), stockings, dress shoes, and small earrings. Avoid wearing hoops, or anything that dangles or makes noise. Keep your hair neat, and do not wear perfume. Light makeup is acceptable, but you should avoid trendy colors.
What to take with you
- Three blue or black pens.
- Name, address, and phone number of interviewer.
- Directions to the interview site.
- Extra copies of your resume; unfolded, and in a manila envelope.
- References, listed with a current address/phone/e-mail for each.
- Breath mints.
- A positive attitude.
The Interview — Your Time to Shine
Now that your cover letter and resume have pushed you past the “Yes” pile into the candidate pool, you have done your homework, and you are dressed for success, you are ready for the interview. Put your best foot forward by maintaining positive body language:
- Make eye contact
- Give the interviewers a firm handshake—no death grip, sweaty palms, or dead fish
- Sit up straight
- Do not fidget
- Keep your hands visible
- Turn off your cell phone, and
- Do not chew gum.
Typical Interview Questions
- Tell me about a problem at work and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about a time you were given conflicting information and you had to make a decision.
- What was your greatest professional accomplishment, and why?
- What is the most challenging aspect of your work now?
- How do you decide what to do first when you have multiple tasks to perform?
- Describe the latest laws or principles that pertain to your profession.
- How would your supervisor describe you?
- Do you prefer working alone or in a group? Why?
- Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years from now?
- Why did you choose your current profession?
- Why do you want to leave your employer and work for us?
- How would you deal with a difficult subordinate?
- How would you deal with a team member you felt was not pulling his or her weight?
- Do you have any questions for us?
What NOT to Say in an Interview
Employers will almost surely ask if you have any questions for them and will judge you based on the questions you do or do not ask. You should always have questions for them, but don’t ruin a perfectly good interview by asking any of the following:
- What does your company do?
- What are the salary and benefits for this position?
- How much vacation time will I have?
- Are there any “perks” employees get for this job?
- Will my direct supervisor be nice? My last boss was a total jerk!
- Does your organization value its employees?
- How long will I have to wait before my first promotion?
- When will I be eligible for a raise/bonus?
- Are you single?
After the Interview — Maintain Their Interest
Show interviewers that you appreciate their considering you for a position by sending a “thank you” note, preferably within 24 hours after your interview. However, also use the “thank you” note as an opportunity to refresh their memory about important details you discussed during the interview.
For example, you can say something like,
Dear Ms. Jones:
Thank you for considering me for the customer service specialist position. I enjoyed learning about what my job responsibilities would be, and how I would be part of the MTA organization. What I found particularly interesting was the training which management provides staff to ensure that they continue to meet goals and resolve issues in a timely, efficient manner. I recognize the importance of having a strong customer service team, and hope to combine my enthusiasm and communication skills to make a valuable contribution. If I am chosen for this position, I feel I would maintain the standard of excellence set by management.
Again, thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sign your name, and then
type it underneath your signature.
If you have Outlook, or a similar e-mail program on your computer, you can use a business letter format to write your note, and add your address, phone number, and the name and address of the organization.
Now that you are on your way...
Stay positive, and do not be discouraged. However, remember an old saying: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” Keep in mind that, although you have taken the first step, finding work is a job in itself. You may have to send out many resumes to get an interview and go on a number of interviews before you find the right position. However, you will gain experience communicating with potential employers and this, along with persistence, should help you get the job for which you are suited and the career you have chosen. Good luck!