There is no shortage of articles on the internet about how to write a resume or how to conduct an interview. So, rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I’ve decided to compile some tips for increasing your chances of getting a job. Some might apply to the resume writing process, others to the interview process, but if you take them into consideration, I guarantee you’ll go in more prepared than the next guy. But, for the sake of readability, I will separate them into logical categories. I should also note that this list is in no way comprehensive and this article is exclusive to Elephant Journal. So if you’re reading it elsewhere, it’s been illegally copied.
Writing Your Resume/Cover Letter
– Include extracurricular activities on your resume. If you were a staff member on your college’s student literary journal, or you run a children’s program at your church, include that information. It might seem like you only need to include work-specific information, but any additional activities, no matter how unrelated, show your work ethic and opens up more references.
– Do volunteer work. This sort of branches off of extracurricular activities, but if your resume is looking kind of sparse, or you have been unemployed for a long time, it really pays to have volunteer work on your resume. Not only does it help build new references and experiences, it also shows a potential employer that you’re out there doing stuff and not just applying for jobs all day. As one example, local libraries often need lots of volunteers and their new hires frequently come from that pool of candidates. And, if you pick a place that you are interested in, you can enjoy yourself even if it doesn’t lead to a job.
– Keep your resume short. If you have a long list of accomplishments, it can seem justified to extend onto two or three pages, but longer isn’t necessarily better. Even an impressive resume could lose someone’s interest. Try, as much as possible, to keep information to one line. For example “College Name…Degree…Years”. I personally use sizable gaps to separate those three bits of information, but they all still fit on one line. And if you use the tab key between them, it can properly align each entry below so that the formatting is pleasing to the eye. And the same can apply to your employment history: “Business…Position…Years.” This isn’t any sort of standard, I just personally find it to be the quickest way to display the information.
– Don’t list every job you’ve ever had. Maybe one summer you went through three different jobs, but it’s not necessary that you list them all. In fact, it may work against you because it makes you look flaky and unreliable. The only thing you have to watch out for is gaps in employment. So, if you had three jobs in one year, just list the one that will be most beneficial to the one you’re applying for now. And, if you jumped around from position to position at the same company, consolidate those positions into a single entry.
– Don’t be afraid to be unconventional. Resume templates are great, but they also pigeon-hole what information you enter, which might not properly highlight your experience. For example, on my resume I included a ‘publications’ section to draw attention to the books I’ve written, as well as my presence here on Elephant Journal. I also included a section for accomplishments at my current job that may have been above and beyond the job description. Basically, if there is anything you’re proud of, or anything you think employers should know about, find a way to work it in there.
– Always write a cover letter, even if it’s really short. A lot of employers do not ask for a cover letter. Either they operate by an application form, or they just want your resume. There are some instances where you physically can’t submit one, but we live in the digital age and a great deal of applications involve email, or a digital form with an “additional comments” field. This gives you the opening to write a little extra than the next guy. Granted, I don’t advise a full-blown cover letter in these spaces, but acknowledging the recipient, reiterating why you would be a good choice, and thanking them, will go a long way.
Searching for a Job
– Though I brought it up in the resume section, it bears repeating here: do volunteer work while you are looking for a job. Some of us might be lucky enough to get a job straight out of college, and others might have family connections. But for the rest of us, we need something to separate us from the pack. And volunteer work is the best way to make connections, hear about new jobs, and impress anyone looking at your qualifications. Plus, keeping busy is like exercising, which makes returning to the job world less of a jump.
– If there is a specific company/place that you wish to work for, check their website first. If you’re not picky about what job you get, then job sites like monster and linkedin can be helpful. But there is a fairly good chance that you have a few places in mind that you would like to work at. Businesses will often post job openings on their personal websites, but not on generic job sites. So it pays to check back often at places you’re interested in working for. It could also reveal internship/volunteer opportunities that could get your foot in the door.
– Take breaks. Searching for a job is exhausting. It is arguably more work than it would be if you had a job. Not to mention demoralizing. Getting rejection after rejection is kind of like being in an abusive relationship. You keep telling yourself that they will change, and they keep knocking you down. This is another reason why volunteering/extracurricular activities can be helpful because they allow you to divert your attention away from the difficulties of finding a job. But don’t be afraid to take a day off of the search and focus on one of your hobbies. It might seem like you’re wasting valuable time, but your mental health is more important.
– Utilize all the resources you have available. The newspaper might have some classifieds, but the internet is where most stuff happens now. If you don’t have the internet, head over to your local library and use their computers. Don’t know how to use computers? Start learning now, at your own pace. Almost everything you would need to know can be self taught. You need only the will to click.
– Practice interview questions (preferably with a friend/family member). I can’t stress this enough. There are countless places on the internet where you can locate sample interview questions and it really helps to practice your answers in advance. Chances are very good that they won’t ask any one of them, but it will help prepare you for that style of questioning. And, the answers you have prepared are often adaptable to a multitude of different questions. It’s just like studying for a test; if you know the material, you can answer any question, no matter how it is worded.
– Bring copies of everything. Get a folder and fill it with copies of your resume, cover letter, application, portfolio, the company’s bio page, email correspondence, the job description; anything that even remotely relates to what you’re applying for. You probably won’t need any of it, but on that rare occasion that your interviewer doesn’t have a copy of your resume, it speaks volumes when you can hand one to them.
– Research the company before going in. This can seem daunting at first, because you might be applying for a lot of jobs, but you don’t need to pull out their last annual report and discuss metrics with them. Rather, read their bio page, see what kinds of products they offer, and where they are located. These are little things that are all over the internet already, but not everybody thinks to look at.
– Have questions for them in advance. Most interviews have a portion where you are free to ask questions. The obvious questions would be about hours or wages, but asking about specifics goes a long way for both you and the interviewer. First, it gives you an idea of what you’re getting into, and it tells them that you’re interested in learning more about the position. Planning these questions in advance helps prevent you from forgetting them in the midst of nerves and/or imposing interviewers. This also goes for the question “Is there anything else I should know?” Consider that your last opportunity to wow the interviewer. So have something prepared for that as well.
– Practice eye contact, good posture, and active listening. Your body language is going to tell the interviewer a lot about you. So, if you’re looking away and talking very quietly, they might not consider you for that customer service position. Sit up straight, and make eye contact when you speak. And, what I mean by active listening is responses to what they’re telling you. For example, if you ask about the duties of the job, make sure to nod, respond, and ask follow up questions. It also helps to reference something they said earlier in the interview as a way to show you’re paying attention.
– There will be two interviewers, at least. I believe it’s rare, these days, to be interviewed by just one person. They may say, in the phone call or email, that you will only be meeting with one person, but expect another to be there. Very likely, this is a tactic to see how you handle an unexpected turn of events and/or gauge your response to a group situation. Preparing for it in advance will help with any surprises and remember to make eye contact/talk to both interviewers.
– If possible, practice the duties of the position. This is a very situational suggestion because that isn’t always possible. But say, for example, that you’re applying for a position that involves editing greeting cards. Have a friend write up a handful of ‘mock-ups’ some with intentional errors, and some without. Then test your editing skills on those samples. This gives you some experience about what you might be in for, and if it’s something you might enjoy, and it can also tell your interviewer how serious you are about the position. Mentioning that you tried, and enjoyed the results, could impress your employer and set you apart from everyone who didn’t.
– It’s okay if you fail. You might be in financial trouble but, technically speaking, if you don’t get the job, you’re no worse off than you were before you applied. I know it’s not much consolation, but beating yourself up over failure is wasted energy.
– Take a break. This is just as valid during the search as it is after a rejection. By giving yourself some breathing room, you are allowed to recharge and attack the hunt again at a later time.
– Have other projects going that are unaffected by the job’s outcome. Online writing is a good example. If you write articles for a website like Elephant Journal, it can be a nice outlet when job stuff falls apart. It helps if these side projects produce revenue, but it’s not a requirement. As long as it’s something that you can forget yourself in, then it’s worth pursuing.
Daisy Rowley is a business coach and digital strategist who’s worked behind the scenes in hundreds of businesses, from ten figure brands to one students website.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea
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