The job search looks different for everyone dependent on industry and job role, but in all circumstances, strong communication, resumes and cover letters can make all the difference to set you up for success. While it can be easy to jump right in and start applying, you must first take a step back and focus on what you want out of your next job and then create a plan on how to get there.
We spoke with Nicole Maseberg, Career Services Manager at CompTIA, to find out more about job search communications and how you can implement these best practices to nail your next interview. Here’s what she had to say.
Check out the career resources series:
- Positioning Your Transferable Skills for the Job You Want
- Job Search Best Practices: Follow-up Communications
- Interviewing Best Practices: Research, Professionalism and Practice
Take Time to Research
Researching the job roles and the industry you want to work in can help give you a full picture of the job market and what it takes to succeed in your potential new position.
“The best way to know what the employer wants for their next employee is to research information about the position through job postings. It gives you a good idea of where hiring is taking place and what common things employers are looking for in terms of experience and skills,” said Maseberg. “Take the time to research the organization and connect with employees on LinkedIn. Networking is the number one way to get a job in today’s economy. Get people familiar with your name and learn more about the organization by connecting with people and asking questions. The worst they are going to do is not respond or say no. Take the chance and connect.”
Researching not only helps you understand if you’re a match for the role, but it can also help you determine if the role fits you.
Your Resume Reflects You
“I personally like to follow a simple resume format because it is easiest to customize from job to job with the least amount of work,” Maseberg said. “Key fields that should be included in the resume are a summary, skills, education and work history. These fields can be repositioned based on the importance to the specific role.”
Over and above the basic resume fields, using keywords and highlighting quantifiable numbers and measurable accomplishments can help paint a full picture of how you would perform as an employee.
“Customizing your resume, not rewriting the entire document, to match a specific job lead is the best way to capture the hiring manager’s attention,” she said. “I always suggest pulling 3 to 5 job leads, taking into consideration differences in job titles and reviewing those leads to see how you fit in that role.”
Maseberg suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- What skills and experiences do you already have?
- Are those reflected on your resume?
- Are you using the same language as the job postings when showcasing that information?
If you feel like you meet 60% of what that employer is looking for and your resume shows that connection, apply to that role.
If you’ve been working on your resume for any length of time, your eyes and brain can start to play tricks on you. You may miss spelling errors, or a sentence could sound good to you but not demonstrate the value or have the impact you’d like it to.
“Having another person read your resume helps to ensure that it is clear, concise and enticing while being truthful and thought out,” Maseberg said.
Communication Is Key
Any communications you send to a potential employer represent who you are and how you would act as an employee. While your resume allows you to present your experience and skills, the cover letter allows you to go beyond your resume.
“Because we try to keep the resume at one to two pages, you need to keep concise with the delivery of your information, whereas in the cover letter, you can expand upon any relevant point that you think would set you apart from the other applicants,” Maseberg said.
In a cover letter, be sure to avoid general salutations and instead try to target the hiring manager or someone within the organization.
“Research the company before writing the cover letter to learn how they became a company and what they stand for,” she said. “If you can connect with that information, do it in the cover letter. Go ahead and use language that shows what excites you about the role, what your goals are for the future and what this opportunity will provide for you.”
Your cover letter does not have to be overly formal, but you should always have something prepared. Many times, the cover letter can be an email that you send while attaching your resume.
“You can include hobbies that might be relevant to the job or the mission of the company or showcase what you are learning or learned in training that helps the reader understand how you are transitioning to a new field or role,” Maseberg said.
You Got the Interview! Now What?
Your resume and cover letter proved to the hiring manager that you could potentially be a good fit for the role you applied for, but you must be able to back all that information up in your interview. Consider these tips when preparing for interviews:
1. Practice Your Responses
Have someone ask you questions and answer them as if you were in an interview. Record yourself answering questions and review them beforehand to see where you can improve your responses.
2. Make the Drive Ahead of Time
It might seem silly, but the last thing you want is to be lost or late for an interview. Take a drive ahead of time to understand traffic in the area around the time you would need to be there and to locate the place of the interview, so you are not lost the day of. You can also scope out what others are wearing to the job so you can dress a step above that for the interview.
3. Bring Your Resume
Bring extra copies of your resume, so if the interviewer doesn’t have it in front of them you can give them one. You can also keep a copy in front of you to quickly look at when being asked questions to help you collect your thoughts before answering.
Maseberg says that sending a thank you note is a very important step in the interview process that often gets overlooked.
“You should send these within 48 hours of the interview, so be sure to get your interviewers’ email addresses either directly from them or from the front desk,” she said. “If you can’t get their direct email, send an email to the organization addressed directly to the interviewer. If you can’t do that, send a hard copy thank you note addressed to the interviewer and include something that connects what you spoke about during the interview. It can be in the form of a statement that shows excitement for something you discussed or another question about the role.”
Throughout your interview process, always remember to show gratitude. Your etiquette as a candidate is a key indicator of how you’ll interact with others once you are hired.
The biggest takeaway here is that to win the job you want, you have to put in some work. Put in the time when it comes to identifying the job you want and then research it to see how your education, training, experience and skills can make you valuable in that role. Then tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight those points and practice talking about them so you’ll be confident during the interview. Doing your homework up front not only prepares you for the job you want, but also shows employers that you have the dedication and work ethic to succeed at their organization.
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