With university graduation right around the corner – well, arriving sooner than you might think, many whose academic run is nearly complete are turning their thoughts to the job market and how they could best break into it.
Not too long ago, simply having a university degree was pretty much a guarantee of bright career prospects; these days, you have to work harder to land your dream job – or, at least, one that will pay decently.
You may turn to your campus’ career adviser for guidance and attend job fairs, also known as career fairs or recruitment events.
Both of these are sterling ideas to get job leads but, when it comes to the interview process – from drafting your curriculum vitae to meeting an interview panel, that’s more of a ‘sink or swim’ affair.
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Surely, your campus career adviser will at least proofread your resume and cover letter…
Or you could turn to Superprof, who has compiled a collection of tips, hacks, hints and how-tos on every job application subject from formatting your CV to writing thank-you notes.
Yes, you have to write to them!
Tips for Making Your Resume
Your resume – or résumé to use the word’s original French spelling, should be just what its name implies: a summary of your educational and work experiences, with a dash of hobbies and interests thrown in.
By contrast, a CV or curriculum vitae should be a much longer document detailing many facets of your life. These days, though, nearly everyone uses CV and resume interchangeably.
You may find that to be so on job adverts; one job might want a resume and the other a CV.
If you are a soon-to-graduate university student, you have the education part covered: simply list your course of study, any practical experience you might have gained and any extracurricular activities you participated in.
Work experience tends to be a bit thin for students; that can pose a problem when writing your first CV. What are you supposed to fill those two A-4 pages with if you have little to no work experience?
Have you ever volunteered? If so, you may list your volunteering, even if what you volunteered for has nothing to do with the job you are applying for. At the very least, it shows that you have a sense of community and a strong work ethic.
If you’ve never worked or had the opportunity to volunteer for any type of undertaking, you might preface your CV with a short paragraph that explains why you’ve not yet gained any work experience.
With that question answered, you are now ready to apply the best tips to write a standout resume.
How to Write a Cover Letter
There is indeed quite a bit of writing involved with getting a job: your CV, the job application… a cover letter?
Even though you’ve provided all of the requested information on the application form and even more data in your CV, you still have to write a letter that plugs the holes left between the data points those documents provide hiring managers.
For instance, you will never find a checkbox on a job application that asks: ‘Did you research our company? Y/N’. Nor will you find a field that permits you to explain why you want that job.
It is that sort of thing that goes in the cover letter.
A cover letter does for you what eye contact and a handshake do when you meet interviewers for the first time. It communicates that you are indeed a worthy job candidate because you are interested in their company and have set out to prove it.
You are determined to impress upon them that you and they, your prospective employer, already share a link or two, a fact that you will have succinctly laid out in the letter prefacing your CV.
Now find out how to write a cover letter that will get you a job interview…
How to Adapt your CV and Cover Letter for Different Jobs
Unless you intend to only ever apply for one job, you will have to have many different CVs and many different cover letters.
After all, you cannot send the same resume and letter to Company ABC for work in their quality control department that you sent to Company XYZ for a job in Research and Development.
Both your CV and your cover letter must reflect the position you are applying for.
As you are relatively new to the job market, possibly, you don’t have a lot of information about past jobs and your work ethic to give just yet; nevertheless, what you do have must be slanted to reflect the requirements of the job at hand.
A cover letter that states that you are a team player (echoed by a CV that says you played team sports) will obviously not show well in a job requiring you to work independently.
To suit the job’s requirements, you might instead emphasise that you often took the lead when playing team sports; maybe you arranged a rotation of players or established new plays.
That makes you sound like management material!
Discover all of our handy tips for adapting your documents to suit the requirements of the jobs you apply for…
How to Prepare for a Phone Interview
There is no doubt that, with the right CV and the right cover letter, you will land an interview. However, it will most likely be over the phone rather than in person.
Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet! You still have a lot of work to do: you have to prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.
You might think that we’re really giving job interviews a status akin to a marathon. Naturally, you're free to do so but, if you don’t think of interviews in those terms, you might be surprised at how gruelling the interview process really is!
You’ve already sweated over your CV and cover letter and, apparently, have done so well that, now, it’s time for interview preparation. By no means does this interview signal that you have the job in the bag!
Before interviewing, you have to acquire and sharpen interview skills: active listening, speaking clearly, thinking critically and projecting confidence.
You can do all of these and more by asking friends and family to hold mock interviews. Even better: record these practice interviews so you can go over your performance and refine it.
Getting everything ready for a telephone interview would be so much easier if you knew some common interview questions…
Phone Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
“Tell me about yourself.”
No invitation stymies interviewees more than this simple query, and it is usually among the first you will face during phone interviews.
It is one of the most common interview questions and answering it correctly entails knowing what the person asking it wants to hear.
“Why do you want to work here?” can be equally unsettling; what does the hiring manager want to know? And, more importantly, what will you answer reveal about you?
Every interview question falls into one of two categories and the behavioral questions are the ones most fraught with danger.
Your potential employer knows how to interpret your responses to seemingly innocuous questions like “Why do you want this job?” to reveal the depth of your interest in the company and how well you might fit in.
On the other hand, situational interview questions are meant to gauge your strengths and critical thinking skills by positing a situation and asking how you might handle it.
See? You must study these job interview questions, conduct a mock interview or two and prepare for an interview as rigorously as you did for your classes at university.
Luckily, Superprof has gathered all likely interview questions and answers in one convenient article…
How to Write a Thank You Letter
Earlier, in our article’s introduction, we averred that you have to write a thank-you note after the interview.
We lied. You don’t actually have to write a thank-you letter.
But if you don’t, you would miss a critical step in the hiring process and neglect an opportunity to reinforce your connection to the job and the company.
Although many career experts repeatedly tout the importance of a thank-you note, according to a survey conducted by Accountemps, less than a quarter of all job applicants write one.
Let’s put you in that minority, shall we?
Writing thank-you notes to your interviewer is not quite the same as a thank-you card to your gran; for one, the tone would be completely different and the salutation, too!
If you hadn’t thought so till now, you really need our full guide to writing these point-garnering letters…