AdvoAsks: Resume, interview tips to achieve that dream job

This week, The Advocate asked a couple of professionals in the Career Development Center for tips on landing a great job.

Diane Wolter, assistant director of career exploration

What are some basics students should know when writing  a resume?

I think one of the biggest things to know is that resume writing is not like any other writing. The use of the English language in writing a resume is different from everything else. Don’t expect to know how to write a resume. That’s why we would really encourage students to come in and let us help them develop a good resume because there’s some really bad advice online. If you Google “resume writing” you get some very good advice and some very bad advice, and you might not be able to tell the difference. Our office makes a point of contacting employers and keeping up on what it is they’re looking for. And so, in general, you want to have a very targeted resume, so we can help you do that.

What are some key job interview tips?

When I meet with students, they know their resume is not very good, but they think that they are not at all worried about the interview. They think, “Once I get the interview it’s in the bag.” But employers say resumes are looking pretty good, but the interviewing skills are very poor. So, I think what’s happening is students have gone into McDonalds and they’ve had an interview where the questions are basically “Are you available on Tuesday?” Whereas at the professional level, the interviews are very, very different.  And so I think students need to be better prepared for interviews than they think they should be. Because interviewing at the professional level, it’s a very different kind of process. It can involve many stages and the process might take weeks. And I think that students may not really realize what’s involved at the full time professional level.

Do you see a lot of common mistakes with resumes?

I think one of the biggest problems is that they are very general. Students say, “I just wanna develop a resume.” My first question to a student is always, “Who’s your target audience? What kind of job are you applying for?” Because an effective resume is always a targeted resume. So, if you don’t know what you’re applying for, you really can’t write an effective resume because you don’t know which of your strengths to really emphasize and how to interpret your experience to say this is how it’s going to make me a better candidate for this position. So, I think that the most basic mistake is that students are just way too general.

Do you hear a lot of common concerns or questions?

I think that, again, students are too general. They’re kind of unaware of the job search process in general.  They’re also very often apologetic. You know, they say, “My resume isn’t very good.” But, I will look at a resume at any stage. I’ve worked from a handwritten list. So, we don’t expect students to know how to write good resumes. That’s part of why we’re here.

When is the best time to begin looking for jobs or internships?

Well, I can tell you that right now employers are hiring next summer’s interns, so you want to give that several months leeway. For full-time positions, maybe not quite so early, but again, the process can easily take eight to 10 weeks, from the posting of a job to submitting resumes to a screening interview to a second interview to maybe a final interview. So, students really should be looking before spring break if they are graduating in the spring.

Is it a good idea to make a follow-up call after submitting a resume?

What we generally recommend is, unless it says no phone calls which you do get occasionally, to make one phone call after you submit your information right around the deadline in time to just make sure your information got there, and ask questions about the timeline. Follow-up is very important.

What should you do if an application asks about expected pay rate?

Oh, I hate that question. Employers are almost never given permission to hire without some kind of a salary range. And so, we do have lots of information about salaries here. The National Association of Colleges and employers does a salary survey every, actually every quarter, of people who hire new college grads. So we can say, okay, in this part of the country, these are the typical starting salaries, but I would always try and get the employer to name an amount first.  So, a response to that might be, “I’m sure whatever your authorized range would be acceptable for me.” Because we say students shouldn’t bring up salary until they have an offer on the table. We wish employers wouldn’t either, but they sometimes still do.

Roberta Delaney, career exploration coordinator 

What’s the best way for students to find out about job opportunities?

Networking is key, so in person obviously, and then LinkedIn is also a really good resource, especially when you don’t have a lot of time. So, if you set up your LinkedIn profile and you start making connections, you can connect with people in industries all over the country. And then, you can set up informational interviews that way. It’s just also a good way to get your name out there and your face, you know, ask about potential job openings. And there’s a lot of companies that post jobs on LinkedIn that they don’t post anywhere else.

Why do you think so many jobs are not being posed publicly?

I think part of it is employers really look for people that they know they can rely on, and so they look to internal folks, interns that they’ve hired or folks that are recommended by people who already work for them or people they know. And that kind of, I think that’s what part of the thinking is. It also narrows the candidate pool. If you post something out there publicly, you’re gonna get hundreds of applications. If you just open it up to internal folks or tell them to pass the word along, then you don’t get quite as many. Sometimes there’s not even a job actually there. So, sometimes you might actually get to know someone really well who is in charge of a company or part of a company; they might create a position for you. That would be a position that wasn’t available.


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