Resume, Cover letter, Interview Guide
A resume is a formal document that a job applicant creates to itemize their qualifications for a position. It is a skimmable 'highlight reel' of one's accomplishments and what makes them a good candidate for the role.
A resume is usually accompanied by a customized cover letter in which the applicant expresses an interest in a specific job or company and draws attention to the most relevant specifics on the resume.
Pro tip: Try googling 'Sample resume for __job title__' to get ideas about different skills and verbs to include on your resume.
Anatomy of a Resume
There are a few sections you will see on just about every resume. These can be in any order, putting the best information first.
1. How to Connect With You. This includes your name, phone number, email address and home address. Note that if you are putting your resume online you may only want to include the city and state you live in, otherwise your home address might be made public.
2. Professional Summery. This is a short (around 3 sentences) introduction. While it is optional, this is your space to explain why you want this specific job and highlight your best qualifications.
3.Highlights or Skills. These can be taken directly from the job posting or from the job posting of previous jobs. This can help your resume pass a potential AI based candidate filtering system. Read more in the FAQ section.
4. Experience. A time ordered list of relevant jobs you have worked. Use bullet points to paint a picture of what tasks you did and projects you worked on.
5. Education. This is your schooling, feel free to include relevant classes you took, clubs you were a part of, and your GPA. You can put anything you are proud of.
6. Awards & Accomplishments. If you have received recognition in the past don't forget to include it. You could also add certifications like having your food handlers license or CPR/First Aid training.
Frequently Asked Questions
"What do I put down if I've never had a job before?"
You can include experience like volunteering, clubs, baby-sitting, and activities you've done in the community like at your church, or for your neighbor. Be creative!
"What is AI resume filtering and how do I pass it?"
Resume filtering is when a company allows AI to scan the text of your resume for keywords before sending it to a person. This is so the company only sees the most qualified candidates. Include specific keywords from the job posting to show the system that you are fit for the job. This is also why some people recommend using only a standard resume format, it's what the AI is designed to scan. More artistic resumes like those made on Canva stand out to an employer but may confuse the computer.
"Where do I make my resume?"
You can make it in a simple text document, but there are plenty of templates you can use. Google Docs has templates built in. Canva has more aesthetic templates. You can also find step by step walk throughs on sights like indeed.com
A cover letter is a document you send with your resume that provides additional information about skills and experiences related to the job you're applying to. It typically includes three to four paragraphs that highlight your skills, experience, and achievements in relation to the position you’re applying for.
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
1. Heading. Including your name and contact information will help them remember your name when filtering through applicants. You may want to include the name address and contact information for the hiring manager. This is a hold over from when cover letters were mailed and is still considered a more professional document.
2. Dear Hiring Manager. Anytime you are able to get the name of the person who will be looking over your resume address the letter to them. This shows that you are committed to the company and have done your research. You can usually find this information either on the website or on LinkedIn.
3. Hook/ Self Introduction. Right from the first paragraph you want to explain why your are the right pick for the role. Consider sharing a brief story if it is very relevant for the role. Otherwise start listing your accomplishments.
4. The Details. In your resume you aren't able to share many details about your previous roles. The next 1-2 paragraphs are the place where you can highlight a specific project or specific role responsibilities that highlight your expertise.
5. Summary and Call to Action. In a brief last paragraph you can address why you want this role while asking for the interview. This could be the most emotional section of your application, but make sure not to sound like you are begging.
6. Sign off. Don't forget to add a sign off such as 'Thank you for your time and consideration' or simply 'Sincerely' and your name.
An interview is a discussion or conversation between a potential employer and a candidate. It is a selection process designed to help an employer understand your skills, your personality and character traits, and check your domain knowledge. In this formal meeting, the employer asks questions to get information from a candidate. Usually, interviews happen during the last phase of the recruitment process and help companies select a suitable candidate for a job role.
Interviews are your chance to sell your skills and abilities.
They also give you a chance to find out if the job and company are right for you. Follow the tips here to ace your interviews.
Review common interview questions. Practice answering them with someone else or in front of a mirror. Come prepared with stories that relate to the skills that the employer wants, while emphasizing your:
- Willingness to work and flexibility
- Leadership skills
- Ability and willingness to learn new things
- Contributions to the organizations in which you have worked or volunteered
- Creativity in solving problems and working with people
Figure out in advance how well you qualify for the job. For each requirement listed in the job posting, write down your qualifications. This can show you if you lack a particular skill. Plan how you will address this in the interview so you can convince the interviewer that you can learn the skill.
Make a list of questions that you would like to ask during the interview. Pick questions that will demonstrate your interest in the job and the company. This might include commenting on the news you learned from the company website, and then asking a question related to it. Also ask questions about the job you will be expected to perform, like:
- What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
- How will my responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom?
- Could you explain your organizational structure?
- What computer equipment and software do you use?
- What is the organization's plan for the next five years?
Be prepared. Remember to bring important items to the interview:
- Notebook and pens
- Extra copies of your resume and a list of references
- Copies of letter(s) of recommendation, licenses, transcripts, etc.
- Portfolio of work samples
On the day of the interview, remember to:
- Plan your schedule so you arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
- Go by yourself.
- Look professional. Dress in a manner appropriate to the job.
- Leave your MP3 player, coffee, soda, or backpack at home or in your car.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Bring your sense of humor and SMILE!
Display confidence during the interview, but let the interviewer start the dialogue. Send a positive message with your body language.
- Shake hands firmly, but only if a hand is offered to you first.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Listen carefully. Welcome all questions, even the difficult ones, with a smile.
- Give honest, direct answers.
- Develop answers in your head before you respond. If you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. You don't have to rush, but you don't want to appear indecisive.
End the interview with a good impression. A positive end to the interview is another way to ensure your success.
- Be courteous and allow the interview to end on time.
- Restate any strengths and experiences that you might not have emphasized earlier.
- Mention a particular accomplishment or activity that fits the job.
- If you want the job, say so!
- Find out if there will be additional interviews.
- Ask when the employer plans to make a decision.
- Indicate a time when you may contact the employer to learn of the decision.
Don't forget to send a thank-you note or letter after the interview.
Accepting the Job
You can expect to hear back from employers within 3 weeks of the interview. If that much time has passed without communication from the employer then you can reach out to the hiring manager or front desk to ask about the status of your application.
When you are offered the job you should discuss pay and schedule. Make sure everything lines up with your expectations and ask to meet in person to confirm your contract if there is any confusion. On your first day you will need to fill out W2 paperwork for federal taxes. Make sure you have your social security number and banking information for payroll.
How to ask for a higher wage.
If their offer is lower than you expected, you may want to thank them for the offer and ask to call them back in the next day after considering their offer. When you call them back, ask if it is possible to raise your salary. This is a proven way to increase your salary as it is easy to get flustered in the moment and agree to a lower wage. Additionally a company might take the hint and call you back sooner with a wage increase just to have you on the team.
What do I wear to my job interview?
The goal is to look professional but that doesn't mean you have to wear a suit and tie.
What are some good outfit choices?
Button downs, cardigan, and well fitting sweaters all pass for a semi-casual interview.
Clean and well cared for jeans are much better then sweat pants and leggings.
Avoid logo tees and those with large designs on them and opt for understated simple clothes.
Wear clean shoes or boots and pants that reach the top of the shoe. Avoid gym sneakers if possible.