Identifying what kind of work you’d like to do takes a lot of brainpower. Once you think you know, improve your chances with these tools and tips.
An elevator pitch is a quick summary of who you are that should take no longer than the 30-60 seconds you might typically spend in an elevator. It’s the response you’ll give when someone says “tell me about yourself.” This might happen at a career fair, at a networking event, in an interview … or even on an elevator. It might start like this: “I’m Sara Jones. I recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in criminal justice, and I’m looking forward to putting my degree to work as a paralegal …” Find examples at indeed.com and careersidekick.com.
Resumes and Cover Letters
Keep it brief: A prospective employer is more likely to read your resume if you keep it to one page.
Keep it simple: Long words stuffed into complex sentences won’t impress anyone. Simple, concise language is best. If you wouldn’t say it in a conversation, it probably shouldn’t be in your resume or cover letter.
Pick a professional font: Fancy, artistic fonts are often hard to read. Pick something simple that doesn’t compete with your words.
Customize it: Make sure your cover letter references the job you are applying for. Your resume should list your most relevant experience/achievements first. That might vary depending on the job you are applying for.
Proofread, proofread, proofread: DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! Even the smallest typo will hurt your chances. Read over everything more than once to make sure there are no errors—then have someone else read it to make sure.
You Got The Interview—Now What?
Whether you’re going after an internship, a part-time gig to earn some extra cash, or your dream job, the interview is your chance to learn about the prospective employer and for them to learn about you. Follow these tips for a successful interview:
Do your research. Learn basic facts about the organization. It will show the interviewer that you care and help you explain why your skills are a good fit for the position.
Project confidence. Smile, shake hands, make eye contact and maintain good posture.
Ask questions. The interviewer is trying to learn about you, but this is also your chance to learn about the organization. Be prepared to ask some questions.
Follow up: It’s good practice to follow up within 24 hours of your interview. Send an email thanking them for the opportunity to interview and offering to answer any follow-up questions they might have.
Is it Virtual?
Here are extra tips for virtual interviews:
Test your technology: Make sure you have a reliable internet connection and the proper software (Zoom, Google Hangouts or whatever software the interview link shows). Do this the day before. The day of, click the interview link at least 15 minutes in advance to make sure everything is working.
Dress professionally: Wear what you would have worn to an in-person interview.
Mind the background: Make sure you’re in a well-kept room with nothing distracting on the wall behind you.
Limit distractions: Find a quiet room where no pets or housemates are likely to interrupt the interview.
What to Wear …
You’ve got the skills to succeed—don’t let what you’re wearing drag you down. If you’re interviewing for a job, do your research and find out how formal the company is (workplace photos on company websites offer great clues) and dress accordingly. If you’re still not sure what to wear, don’t take any chances. At an interview, it’s always best to err on the side of being too formal. This is no time to test the boundaries of what’s acceptable.
“Should I Ask About Pay?”
Ideally, the job posting included a salary/pay range, or you were invited to say in an application or online form what you expect to make. If that’s the case, wait until an offer comes your way to talk about pay. If the subject never comes up and you don’t know if you’re in the same ballpark, it’s OK to ask—but be careful. The timing is important. Ask too soon and the interviewer might think money is all you care about. The question can wait until the end of the first interview or before a second interview. Check topinterview.com or other sites for more information.