Congratulations on your impending graduation! I hope that you already have a job. If not, good luck; we’re in a tough job market right now.
People way more experienced than you are struggling to find jobs, and you are just a rookie. You are going to need all of the help you can get.
I make hiring decisions for my company. In the past year I have screened a few hundred resumes and interviewed countless prospective employees and contractors. Very few have taken to heart some of the simplest guidelines for job hunting success. Let me share a few quick tips that are consistently ignored by both rookie and veteran job seekers.
Perfect your resume
You’ve heard it a million times, but why do I keep getting terrible resumes?
● Proofread them
● Customize them to fit the actual job for which you are applying
● Keep them down to one page. You don’t need your 9th grade summer camp volunteer position on there
● Export them to a PDF so that you can be sure they show up consistently when sent via e-mail. Don’t send Word docs
You call yourself a designer?
Please, please, if you are calling yourself a graphic designer, your resume should represent the best work you can provide your prospective employer. For non-designers, just google “resume template” and you will find a ton of examples. Invest time in your resume to prove to employers that you are serious.
Applying via E-mail
When applying via e-mail from a post on Craigslist, Mustang Jobs or another job board, you have one chance to shine. The body of your e-mail is your cover letter. Tailor that to the specific position and write in specific terms why that employer should hire you. Don’t bother attaching another cover letter, just attach your resume. When attaching your resume, the file name shouldn’t be “resume.pdf.” What happens when your employer gets a million resumes like that? Call it something like “john_doe_resume.pdf” so employers can retrieve it later. Last but not least, come up with a clever subject line. When I dig through e-mail applications, I naturally pick out the creative subjects first. Your subject line is the first thing that employers see. Make it count.
Learn how to Write
Sorry, you are not getting out of this one. You need to learn how to write. You need to learn how to spell. Even if writing is not in your job description, you’ll need to email a boss, coworker, supplier or customer at some point.
We don’t need classical poetry or lengthy prose. As award-winning professor and communications coach Dr. Ronda Beaman teaches Cal Poly MBA students, use “power format” when you can. Of the two sections above, “Perfect your Resume” and “Applying via e-mail,” which was more powerful and easy to read? Here are some power format pointers:
● Use bullet lists
● Break up paragraphs into a few sentences each
● Don’t waste words
● Use headings to bring attention to key points
Why should I hire you?
This is one simple question I ask every single interviewee. Very few have an intelligent answer, but it really is a simple question. Why should I hire you over the other applicants? Why should I invest my own time and money into training you? Why should I risk putting you in contact with my customers? To quote Beaman again, “What’s in it for me?” Be prepared to answer that question. If your interviewer doesn’t ask, don’t leave the interview without bringing it up. “Before I leave, I would just like to let you know exactly how the company will benefit by bringing me on…”
But wait, there’s more!
These are just a few tips that will help you in your career. Please use common sense, take advantage of resources like the Career Center and think about everything from your employer’s perspective. It’s not rocket science.
Jesse Dundon graduated from Cal Poly with his B.S. in Industrial Technology in 2007 and M.S. in Industrial Technology in 2008. He is co-founder and CEO of HATHWAY, a creative agency that leverages open-source technology to provide web design, development and marketing services for businesses across the world. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.