We want to help you get where you want to go! USAO’s Career Services office specializes in assisting students and alumni of the University in the pursuit of individual career goals. We are available to assist interested students in finding employment throughout their collegiate career as well as upon graduation. USAO Career Services can help you identify your personality traits, interests, strengths, values and skills as they relate to making decisions about majors and career paths. We offer guidance in career planning and in job searches including creating and updating resumes, writing cover letters, enhancing interview skills and completing job applications properly.
Our services are designed to encourage students to make sound career decisions, set professional goals, obtain career-related work experience, maintain high levels of academic achievement and develop leadership opportunities in order to enhance their employment marketability.
- What attracted you to this company?
- Would you describe a typical workday and the things I would do?
- Which duties or responsibilities are most important for this job?
- What are the major challenges the new hire will face in this job?
- How will I be trained or introduced to the job?
- How long should it take for me to get my feet on the ground and become productive?
- Can you describe the ideal person for this job?
- What are the department’s goals for the year?
- How do my skills compare with other candidates for this position?
- Who are the key people I’d be working with and what do they do?
- Which employee do you rely upon most: What does he do and what makes him unique?
- How would I get feedback on my performance?
- If hired, would I report directly to you, or to someone else?
- Has the company had a layoff in the last few years?
- Please explain the opportunities for promotion or advancement in this department.
- How soon do you plan to fill this job?
Questions Not To Ask During An Interview
Don’t ask any questions about salary, wages, and holidays with pay, paid sick days, personal days, or time off. You’re looking for a job, not a vacation. Instead, wait for the manager to ask what kind of wage or salary you expect. Then, ask the manager what the standard wage is for someone with your skills and experience. This way, you’re forcing the manager to throw out the first figure.
The importance of a thank you letter cannot be emphasized enough. It is a must! Although it is easy to sit down and write a short note, hardly anyone does, and the moment you do, you set yourself aside from the crowd.
Send a thank you letter within 24 hours of the job interview. When a decision is being made quickly about a position, you want to get the letter into the hands of the employer as soon as possible. The faster the letter gets to its destination the greater the chance of creating a positive impression.
When writing a thank you letter, be sure to:
- Get the correct names, titles and contact details of the person or people who interviewed you. Always address a thank you letter to a specific individual, not just the general title of their position (i.e. “Director of Personnel”). If you did not get a business card or are unsure of the contact information, stop by the receptionist desk before leaving. Be sure their name is spelled correctly
- Make sure your thank you letter is business-like in appearance. It is good to print them on the same paper stock as your resume. If you are unable to do so, use good quality paper and envelopes. Avoid colored stationery - it looks unprofessional. If you have letterhead stationery use it.
- Spell check and proof-read all your correspondence. You can also ask someone else to proof it for you. That way you will be sure it's all correct. Spelling and grammatical errors are the easiest way to make a bad impression.
- Write individual letters to each person who interviewed you, keeping the essentials the same but briefly personalizing each one. You can also include anyone who helped you with setting up the interview.
All thank you letters should:
- be short and to the point
- express your appreciation for the interviewer's time and interest
- state briefly why you enjoyed the interview, the company and the job
- show enthusiasm for the job opportunity and highlight your desire to take the next step
- reiterate briefly your suitability by touching on specific job-related strengths. However don't oversell yourself, this distracts from the fact that it is a thank you letter and can make you look desperate
- mention anything pertinent that you forgot to discuss in the interview, but the focus should be on thanking the interviewer
How you close your interview thank you note is your choice. Acceptable closings include: "Sincerely," "Respectfully yours," "Kind regards," and "Yours truly,".
- Research the school/school board or general employer
- Learn as much as you can about the position
- Improve your appearance – get a haircut, manicure, shine your shoes, trim your nails, etc.
- Practice answering questions – Practice out loud, by yourself, book a mock interview to receive feedback
- Develop insightful questions to ask
- Review examples of your successes at work
- Confirm the time, date, place and details of the interview
- Get enough rest
- Be prepared for the unexpected
- Bring extra resumes
Arriving At The Interview
- Make sure you arrive 10-15 minutes early to the reception area
- Review your notes and resume
- Take a few deep breaths and relax
- No smoking beforehand; no gum or mints
During The Interview
- Be enthusiastic
- Offer a firm handshake
- Correctly pronounce the name of the interviewer
- Maintain good eye contact with all interviewers
- Focus on your ability to do the job. Do not talk about personal problems
- Be specific. Think of concrete examples that illustrate your skills
- Emphasize your qualifications
- Speak positively about co-workers and former employers
Closing The Interview
- Emphasize your interest
- Summarize your qualifications
- Thank the interviewer for the opportunity
- Find out when you can call to follow up and/or when they anticipate making a decision
- If offered the job, take time to evaluate it before accepting or rejecting
After The Interview
- Write and send a thank you letter within 24-48 hours
- Jot down your impressions of the interview and the job
- Review your performance and decide what you did well and what needs work
- Dress appropriately. Extremes in fashion or very casual clothes should generally be avoided. Err on the side of being conservative to show you take the interview seriously. Look neat and clean.
- Know the exact time and location of your interview; know how long it takes to get there, park, find a rest room to freshen up, etc.
- Be punctual. Make sure that you are 10 minutes early and if you are going to be unavoidably detained, call and let them know.
- Treat everyone you encounter with courtesy and respect. Their opinion of you might be solicited during the hiring decision.
- Offer a firm handshake and have a friendly expression when you are greeted by your interviewer.
- Listen to be sure you understand your interviewer’s name and the correct pronunciation.
- Even when the interviewer gives you a first and last name, address your interviewer by title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and last name until invited to do otherwise.
- Express yourself and your views clearly.
- Bring a copy of all relevant documents, so you can refer to them if necessary.
- Listen carefully to the questions and answer clearly and thoughtfully.
- Make eye-contact. Remember to talk to the person (not the top right hand corner of the room or at their shoes).
- Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching.
- Make sure you fully understand the question and query any point about which you may be doubtful.
- If you are being interviewed by a panel, ensure that you direct your answer to the person who asked the question, while still including the other interviewers by making brief eye contact.
- Ask questions. Selection is a two way process. They select you, but you also select them.
- Be Confident. Remember that you applied for the position because you thought that you could do it.
- Show enthusiasm for the company and the position.
- Remember that they already like you. Employers don’t interview everyone. They only interview those people who they think have the right skills and experience to succeed in the position. Consequently, in the interview, you maintain and improve on the positive image that you have already created.
- Make sure that you always present your skills in a positive light. Even when describing your weakness you should always show them what you are doing to rectify it.
- Make sure you have an idea about where you want to be in the future and can relate the future goals to your application for the present position. You must be able to answer the question “Where do you want to be in five years time?”
- After the interview, make notes right away so you don’t forget critical details.
- Write a thank-you letter to your interviewer promptly.
- Don’t dress too casually or look untidy.
- Don’t make derogatory remarks about past or present employers.
- Don’t fidget or twitch, try to control other nervous mannerisms.
- Conversely, don’t sit there like a statue. If you feel more comfortable talking with the aid of your hands for emphasis, then use them, but try not to be too excessive in your gestures.
- Don’t interrupt the interviewer before they have finished asking you a question and never finish their sentences for them.
- Don’t Lie. If you have to lie about what you are like or your abilities in order to obtain the job, you are likely to find yourself in a position you don’t really like and probably one in which you will have problems fulfilling successfully.
- Don’t worry if you answer one question badly. Treat each question individually. Remember that if you mess up the second question but answer the next 15 brilliantly they won’t place much emphasis on the second question, putting your poor answer down to nerves. If however, you get so caught up in chastising yourself for making a mistake, you will continue to make mistakes, have more problems thinking about your answer and finish feeling extremely anxious and knowing that you made a mess of the interview.
- Don’t talk about salary, holidays or bonuses unless they bring them up.
- Don’t answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Make sure that you explain your reasoning fully.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Don’t smoke even if invited to do so.
- Don’t take your spouse, child, parent, pet, friend or anyone else to an interview.
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- Tell me what you know about this company.
- Why did you decide to become a (snake charmer)?
- What skills or requirements do you think are needed for this job?
- What motivates you to do a good job?
- Why is customer service so important in business today?
- Why should I hire you instead of someone more qualified?
- Did you ever have a disagreement with your boss?
- Tell me about the toughest boss you ever worked for.
- What salary or wage are you looking for?
- Tell me about your current (or last) job.
- Why are you leaving that job?
- What will your manager say when you give notice that you’re leaving?
- Did you enjoy school?
- In school, which course did you find most difficult?
- Did you participate in any school activities?
- Do you plan to continue your education?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
- Last year, how many days of work (or school) did you miss? How many days were you late?
- What salary were you paid on your last job?
- As a youngster, what did you do to earn your own spending money?
- What do you do to relax after work?
- Are you at your best when working alone or in a group?
- Would you rather be in charge of a project or work as part of the team?
- Have you ever been fired from a job?
- Tell me about your strengths.
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me about your favorite accomplishment.
- Who did you ask to serve as a personal reference and why did you ask them?
- What are the three things you look for when considering a new job?
- How are you unique?
- Tell me how you keep a positive attitude when the job gets stressful?
- Please tell me about a time when you had to motivate a coworker.
- Can you tell me about a goal you set for yourself?
- Describe a problem you faced and how you solve that problem.
- If you were told to report to a supervisor who was a woman, a minority, or someone with a physical disability, what problems would this cause for you?
- Tell me what would you do if one supervisor told you to do something, and another supervisor told you not to do it?
- Tell me about a time when you broke the rules.
- Can you tell me about a time when a supervisor was not pleased with your work?
- Tell me about a time when you were swamped with work and how you handled it.
- Please tell me about a time when you showed initiative at work.
- Describe a difficult decision you had to make.
- Tell me about a time when you failed.
- Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult person.
- Please tell me about a time when you were disappointed.
- Tell me about a project you worked on.
- Tell me where you expect to be 5 years from now.
- Are there any questions I didn’t ask, that I should have asked?
- Okay, you’ve got one minute to convince me that you’re the best person for this job. Begin.
- Do you have any questions for me?
- Suit: Knee-length skirt or pant suit.
- Colors: Navy or medium blue, medium to charcoal gray, wine, black.
- Pattern: Solid or pinstripe.
- Fabric: Linen (spring and summer), wool/polyester blend (year-round), or all wool (winter).
- Blouse: Are best in solid colors and tailored – natural fabrics (cotton and silk. You also may coordinate a silk scarf.
- Shoes: Wear flat shoes or low pumps in a plain, dark color – avoid making your feet a focal point. Be sure they are clean and polished. Avoid shoes that hinder walking fast. Shoes should be closed heel and toe.
- Nylons: always wear nylons to an interview. Wear plain-style, non-patterned nylons and select colors that flatter your coloring. For traditional industries, wear a neutral color. For other industries you may choose to wear nylons that coordinate with your skirt. Carr an extra pair in case of runs.
- Jewelry: Simple, at most a necklace, one pair of simple earrings, a watch and one ring per hand – gaudy or too much jewelry is considered unprofessional. Avoid dangly earrings.
- Makeup: Natural looking, conservatively applied – no heavy lipstick or eye makeup.
- Hair: Neatly styled.
- Perfume: Use little or none – some people are allergic to it and some organizations have a scent free policy.
- Nails: Clear polish or a French manicure is best.
- Portfolio: Black or burgundy leather and no handbag. Transfer essential items to portfolio.
- Avoid bright colors (red may be appropriate, depending on the employer).
- Suit: A two-piece conservative suit.
- Tie: Solid color, small dot or paisley or conservative stripe. (Here is your chance to use color!) Make sure that your tie is the correct length.
- Shirt: Long sleeve, preferably white or light blue.
- Socks: Long and dark (coordinate with suit) – make sure no skin is visible when you sit down; mid-calf is usually appropriate.
- Shoes: Black, polished.
- Belt: Should match or complement the shoes you select.
- Jewelry: Very little – watch; one ring per hand.
- Hair: Conservative length and style.
- Beards and mustaches, if worn, should be trimmed and well-groomed.
- No heavy cologne or aftershave.
- Save the hats for the game.
- Trim your nails.
- Empty your pockets. No bulges to ruin your profile and no jingling change.
WRITING A RESUME
- Margins – Keep a one-inch margin on all four sides of the page
- Setup – Single space within sections. Double space between sections.
- Name – Biggest thing on the page
- Easy to scan – Information should be organized and highlighted using capitalizations, headlines, underlining, italics, bold print and marginal descriptions
- Short sentences – Use incomplete sentences or phrases
- Abbreviations – Do not use them. Type everything out.
- Font size – 12 pt (no smaller than 11 pt)
- Font – Some acceptable fonts are: Arial, Times, Courier, Palatino, New Century Schoolbook, Helvetica
- Verb structure/tense – Make sure to use past tense verbs for previous jobs and present tense verbs for current jobs.
- Paper – Print your resume on a laser printer and never send a photocopy. Use good quality bond paper. Use a conservative color of paper – white, ivory, beige, light gray. Have extra for your typed cover letter and follow up letter.
- Mailing – Do not staple your resume or put it in fancy binders. Do not fold your resume if you have to mail it.
- Length – Keep to one page. If absolutely necessary you may use a second page, but no more. Ensure that the second page is filled up and there is not a lot of white space.
- Edit, re-edit, have others edit, edit again.
- Personal data – Be sure not to include information that may be discriminatory. Federal legislation makes it illegal for employers to request information about age, sex, marital status, race, religion, national origin, date or place of birth, until you are hired.
- References – Do not include the phrase “References are available upon request” at the end of your resume. It is assumed that you will come to an interview with a prepared list of references.
You can create a resume that makes you stand out as a superior candidate for a job you are seeking! Even if you face fierce competition, with a well written resume you should be invited to interview more often than many people more qualified than you.
To do this, let’s take a look at the purpose of your resume. Why do you have a resume in the first place? What is it supposed to do for you?
THE NUMBER ONE PURPOSE OF A RESUME
The resume is a tool with one specific purpose: to win an interview. A resume is an advertisement, nothing more, nothing less.
A great resume doesn’t just tell them what you have done but makes the same assertion that all good ads do: If you buy this product, you will get these specific, direct benefits. It presents you in the best light. It convinces the employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this new position or career. It inspires the prospective employer to pick up the phone and ask you to come in for an interview.
Research tells us that your resume will be quickly scanned, rather than read. Ten to 20 seconds is all the time you have to persuade a prospective employer to read further. What this means is that the decision to interview a candidate is usually based on an overall first impression of the resume, a quick screening that so impresses the reader and convinces them of the candidate’s qualifications that an interview results. As a result, the top half of the first page of your resume will either make you or break you. By the time they have read the first few lines, you have either caught their interest, or your resume has failed.
FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYER’S NEEDS, NOT YOURS
Imagine that you are the person doing the hiring. This person is not some anonymous paper pusher deep in the bowels of the personnel department. Usually, the person who makes the hiring decision is also the person who is responsible for the bottom line productivity of the project or group you hope to join. This is a person who cares deeply how well the job will be done. You need to write your resume to appeal directly to them.
Ask yourself: What would make someone the perfect candidate? What does the employer really want? What special abilities would this person have? What would set a truly exceptional candidate apart from a merely good one?
Putting yourself in the moccasins of the person doing the hiring is the first, and most important, step in writing a resume that markets you rather than describes your history. Every step in producing a finished document should be part of your overall intention to convey to the prospective employer that you are a truly exceptional candidate.
A FEW GUIDELINES FOR A BETTER PRESENTATION
The resume is visually enticing, a work of art. Simple clean structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded.
There is uniformity and consistency in the use of italics, capital letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining. Absolute parallelism in design decisions. For example, if a period is at the end of one job’s dates, a period should be at the end of all jobs’ dates; if one degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface.
As mentioned above, the resume’s first impression is most important. It should be exceptionally visually appealing, to be inviting to the reader. Remember to think of the resume as an advertisement.
There are absolutely no errors. No typographical errors. No spelling errors. No grammar, syntax, or punctuation errors. No errors of fact.
All the basic, expected information is included. A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional, targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.
Jobs listed include a title, the name of the firm, the city and state of the firm, and the years. Jobs earlier in a career can be summarized, or omitted if prior to the highest degree, and extra part-time jobs can be omitted. If no educational degrees have been completed, it is still expected to include some mention of education (professional study or training, partial study toward a degree, etc.) acquired after high school.
Use power words. For every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.
Writing is concise and to the point. Keep sentences as short and direct as possible. Eliminate any extraneous information and any repetitions. Don’t use three examples when one will suffice. Say what you want to say in the most direct way possible, rather than trying to impress with bigger words or more complex sentences. For example: “coordinated eight city-wide fund-raising events, raising 250% more than expected goal” rather than “was involved in the coordination of six fund- raising dinners and two fund-raising walkathons which attracted participants throughout St. Louis and were so extremely successful that they raised $5,000 (well beyond the $2,000 goal).”
Vary long sentences (if these are really necessary) with short punchy sentences. Use phrases rather than full sentences when phrases are possible, and start sentences with verbs, eliminating pronouns (“I”, “he” or “she”). Vary words: Don’t repeat a “power” verb or adjective in the same paragraph. Use commas to clarify meaning and make reading easier. Remain consistent in writing decisions such as use of abbreviations and capitalizations.
Make it look great. Use a laser printer or an ink jet printer that produces high- quality results. A laser is best because the ink won’t run if it gets wet. It should look typeset. Do not compromise. Use a standard conservative typeface (font) in 11 or 12 point. Don’t make them squint to read it. Use off-white, ivory or bright white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper, in the highest quality affordable. Don’t have your resume look like you squeezed too much on the page.
Shorter is usually better. Everyone freely gives advice on resume length. Most of these self-declared experts say a resume should always be one page. That makes no more sense than it does to say an ad or a poem should automatically be one page. Don’t blindly follow rules! Do what works. Sometimes it is appropriate to have a three pager. But unless your life has been filled with a wide assortment of extraordinary achievements, make it shorter. One page is best if you can cram it all into one page. Most Fortune 500 C.E.O.s have a one- or two-page resume. It could be said that, the larger your accomplishments, the easier to communicate them in few words. The only useful rule is to not write one more word than you need to get them to pick up the phone and call you. Don’t bore them with the details. Leave them wanting more. Remember, this is an ad to market you, not your life history.
Watch your verb tense. Use either the first person (“I”) or the third person (”he,” “she”) point of view, but use whichever you choose consistently. Verb tenses are based on accurate reporting: If the accomplishment is completed, it should be past tense. If the task is still underway, it should be present tense. If the skill has been used in the past and will continue to be used, use present tense (“conduct presentations on member recruitment to professional and trade associations”). A way of “smoothing out” transitions is to use the past continuous (“have conducted more than 20 presentations…”).
Telephone number that will be answered. Be sure the phone number on the resume will, without exception, be answered by a person or an answering machine Monday through Friday 8-5pm. You do not want to lose the prize interview merely because there was no answer to your phone, and the caller gave up. Include the area code of the telephone number. If you don’t have an answering machine, get one. Include e-mail and fax numbers, if you have them.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Use bold caps for your name on page one. Put your name at the top of page two on a two-page resume. Put section headings, skill headings, titles or companies (if impressive), degrees, and school name, in boldface.
Spell out numbers under and including ten; use the numerical form for numbers over and including 11 (as a general rule), unless they are the first words in a sentence. Spell out abbreviations unless they are unquestionably obvious.
WHAT NOT TO PUT ON A RESUME
- The word “Resume” at the top of the resume
- Fluffy rambling “objective” statements
- Salary information
- Full addresses of former employers
- Reasons for leaving jobs
- A “Personal” section, or personal statistics (except in special cases)
- Names of supervisors
Step 1. Self Assessment
To prepare for an effective job search, you must understand your abilities, talents, interests, values, needs, and goals. Although this sounds basic, it is an important but often forgotten step. You must know yourself to the extent that you can look a prospective employer in the eye and tell him/her what professional and personal skills and characteristics you have that qualify you for the position for which you are applying. Many students underestimate themselves. Take a personal inventory of your:
- education: favorite subjects, best subjects, academic achievements
- abilities: organizational, interpersonal, artistic, creative
- paid/volunteer experience: duties and levels of responsibility, variety of experiences, accomplishments
- interests and hobbies: community involvement, recreational activities, awards
- goals: type of lifestyle, what you want to accomplish
It is very important that you are honest with yourself when doing your self-assessment. Be aware of personal likes and dislikes as well as possible weaknesses or liabilities. A self-assessment is the foundation of your job search.
Step 2: Career Identification And Employment Research
Before beginning a job search, you must know what type of employment you are seeking. What career fields interest you? The familiar responses, "I want to work with people" or "I'm interested in making a lot of money" or "I want something in sociology'' are all inadequate definitions of career identification.
If you want to work with people, for example, do you want to gather information from people by talking to them as a newspaper reporter does, investigate people through contact with other people as a law enforcement officer does, or influence the attitudes and ideas of others as a salesperson does?
In addition to your immediate career objectives, you should also be thinking about career goals. You do not necessarily have to know exactly where you want to be five years after graduation, but you should have a general picture of an occupational interest for the next few years. In order to know how your abilities and interests can be put to best use in the job market, you need to know the types and functions of entry-level positions for your chosen field(s), their availability and location, starting salary ranges, current trends and issues, and potential career progressions.
To plan your job search campaign and to effectively sell yourself, you need to identify employers and know specific information about each organization (e.g., size and location[s] of operations, products/services, history, prospects for growth, present employment picture, a general view of the department in which you would like to work, and advancement opportunities). Three good ways to research in careers and employers are described below.
To research careers and employers, take advantage of the resources that are available in the Career Services Office. Additional resources are available on the Internet. On-line assistance includes company/ school information, job listings, employer directories, discussion groups for networking, and resume data bases.
To increase your awareness about professional opportunities and career fields, conduct a campaign of information interviews with people directly involved in areas of your interest.
Networking means making contacts, creating alliances, building support groups and befriending other people with similar professional interests. This process is an important part of your career development and may ultimately net you a job.
Step 3: Contacting Employers
The first thing you should realize before launching your job search campaign is that each type of employment has its own unique style of hiring. The hiring methods of advertising agencies differ from those of newspapers. Similarly, the hiring methods of newspapers differ from those of public accounting firms, which differ from those of educational institutions. In addition, large, complex organizations often use different hiring procedures to fill different types of positions. Therefore, job seekers should use a variety of methods to contact prospective employers, rather than limiting themselves to one method. On campus interviewing, for example, is often viewed as the only way to get a job... yet not all employers recruit on campus for all of their personnel needs. Other effective approaches which can be used in your job search include:
- contacting organizations directly through a mail/e-mail campaign, a personal visit or through their Web site;
- networking or utilizing your contacts with faculty, alumni, family, and friends as well as employers in organizations where you have worked or volunteered;
- responding to vacancies announced on the Career Services job board, in professional journals, in newspaper classified advertisements and on various Internet sites.
Regardless of your career interest, it is important for you to let as many potential employers as possible know who you are, what you can do, and why you are interested in their organizations. The more specific you can be in discussing why you are interested in them and what you can contribute to their organizations, the more effective your contact will be. The Career Services staff can help you to identify the most effective methods of contacting potential employers in your field and to plan your individual job search campaign.
Looking for a job is seldom easy for any student. For an international student, the job search process can be especially confusing. There are many things you may not be aware of or are unsure about.
It is the employer’s responsibility to find the right people for his or her company
– not to help you find a job. The interview is successful when both of you see a match
between the employer’s needs and your interest and ability to do the job. You can
help the employer make informed hiring decisions if you:
~ Provide a well-prepared resume that includes desirable skills and relevant employment experiences.
~ Clearly convey your interests and ability to do the job in an interview.
~ Understand English when spoken to you and can effectively express your thoughts in English.
It’s important to be able to positively promote yourself and talk with confidence about your education, relevant skills and related experiences. Self-promotion is rarely easy for anyone but, it can be especially difficult for individuals from cultures where talking about yourself is considered inappropriate. When interviewing in the United States, however, you are expected to be able to explain your credentials and why you are suitable for the position.
Be sensitive to the interviewer’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Some international students may not realize when their accent is causing them to be misunderstood. Interviewers are sometimes too embarrassed or impatient to ask for clarifications, so be on the lookout for nonverbal clues, such as follow-up questions that don’t match your responses or sudden disinterest on the part of the interviewer. Also, make sure you express proper nonverbal communication; always look directly at the employer in order to portray confidence and honesty.
If your English language skills need some work, get involved with campus and community activities. These events will allow you to practice speaking English and are also a great way to make networking contacts.
It’s a good idea to get advice from other international students who have successfully found employment in this country and to start your job search early. Create and follow a detailed plan of action that will lead you to a great job.
- Typed. Never written.
- Error free. Check grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Print on good quality, bond paper. Use the same paper as you use for your resume, as well as the same font.
- Always address your letter to a specific person, preferably, the person who is doing the hiring. If you are unsure of the appropriate name or title, call and find out or go to the website. Do not guess. Make sure the persons name, title, and address are accurate and spelled correctly.
- Be sure to include the date.
- Use a colon after the salutation, not a comma.
- Highlight three to five key pints form your resume and use key words and phrases.
- Single space within paragraphs and double space between them.
- Keep your cover letter short and to the point. (Usually 3-4 paragraphs)
- Keep your letter in present tense. Avoid the passive voice.
- Tailor your letter to each employer you send it to. Avoid writing a generic letter.
- Sign the letter and paperclip it on top of your resume.
Writing a cover letter can be a very daunting task. Unfortunately, at one time or another, we have all found ourselves following the Ten Most Common Steps to Writing.
Step 1: Panic
Step 2: Procrastinate
Step 3: Divert
Step 4: Delegate
Step 5: Panic again
Step 6,7,8: Shake, rattle, and roll
Step 9: The mad dash
Step 10: Mail, hope, and pray
If these are the steps you commonly go through when writing, there is hope. With some simple skills you can easily write a cover letter that will set you apart from other applicants. It’s not as hard as you think. And luckily, you don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist or use eight four-syllable words per paragraph.
How to Set up the Page
Use white or ivory paper only.
Write your address, personal telephone number, email address, and the date, in that order, in the top right-hand corner.
Below your address, on the left-hand margin, write the name, title, and address of the person to whom you are sending the letter.
Get the first and last name of the person you are addressing it to.
Skip a line. Write “Dear……” then skip a line and begin writing. Do not use “Miss” or “Mrs.” unless you have received correspondence from this person and can confirm which salutation she uses. If you cannot confirm, address her as “Ms.”
Send an original, signed letter. Not a photocopy.
What to Include
Stick to three or four short paragraphs. In the first paragraph tell about who you are and why you are writing. Avoid irrelevant information, jargons, and clichés. In the second paragraph tell about your professional skills and academic qualifications. The third paragraph will be used to explain why you would be an asset to the prospective employer. It is an opportunity to show how much you know about the company and why you will be a great match. Request that the company schedule an interview with you or contact you about your application in the fourth paragraph. Then, end the letter with a brief sentence thanking the reader for his or her time. Skip two lines and write, “Yours truly.” Skip three to five lines, and sign your name.
- Use the same paper and font as you did on your resume.
- Format your reference page just like your resume. Provide your contact information at the top of the page along with your name.
- In bold, title the page “References”.
- Arrange your contacts on your list by your strongest and most impressive contact first.
- For each reference you have, include the person’s name (in bold text), title, company name, address, and telephone number.
- Center references down the middle, flush left, or in two columns.
A reference page is something you want to have prepared to provide employers during your job interview. Don’t include the reference list when you send your resume or list references on your resume. Also, do not put “References Available Upon Request” at the bottom of your resume.
Your reference page should include three to six people. Generally, if using six references, you want to include three personal references and three professional references. Professional references could be a former supervisor, your current boss (but ONLY if that boss knows you’re looking for another job), colleagues in your field, or people you have worked with in the past. If you are a new graduate and don’t have any professional references, contact an old professor, group leader that you have worked with, someone you volunteered with, or head of an organization you were involved with on campus. Other good references might include prominent people who know you, such as an attorney, a banker, a doctor, a member of the clergy, or a local business owner.
Always ask before offering someone’s name as a job reference. Those who agree to serve as references almost always give a better recommendation than those who are not asked. Those who are NOT asked are often caught off guard. Be sure when you ask them that you get their most up-to-date contact information, including phone number, address, email (optional), employer and title. It is also a good idea to send them a copy of your resume
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