Northeast Iowa Community College Career Services
Resume and Interviewing Guide
TABLE OF CONTENTS Part 1 – Resume Guide ............................................................................................... 2 The Resume .............................................................................................................. 2 The Cover Letter ........................................................................................................ 4 References................................................................................................................. 6 Job Applications ......................................................................................................... 7 Part 2 – Interviewing Guide ...................................................................................... 10 Before the Interview ................................................................................................. 10 Dress and Grooming ................................................................................................ 10 What to Bring to the Interview .................................................................................. 11 The Interview ........................................................................................................... 11 Post Interview .......................................................................................................... 14 What to Avoid in a Job Search ................................................................................. 15
PART 1 - RESUME GUIDE The Resume In most job searches, the resume is required, and often the employer’s first look at you. Done well, the resume will get you interviews, and ultimately a job.
Getting Started One page is best. Two is okay if you have extensive experience or advanced education. Be concise. Be honest, but focus on the positives. Avoid using resume templates available on word processing software. These are too limiting and do not allow for needed customizing/editing. You can save your resume in a “PDF” format prior to emailing or uploading to an online application. Do not use “I” in a resume. This would only be acceptable in your Summary or Objective. Making use of elements like bullets, bolding, underlining can help resume sections stand out, but be cautious not to overuse. Use heavyweight white paper, however standard white copy paper has become more acceptable as companies are becoming more “green” and often electronic resumes may be required. If you have the option to send your resume electronically, do so, but still follow-up by mailing a hard copy. Use white space to set off the copy, but avoid large blocks of white space. Arrange categories or headings from most to least relevant. Your name should be bold and large at the top (use a larger than 12 font). Include the “month and year” when listing past employment. Use consistent abbreviations (for your state abbreviation, use IA, not Ia). Reverse chronological order on everything, from colleges attended, to jobs or offices held, and volunteer activities is the most preferred method of organizing a resume. Job duties should be listed in a consistent format—verb and object. List references on a separate page with contact information the same as on resume. Proofread and have someone else proofread. (Make it a perfect and professional summary!) Page 2
Resume Format CONTACT INFORMATION At the top, include your name, address, phone number, and email address. Your email address should be professional only using your name and a number if needed. OBJECTIVE This statement is okay, but not required. Some people like to state their career objective in the cover letter. A specific detailed objective directed to the job or your career is better than a broad statement. SUMMARY/CAREER SUMMARY This statement may be used instead of an objective statement. In three or four sentences or bulleted points, this summary briefly highlights accomplishments. Used by more experienced job-seekers. EDUCATION List it before your “experience section” if you are a new graduate. People with some experience usually list their experience first, then their education. Listing your high school is not necessary.. WORK EXPERIENCE/PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE This is paid experience. You can include jobs, internships, clinicals, co-ops, and on the job training if they were paid. Otherwise have a section called INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE (or appropriate name for unpaid work experience). Listing achievements is better than responsibilities. Think about how the company can benefit by having you. Tell them what you have accomplished. Chronological Format (Most recent job first followed by previous jobs) is the most common way to list experience, and the most preferred format. Functional or Skills-Focused Format highlights skills and accomplishments first, and then lists employment history. This format is often used by career changers, or those with gaps in their work history. Not liked by some employers. Combination Format combines the best of the Chronological and Skills-Focused Resume. In any case, your work experience section should use action verbs such as: organized, developed, wrote, planned, coordinated, to show how your past work/experience relates specifically to the job opening. Highlight what you have learned, your responsibilities, skills, specific accomplishments, and results obtained. Include volunteer work. SKILLS SECTION This section is optional; you can list skills that relate to the job and any additional training such as: Trained in crisis intervention, Certified Welder, Speak fluent Spanish. PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS/AWARDS/HONORS/PUBLICATIONS List any professional organizations you belong to and any awards, honors or publications. VOLUNTEER/PERSONAL ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES You can leave this off unless it directly relates to the job for which you are applying.
The Cover Letter A well-written professional cover letter is a key component of any job search. If you have never met or spoken to the employer, your cover letter represents the first impression of who you are. Be brief, and be specific on how your skills match the needs to the position. How are you a great fit? The stationery for cover letters and your resume should be the same. Start your letter “five spaces from the top” and/or centered on the page. Mail your cover letter, resume, application & references in an 8 1/2 x 11 envelope. You can also email or upload your cover letter as an attachment if you are sending your application electronically. Proofread your cover letter. Have another person proofread. Glaring mistakes in grammar can really hurt your chance for an interview. Read your cover letter “out loud” to see how it sounds. Pay as much attention to your cover letter’s appearance as your resume, and make the font size and style the same as your resume. Address the letter to the specific contact person. If you do not know the contact person’s name, addressing the letter in a general tone like, “Human Resources,” is okay, but it is best to know the contact person. A new cover letter should be written for each job you apply for. Avoid the habit of writing a generic letter for all job openings. Be brief. About three to four paragraphs is best. Pick out some key requirements of the job and write about how your skills match those requirements. Make them want to know more about you. Finish the letter by requesting an interview and saying you will call them in a week or two as a follow-up. Sign your letter for mailing, or you can create an electronic signature for submitting or uploading online or by email. If you are applying online, most online applications allow you to upload a cover letter in addition to your resume.
Cover Letter Format
Your Address City, State Zip Current Date Employerâ€™s Name Employerâ€™s Title Company Name Company Address City, State Zip Dear Mr. or Ms.______________: Your first paragraph explains why you are writing. State that you are interested in their job opening as advertised. State your interest in this career or job and how you learned about the opening. The second paragraph explains how your qualifications relate to the job opening. Try to be specific in pointing out your strongest qualifications. You want to show the employer what you have to offer and what you can do for the company. Recent graduates can speak of their academic background and how it relates to the position, while graduates with experience can point out academic as well as career/job skills. In the third paragraph, refer the reader to your resume you are enclosing. Ask for a personal interview at their convenience. Repeat your phone number in this paragraph and tell how you can be easily reached. Your email address can also be included. Thank the employer in a final sentence. Sincerely, Your Signature Your name typed
References References are typically called after your interview, and may be critical to your getting a job offer. Choose references that can speak positively about your skills. References are usually called by phone to briefly discuss your skills Use professional references who know your skills (academic and work related), experience, character and accomplishments. Ask people like teachers, employers, and friends, but not relatives. Do not list references on your resume. Put references on a separate sheet which is the same stationery and font as your resume. Type your contact information on the top of your reference sheet; the same as the contact information on your resume. Ask permission to use someone as a reference. List their name, professional title, business phone and address---home phone numbers are usually not necessary, unless requested by your reference. Tell your references about each job you apply for ahead of time. Generally, three references are enough, unless the employer asks for more. Employment ads often request references, so send them with your resume and cover letter. Also, application forms usually request references. It does not hurt to include your references right away when applying, even if not requested. Employers generally call on references as they get closer to hiring. If an employer did not request references, it is a good idea to volunteer references during an interview or when following up after an interview. This demonstrates initiative and motivates the employer to call people who support you for the job.
Reference’s Name Job Title Employer Employer Address Phone (Typically their work phone or personal phone if desired.)
Job Applications Employers use job applications to gather information about your qualifications, and to compare you to other applicants. They will screen out applicants based on various factors in the application. Read and follow directions carefully. Avoid having your application rejected because you filled it out incorrectly. Read the entire application before you complete it. Pay close attention to what is being asked and how you are expected to respond. Fill it out neatly. Most applications are available online. Make sure your application creates the best impression and provides the information that the employer needs to determine your qualifications. Prepare a personal data sheet with information that might be required on an application: dates, names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. You can refer to this data sheet as you fill out the application to reduce the potential for errors. If the application is a hard copy, write out responses using a separate sheet of paper before completing the application. An alternative is to get two copies of the application and use the first as a rough draft. Complete the application online, if available, and type your application. Make sure that you have no grammar or spelling errors. Have someone proofread it. Do not use abbreviations, except for "n/a" (not applicable). Respond to all questions. If a question does not apply to you, use "n/a" to indicate that it is not applicable. This shows the employer that you did not overlook anything.
Electronic Applications Online applications provide the employer with: Compliance to rules and regulations in applicant screening Equity in the screening process Ensuring selection standards are met by applicants Proofread your electronic application just as you would any hard copy. If the electronic application allows you to upload a resume, do so, and make sure you upload in the format indicated. Also, if the application allows for copy and pasting, be sure you review how you resume uploaded and correct any formatting issues. (Kathy Weber, Northeast Iowa Community College)
Questions on an Application Position desired: When answering the question, "Position Desired?” avoid leaving it blank. Also, do not use the responses "Any" or "Open." If the job is an advertised job, or if you are looking for a specific position, enter that job title. When you are not applying for a specific position, state the name of the department in which you wish to work. If you are interested in more than one job, fill out more than one application. Salary requirements: Employers may use this question to screen out applicants. It is best to give a salary range or to respond with "negotiable." Use one of these responses even if you know the wage. This leaves you room to negotiate a higher wage. Reasons for leaving: Choose your words carefully when responding to this question. Avoid using the words "Fired," "Quit," "Illness," or "Personal Reasons." These responses may reduce your chances of being hired. Always look for positive statements to use in answering this question. Here are some possible ways to handle this question: If you were fired: Do not use the terms "fired" or "terminated." Instead, use a phrase that sounds neutral such as "involuntary separation." You may want to call past employers to find out what they will say in response to reference checks. When contacting past employers, reintroduce yourself and explain that you are looking for a new job. Find out what they say when asked why you left their employment. Be honest that your termination hurts your chances of getting another job. Usually, past employers will agree to use the term "resigned." This response saves them potential headaches and even lawsuits. If you quit your job: Use the term "resigned" or "voluntarily separated." These responses indicate that you followed proper procedures in leaving the job. If the application asks for a reason (or if you are asked in the job interview), you can respond as follows: If you quit for a better job: This response includes: leaving for advancement potential, leaving to work closer to home, leaving for a better work environment, or leaving for a career change. If you quit for a better job, there should not be a long break in employment; your employment history should support the statement. Quit to move to another area. Quit to attend school. If you use this reason, the education listed on your application and/or resume must reflect it. Other reasons, such as: took an extended vacation/sabbatical, did volunteer work, started own business, raised family. If you were laid off from a job due to no fault of your own: Indicate the reason for the layoff. Here are some possible phrases to use: Lack of work Company downsized Temporary employment
Seasonal employment Company closed Plant closing Page 8
References: Most applications will ask for references, usually three professional references. Illegal Questions: Applications may contain questions that are illegal to ask before a conditional offer of employment. These include questions about the following subjects: race, color, religion, creed, national origin, public assistance, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, disability. You need to decide how you will respond. If the question does not bother you, answer it. If it does, you can use "n/a". But be aware that you may get screened out by having too many of these responses. If possible, you may also decide to choose a different employer.
Be Positive and Honest During your job search, you want to present a positive, honest picture of yourself. Avoid any negative information. Honestly answer all questions. The information that you provide may become part of your permanent employment record. False information can become the basis for dismissal. Provide only the information that the employer is seeking or that is necessary to sell your qualifications.
Summing it Up When mailing your resume, always send it with a cover letter to a specific contact person or human resources. Mass-mailing your resume to employers does not work. Target a smaller pool of employers instead of haphazardly mass mailing your resume or applying for positions. Follow up your resume submissions with a phone call to the employer. Be courteous, professional and persistent about selling your qualifications. Be sure to ask for an interview. When directly contacting employers, always have a copy of your resume available and take the initiative to offer it to them. When applying for a job with an employment application, uploading or attaching your resume is a good idea and may be required. The resume will add impact and should complement the application. if you are asked to fill out an application, never write on it "see resume" filling out the entire application is still required. Tell your references when you apply for a job and give a copy of your resume to your references. It provides them with information about you and will help them to talk to an employer about your qualifications. Bring extra copies of your resume to an interview. Seek out the help of NICC Career Services if you are not getting interviews or not getting hired after interviewing, and we can help you determine how to improve your job search.
PART 2 - INTERVIEWING GUIDE First and foremost, don’t be nervous! Think of interviewing as a conversation. Employers are learning about you and your qualifications, and you are evaluating the employer to see if you “fit in.”
Before the Interview Learn as much as you can about the company. The company website or other social media sites are the best way to do your research. If you know someone who works there ask them about the company, culture and what they like about the organization. Remember: “The more you know, the less you fear.” Think about why you are the best for the job. (Re-evaluate what you stated in your cover letter about how your skills and experience match the job.) Review interview questions and think about how to respond. Practice. Write down any questions. You may think of more during the interview.
Dress and Grooming Dress for the interview and the job do not overdress or look too informal. A general rule is to dress how your supervisor would dress for a formal meeting.
First impressions are critical, build a wardrobe you can use!
Buy items you can build on. Look for clearance sales after holidays. Blend socks and hose to pants and shoes. Do not decide to express your individuality during the interview process. Learn about the company dress code before the interview. Remember: It is always better to be overdressed versus underdressed. In most jobs, you will dress different for the interview than you do in the workplace, so don’t buy an entire wardrobe of interviewing outfits. Make sure clothes fit; clothes that are too big look sloppy, too small look unprofessional. BE COMFORTABLE!
Dos & Don’ts for Everyone Do: Keep your nails trim and clean. Keep hair-simple styles, clean, conservative. Pay attention to your mannerisms, and how you look when sitting. Have shoes polished, not scuffed. Make sure your clothes are clean and pressed. Keep rings and jewelry to a minimum. Stick with neutral colors. Make sure you are comfortable while sitting. Page 10
Don’t: Wear a t-shirt, jeans or a hat, even just to pick up an application. Wear earrings, at all (men) or wear big and flashy earrings (women). Have a body piercing or tattoo showing. Wear a lot of perfume or cologne. Chew gum or candy.
Shoes no higher than a three inch heel. Solid color, conservative suit. Coordinated blouse. Moderate shoes. Tan or light hosiery. Skirt length should be a little below the knee and never shorter than above the knee -- no night club attire here.
Solid color, conservative suit. Do not sit in your suit while driving. Do not wear novelty ties, wear a conservative tie. Make sure pants are the right length. White long sleeve shirt. Your belt should always match your shoes. Dark socks and professional shoes. Facial hair should be neatly trimmed.
What to Bring to the Interview 1. Extra resumes and current references. 2. Samples of your work or portfolio, if practical or appropriate. 3. A professional folder to hold your materials and a nice pen.
The Interview Be Ready Arrive 15 minutes and go alone. Leave your cell phone in the car; don’t take the chance that you turned your cell phone off only to have it ring during the interview! Anticipate that you may be interviewing with more than one person. Interviews may be one-on-one, with a panel, by phone/video phone or during lunch. Stand up, smile, and maintain eye contact during introductions. Have a firm handshake and greet the interviewer by his/her full name. Speak briefly about the weather, sports or the economy. This makes both of you more comfortable. (Avoid speaking about politics or religion) Page 11
Sit down and face the interviewer. Assume an open position: arms at your sides, feet firmly on the floor with your upper-body leaning forward a bit. Keep your head up and maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Speak with confidence and pride in your skills and accomplishments.
Questions the Employer May Ask 1. Tell me about yourself? To this question, speak briefly about your background, education, experience, skills, and accomplishments as they relate to the position. This may be a question you will need to write out ahead of time, and rehearse, 2. Why did you choose to interview with our company? 3. Describe your ideal job? 4. What can you offer us? 5. What skills have you developed? 6. What did you enjoy most/least about your last place of employment? 7. What do you consider to be your greatest strengths/weaknesses? 8. What do you expect from a boss? 9. What do you know about our company (product or service)? 10. Have you worked under deadline pressure? When? 11. Are you able to work on several assignments at once? 12. How do you feel about working in a structured environment? 13. How do you feel about working overtime? 14. What problems have you solved in your previous positions? 15. Have you ever done any volunteer work? 16. Have you ever had any failures? 17. How do others describe you? Your past coworker? Your past boss? 18. Where do you see yourself in three years? 19. If you were hired, what ideas/talents could you contribute to the position or our company? 20. Give an example where you showed leadership and initiative. 21. Given an example of when you were able to contribute to a team project. 22. Do you have any questions for us?
Questions You Can Ask (be respectful of the employer’s time – rule of thumb: don’t ask more than three questions) 1. Could you describe the duties of the job for me? 2. What assignments might I expect the first several months of the job? 3. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job? 4. Does your company encourage further education? 5. How often are performance reviews given? 6. Do you have plans for expansion? 7. Is this a new position or am I replacing someone? 8. What is the largest single problem facing your staff now? 9. What is the usual promotional time frame? 10. What do you like best about your company? 11. What qualities are you seeking in a candidate who fills this position? 12. Where does this position fit into the organizational structure? Page 12
13. How much travel, if any, is involved in this position? 14. What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you? 15. How is this position evaluated? 16. Where would I work? May I tour the facilities? 17. Tell me about your own experience with the company. What do you enjoy the most?
Behavior Based Interview Questions Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Employers identify key skills for the position, ask questions based on those skills, and look for weaknesses or strengths in your past behavior. Questions are open-ended such as: Sales skills: “Give me an example of your best sales achievement?” Conflict: “Tell me how you handled a difficult boss or fellow employee? Flexibility skills: “Tell me about a specific time when you had your calendar set for the day, then something came up where you had to change your whole schedule?” Employers look for specifics: dates, times, people, scenarios. Then the employer knows your story is true. (Do not be too general) If you do not have a real life example, you may give a hypothetical example, but try to give a real experience. With these types of questions, it is wise to tell of your strengths, be positive! Some behavioral interview questions try to get at how you responded to negative situations. You will want examples of negative experiences, but choose negative experiences that you corrected or had positive outcomes. These interviews can sometimes be “shorter” because questions are more focused and structured. The interview is less likely to go off on a tangent. These types of interviews show how important it is to PREPARE, and TAKE TIME TO ANSWER. (Observe the 10 second rule and STAR Principle) Do not take more than 10 seconds to answer a question. Ten seconds is a “long” time to answer an interview question. The STAR Principle below: S –Specifics of the past situation—people, dates, time, location. T –Task you had to do—“Worked on a research project with another student.” A –Action that you took—“Surveyed first year students on campus in spring.” R –Results—“Won the award for best research project and had results published.” How to describe your past behavior? Think of the many things you have done in the recent past. Internships, college courses, projects, activities, clubs, team participation, community and volunteer service, hobbies or work experience. You may use examples of special accomplishments such as winning a sports event, being elected leader of your college organization, winning an award for your artwork or writing, or raising money for a non-profit organization. How to Prepare? Think of a few examples from your past where you experienced accomplishments, failures and what skills you gained or what you learned from the experience. Write them down in detail (*STAR
Principle from above). They can be positive, and also experiences that started out negative, but ended on a positive note, or you made the best of the outcome. See if you can answer the sample questions below: 1. Describe a time in which you had to use references to write a research paper. What was the topic? What journals did you read? (research/writing skills) 2. Describe a time when you were faced with problems or stresses at work that tested your coping skills. What did you do? (adaptability) 3. Give a specific example of a time when a co-worker criticized your work in front of others. How did you respond? (oral communication.) 4. Tell me about a situation in the past year in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-worker. (patience, problem solving) 5. How do you multi-task? How do you best meet deadlines. (time management) 6. Describe the most creative work-related project you have completed. What was the challenge? What role did others play? (creativity) 7. Can you tell me about a specific problem you solved for your employer or professor. How did you approach the problem? What role did others play? What was the outcome? (decision making) 8. Describe a time when you got co-workers or classmates to work on a project. How did you accomplish this? What was the outcome? (teamwork)
Concluding the Interview
At the conclusion of the interview, you may be asked if you have questions. Ask your questions if they were not addressed earlier. Do not speak negatively about past employers no matter why you left. Let the employer lead into conversations about benefits/salary. If you discuss salary, be flexible. Negotiate, but don’t sell yourself short. Find out when they plan to make a decision on the job opening..
Post Interview Write a thank-you note reaffirming your interest and skills for the job. Follow up with a phone call if you do not hear back within the specified time.
Some Questions to Think About 1. Did I maintain good eye contact and body posture with the employer? 2. Was I too nervous or under-prepared to answer questions? 3. What points did I make that seemed to interest the employer? 4. Did I present my qualifications well? 5. Did I overlook qualifications important for the job? 6. Was this the right place or career for me? 7. Was I too aggressive, or not aggressive enough? 8. Did I talk too much, or too little? 9. Was I dressed appropriately? 10. Did I ask the right questions? Page 14
What to Avoid in a Job Search Poor personal appearance Vague responses to questions Inability to express information clearly Lack of interest and enthusiasm Lack of planning for career, no purpose or goal Nervousness, lack of confidence and poise Unwillingness to start at the bottom Lack of tact and courtesy Lack of maturity Negative attitude about past employers No genuine interest in company or job Limited eye contact with the interviewer(s) Application form is incomplete or sloppy No sense of humor Late for interview Failure to express appreciation for interviewer’s time Failure to ask questions about the job Over-emphasis on money No follow-up with thank-you note or phone call
Resources Used in Creating this Guide Include: Career Services Guide – Kirkwood Community College HotJobs.yahoo.com Iowa Workforce Development Job Choices Magazine (publication from NACE) National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development