Applications, resumes. Help!

Putting together an application or resume

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After you have identified jobs that align with your interests and skills, you will need to express interest in the position.  To do this, most jobs will require you either complete an application or submit a resume with a cover letter.




Whether a job requires an application to be completed or not, it is always in your best interest to have an updated resume on hand.  A resume is a the ‘story of you’ as far as your job search is concerned.  A resume is often the first opportunity to make a good impression to employers and others who can assist in a job search.  On it you can present your skills, experience as well as other qualities and traits that can prove you are a good match for the job you are pursuing.

During a job search, you should always have paper copies as well as an electronic version of your resume accessible to you – you never know when you could have an opportunity to network.  Characteristics of a good resume include:


  • Be clear, concise & concrete in describing your skills and experience using strong words that demonstrate your skills.
  • Use standard fonts like Times New Roman, Future Palatino or Century
  • Use an 11- or 12-point font size, but don’t use effects like Italics, underlining or shadowing
  • Use key words to define your skills, experience, education & professional affiliations
  • In most cases, it is best to only include the last 10 years of your work experience, unless you feel that the older work history is an exact match for the job you are applying.
  • Have your complete work history on hand if more information is requested.
  • Don’t get fancy, stick to black ink on white paper.  If you are applying for a position with a creative business – a marketing or advertising firm, for example – using a single color might be appropriate for emphasis
  • Don’t use vertical and horizontal lines, graphics, shading or boxes


The average employer spends no more than 30 seconds scanning your resume, so be sure to put the most important information at the top and visible. 


Types of Resumes


A Chronological Resume emphasizes work experience, many employers prefer this style because it enables them to quickly match your prior work experience to their immediate needs.  Recent grads can show part-time, co-op and summer employment as relevant work experience. 


Creating a Chronological Resume:

  • Begin with a ‘career objective’ to reflect your strengths and skills without limiting your options
  • Create a ‘Summary of Qualifications’ statement made up of three to four sentences about who you are, your experience and your credentials
  • With ‘Work Experience,’ start with your most recent position and work backwards in time.  Give the name of the company, city, state, job title, major duties and accomplishments
  • Keeping your job objective in mind, emphasize the duties and accomplishments that highlight the strength the employer desires
  • Use action verbs to begin each phrase
  • Use bulleted lists for easier reading and to highlight each separate activity or achievement
  • Put recently earned relevant diploma/degree at the top of the resume.  Otherwise, education should go at the bottom.
  • A one-page document is preferred, but a second page can be used if necessary.
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, clarity and conciseness.  Use spell check.


A Functional Resume – also known as skill-based – is arranged so that a reader can assess what you have to offer in quick time.  Job seekers who have gaps in their work history, are re-entering the workforce, have frequently changed jobs throughout their career or ones that are transitioning to new careers should consider using a functional resume. 


Important features of this type of resume include:

  • Include multiple skills sections and bulleted content that show competencies and proficiencies including key academic achievements, list of both paid and volunteer positions previously held, interested, GPA.  Be sure to provide detailed information but don’t embellish too much.
  • Do not include job title, company name, location and dates of employment.  If you do want to include, it should be included at the bottom of the document.


An Electronic Version is also very important to maintain.  Many employers use electronic scanning software that looks specifically for keywords to pick out resumes to pass along to the hiring manager.  There are several things you can do to make your resume stand out to electronic scanning software:

  • Use labels or keywords like what was used in the job posting.  They are the essential qualifications required to do the job.
  • Put the most important keywords at the top of the resume.  The software may have a limit to the items it will scan, and items at the top of the document are more likely to be reviewed and picked up.
  • Put your name first and include contact information on a separate line.
  • Keep the design simple. Use white space, scanning software can more easily read documents with more white space.
  • Use minimal design elements and highlight areas with asterisks (*) and use capital letters instead of underlining.
  • When using bullets, be sure to put a space between the bullet and the first word to make it easier for the scanning software.
  • Only use abbreviations that are more common, BA (for Bachelor of Arts) is one example of a common abbreviation.
  • Use common language, industry jargon may not be recognized by computers.


Another advantage of an electronic version of a resume is that it can be easily emailed to interested employers.  When forwarding a resume via email, be sure to put something in the subject line. It can be something as simple as the job title, but he sure to use any job numbers listed in an advertisement, if available. 


Completing a Job Application


Many companies require job applications be completed – in place of or in addition to a resume – to ensure that all the necessary information is gathered.  Also having all the information for multiple candidates in the same format allows an easier and quicker method of comparing/contrasting candidates.

Completing an application can be time consuming but being prepared and having access to all the important information will make it easier.  Having a copy of your resume to refer to will allow you to transfer much of the information such as your work history and job description onto the application. You should provide information for the past ten years of work history on any application you complete. Any times for when you were not employed should be explained, examples of how to explain include: continued education, providing care for family members, self-employment, travel, etc.


Information normally required on a job application:

·         Driver’s license number

·         Social Security Number

·         Work history

o   Employer Names

o   Employer Addresses

o   Employer Phone Numbers

o   Supervisor Contacts

·         School / training experience

·         Club and/or Organization Memberships (include any leadership roles/committees)

·         Military record (Form DD-214), if applicable

·         References (at least three)


Tips for Completing Applications:


  • Have three professional looking copies of your resume
  • Take the application home to complete, if allowed
  • Follow directions, read over all questions first and answer as completely as possible
  • Print of type neatly, use black ink
  • Be specific about the position you are applying for, in the box asking for position desired, don’t write open or leave blank
  • Print ‘N/A’ (not applicable) on questions that do not apply to you
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar errors
  • If you find that you have made several errors, ask for another application
  • Be sure to sign and date the application


Impress in a job interview

Preparing for an interview is key

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Congratulations!  You now have an interview.  This means that you are one of a limited pool of applicants that are being considered for the job.  Just as you have done in the steps leading up to the interview, preparation is key. 


Some tips to prepare for the interview:


  • Learn as much as you can about the company and position.  Talk to people in your network who work for the company, read over the website, read over the original job posting.
    • Showing that you know about the company will impress your interviewer and better allow you to explain how your skills and knowledge can help the company
    • Understand the Essential Employability Skills and think about how they could apply to the job
  • Do a Practice Interview with these Sample Questions, if possible.
  • Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer about the company, job and work environment
  • Bring two copies of your resume and a list of references as well as two forms of identification
  • Don’t bring anyone else with you to the interview.  If someone gives you a ride, ask them to stay in the car or come back later to pick you up
  • Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to the scheduled time.  If the interview is being held somewhere you are not familiar with, you may want to find the interview location a day or two ahead to ensure you know where to go.
  • Watch your appearance!
    • Make sure are clean and neat.  If needed, get a haircut, and/or trim beards and mustaches.
    • Be yourself, but don’t go too heavy on the makeup, perfume, cologne
    • Wear clothes appropriate to the situation that are clean and neat. Use an iron if they are too wrinkled and polish your shoes, if needed.
    • Don’t smoke before or during the interview & don’t chew gum.
  • Turn off your cell phone.


During the interview:


  • Introduce yourself with confidence, greet all interviewers with a firm handshake, make eye contact and introduce yourself using your first and last name. 
  • You will probably be nervous but watch your body language.  Sit up straight, keep your feet on the floor and try not to fidget.
  • Try to get a business card from all interviewers or write their name and title down in a notepad


After the interview:


  • Provide hard copies of your resume and references, if requested.
  • Be prepared to schedule a second interview if requested.
  • Be prepared to discuss an offer or call to start work
  • Within 48 hours, send a thank you note to all interviewers, thanking them for their time and restating your interest and qualifications for the position. 


Interviews are not all face-to-face.  Some employers prefer multiple rounds of interviews to help narrow a field.  Often these first rounds are completed over the phone or via a video call, while the later rounds are normally in person.


The great thing about a telephone interview is that you can have notes ready to review without the interviewer being aware that you are referring to them.  Take advantage of this, be prepared and have multiple items ready to refer to such as:  your resume, the job description, questions to ask the employer, notes about the company and your calendar to schedule a second interview.  Practicing the interview with a friend can be very helpful and a good way to get feedback about how you come across over the phone.


Other things to remember when participating in a phone interview:


  • Conduct the interview in a quiet place alone.  Ignore any distractions such as a doorbell, another phone ringing and disable call waiting, if possible
  • Standing up during the call will help your voice project better, you will also feel more engaged
  • Be enthusiastic and smile, as this will come through in your voice
  • Use a landline, if possible.  They have a clearer connection with less of a chance to being disconnected.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.  Your voice is the only way to set yourself aside from the other candidates.


A video interview is becoming more and more popular as a first means of interview as the technology and internet connections become faster and more prevalent.  The better way to do a video interview is through your computer, but a cell phone will work as well.  Just like a telephone interview, solid preparation is helpful.  Practicing an interview with a friend ahead of time will get you comfortable with using the software – Skype, Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, etc. – and allow you to get more comfortable


Video interview tips:


  • Conduct the interview in a quiet place alone.  Ignore any distractions such as a doorbell, another phone ringing and disable call waiting, if possible
  • Dress for the interview just as you would for an in-person interview
  • Adjust the camera, sound volume and background.
  • Close all other programs on your computer
  • Sit up straight, don’t fidget or spin in your chair
  • Look directly at the camera, avoid the temptation to watching the interviewer on screen.
  • Only refer to a cheat sheet when you need to, and make sure it is not seen by the camera.

Cover Letter

When you forward a resume, be sure to submit a cover letter as well, unless you are specifically asked not to.  A well-written cover letter will tell the recipient what job you are applying for and provide a quick summary of what knowledge and skills you bring to the position.  It also serves as a writing sample, so be sure to be clear and concise, proofread for proper grammar, punctuation and spelling.

An effective cover letter:

  • Is no more than one page and typed neatly on good quality paper
  • Is addressed to a specific person, if you don’t have a specific name use ‘Dear Hiring Manager’, ‘Dear Recruiter’ or Dear hiring Manager’ to open the letter
  • States how you heard about the position
  • Is tailored to a specific position in a specific organization, discussing how your qualification match the job requirements
  • Demonstrates your knowledge of the job

Reference Tips for all Workers

A list of references is an important part of a job application. The right reference could be the difference between getting that job or not. Your resume, cover letter, and interview say a lot about your character and accomplishments, but that is you talking about yourself. A reference is a hiring manager’s opportunity to confirm with someone else that you are as good as you look on paper and perform in an interview.

Who Do I Ask for a Reference?

It is best to choose people who are familiar with your character and work who you are sure will give a positive assessment. When it comes to references, the more recent is always better.

  • While many people choose not to ask their current boss for a reference, it is a good idea to have a recent employer on your list. They can provide a current overview of your character and work ethic.

  • If you feel uncomfortable asking your current employer, a trusted coworker who is familiar with your work can also be a good reference. The best coworkers are the ones you work closely with on projects or on a regular basis as they can speak confidently on your workplace behavior and character.

  • If you work in a client-based industry, you can also ask current or former clients for references who you have a good relationship with for a reference.

How Do I Ask for a Reference?

Once you’ve chosen who you would like to use as a reference, be sure to ask them before submitting their name and contact information to a potential employer.

  • Ask your preferred contacts to be a reference before you list them on an application. In person or by phone is preferable so they can ask you questions. Asking via email or text can be acceptable depending on your relationship but...

  • …If they agree, send them the details regarding the job as well as your resume so that they are familiar and can tailor their comments to needs and requirements of the position.

  • Greet your reference and remind them of your relationship if you have not spoken to them in a while.

  • Remember, you are asking for a favor, they can say no. Be polite and friendly and be sure to ask rather than demand.

  • If the reference seems hesitant or unwilling, thank them and find someone else. You want all your references to be positive and a hesitant individual may not be the best person to speak to a potential employer on your behalf.

  • If you think a prospective employer will call your reference, try to let them know in advance. This way they can be prepared to speak and are also on the lookout for a phone call or email.

  • As they agree, ask how they would like to be contacted and compile their full name, job title, and a preferred method of contact.

  • Be sure to keep your references updated on how your job search progresses and send a personalized note to thank them afterward.