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Career Tips

Cover Letter – Your First Impression

A cover letter is an important way of introducing yourself to potential employers, highlighting your suitability for a desired position and sharing some of your professional achievements. A cover letter is a formal document and should be formatted accordingly. You should personalize the letter to an individual, if possible. It would be helpful to draw parallels between the job qualifications and your skills, your background and work experience. Be specific as to what you can contribute to the organization and why you deserve an interview. Remember to keep the letter short – approximately 3 paragraphs – to show respect for the hiring manager’s time.

Resume – The Written Word

Your resume should be impressive, truthful and focused – ideally just one page long. Organize your experience in chronological order, listing most recent work first. Provide relevant and/or distinguishing details for the most recent jobs. You can use a bullet format or paragraphs, but chose one format and be consistent throughout the resume. Use a positive, upbeat tone of voice.

Choose your words wisely, using keywords from the description of the job you are applying for and other descriptive words that connote skill and accomplishment. Click here for a helpful list. All of your written communications must be free of typos, misspelled words and grammar errors. Proofread. Then proofread by reading your materials aloud. Then proofread again.

Interview – Your Time to Shine

To make the best impression possible – and to reduce your own stress – research the company, the people you will be meeting and the job before your first interview. Knowing a lot about the company will make you seem more interested in the job and increase your confidence. Use the company’s website, especially the press-release section, for up-to-date information. Also do an on-line search and look through trade publications and annual reports. Keep an eye out for any new initiatives so you can discuss them in the interview.

Find out as much information as you can about the interviewer. Search on the Internet, LinkedIn or other professional networking websites. Also search the company website for more information on the interviewer’s career history and recent accomplishments, if applicable. Thoroughly review the job description to ensure you understand the qualifications and skills you will need to be successful on the job. Be prepared to talk about how your past experiences make you an ideal candidate for the job and how you can contribute to the company’s success.

If you’re bringing something to read while waiting in reception for your interview, be conscious of your choice of reading materials. Be polite to everyone you encounter … especially the receptionist! It is possible that he or she will be asked about the impression you made and your behavior. Always remember to bring several extra copies of your resume. Back to the top

Dress for Success

Your interviewer is interested in you – not in your unusual taste in clothes. So dress neatly and conservatively, wearing a suit – preferably dark – no matter what the company dress code says. Go easy on accessories and wear no perfume. Stow your belongings in a polished carry-all or briefcase (no backpacks or suitcases if you’re travelling, please). Show your understanding of the interviewer’s schedule by arriving early and silencing your cell phone before you sit down. Back to the top

Answering the classic question “What can you tell me about yourself?”

Confidently – and briefly – state the reasons you believe the company should consider hiring you. Avoid using business clichés such as ‘detail oriented’ and ’effective communicator’ that don’t differentiate you from any other candidate. Rather, describe your successes and highlight your accomplishments. This is your time to tell about yourself. Be humble but proud.

Keep it positive

Interviewers do not like to hear candidates speak negatively about their former employers or colleagues. Find an appropriate way to put a positive spin on even the worst experiences. Resist the temptation to make a point or settle a score.  Maintain eye contact and smile. When you want the interviewer to move to the next topic, simply pause and wait. 

Be Prepared with Questions

It is likely that your interviewer will ask you if you have any questions.  It is prudent to come prepared with 3-5 questions to ask about the company, the job and the type of candidate that they believe will be successful in the position.  Use their response to further describe what makes you the most qualified candidate for the job.  Be appropriate with your questions, however.  A first interview is a premature time to ask about benefits and vacation.

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of The Job

We often have a tendency to talk too much or too little when we are “nervous.”  It is important to remember to avoid doing this during your interview.  Be sure to listen and let the interviewer finish asking the question before you answer so you answer the question they are asking.  Also, don’t interrupt them.  Avoid answering questions with short or one word answers.  Most importantly, stay relaxed and be yourself.

Write thank you notes

Make sure you get a business card from each person you meet. This will ensure you know everyone’s name and title when write thank-you notes.

Each person should get an individual note. This gives you an opportunity to follow-up directly after an interview. Be brief, polite and above all, be formal. Differentiate yourself from the other candidates by mentioning something unique about your discussion. It is important to customize each note so as not to send the identical message to any two people you’ve met. Thank you notes can be handwritten or emailed...but they must be proofread. Back to the top

The Resignation – Be Professional, Positive and Brief

You should prepare a short letter of resignation. Then notify your immediate supervisor first, followed by any other members of the hierarchy necessary. Do not notify your colleagues before you resign since you would not want a rumor of your resignation getting to your boss before you do. Be gracious but firm as you resign. Two weeks’ notice is standard. In almost all cases, more notice is unnecessary. The company likely has resignation procedures in place and they will provide you with next steps. Always leave on a courteous and positive note. Never burn a bridge. Back to the top

Counteroffers – Never a Good Idea

Though flattering, a counteroffer is usually a short-term solution. Your reasons for wanting to leave the company will still exist and are unlikely to change in the near term. Counteroffers are self-serving to the company and often represent a compromise in your next raise or bonus. Moreover, your loyalty to the company may be questioned and you could be the first to go should business cycles change. You have every right to question why you are suddenly more valuable today than you were yesterday…and why you had to resign to find this out. Back to the top

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