This past fall, I had the privilege of lecturing at a local university. Naturally, there were a couple of students who asked for job-hunting advice and resume tips. There are certainly all levels of advice on this topic and in this post I’d like to outline the very basics that may be especially useful for international students who come from different cultural norms and new entrants to the professional job market.
I will focus on 3 main areas: resume, cover letter, and networking.
- Keep it short – 1 page.
- Simplify formatting (click here for example).
- Research the position and make your resume relevant per job.
- List accomplishments per job and quantify them.
In today’s age of 140 characters and short attention spans, brevity is key. I would advise a resume no longer than 1 page. In that 1 page, focus on the experience that is most relevant for the position you are applying to. This means that your resume may be different for one job versus another, and it also means that you must have a clear understanding of the job before applying. Applying to hundreds of jobs with a non-specific resume will be less effective than researching each role and providing a tailored resume. This initial research may even disqualify some jobs that you realize are not as interesting as you thought.
Keep the format simple and easy to read. You may choose to start with a brief (1-2 sentence) summary that highlights your key strengths as related to the job. Then follow with professional experience and education. Make certain to list quantified accomplishments with each role, and do so with the general sentence structure: Action + Accomplishment + Process. For example: Grew top line revenue by 120% over 6 months through targeted ad campaigns on Facebook.
Make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to find the most relevant information so s/he can say, “yes, this person has demonstrated the kind of skills I’m looking for in our new hire.”
- Keep it brief (half a page if possible).
- Tailor it for each company – do NOT use a generic template where you simply change the name of the company each time.
- Demonstrate your potential value; what does this role really need and why are you the best person to provide it?
I’m not sure how relevant a cover letter is anymore, but the content is certainly valuable. Whether it’s a formal cover letter, or an email to a hiring manager, formulating a summary of your qualifications for a job can be a helpful determinant for the hiring manager if it highlights your value as related to the job opening.
This blog post links to 8 specific examples of “good” cover letters; it’s important to remember that each job and scenario will vary, which means that good in one instance may not be so in another. As you’ll find, each one is good in its specific scenario:
- short and relevant (click here)
- lots of personality for a startup that probably values it (click here)
- humbling and eager to learn (click here)
- Find and attend relevant events (meetup.com is a good resource).
- When you meet people at events, ask questions to learn about them and their industry; try asking some deeper questions to demonstrate your interest and engage in meaningful conversation beyond superficial topics.
- Once it’s your turn to share, you can tailor your message based on what you’ve learned from all your questions.
- Build your network by constantly learning, eventually you’ll be able to connect the dots.
- Never directly ask for a job or recommendation, it will come naturally.
Networking is a very valuable and often overlooked aspect of job hunting. Blindly submitting your resume to hundreds of companies will result in very few hits. Recruiters and hiring managers view many many applicants every day. Hopefully you’ve tailored your resume and cover letter so it stands out, but it’s also very helpful to build a network that may be connected with the job you’re seeking through networking events.
Focus on meeting new people at each event by having meaningful conversations, rather than trying to collect as many business cards as possible. It’s important to leave a lasting impression during your initial meetings so you develop a valuable network, rather than an inflated network. Keep track of your connections by immediately following up with a personalized email thanking them for their time and reiterating a specific conversation topic to anchor the memory. And remember to add them to your LinkedIn network.
If you’re interested in developing your networking skills, one of the best books I’ve read on the topic is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.
Using this systematic approach in all three areas will greatly improve your chances at landing an opportunity that is best suited to your skill set and career objectives.
It’s important to remember that you’re going to be spending a lot of your time at your job, so make sure you choose something you’re going to enjoy (at least the majority of it) and that the job is a stepping stone towards your next move.
Good luck and please provide any of your own tips for job hunting in the comments section. Thanks for reading.
Additional reading: Job Search Funnel: 4 Steps to Getting the Job of Your Dreams