How to be a Pro Job Seeker
Before you begin, identify your support system. Who would you trust to proofread your cover letters? Who can help you enhance your resume? Who can direct you to job opportunities?
Applying for a job is a job itself. Follow these steps to ensure you’re not overwhelming yourself or rushing an opportunity. I recommend tackling three applications at a time– the process of applying to all of them takes about a week to complete, so don’t get discouraged if it feels like forever.
Step 1: Update your resume
As simple as it may sound, updating a resume isn’t a walk in the park. A lot of times, what you write is eventually changed, anyway.
When you update your resume, be vague and use this time to focus on the format and layout instead of focusing on the wording. You’ll focus on the wording once you find a job opening that catches your eye.
Best practices to structure your resume
Resume Text Style
Ideally, you’ll have four font sizes for the following:
- Your name
- Section titles
- Sub-section titles
- General text
Play with Italics, Bold, and Underline features to separate your text and make skimming easier.
Make space for everything that would set you apart from the rest.
Common sections are:
- Personal Summary/ Objective
- Professional experience
- Associations/ Certificates
The layout is up to you. The more creative your position requires you to be, the more creative and appealing you should make your resume. If you’re applying for a high-level, leadership, or more serious position, then it’s obviously best practice to lay out the information in a more sophisticated and professional manner.
Create tables to list your skills, volunteerism, associations, and certificates. Tables help maximize space, so use them accordingly and wisely!
Expect to spend a few hours formatting your resume. I’ve sometimes taken a whole day trying to decide how to best lay out the content!
Step 2: Look for job postings
Now that you’ve finished a rough draft of your resume, tackle three (my recommendation) job opportunities that you feel would be a great fit. If your brain is fried from step 1, definitely start this on day 2!
- Every discipline has at least one national and one local association. Companies involved in your discipline will usually have memberships with these organizations and post job openings on those websites rather than elsewhere. They also provide a direct point of contact to submit your resume to.
For a complete list of job associations in Houston, click here.
For a complete list of all national associations, you can visit your local city library to access the Encyclopedia of Associations on their online database—a free resource with an average value of $700.
- If you know what company you’d like to apply for, the most obvious option is to visit the website directly.
- Recruiting agencies can be great resources for temporary positions. I usually recommend saving them as your last option since they receive a commission from your salary, and many may not have a good rapport with companies. Hiring managers have mixed opinions on this topic.
Identify job opportunities
A “great fit” is one that benefits both parties. Will this company help you progress in your career? Why does this company stand out from the rest? What can YOU bring to the table? Whether it’s your experience, your network, or your effort, always remember that you have to stand out from the rest as well.
- Don’t be intimidated by the 4+ years of experience required. Highlight qualities they’re looking for that you consider strengths. Companies weed out inexperienced candidates by requiring years of experience, but 9 times out of 10, if you feel good enough for a position, then you probably are!
- If a company doesn’t have a careers page, they typically won’t offer much room to grow. Smaller companies are best for experience and exposure but don’t generally plan for a long-term opportunity when all they need is an extra pair of hands.
- Have a clear understanding of what the job responsibilities are and of the job requirements. This will come in handy when writing your cover letter and updating your resume.
Step 3: Write your resume and cover letter
Every job will emphasize different duties and requirements; therefore, your resume and cover letter should reflect the experience that the company is looking for.
- Instead of writing an objective, I’ve turned to writing a quick summary of my resume. This is a tip I’ve received from hiring managers and recruiters in various fields.
Example of a summary
I’m a Public Relations graduate with agency and corporate experience leveraging a background in professional development programs and marketing support. My work experience includes business improvement projects in foreign and domestic settings.
- After you’ve identified the three job opportunities you want to tackle that week, put your resume and the job postings side by side. Plug in keywords and key phrases that you see in the requirements & job description sections. Obviously, you want to remain consistent with your experience. Don’t oversell on things you haven’t done, but don’t undersell your worth either.
Writing the cover letter is probably the most time-consuming part of applying for a job. It usually takes me half the day to write only one– with breaks in between!
I’ve experimented with writing all cover letters simultaneously, but it’s been my experience that I end up with cookie-cutter letters that don’t really address what each company wants to know.
Focus on one cover letter at a time and for the sake of consistency, organize what you want to communicate in the following way:
Cover letter format (in paragraphs)
- Right align: Name | Phone number | E-mail address | Date
- Left align: Point of Contact | Company | POC phone number | Company address
- Open the letter. These are a few ways that I’ve addressed the letter:
- To whom it may concern:
- Dear [name of point of contact]
- Dear recruiting staff of [name of company]
- Dear [name of company]
- Paragraph 1: (About you) The introduction should be a quick-read and immediately tell them you’re not a waste of time. If the job opening is looking for a recent graduate in a specific field, then start with “I’m a 20XX graduate of X University with a Bachelor’s in X and a minor in X.” If a job posting emphasizes experience, then begin the sentence with “I’m a(n) XX professional with relative experience in XX.” The paragraph should be 2-5 sentences.
- Paragraph 2: (About the company) Tell the company why you want to work with them. What was it that caught your eye? In this paragraph, you outline your intentions. Your intentions with the company will vary according to the company’s need. For example, if one of them offers long-term opportunities, then mention that you’re looking to work with a company you can grow with and help grow. If a company is looking for a candidate to ‘join a team’ then emphasize on how you love to work with people, etc.
- Paragraph 3: (About you) Explain areas of your resume that would help you stand out from other candidates. Expand on the descriptions for at least one bullet point in every job experience in the order of your resume. Talk about how you’ve evolved in your career or how you’ve learned from mistakes.
- Paragraph 4: (About the company) This is where you tell the company why you’re the best fit. What sets you apart from the rest? What would you bring to the table that no one else would? Don’t directly say “I can do this and no one else can.” Phrase it casually, like “I believe that by joining your team, your company can benefit from X X X.”
- Paragraph 5: (Call to action) Mention that you’ve attached or included your resume for review. Let them know that you’re excited to be considered as a potential candidate for the position and expecting to hear from them soon.
- Close the letter. End with ‘Sincerely,’ and sign.
Cover letters shouldn’t be more than a page long and should be sent as a PDF attachment. If you prefer to send the cover letter as an e-mail, be more to-the-point, and keep your paragraphs shorter.
It’s never bad practice to include additional information such as an electronic sample from your portfolio, references, links to relevant sites, etc.
Step 4: Send your application
Before sending your application…
After personalizing your resume and writing your cover letter, let it sit for a day. Review what you’ve written the next morning when your mind is fresh. Look for typos, grammar mistakes, punctuation errors, etc. Make sure you’ve hit all the points on the job description and requirements. Once it looks good, send! Then, start on the next application…
Step 5: Follow up
How to send a follow-up letter
Following up is always the awkward part because, well… what do you say? But it’s something that everyone who is serious about a job should get used to. If you haven’t heard back after sending an application, follow up no sooner than two weeks. Give them time to review it and pass it along to whomever.
Example of a follow-up e-mail
Subject line: [Position] – [Your name] application
I’ve submitted my resume for the XXX opening that I found on X website earlier this month.
I want to express my continued interest in working with your team and believe to be a top candidate for this position given my experience in X X X.
Please let me know if I can provide additional information for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for your time.
Lorena Lucero | (xxx) xxx-xxxx | email@example.com
In e-mails, keep the content short. Many people read e-mail on-the-go. Not dragging out what you can say in a few sentences leaves a VERY good impression!
Be mindful of holidays. Don’t send resumes just before and don’t follow up right after. Unless, of course, it’s been requested.
So, in summary:
Day 1: Work on your resume.
Day 2: Search for the jobs you want to apply for and tackle the first one! Polish your resume and draft the cover letter for the first one
Day 3: Revise the resume and cover letter and send! Start on the second application.
Day 4: Revise the second resume and cover letter and send! Start on the third application.
Day 5: Revise the third resume and cover letter and send!
2 weeks later: Follow up
Don’t just apply for jobs- Be a Pro!
Part five of seven