Guide to Searching For a Job

Guide to Searching For a Job

Looking for a job is often a stressful, overwhelming endeavor. How do you begin? Read on to discover tips for creating a résumé (even if you have no formal work history), the best ways to present yourself to prospective employers, and what to do when you land that interview.

Crafting Your Résumé

Your résumé is how you introduce yourself to the company. It highlights your work and education history and tells the employer you’re serious about getting this job. Even if you have no formal work experience, create a résumé.

Employers expect your résumé to follow a certain format. The easiest way to do this is to use a résumé template. Find one online, or look at the templates in your word processing program. Also, view some sample résumés to see what the finished product looks like. Your resume should be one to two pages long.

Include all of your contact information: full name, address, email address, and the best phone number to reach you. Add your education information, but don’t include information like courses taken and grades received (though you can include good grades or GPA in your Accomplishments section).

Your employment history generally includes previous jobs you have had for the last ten years. If you performed work more than ten years ago that relates to the job you are applying for, you can go back further to include it.  Include the name of your position, the name of your employer, dates worked, and a general description of duties performed.

Even if you’re a first-time job seeker, you probably have some kind of work history. Babysitting, yard maintenance, tutoring, internships and volunteer work all make great entries on your work history.

But, what if you truly have no previous work history? Choose a résumé template with a Skills section. This type of resume focuses on the things you’re good at. Do you have experience with computers? Are you a math whiz? Do you manage the household budget? Are you good with people? Are you great at multi-tasking? Any skills you have relevant to a job search go here.

Résumé Checklist 

Before submitting a résumé, or even printing it out, run through this checklist first.

  • Did you include your contact information?
  • Is it between one and two pages long?
  • Did you use a clear, 12-point font, like Arial or Times New Roman?
  • Did you delete headings for sections where you entered no information?
  • Did you complete a spell check? Important: read through the document yourself; do not rely on the computer. Lots of typos form actual words and don’t register on spell check. Example: form and from.
  • Do you have white paper for printing?

Your résumé is your first chance to market yourself to an employer. Make sure it’s perfect before submitting it.

Writing the Cover Letter

A lot of people don’t include a cover letter, but that’s a mistake. This is your chance to talk to your prospective employer and sell them on you. With a good cover letter, you can convince them you can do the job, even without a job history.

Customize each cover letter so that it names both the job you’re applying for and the employer, and keep it to a single page. Remember, your focus is on why you’re the right choice for the job. Don’t start listing what you want from an employer (though that’s a great list to create for yourself, when you’re deciding what kind of job you want).

Like your résumé, use a clean, 12-point font like Arial or Times New Roman. Open by saying what position you’re applying for and why it interests you. Is it a company for which you’ve always wanted to work? Does the job fit with your future career goals? This is where you say that.

In the next couple paragraphs, explain why you’re the best person for the job. The job description helps you do this. Go through it, and then highlight the qualities and experience you have that matches the items in the description.

Finally, explain why you want to work for this company. Look at the company’s website and include highlights that interested you, such as any industry awards they received or initiatives they support. This shows the person reading your cover letter that you took the time to research them and also that you’d make a good fit for their culture.

Thank them for their time in your closing paragraph, and mention that your résumé is attached.

If a week goes by without hearing from the company, call them to follow up and make sure they received your résumé and cover letter.

Where to Look for a Job

With technology, looking for a job is easier than ever before. Numerous websites exist to help you in your quest: Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and Jobing.com are three of the most popular websites. In addition, there are the old standbys of your local paper’s jobs section, and government entities, including state, city, and county governments.

Do not forget to use your personal network. Let everyone know you are looking for a job, from family and friends to your entire social network if you have a social media presence. Create a LinkedIn profile, which allows you to post job and education history, as well as list your résumé and skills.

Getting the Call to Interview       

You get the call you’ve been waiting for – time to interview! This is your chance to prove you’re the best person for the job. The key here is preparation so that by the time the interview rolls around, you are ready.

If you haven’t already done so, research the company. You want to know everything you can about them, and it looks great during an interview. It shows real interest in the job, that you take it seriously, and are willing to take those extra steps that make good employees great employees. What should you look for in your research? Start with the company’s mission statement (usually on either the Home page or About Us page on their website). How does the job you applied for fit into that mission? Who are the customers?

Next, prepare for the interview itself. Start with a careful review of the job description. It should list the skills and duties needed. Create a list of how you fulfill each of those requirements, using both work experience and life experience in your answers. If you have no formal work experience, get creative. Do you participate in any extracurricular activities or volunteer? Have experience as a babysitter, pet-sitter, or house-sitter? Do you have a leadership role on a sports team, or in your church? Are you responsible for younger siblings? Did you participate in a challenging program at school (Honors, AP classes), or win any awards? When you don’t have job experience, life experience is what you draw from to prove you have the skills necessary to do this job.

Practice answering interview questions. What questions? The ones based on the job description. You can be fairly certain that for every duty and skill it lists, they’ll ask about your experience. Ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview with you to help you practice.

Sample Interview Questions

Details change, but you’ll find yourself answering similar questions in any job interview.

  • What experience do you have? Keep your answer relevant to the position.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Nearly every interview includes this question. Strengths include things like quick learner, adapt well to changes, team player, interested in learning, dependable, and self-starter. For weaknesses, don’t share a litany of weaknesses, such as I’m always late, I have a short temper, I have a straight-D average – unless you don’t really want the job. Mention something that you’re working to change, and then explain how you’re doing that.
  • What are your future plans? This is where you talk about future education plans if you have any, and share your career aspirations.
  • Do you have other commitments? If you play a sport, volunteer, or belong to a club, be honest with the interviewer about the time constraints these commitments represent. If you can’t work on Tuesdays between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. because of practice, say so.
  • Do you have any questions? Prepare a short list of questions, such as whether the position has a set schedule and what the next steps in the hiring process are. If there are any aspects of the job that you want to know more about, this is the time to ask.

Making a Good First Impression           

The day has arrived; it’s time for your interview. Your first impression begins the moment you arrive, which should be approximately 15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. This gives you time to relax and complete any paperwork they require. Arrive prepared, with a copy of your résumé and a pad of paper and a pen for taking notes (jot down your questions on the notepad beforehand).

Dress appropriately for the interview. A suit may not be necessary, but you should wear clean, nice, work-appropriate clothing. Make sure your hair is clean and styled, and if you use makeup, keep it subtle. Also, remove any flamboyant piercings (unless the company you applied to encourages that level of self-expression). Do not chew gum during your interview, and mute your cell phone.

When you meet the interviewer, greet him or her with a firm handshake, and maintain direct eye contact. Demonstrate a sincere interest in both the position and the person, or people, speaking to you by giving them your full attention and responding appropriately. Answer the interviewer’s questions confidently. You practiced beforehand, so this should be easier. Keep your answers short and to the point, and take a moment to think about your answer before responding. If they ask you something that requires a negative answer, answer honestly and try to end it with a positive remark. For example, if they ask if you know how to create and use spreadsheets in Excel, but you have limited knowledge of Excel, you can tell them that you are familiar with the program and have used it, but you are not fluent. Tell them that you are a quick learner and are interested in learning the program better. This tells them that you are honest and willing to overcome that obstacle.

At the end, shake hands again, ask when you can expect a decision, and thank the interviewer for his or her time. When you get home, write and email a short thank you note, thanking them for their time and the opportunity to interview.

If you don’t get this job, don’t worry; the perfect position is out there. Consider each application and interview another learning experience. With persistence, you’ll land a great job.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is provided only for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for legal or other professional advice. This guide does not contain nor is it intended to provide legal or other professional advice for any specific situation and readers should not take action or refrain from taking action, based only on the information provided in this guide. Goldberg & Osborne has attempted to provide accurate and current information in this guide, but cannot and does not guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up to date. This guide may contain links and/or search terms that will lead to external websites as a convenience to the reader, but Goldberg & Osborne is not responsible for the content or operation of any website other than its own website. The presence of a link or a search term does not imply and is not an endorsement by Goldberg & Osborne of the website provider or the information contained on any linked website or on any website contained in search results from a search term provided in the guide.