The resume is one of the most important aspects of a successful job search campaign and will many times determine whether or not you will receive an interview. It is an outline or summary of your background addressing your qualifications, skills, education, experience and activities. Its purpose is to stimulate the interest of an employer and show the value you would add to their organization if hired.
A general resume can be submitted for any position, but it is strongly suggested that you arrange the information on your resume so that it is targeted to a particular job, company, or industry. This means you will need a different resume for each job you apply to.
BEST PRACTICE: It is helpful to RESEARCH the position/job you are applying for and the company or industry before you begin writing a resume. RESEARCH can be a critical component in separating yourself from others who have applied for the same position.
Career Services Manager
Iowa Central utilizes a web-based service called Career Services Manager, which provides a variety of Resume formats, options and features if you need to develop a resume quickly or if this is your first resume. PLEASE NOTE: We recommend that you create your resume starting with a blank Word document. Resume templates can make it very difficult to make any changes and they also typically have formatting options that may not be best for your style. Use these templates to get your information down and chose a style you like and replicate it in a Word document.
There is no universal way to order your resume, meaning that each person’s resume will vary depending on the individual. There are many different sections that could be included on one’s resume. Below is a list of some typically sections.
The heading on your resume must include all of the following, your:
- Phone number
- The heading on your resume should be the same on your cover letter and your references page.
- Make sure your name is bold and has a larger font than anything else on the resume.
- Use a professional email address (incorporating your name into the email address works well. Ex. Smith.firstname.lastname@example.org).
More than likely, this section will be listed at the top of your resume. List your education in reverse chronological order (most recent degree first) and include any honors or highlights that would support the position you are applying for. Items that need to be included are School Name, City & State, and dates of attendance (Month/Year) or date of graduation. *NOTE: Do not list or include high school or HSED/GED.
Other items that can be added are:
- GPA if greater than or equal to 3.0
- Academic honors or awards
- Certifications or Licenses
- Other highlights that show your academic character.
Related Coursework or Special Projects (Optional)
This is an optional section that can be included with or under the education section. If you do not have much work experience, this can be an effective way to demonstrate accomplishments and experience. It can also be beneficial to list beneficial classes taken outside your normal program classes. Be specific and use concrete examples.
This section describes any internship, practicum or clinical experience. This is a critical section because the internship, practicum or clinical is typically the only work experience in the field of study. Information should include Company Name, City & State, and dates (Month/Year) or hours completed. It would also be beneficial to list any accomplishments or tasks performed during this experience.
This section describes any full-time, part-time or temporary positions starting with the most recent. Remember to emphasize duties, responsibilities, skills, and abilities as related to the open position. These can be obtained using the job description for the position. Information should include Company Name, City & State, and dates (Month/Year) (some people may chose not to include dates depending on the resume format or other reasons, but this could raise a red flag to employers).
BEST PRACTICE: This section offers a great way to stand out from other candidates if you can list the accomplishments you performed or were recognized for during your previous employment or during you internship. Use Action Verbs OR Power Verbs and be specific with your examples to showcase accomplishments and outcomes that make you an excellent candidate for the position you are applying for.
A great resource to obtain job tasks for many occupations is O*NET. Type in the job position/occupation you had and search. Then select the best option from the search list and browse below to the tasks section. O*NET has gathered information on all occupation from skills, abilities, wages & salaries, tasks, responsibilities, demand...etc.
Skills / Abilities
List skills and abilities that support your objective and are relevant to the job you are applying. Critical thinking, detail oriented, troubleshooting, active communication are some examples of skills. Computer proficient, language, specialized training, and experience with specific equipment such as forklift are some examples of abilities.
Activities or Volunteer Experience (Optional)
Include any information on professional clubs, organizations, campus government, volunteer work, or community involvement that you are or were active in. For each activity, list the name of the organization, title held, and/or years of service or membership. It may also be beneficial to describe what the organization was or what task you performed.
Honors and Awards or Achievements (Optional)
If you have more than one of these, you can create a section to highlight them. Include name of award and date received.
When your resume is completed, have multiple people proofread it to make sure there is no grammar or spelling errors.
Helpful Documents and Examples
Your resume and cover letter have gotten you this far, now you’ve landed the interview. The most important advice for a successful interview is to be prepared.
So what is an interview? An interview is simply an exchange of information between a candidate and someone(s) who can make a hiring decision. While interviews are usually formal; you are interviewing any time you meet someone who can influence whether you can advance in the search process.
Interviewing is typically one of the last stages of a job search. It is also one of the most important. All the other steps of your search process lead up to the interview.
Before the interview you will want to prepare by reviewing the research you gathered, the job description, your resume and cover letter, and any information the organization may have provided to determine the type of questions that the interviewer may ask. You can use the Interview Worksheet to help you organize the organization information. Pay close attention to the skills and experience they are seeking and match it to your experiences that demonstrate these abilities in a positive way. Take some time to reflect on skills, experience, successes, strengths and weakness, and most importantly why you want their specific opportunity and how you can help them meet their needs.
The following documents will help with the Interview Preparation:
Sample Interview Questions
Know Your Legal Rights When Job Searching - Illegal Topics
Dress for Success
We have all heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect?" This is certainly the case for interviewing. You can practice interviewing by visiting InterviewStream, or by having a friend or family member role play an interview, or scheduling an appointment with a coach.
The day/week before the interview make sure you select the appropriate attire, make sure your shirt is clean and pressed, and that you have comfortable shoes in good shape.
The day of the interview can be stressful, so make sure the day before, you have written down the interviewer(s)'s name(s) and title(s), as well as directions to the interview site. Have all the materials ready you will be bringing with you: portfolio with copies of your resume, questions for the interviewers, transcript, copies of your work, pen and notepad and application materials the organization may have asked you to complete. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before your interview.
The day of your interview, arrive 10-15 minutes before your interview. Relax!!! Your preparation is about to pay off. You have spent the time researching the organization, reviewing your skills and experiences and how they fit with the organization's needs, and practicing interviewing. Remember the interviewer wants you to be successful; they are investing time in you!
After the interview, make sure you take a few minutes to debrief yourself. How did the interview go? Were there questions that you stumbled over or surprised you? Did you learn new information? What kind of feel did you get, is it an opportunity in which you are still interested? Do you have new questions?
After the interview, make sure you send a thank you note to each of the individuals who interviewed you. Personalize the thank you notes with information specific to each interviewer.
Iowa Central Community College purchased InterviewStream; which is a web-based system to help our students and alumni practice Interviewing. InterviewStream, the leading interview practice system, allows you to see and hear yourself online. Using a web cam and any computer, you can simulate job interviews by responding to pre-recorded interview questions and practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills. You'll be challenged with a variety of unique behavioral and industry relevant interview questions. InterviewStream's 360 skills assessment allows you to rate your verbal and non verbal practice interview responses. Invite career counselors, peers, professors, and mentors to view and complete an assessment of your interview.
Types of Interviews
Interviewing styles vary from employer to employer and interviewer to interviewer. To better prepare for an interview, you should be familiar with the different types of interviews that you may encounter.
The goal of this type of interview is to get the facts from you by identifying relevant skills and abilities, while verifying the resume and looking for a solid potential employee. It usually lasts less than one hour and depending on the employer and location, can take the form of a campus, site visit, video, or telephone interview.
This interview is based on the idea that your past behavior is useful in predicting future performance. Typical questions center on how you have handled past situations where skills, abilities, and teamwork have been demonstrated. Areas could include project work, relevant work experiences, difficult situations, accomplishments, and leadership roles. The questions usually begin with, "Tell me about a time when you... ?"
Video conferencing equipment is used by employers to conduct screening, behavioral, and other types of interviews. The following are tips to help you prepare for this type of interview:
- Treat a video interview as seriously as any other type of interview.
- Dark clothing is best suited to a video interview.
- Speak clearly and slowly, as the sound system is powerful enough to pick up regular conversations.
- Allow the interviewer to finish speaking before beginning a response.
- Smile and follow basic rules of interviewing etiquette.
This interview is sometimes used as a screening interview if you are located a long distance away from the employer. These interviews are often used to decide whether you should be considered for an on-site interview. Occasionally, students seeking internships and summer jobs have been interviewed and hired using this method alone.
This is the scariest of all interviews, with many pitfalls for the unwary! Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a social occasion for you to delve into your personal life. You are not being taken to eat because the interviewer wants to become better acquainted; he or she is testing you to see if you listened when your mama taught you social graces and table manners. Have a snack before the meal since you will be busy answering questions and promoting your accomplishments.
A group interview could involve several people taking turns asking questions or presenting scenarios for you to answer or solve. It may be used as a group discussion that can help determine how you interact with potential colleagues.
This interview is the favorite of strategic consulting firms. Typically, you will be given a scenario and asked to identify the problem and a resolution in order to assess your mental acuity. Take your time and be creative – but if you realize your first solution won’t work, back out of it and try again.
Types of Questions
Commonly Asked Interview Questions can be found by clicking on the link: Sample Interview Questions
Questions to Ask During an Interview
Prepare a list of well-researched questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Keep in mind that your questions should reflect the amount of research you have done, rather than your lack of research. The questions below are guidelines. Create and adapt the questions to meet your individual needs and interview situation.
Questions that are common to ask the Employer can be found by clicking on the link: Sample Questions to ask the Employer
By going over these items, you should be better prepared for the interview. Take as much time as you can and start early. The longer you practice your answers to these questions, the more polished your answers will become.
Behavioral Interview Questions
Interviewers ask for specific examples of specific events in order to draw a conclusion as to how you would perform in a similar situation. The questions are more probing than those in traditional interviews and discourage vague, canned, or hypothetical answers. The interviewer determines the capabilities and traits that are necessary for success in a position and then asks questions that are designated to determine whether or not the candidate has the ability based on specific past experiences.
Common Behavioral Interview questions can be found by clicking on the link below: Behavioral Interview Questions
Answering Behavioral Interview Questions
Using the "CAR" method provides you with a framework to use when responding to behavioral interview questions.
- Challenge: Give an example of a situation in which you were involved that resulted in a positive outcome.
- Action: Talk about the various actions involved in achieving the outcome.
- Results: What results directly followed because of your actions?
Before the interview process, identify two or three of your top selling points and determine how you will convey these points (with demonstrated CAR stories) during the interview.
It is helpful to frame your answer as a story that you can tell. Typically, the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behavior(s) they seek. They refer to this as "digging a well." The interviewer will sometimes ask you open-ended questions to allow you to choose which examples you wish to use. When a part of your story relates to a skill or experience the interviewer wishes to explore further, he/she will then ask you very specific follow-up questions regarding your behavior. These can include "What were you thinking at that point?" or "Tell me more about your meeting with that person." or "Lead me through your decision process."
Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn’t turn out as you planned. What did you do then? What did you learn? Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering these questions. Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in the past couple of years. Use examples from past internships, classes, activities, team involvements, community service, and work experience to demonstrate desired behaviors.
Example of a CAR Answer
- Challenge: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various student activity events. I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by thirty percent over the past three years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.
- Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go out to students, which included an assessment form to collect student feedback and suggestions for future events.
- Result: We used some of the wonderful ideas we received from students and raised attendance back up to previous levels.
Improper or Illegal Interview Questions
If you believe you have been asked an improper or illegal question at any time in the interview process, do not accuse the interviewer to their face as this will typically exclude you from the job offer.
Illegal interview questions include the following:
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital/family status
- National origin
If you are asked an illegal question, you have three options:
- You can answer the question.
- You can refuse to answer the question; unfortunately, this may harm your chances of getting the job.
- You can ask the intent of the question and answer as you see fit.
A cover letter is a document that accompanies your resume and introduces you and your qualifications to a potential employer. A good cover letter makes the hiring manager want to learn more about you, read your resume and possibly invite you for an interview.
The same steps apply for writing a good cover letter as they do for writing a resume. You should always tailor your cover letters for the specific position and company you are interested in. Then naturally, the first step is to do research about the company and the job so you can customize your materials to their needs. Click to view Cover Letter Tips.
There are four main sections of a cover letter: Salutation, Introduction, Body, & Closing
Although many internship/job postings do not list a contact name, it is very important that you try to identify the specific individual to whom to address your cover letter. If you do not have a contact name, conduct some research, or call the company and ask. The calling script below offers a suggestion on how to contact a company.
Calling Script Sample
- Greet the person and introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Bonnie Canan.
- State your purpose for the call.
I would like to send my application to the hiring manager for the (insert position name) position. Could you please provide me with his or her name and the spelling so that I am sure to address it correctly?
- Ask for the individual's official title.
Thank you. Would you also be so kind as to provide me with his (her) official title?
- Thank the individual.
Thank you very much for your time and assistance. Have a great day.
Sometimes you will see postings that indicate "No Calls Please." In this case, you will often have to be more creative. Look for recent news articles on the company and identify individuals listed, use Career Search, and ask friends if they know anyone in the organization. Contact these individuals and ask for an informational interview with them. While you are speaking to the contact, ask if that person could help you identify the individual to whom you should address your cover letter.
If you have exhausted every means of identifying the name of the individual to whom you should address your cover letter, then address the letter to the "hiring manager" or "employer." This should be an absolute last resort.
Once you have identified the person's name for your salutation, you can begin your introduction.
Introduction: State the purpose of the letter
Your introduction must both state the purpose of your letter and grab the attention of the reader. Tell where you heard about the organization or position. State the specific position for which you are applying, or identify the field in which you are seeking employment. Grab the reader's attention by stating achievements that the reader would find interesting or by mentioning a mutual acquaintance's/friend's name if appropriate.
Body: Express interest and sell yourself
Express your motivation for applying or inquiring. State your compatibility with the company/job description without simply rehashing your resume. Give specifics about what interests you in the job/organization and show how your experiences and skills fit the qualifications requested. Identify two or three of your "key selling points" that are related to the opening or organization. What are two or three skills or achievements that will set you apart from other candidates? Remember, you are competing against others who are as qualified, if not more qualified, than yourself. Indicate you have the desire to succeed and the ability to perform well.
Closing: Express intentions and thanks
Show consideration for the reader. State when you will make contact concerning an interview. Include your phone number and email address. Request action, ask for an interview. Thank the reader. Close with "Sincerely," "Cordially," or "Respectfully." Always include "Enclosure" or "Attachment" [electronic] at the bottom if you are sending any other information, such as your resume.
Check out the link below to see a sample cover letter or view tips:
What is networking?
A dynamic deliberate process of exchanging information or resources and developing mutually beneficial relationships for the purpose of obtaining information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
Effective Networking is a combination of what you know, who you know, who knows you, and how effectively you use both to learn about new opportunities, make new contacts, and connect with potential employers.
Employers prefer to hire from referrals rather than outside candidates with no connection to the company. Personal contact is the single most effective way to get a job. You'll get the competitive edge by being referred directly to employers. What do you think works better? The employer going through a stack of resumes or getting a phone call from a trusted friend telling him/her that he knows this person and he thinks they would be great for the company?
Why should I network as part of my job search?
75% - 90% of jobs are part of the “Hidden Job Market” so networking may be the only way to learn of these job opportunities.
Networking allows you to:
- Develop professional relationships and meet new people
- Expand and increase your resources
- Learn more about a specific career
- Connect with individuals within your career field of interest
- Build experience and confidence
- Establish connections to obtain a job or internship (most of which are not publically posted)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking!
- Leave no stone unturned
- Be resume ready
- Start Close to home
Who do you already know?
Seize every opportunity to publicize your job search: clubs, professional organizations members, volunteer contacts, merchants, civic leaders, neighbors, classmates, former classmates, school alumni, teacher/professors, coaches, coworkers former coworkers, bosses, friends’ bosses, religious affiliation members even the cab driver, everyone!
- Make a list of people you know
- Keep a record of your contacts
- Find a reason to call
Develop Your Elevator Pitch/Speech
What is an Elevator Speech?
- A quick way to sell yourself when making introductions
- Sets the stage for why someone would be interested in learning more about you
- Can be used in a variety of settings
- Professional Conferences
- Career Fairs
- Informational Interview Requests
- Informal Social Events
- Goal is for the elevator speech to lead into further conversation
- This could happen on the spot if there is time or in the future with a business card exchange and follow up email or phone call. Click on the following link to view the Elevator Speech Guide: Elevator Speech
A strong Elevator Pitch should…
- Begin with an indication of who you are and a characteristic that will set you apart from your cohort (e.g., Do you know someone affiliated with this person or organization?, Have you worked for a prestigious company?, Do you have a strong academic background?)
- Contain the purpose of the conversation
- Showcase the research you have done on the company
- Feature your accomplishments and qualifications
Top 11 Networking Tips
- Set Your Goals: Before the event, clarify and write down for yourself what you have to OFFER (information, resources, expertise) and what you want to GET (introductions, resources, leads, information).
- Do Your Homework: If it is possible to learn who will be attending the event beforehand, research the people you’d like to meet and plan your strategy.
- Firm Handshake: Make the first five seconds count.
- Introduce Yourself: Describe what you do best, be interesting, and be brief! Keep it to a couple of sentences; details about skills and experiences can be added as the conversation develops.
- Prepare Conversation Starters: Tailor your starters to the specific event/industry or general topics of mutual interest.
- Act Like a Host: Look for someone standing alone, introduce yourself first.
- Keep it Short: Five to eight minutes per conversation.
- Card Exchange: Ask for a business card as you conclude a conversation. Write reminder notes on back of card to help with follow up.
- Graceful Exits: “It’s been a pleasure talking to you.”
- Follow up: Write thank you notes to those who offered helpful information or resources, preferably within 24 hours. Handwritten U.S. Mail will stand out, but some may prefer email. If you offered to provide information or resources to others, do it now.
- Reciprocal Relationship: Frame networking as a reciprocal relationship in your mind and in your communications: “Please let me know how I can help you.”
Other Important Tips
Why Send a Thank You Letter?
A thank you letter is an essential component of the interview process, whether for the job search, graduate school, or for an informational interview. This simple gesture can speak volumes about your interest and appreciation for the opportunity to interview, and although nearly all job seekers acknowledge the value of sending a personalized thank you note, the majority of people never send one. As a job candidate, you should view the thank you letter as yet another opportunity to show an interviewer what a great fit you would be with their organization or program. Some companies have specifically stated that they hired the candidate because they sent a Thank You letter.
- Keep it simple and to the point.
- Ask for your interviewers' business cards, or write down the interviewers' titles and the proper spelling of their names before leaving the interview site.
- Be sure to write and send the Thank You letter within 24 hours after the interview.
- Remember to be genuine when writing a thank you note.
- If multiple people interviewed you, send a thank you letter to each and personalize each one by talking about something specific you discussed with them. Be sure to mention some key points that you think the employer should remember about you.
- Carefully proofread each letter, and have one other person to review it.
- Remember to keep your thank you letter to ONE page.
- Mention something you learned from your interview (if applicable)
- Conclude the thank you letter by mentioning again how interested you are in the position/program and why.
Formats to Use
Many wonder what type of thank you letter should be sent: typed, handwritten, or emailed. Below is some guidance to help you with your decision:
Should it be...Typed or Handwritten?
Traditionally, the thank you note takes the form of a handwritten letter. If your handwriting is legible, then this gesture can add a touch of personalization to your correspondence. However, if your handwriting is poor, a typed letter is perfectly acceptable. In addition, you may want to base your decision on how formally your interview is conducted. If your first impression feels strictly formal, then a typed letter may be more appropriate; if there is a more informal atmosphere, a hand-written letter may work better.
What about...Paper and Envelopes?
Thank you note cards with matching envelopes are appropriate for use, as long as they are simple, but stay away from cutesy graphics or greetings. High-quality stationery paper with a matching envelope is suitable as well. Both can be found at most stationery stores or at the Vanderbilt Bookstore. It is best when sending a thank you note to use neutral paper, such as white or cream, and to stay way from colored paper.
Should it be Emailed?
While a thank you email is less formal than a physical letter, an electronic thank you note may also be appropriate, depending on the situation. If you are interviewing with a high-tech company or in a fast-paced industry, the interviewer may expect your response electronically. Also, if you if all previous correspondence was via e-mail, or if the interview was sufficiently informal, then emailing the thank you letter is fine.
It is important to email a thank you note to the interviewer within 24 hours of the interview. Many applicant decisions or second-round interviews will be made quickly; emailing a thank you note will reaffirm your interest in the position. Contact information will be available at the student sign-in desk following your interview. In this situation, you may also follow up with a handwritten letter if you feel one would be appropriate.
Click on the links below to view a Sample Thank-You letters:
Purpose of a Job Application
The job application is designed to help the manager spot your strengths and weaknesses quickly. It is also your chance to present your skills to the employer.
According to a Career Builder survey, only 5% of people admit to lying on their resume's and 57% of managers say they have caught a lie on a candidate's application. You have heard that “Honesty is the Best Policy” which is very true especially when it comes to the hiring process. Employers have numerous methods to find out if your information is accurate.
When Picking up an Application
Your Appearance is Important when you pick up an application. Remember; first impressions make a difference and dress as if you were ready for an interview. Dress for Success! Then greet the receptionist politely when requesting or submitting an application. The receptionist's first impressions are often passed along. Lastly, remember to always ask for 2 copies of a job application. This way you have a spare in case something happens to the other one. Click to view Application Tips.
Must Have Items to Bring When Filling Out Applications
- Resume, Social Security card, Driver’s License, etc.
- Fact Sheet
- Employment history including company names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of employment, supervisors name and salary information
- Volunteer work history with community organizations
- Names, addresses & phone number of references
- Black pens (have extras)
- Pocket Dictionary
When Filling Out the Application
- Read through the entire application before filling it out
- Be honest in your answers
- Use Black pens
- Print clearly and neatly
- Spell Check
- DO NOT leave Blanks.
Write Does Not Apply or NA if a box does not apply to you.
- Know the position you are applying for, this is a common mistake if you have applied for numerous positions in a short time.
- Desired Salary?
Employers often use this question as a screening device -- and you don't want to be eliminated from consideration based on your answer. It is usually best to put Negotiable
- Date Available to Work?
Either list immediately or the actual date you can work.
- Only list email address if you check it often.
- Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
Always be honest! Background checks do happen.
- Do not list the school you dropped out from.
- Years Attended?
- List the year started and finished OR Year started – present.
- Major or Courses of Study
- Business, Accounting, Electrical, Automotive, Nursing…etc.
- MIG GMAW Wire Welding Short Course
- List in order from most recent to least recent.
- Be prepared to list:
- Phone Number
- Date Started and Finished
- Name of your boss
- How much you were paid
- Reason for leaving that job
- Job Duties
Be sure to notify each reference that you plan to use them as a reference.
***If there is a mistake restart on a blank application. Never cross out a mistake.
- Turn “negatives” into “positives” (such as “job ended” instead of “got fired”)
- Keep your information consistent with your resume
- Be prepared for all kinds of job applications, from simple one-page applications to multi-page applications
- Don’t wrinkle or fold applications
- Turn in application by the deadline
- Keep a spreadsheet of the Company, Job title, Username & Password
- Fill in the Required Fields – they are usually marked with *
- Save the Application throughout the process so you don’t have to redo your work
- Print a Copy of the completed application when done
- Know how to or get help when uploading your Resume; most places ask for your resume when submitting your application.
- Watch out for applications timing out; some websites or kiosks have certain time limits when filling out an application and they will automatically close after that time has expired.
- Exaggerating Dates of Past Employment
- Falsifying the Degree or Credential Earned
- Inflating Salary History or Title Held
- Concealing a Criminal Record or Hiding a Drug Habit
- Non-existent, Self-Owned Business
Searching for a job is no doubt challenging! With the right information you can take control of your job search and get the most out of the effort you put in.
Have your resume and references up-to-date and ready to hand out, mail, or email when the right opportunity comes. You never want to miss out on a great job because you weren't ready to submit all the information requested.
Make sure your voicemail is professional sounding so when the employer calls for an interview, they are not turned off by your voicemail. Click to view Telephone & Voicemail Tips.
Emails should also be professional. You can sign up for a free account with many different providers such as Google, Yahoo, or Hotmail. For a username, your full name is recommended. Click to view Email Etiquette tips.
If you aren’t prepared, ask for help from the Career Services Center or from Iowa Workforce Development.
Focus Your Search
Narrow your search to include job titles that you are qualified to apply for. Don’t waste your time and effort, or the employers time, to apply for a job you cannot do. Evaluate your skills to gage your strengths and weakness. Set a goal to improve your weaknesses by either going back to school, taking community classes, or volunteering.
Identify Target Industries and Companies
Create a list of companies you would like to work for and target those first. Concentrate on companies that have a growing outlook and positive employee reviews. Contact companies directly to find out about current job openings and human resource manager names. Target your resume and cover letter to be specific for each job you apply for and link your qualifications to company hiring needs.
Use Your Network
Tell everyone you know what type of job you are looking for. Many positions are not advertised; therefore word-of-mouth is the best method to find what is out there. Attend community events and volunteer to meet new acquaintances and expand your network. Create a professional online presence with accounts such as LinkedIn.
This is not the time to be modest about what you can bring to a perspective employer. Be able to give five examples that demonstrate your best qualities. Practice your responses to typical interview questions so that your answers will be polished and well thought out. Dress for the position you want to increase your chances of impressing the employer.
Within a few days after applying, follow up with a phone call to the Human Resources contact to make sure the company received your application and resume. Request an interview if you have not been invited to one yet. Always send a thank you note within 24 hours after an interview.
A positive attitude looks good on everyone! Keep a glass half full approach by not letting setbacks stop your momentum. There are over three million jobs available every month in the U.S.; it just takes finding the right one for you!
What is Etiquette?
Webster defines it as “the forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a profession or in official life.” Some business organizations have administrative manuals in which acceptable codes of behavior are listed. Etiquette is respect, good manners and good behavior. It is not just each of these things, but it is all of these things rolled into one. For the purposes of this guide we will focus on five elements of business etiquette: work, social, telephone, dining, and correspondence.
The following principles can be utilized by office employees to show proper etiquette; they include all aspects of the work environment.
- Be timely. Arrive to work and meetings on time or early. Complete work assignments on time.
- Be polite, pleasant, and courteous.
- Learn office politics. Utilize effective listening skills to discover appropriate office behavior. Pay attention to the way things are done.
- Understand the four unwritten rules of business:
- The Boss is the Boss: right or wrong, the boss always has the last word.
- Keep the boss informed. Good or bad, you don’t want the boss to hear information mentioned from an inappropriate source.
- Never go over the boss’ head without telling him or her first.
- Practice proper table manners to increase your confidence and show your ability to handle social situations.
Whether you have just met someone or have known the person for some time, it is important to follow-up meetings with written correspondence.
Write a follow-up/thank you letter within 24 hours.
- Whether a handwritten note or formal letter always follow guidelines for writing effective business letters.
- Women should be addressed as “Ms.” no matter what their marital status.
- Do not forget to sign your letter.
- Always proof for typos and misspellings.
- Opener: the opener should be friendly and tells the reader why you are writing.
- Justification: the second paragraph reinforces or justifies what you are looking for and why you should get it.
- Closing: close the letter by seeking the person to act on your behalf or request.
- Make your boss look good. Promotion and opportunities arise when you help the organization reach its goals.
Verbal and nonverbal behavior help define your social skills when meeting people. You can demonstrate proper etiquette by using effective handshakes, maintaining eye contact, and making the appropriate introductions.
- Handshakes are vital in social situations.
- Develop a comfortable handshake and keep it consistent.
- Handshakes should not be too hard or too soft.
- Make a solid connection of the web skin between the thumb and forefinger.
- The host or person with the most authority usually initiates the handshake.
- Eye contact increases trust.
- It shows confidence and good interpersonal skills.
- Eye contact shows respect for the person and business situation.
- Authority defines whose name is said first. Say the name of the most important person first and then the name of the person being introduced.
b. Introduce people in the following order: younger to older, non-official to official, junior executive to senior executive, colleague to customer.
- Keep the introduction basic.
- Remember names for future reference.
- Provide some information about the people you are introducing to clarify your relationship with that person.
- Always carry business cards and get business cards from the people you are meeting.
- Keep written notes on people in order to follow-up both personally and professionally.
When speaking on the telephone, proper etiquette is just as important as when you meet someone in person. Like face-to-face interactions, how you behave on the telephone can demonstrate your character to others.
- Always try to return calls on the same day.
- Keep business conversations to the point.
- Do not keep someone on hold more than 30 seconds.
- Always leave your phone number if you ask for someone to call you back.
- Maintain a phone log to refer back to for valuable information.
- Listening is essential whether in person or on the phone.
- Make sure your voice mail works properly.
- E-mail is appropriate to use, but never use all caps and watch for typos.
- Always include a subject line in your message.
- Make the subject line meaningful.
- Use correct grammar and spelling.
- Use a signature if you can. Make sure it identifies who you are and includes alternate means of contacting you (phone and fax are useful).
- Use active words instead of passive.
- Do not ask to recall a message.
- Use proper structure and layout.
- Avoid long sentences.
- Be concise and to the point.
Cell Phone Etiquette at Work
When at work your personal cell phone can have a negative impact on how you are viewed. By following some simple rules of cell phone etiquette you will maintain your professionalism.
- Turn your cell phone ringer off, or at least to vibrate.
- Do not answer your phone while meeting with someone or take it to a meeting (or turn it off completely).
- Let calls go to voicemail, unless expected and important.
- Return voicemails and use your personal phone in a private place (not at your desk).
- Inform others when you are expecting a very important call and that you will need to take it prior to any meeting. More and more, proper business etiquette is viewed as an important part of making a good impression. These visible signals are essential to your professional success.
In today’s world, much business is conducted at the dinner table. Whether at home or in a restaurant, it is important to have a complete understanding of how to conduct yourself.
You can reduce dining anxiety by following these simple guidelines.
- When possible let the host take the lead.
- Ask for suggestions/recommendations.
- Do not order the most or least expensive menu items.
- Avoid foods that are sloppy or hard to eat.
- Avoid alcohol even if others are drinking.
- Choose the correct silverware. Knowing the formal table setting allows you to focus on the conversation rather than which utensil to use.
The Basic Table Setting (see figure): Although there are many different variations, this is a basic model of what one could expect.
- Place the napkin in your lap immediately after seated.
- Do not shake it open. Place the fold of a large napkin toward your waist.
- If you must leave the table during the meal put the napkin on your chair or to the left of your plate.
- When finished, place the napkin to the right of your plate.
- Always pass to the right.
- It is acceptable to pass to your immediate left if you are the closest to the item requested.
- Always pass the salt and pepper together.
- Ask the person nearest to what you want “to please pass the item after they have used it themselves.”
- Begin eating only after everyone has been served.
- Bread and rolls should be broken into small pieces. Butter only one or two bites at a time.
- Butter should be taken from the butter dish and placed on the bread plate, not directly on the bread.
- Bring food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Always scoop food away from you.
- Do not leave a spoon in the cup, use the saucer or plate instead.
- Taste before seasoning.
- Cut food one piece at a time.
- Do not smoke while dining out.
- Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
- If food spills off your plate, pick it up with your silverware and place it on the edge of your plate.
- Never spit a piece of food into your napkin. Remove the food from your mouth using the same utensil it went in with. Place the offending piece of food on the edge of your plate. Fish bones or seeds may be removed with your fingers.
- Do not talk with your mouth full.
- Take small bites so you can carry on a conversation without long delays for chewing and swallowing.