Posted April 30, 2019 by

How to Land That Interview: Advice From the Experts

Whether you’re responding to the perfect job posting or sending queries out to companies on your “dream list,” we want you to get the consideration you deserve. So, we asked our panel of experts for their advice on how job seekers can make their cover letter and resume stand out from the crowd and land an interview.

(Please note, while there are some varying perspectives on certain aspects of the resume and cover letter, there are also some clear consistencies from our experts – just as there will be for different hiring managers.)

RESUMES THAT RESONATE

Pam Baker, Founder and CEO, Journeous:

An important thing to remember is that your resume can and should be tailored to the opportunity, while your LinkedIn profile will be a more generalized view of who you are and your experience. You want it to be easy for a recruiter to spend the 5-7 seconds they’re likely to use on scanning your resume to say “yes, this person is worth talking to.”

Adapt your objective/summary to reflect the focus of the job you’re interested in. Review the order of the bullets listed under your experience to list those that are most relevant to this job at the top. If you have specific training that allows you to stand out for this role, make sure it’s highlighted and easy to see. Lastly, make sure to start your bullets with what you accomplished, followed by how you accomplished it and not the reverse. Far too many bullets on resumes start with the “how” and list the results at the end. At this stage, you need to grab the recruiter/interviewer’s attention FAST. 

For example, instead of saying: “Managed project to generate corporate donations for track team, doubling prior year’s total from $3,500 to $7,000,” say: “Doubled corporate donations to $7,000 for track team sponsorship by (how you did what you did)…” 

Alexandra Levit, Chairperson of DeVry University Career Board Business/Workplace Author, Speaker, Consultant, and Futurist Managing Partner, PeopleResults:

Look closely at the job description and determine what specific skills the company is looking for and what achievements they want to see from a candidate, and then tailor your resume to fit that criteria. When you describe your previous experience, make sure it relates to the job you are applying for. Employers want to minimize risk, so you need to assure them that you’ve already succeeded in these areas.

These days, objectives are not necessary. If you do include an objective, again, make sure you customize it for each position that you are applying for.

Finally, be concise. A resume should tell a cohesive story about your experiences/job history in 30 seconds. If you’ve had a long career, be selective about what you include on your resume. You don’t have to list every experience.      

Jeff Dunn, Intel Campus Relations Manager:

It’s all about targeting. For instance, a Computer Engineer has both hardware and software coursework and skills. For a software position, she needs to modify her objective – her “relevant” coursework and the class projects she lists – to be targeted for those skill sets.

In addition, make sure to include quantitative results/numbers in the resume whenever possible. Most resumes simply list tasks that do not demonstrate quality of work.

Joanne Meehl, MS, IJCDC, Joanne Meehl Career Services:

Job seekers should have a 3-4-line “Summary” at the top of page one of their resume that in short, snappy phrases mentions various points about them that match the job description – not only matches the posting itself, but shows an understanding of what the role AND career path require. It should also say something about who you are. College seniors can get this “inside information” about the career by talking with people who DO the job they want. This section should be real for the applicant, not made up for this one job. Here’s an example for an entry level Analyst position, by a client of mine who was a college senior when he wrote it, slightly edited for anonymity. (It worked):

New Analyst with big-picture business mindset. Relishes synthesizing data and doing research. Trusted by peers and managers during three pressured yet very productive Big Data internships. Self-driven, non-entitled, competitive, responsive, with a problem-solving attitude. Deeply interested in analytics, budgeting, operations. Speaks near-fluent Spanish and French. Willing to travel.                                    

COVER LETTERS THAT GET CONSIDERATION

Pam Baker:

While in truth I find that cover letters aren’t consistently read, when they are read, they offer an opportunity to go beyond the resume, which addresses the “what” and speaks to the “why” in your cover letter. WHY are you the best candidate for the job? WHY do you want this role? A resume is written in the third person; your cover letter is written in first person and gives you a chance to connect with the reader by making yourself memorable for who you are, beyond just what you’ve done. 

Alexandra Levit:

Again, you should customize your cover letter to the position, highlighting the areas of expertise that the employer is looking for. It’s also important to be concise in your cover letter. Tell your story succinctly and provide quantitative results whenever possible.

If possible, find a direct contact at the company and send your information to that person. Communicating directly with the hiring manager versus someone in HR can ensure that you won’t get lost in the system. With everything being automated these days, it’s more difficult to stand out and get attention from the right person within an organization.

Jeff Dunn:

A brief cover letter has more impact than a full page that I don’t have the time to read. For example, “I have spoken to several of your company employees, and I believe that the Digital Design Engineer is a good match with my Electrical Engineering coursework and successful team projects. The best times to reach me are the afternoons. I look forward to speaking with you.”

Joanne Meehl:

Again, any examples you can provide would be appreciated. Cover letters are read by some on the hiring side, despite what some people in companies say about never reading them, so do one. Do a “match up” of “what you need” (the employer’s needs) and “how I meet that need,” with examples of your successes from internships, activities, jobs, volunteer work.

The salutation should not sound like a lawyer wrote it, so don’t use “To Whom it May Concern.” A better choice would be “Good Day.” Use the first paragraph to tell them what position they have that you fit and that your resume is attached. Include the job number if one is given.

The next paragraph should tell them why you want the job and why you want to work for them. Here’s where you say you’re interested “because of (the company’s name) cutting-edge leadership” or other statement that’s personal to you. This kind of statement reveals the research you’ve done to choose the company. Most job seekers don’t bother with research, so your cover letter/email and resume will rise above the rest on this aspect alone.

Now, the killer paragraph! Show them you understand their pain; this is so much more powerful than saying one more time, “I have X-years of experience in this field…” This introduces the section where you clearly show how you match the job. I recommend that you show the company how you match the advertised job, point for point. Choose your 4-5 strongest attributes that match their requirements.

Finally, the last paragraph should be a call for action, such as “I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you regarding this position.” If you say you will contact them by a certain date, be sure to follow-up when you say you will! Use your email signature – meaning all your contact information. Make it easy for them to contact you.

MORE TIPS FOR GETTING THAT INTERVIEW

Pam Baker:

Make use of your network! Who do you know who works in the industry/company/type of job you’re interested in? Family friends, alumni, past coworkers, people you were in volunteer roles with? People typically want to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Let them know why you’re doing so and ask for 15 minutes of their time. Then plan out 3-4 questions you want input on, so you can show interviewers you’ve done your homework and know what makes a great candidate. For example, you might want to know what some of the qualities are that this company looks for. Or you might want to find out what skills set someone apart in this type of role. Or maybe it’s useful to get a sense of the type of work someone with your degree could do in this industry or company. You might ask if they know anything about the recruiting or hiring team – and if they know you well enough (e.g., they’ve worked with you before on a project, volunteer role, in a work capacity) you could ask them to put in a good word for you. People who are recommended by someone in their network are at least 3-4 times more likely to get hired! So, doing some up-front research on who might be able to help is well worth your time. 

Alexandra Levit:

I agree with Pam. It’s important to make a personal connection if possible. Try to target someone who is directly involved in the area you are applying for. Also, be sure to follow up after you’ve submitted your resume. A good rule-of-thumb is three touchpoints within a six-week period. I suggest starting with an email, then a second email, and finally a phone call. If you don’t get a response after that, let it go. When you’re communicating with the company/contact, show enthusiasm for the company and the position – Why do you want this job? What makes you excited about working with this company? What aspects of the position are appealing?

Jeff Dunn:

If possible, follow up with an employee who can get your resume to the hiring manager, in case they don’t find your resume in the database.

Finally, show some evidence of “people skills” in addition to your functional skills (leadership, communication skills, adaptability, ownership, initiative, etc.). While these are subjective, including some will personalize your resume. You can give examples when you land the interview.

Joanne Meehl:

Show some excitement for the company, the role/position, and your career choice. Don’t make this a sterile exercise about “skills,” but expand from skills to show how you enjoy the nature of the work and that you’re planning to be doing it for many years because it’s so fascinating to you. Even if you’re a future (very sedate) accountant, show some FIRE for the work! This will demonstrate that you are serious about the career AND will distinguish you from other grads.

To learn more about the College Recruiter panel of experts, click HERE.

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Posted in Advice for Candidates, Career Advice, Cover Letters, Finding the Right Job, Interviewing, Job Search, Resumes, Uncategorized | Tagged