The resumé and job interview are the two tools you have to sell yourself and your skills to a prospective employer. Here's how you can ace both.
5 resume-writing tips
Goal: To concisely present your training, qualifications and accomplishments so that recruiters can easily assess your experience and see how you will be of benefit to them and their company.
1. Customize your cover letter
"There is a lot of value in having a cover letter," says Jenny Pruegger, human resources expert with Canadian Living's publisher, Transcontinental Media. "But it shouldn't be generic. Tailor it to the job you are applying for and your own experience and use it to tell the employer why you are interested in the particular position you are applying for."
2. Keep it concise
Pruegger says two pages is a good length for a resume; anything shorter doesn't provide the employer with enough detail about your work history and accomplishments, and anything longer is cumbersome and could discourage a recruiter from reading your resume.
3. Account for any absence from the workplace
Prugger says it's best to list your work history using months and years, such as November 2009 to April 2012, instead of simply stating 2009 to 2012. "This way an employer can easily identify any gaps in employment and discuss them with you," she says.
Be proactive in addressing absences from the workforce, whether you were out of work for a few months due to a layoff or chose to stay home with children for several years. You can account for these absences on your resume or note them in your cover letter. "As long as you are able to explain the gap and why it occurred, you will be fine in the interview. The most important thing is to be honest about it and account for it," says Pruegger.
4. State key accomplishments
In addition to spelling out your responsibilities for each position you've held, Pruegger also advises job-seekers to state their accomplishments. Don't be afraid to celebrate yourself. For example, if you surpassed your sales goal by 15 per cent or introduced a new procedure that made the organization more efficient or successful, say so on your resume.
5. Make no mistakes
One of the quickest ways to get your resume in the garbage is to make sloppy mistakes such as typos. Take the time to proofread your resumé and cover letter carefully before you send them out.
Bonus: Regard your resume as an advertisement for yourself that tells recruiters what you can do for the organization.
Page 1 of 3 -- Get essential job interviewing tips on page 2
Advice for interview excellence
Goal: "The main purpose of the interview is for the recruiter to determine if the candidate has the skills and the experience to do the job and if they will be a good fit for the role and the company," says Pruegger.
1. Do your homework
Get to know as much as possible about the company and position. The very least you should do is look at the company's website and read any marketing materials and reports that are available. If possible, talk to past and present employees and clients to get a better sense of the company's goals and values.
2. Anticipate what will be asked
Sit down and compile a list of questions that the recruiter may ask you (see Page 3), and think over your responses in advance so you won't be stumbling for answers.
Draft a one-minute personal statement, so that you won't be caught off guard by the "tell me about yourself" question that recruiters commonly open interviews with.
Don't overrehearse your answers -- you don't want to sound robotic -- but make sure you are clear on the key points you want to convey.
3. Give concise answers and examples
Recruiters want to get a clear sense of your past experience and how it relates to the challenges you will face in the new position, says Pruegger.
So when a recruiter says the position involves working with numerous departments under tight deadlines, give them an example of how you have done this successfully in the past.
4. Ask questions
"Think of the interview as a two-way street," says Pruegger. "Ask any questions that will help you determine if the position and the company are a good fit for you." For example, ask about the goals of the position, the challenges and what a "day in the life" of an employee in the role is like.
5. Don't underestimate the value of a thank-you note
After the interview, mail or e-mail the interviewer a note thanking them for the opportunity to meet and briefly restating your interest in the position and qualifications. "It shows that you are committed and proactive and follow up," says Pruegger.
Bonus: Give your references a call in advance to let them know you want to use their name, and have their full contact information available at the interview so you are not left scrambling if an interviewer asks for references.
Page 2 of 2