It’s that time of year again – UC Davis students are faced with the challenges of job-hunting. Fine-tuning resumes and preparing for interviews can be a drag, but there are several tips to make the search for jobs and internships a little more productive.
The first piece of the job search puzzle is the cover letter. A cover letter introduces yourself to employers and gives them reasons to hire you – or at least not to throw away your resume.
Cover letters should always be used, said Lisa Sanders, career advisor and coordinator at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center (ICC).
“A cover letter should be used when you aren’t physically there to represent yourself and talk about what you can offer as a professional,” she said. Attach a cover letter even when applying online to jobs that only ask for a resume, she added.
Marcie Kirk Holland, project manager at the ICC said that one frequent mistake students make is submitting the same resume and cover letter for every position.
“Taking the extra 20 minutes to modify it for the specific position makes all the difference,” she said.
“Employers look for interest and passion about the industry or job,” Sanders said. “They look for that resume that is tailored to the industry or company.“
And don’t slack on writing your cover letter – recruiters can tell how much time was put into them.
“A recruiter knows right away whether someone has taken an hour or five hours to edit a cover letter,” Sanders said.
One of the most frequent mistakes in cover letters is that students simply summarize points listed in their resume, she added. Another frequent mistake is a lack of expressed interest or passion in the job being applied for.
Oftentimes students focus on why they want the job and not what they can offer the company said Cynthia Goldberg, internship coordinator at the ICC.
“That’s the wrong angle,” she said. “The focus is on you and what you can offer.“
In reviewing a resume the employer decides whether or not the applicant meets the minimum qualifications.
“People really do spend 10 seconds looking through your resume,” Goldberg said. “You want to be able to get past that first review.”
Although the state of the economy has more and more people flooding employers with resumes, Kirk Holland said that recruiters have noticed that while the quantity of applications is up, the quality of applications is down.
Although it may sound obvious, the key to getting a resume to jump out is to thoroughly read the job description.
“It has to pop for the employer because they’re so inundated,” Goldberg said. “If you know what they are looking for you can highlight the things you think are important.“
Goldberg added that since some resumes may be screened electronically and may be looking for key words and phrases, it is important that you use the same keywords as in the job description.
And worried you don’t have enough to put on a resume?
“That’s not true!” Sanders said. “There’s relevant experiences and transferable skills that anyone can highlight.“
Coursework, volunteer work, activities or student clubs can all be listed on the resume, Kirk Holland said.
Job search help
Where do you find the employers to send your perfected resume?
“The ICC, one-on-one advising, Aggie job link, career fairs and on campus recruiting are all great places to start,” Sanders said.
Once a student has found a job opening and is ready to go to the interview there’s still a lot they can do to prepare themselves.
“Review your resume – look at each experience and remember one specific example of a success with that position,” Sanders said. “You’ll develop a running list of concrete examples.
“Look carefully at the job description,” she added. “What are the skills and experiences that this employer might be looking for in an interview?”
Preparing is essential and can include researching the company, the job position, and practicing responding to interview questions.
Knowing how and why you’re qualified for a position gives you easy answers to interview questions and researching the company gives you an idea of what kind of questions might be asked.
There are some common interview questions to be prepared for. One popular type is the “behavioral” question.
“Employers intend to ask a question where past performance will predict if they will succeed in the future,” Sanders said. “One example of such a question might be, ‘Give me an example of a time you took initiative on a project.‘“
Responding to these questions can be tricky, but it is essential to use concrete examples, not a vague and general response, Sanders said.
Prepare for the questions that you don’t want to be asked. “The expression ‘hope for the best prepare for the worst‘ is helpful when preparing for an interview,” Goldberg said.
The ICC has a program that allows students to set up their webcam and answer interview questions fielded by the computer. Students can watch themselves later and see where they can improve their answers and interview techniques.
So students: spend a little time customizing your resumes, research the potential employer, show your enthusiasm for the position and maybe you’ll land that dream job instead of flipping burgers.
“Strong interest and passion go a long way with employers,” Sanders said. “Employers know when someone is very committed to the application process.”
Sanders, Goldberg and Kirk Holland all added that the ICC is open for students and recent graduates for cover letter, resume, and job and internship search help. The UC Davis ICC is located in South Hall.
KELLY KRAG-ARNOLD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.