GRAND FORKS — Applying for jobs and preparing for interviews can be nerve-wracking.
Here are some tips and best practices when it comes to presenting your best self to potential employers.
Ilene Odegard, director of the University of North Dakota’s Career Services Center, said this time of year is busy for students preparing to enter the workforce.
“A resume is a snapshot of who you are,” Odegard said.
When it comes to a resume, Odegard said to make sure it includes keywords from the job description.
Often, the person reading a resume will not be the person doing the interview. Some large companies even use a computer system to read resumes.
Employers take an average of six seconds to review a resume, Odegard said.
“Whatever is most germain to the position needs to be on the top of the page,” Odegard said.
“It is important to have dates worked over on the side so the page is easy on the eye. And stick with the basics. Keep it simple, don’t switch around fonts or colors. No scented pink paper like in ‘Legally Blonde.’”
The only exception to this rule is if the position you’re applying for is a marketing or graphic design job, or another field that uses creativity.
Odegard and her team advise against including a headshot with a job application.
“You don’t want to accidentally bias someone against you,” she said.
Odegard said to think of a cover letter as an opportunity to tell a story about who you are.
“If you have the opportunity to include a cover letter, do it,” Odegard said. “Employers are looking for graduates who can communicate effectively.”
And, of course, make sure there are no typos in both a resume and cover letter. “Ever,” Odegard said.
“The resume is the tool for getting you the interview, but you have to be good in the interview itself,” Odegard said.
Recruiters who come to career fairs at UND often tell Odegard that students across the country struggle to articulate the value of their degree, she said.
“Tell me about yourself” will always be the first question in an interview, Odegard said.
“Practice your answer and it won’t sound canned,” Odegard said. “I always say to start where you are in life.”
The hardest part of answering this question, Odegard said, is knowing when to stop talking.
“I always tell students to end it by saying, ‘I’m very grateful that you’ve invited me to this interview and I look forward to hearing more now,’” Odegard said.
Questions that ask a potential employee to reveal something about their personal life can be tricky.
“Employers want to make sure students fit the culture of the company. So they might ask, ‘what's the last movie you saw and how did it impact you?’” Odegard said. “And students think that’s a trick question or don’t know how to answer.”
Keeping a clean online profile
Five years ago, employers weren’t checking potential employee’s social media; now they are.
Odegard said she knows of companies that won’t make a job offer if a person’s online presence “isn’t up to par.”
Employees can also get in trouble with work by posting negative comments about the company they work for.
Odegard said her biggest advice for having a good online presence is to make a LinkedIn profile and keep it up-to-date.
“It is a great way to brand yourself professionally,” Odegard said. “Updating it frequently refreshes it and it is more likely to come up first in a Google search of your name. You want LinkedIn coming up first.”
One tool that Odegard recommends is brandyourself.com, which allows a user to take ownership over what comes up about them in an online search.
Odegard said she often advises students not to put pictures or other content online their parents would be embarrassed about.
“Keep it professional,” Odegard said. “Even if there’s a picture with a red solo cup with soft drink in it, the perception will be that you’re drinking. You don’t want to post anything that could hurt your brand.”