Having a great resume and cover letter can lead to amazing opportunities, and knowing how to show employers why you’re the perfect candidate for the job is key to getting that first interview.
A great resource for VIU students is the Center for Experiential Learning’s Resume and Cover Letter Workshop on VIUEarn, which Career Services Specialist Paula Deering recently revamped. This workshop is entirely autonomous and is accessible to all students. We recommend taking the course for a deep dive into improving your cover letter and CV, but to give students an idea of what to expect, Paula shares some of her career advice in this blog post to help students prepare for their job search. Here are his top tips:
Prepare to apply
Try not to procrastinate. To prepare, get involved in internships and co-op programs, volunteer roles that enhance your learning, or extracurricular activities that build graduate grades. Think about your passions and strengths and try to align yourself with them.
“I believe in what chaos theory tells us and I encourage students to be open-minded and curious, to experiment with new things and to look for signs. Don’t be afraid to take risks and be flexible says Paula. “It’s important to celebrate successions, but equally important to understand our failures and learn from them. Trust your instincts and keep in mind that there isn’t always correct or straight path.
Build your CV
Choose the resume format that works best for you. Chronological resumes are best used for lots of experience and career progression, functional resumes are better if you have a gap or are changing careers, and combined or hybrid resumes combine the two types to target the position.
Use clear sections: summary, skills and accomplishments, work history, and education. List graduate and undergraduate degrees if appropriate. If you have more education than work experience, that’s okay.
Researching the job posting is super key. Hold informational interviews to better understand what the organization expects to see. Know what you are targeting, know your value and the skills you have to match the role. Your CV is a marketing document; it’s not going to get you a job, it’s going to land you an interview.
Showcase your skills
If possible, introduce yourself to the hiring manager. It is best if you can send the resume directly to them. When we write CVs, it is important to think about going beyond the eliminator, which can be a computerized system or a person. Use exactly the same language as the post and use keywords, but be honest.
Call on the coach; the person who has decision-making abilities. Think about the skills that would make your transition easier. Speak about business needs and demonstrate a deep understanding of the role and your value. Use the STAR method, which is explained in VIUEarn.
Do your best
Do it without mistakes, take your time, do your best. The biggest mistakes on a resume are spelling mistakes and sloppy work. Walk away from it, come back to it, get someone to read it for you.
Creating your cover letter
Use the formal business correspondence format
Don’t regurgitate your CV. A resume is a historical document, but a cover letter is an introduction. It is a conversational document intended to establish an emotional connection with the employer.
The most important thing is to follow the instructions of the employer. If the employer asks for a cover letter, they want you to be able to write a professional document. You can find information on formatting your cover letter in the VIUEarn workshop.
Create a unique first paragraph
Start with admiration – why you love the brand. Or start by connecting the dots to why you are applying. I don’t like cover letters that say, “My name is Joe Smith and I’m applying for…”. Employers are looking for something that stands out.
Explain your value proposition
Why are you exactly what this employer needs? Understand what problems the employer is facing and how you can provide solutions, and talk about them. Use your STAR stories to develop evidence-based examples that explain your value.
Make an effort to match the tone or culture of the company. Research them. Talk to people in there. We want to hire people who are like us. We want people who will fit in. Understand the business so you can create a tone that matches the company culture.
The essentials of the job interview
Make a good impression, be on time, be professional and dress for success. Test the equipment and make sure everything works well and print extra copies of your resume. Make eye contact, adopt good posture, take your time, and breathe.
One of the most important things is to really research the job postings so you can try to anticipate what they’re going to ask for and really develop those STAR stories to match it. How will you show the employer that you provide value?
Make sure you have helpful questions at the end. What is a typical work day in this role? What are the challenges? What characteristics do you look for in a candidate who would be successful in this role? What does success in this position look like and how do you measure it? Are there professional development opportunities? How do you help employees succeed?
Always send a thank you note or email within 24-48 hours.
Discover the Career Studio this fall
A Career Studio will be launched in Building 255 this fall. There will be one-on-one assistance on career skills and resume cover letter and interview skills. There will be workshops. We will be hiring interns in Marketing, Communications and Graphic Design, as well as four Career Studio Peer Facilitator positions.
To learn more about Career Studio or to register for the CEL Resume and Cover Letter Workshop in VIUEarn, email [email protected]
Lillian Morpak is a Career and Cooperative Education Assistant at VIU’s Center for Experiential Learning.