So, you successfully earned a workforce credential from one of Virginia’s 23 community colleges? Congratulations! Now, it’s time to switch gears and begin your new full-time job: applying to jobs. Job applications can be daunting; there are often many steps, tedious questionnaires, and every employer has a different way of doing things.
Follow these five tips to get a leg up and land interviews wherever you apply.
Use a professional email address
While email@example.com might have done the trick back in your youth, when it comes time to apply for full-time positions, it’s also time for a professional email. Employers will likely see your email address come through before they even see your name, so it’s the first place to make a good impression. And when it comes to email addresses, a good impression is making no impression at all.
There are a number of free email services out there, with Google’s Gmail being one of the most popular. Try different structures for your new email until you find one that’s available – first name, last initial; first name_last name; last name and first initial – the list goes on and on. Keep it simple, keep it professional, and employers won’t have a second thought opening your email to view your application materials.
Tailor your resume for the job
If you are applying for a job in construction, employers are less likely to care about that time seven years ago when you got an award for slam poetry. Keep your work experience, awards and education relevant to the job posting.
That’s not to say all “irrelevant” experience is for naught. For example, service industry experience teaches customer service, leadership and managing many tasks at once, all of which are valuable skills relevant for many types of jobs. Craft narratives for your past experiences that highlight these relevant skills and bring to life your previous work experiences.
Some employers want a cover letter. Some require you to fill out a screener questionnaire before submitting any other paperwork. Some have an interview where they go over your materials. Every employer is different, and there’s no cookie cutter approach to applications. Be sure to read through each application carefully, and follow instructions to a tee.
If you are applying to many positions, consider using a spreadsheet to track deadlines, materials needed, points of contact and current application status to keep everything straight.
Many employers take advantage of an automated system to screen resumes. The scanners look for keywords in resumes that fit the stated job description. Resumes without a match get discarded. To that end, read the job description and include capabilities and experiences that align with the wording in the description. There is no need to copy things verbatim or be heavy-handed, but think about including keywords that portray you as capable of fulfilling the specified job requirements.
Proofread… and then proofread again
Last but certainly not least, proofread your resume. When you stare at a cover letter or resume you’ve been working on for weeks, you start overlooking typos and errors. It’s easy to fill in missing words because you’ve read it so many times. Some employers count applicants out because of typos, and you don’t want a silly mistake to ruin your chances at a great job.
Try reading your resume and cover letter out loud to yourself. More times than not, this will help you catch typos and readability errors. As a final defense, task someone you trust to be your second set of eyes. Having an independent reviewer proof your materials can help catch mistakes you’ve overlooked.
In addition to these five tips, career coaches at community colleges across Virginia are trained to assist you with the job application process, from resume writing to interview prep. Take advantage of the help while you are working towards your credential, and hopefully you’ll be hearing these words soon: you’re hired!