Job Search 101 Guide
Develop a winning resume and cover letter. Prepare to nail the interview.
This Job Search Guide provides concise, practical information on how to develop a winning resume and cover letter, and includes samples to use as guides.
In addition to providing information about resumes and cover letters, the guide includes information to help you create a reference list, prepare for an interview, write a thank you letter following an interview, work with executive recruiters, and track your job search progress.
We hope you find this guidebook to be of help to you. Good luck in your job search!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Read other parts of this guide:
Creating an Effective Resume
What are some tips for creating an effective resume?
The thought of writing a resume intimidates almost everyone. It’s difficult to know where to start or what to include. It can seem like an insurmountable task. Here are 15 tips to help you not only tackle the task, but also write a winning resume:
1. Determine your job search objective prior to writing the resume. Once you have determined your objective, you can structure the content of your resume around that objective. Think of your objective as the bull’s-eye to focus your resume on hitting. If you write your resume without having a clear objective in mind, it will likely come across as unfocused to those that read it. Take the time before you start your resume to form a clear objective.
2. Think of your resume as a marketing tool. Think of yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your resume as a brochure about you. Market yourself through your resume. What are your features and benefits? What makes you unique? Make sure to convey this information in your resume.
3. Use your resume to obtain an interview, not a job. You don’t need to go into detail about every accomplishment. Strive to be clear and concise. The purpose of your resume is to generate enough interest in you to have an employer contact you for an interview. Use the interview to provide a more detailed explanation of your accomplishments and to land a job offer.
4. Use bulleted sentences. In the body of your resume, use bullets with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs. Resumes are read quickly. This bulleted sentence format makes it easier for employers to quickly scan your resume and absorb it.
5. Use action words. Action words cause your resume to pop. To add life to your resume, use bulleted sentences that begin with action words like “prepared,” “developed,” “monitored,” and “presented.”
6. Use #s, $s and %s. Numbers, dollars, and percentages stand out in the body of a resume. Use them. Here are two examples:
- Managed a department of 10 with a budget of $1,000,000.
- Increased sales by 25% in a 15-state territory.
7. Lead with your strengths. Since resumes are typically reviewed in 30 seconds, take the time to determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective. Put those strong points first, where they are more apt to be read.
8. Play Match Game. Review want ads for positions that interest you. Use the key words listed in these ads to match them to bullets in your resume. If you have missed any key words, add them to your resume.
9. Use buzzwords. If there are terms that show your competence in a particular field, use them in your resume. For marketing people, use “competitive analysis.” For accounting types, use “reconciled accounts.”
10. Accent the positive. Leave off negatives and irrelevant points. If you feel your date of graduation will subject you to age discrimination, leave the date off your resume. If you do some duties in your current job that don’t support your job search objective, leave them off your resume. Focus on the duties that do support your objective. Leave off irrelevant personal information like your height and weight.
11. Show what you know. Rather than going in depth in one area, use your resume to highlight your breadth of knowledge. Use an interview to provide more detail.
12. Show who you know. If you have reported to someone important, such as a vice president or department manager, say so in your resume. Having reported to someone important causes the reader to infer that you are important.
13. Construct your resume to read easily. Leave white space. Use a font size no smaller than 10 point. Limit the length of your resume to 1-2 pages. Remember, resumes are reviewed quickly. Help the reader to scan your resume efficiently and effectively.
14. Have someone else review your resume. Since you are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to hit all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Have someone review your job search objective, your resume, and listings of positions that interest you. Encourage them to ask questions. Their questions can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your resume. Revise your resume to include these items. Their questions can also point to items on your resume that are confusing to the reader. Clarify your resume based on this input.
15. Submit your resume to potential employers. Have the courage to submit your resume. Think of it as a game where your odds of winning increase with every resume you submit. Use a three-tiered approach.
Apply for some jobs that appear to be beneath you. Perhaps they will turn out to be more than they appeared to be once you interview for them. Or perhaps once you have your foot in the door you can learn of other opportunities. Apply for jobs that seem to be just at your level. You will get interviews for some of those jobs. See how each job stacks up. Try for some jobs that seem like a stretch. That’s how you grow—by taking risks. Don’t rule yourself out. Trust the process.
Can I see an example of an effective resume?
123 Any Street
Any City, Any State 12345
To obtain a position as a Distribution Manager that utilizes my 7 years of distribution and logistics management experience, my experience founding and managing a small business, and my bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Experience with successfully managing all aspects of a large distribution center including implementing automated distribution systems; selecting, managing and training staff; developing and managing the departmental budget; establishing and monitoring productivity goals; and leading cross-functional teams on key projects. Have designed the layout, organization, processes, and procedures for a distribution facility. Proven leadership skills gained from managing a large distribution center as well as founding and managing a multi-million dollar business.
General Manager, Distribution
ABC Companies, Any City, Any State, 2009 – 2019.
• Reporting to the Executive Vice President of Operations, responsible for managing all aspects of operations for a 270,000 SF distribution center with a 94-person staff and a $3.4 million budget.
• Processed 8 million units annually while managing 5,700 SKUs to supply appropriate product to over 500 different locations during off-peak times and 750 locations during peak times.
• Developed operating budget for Distribution Center based on detailed forecasts and managed Distribution Center to operate effectively within the operating budget.
• Reduced Distribution Center expenses by more than $1.5 million, a 30% reduction, over a 2-year period while maintaining productivity levels, service quality, and inventory accuracy.
• Designed an employee productivity improvement incentive program that resulted in a 28% increase in productivity.
• Developed a seasonal staffing program that eliminated the need for temporary labor resulting in a $500,000 savings.
• Directed the successful start-up of a new distribution facility achieving within the first quarter of operation a distribution volume that exceeded plan by over 200%.
• Selected and implemented a warehouse management software system, trained users, and developed procedures to integrate the computerized system.
• Led cross-functional team integrating the distribution system with a new database merchandising system.
• Redesigned receiving and picking operations to incorporate an automated system completing the project on time and under budget.
Founder and President
XYZ, Inc., Any City, Any State, 2002 – 2009.
• Founded and led a 14-employee company generating a peak of $4.7 million in annual sales.
• Responsible for residential construction projects for over 150 new single-family homes.
• Managed the complete project including bidding, design, scheduling, purchasing, subcontracting, and customer service.
• Scheduled subcontractor activities and oversaw multiple subcontractors to ensure construction projects were completed on time and within budget.
• Developed, marketed and sold residential real estate by establishing affiliations with CDE Group, A-1Bank, Top Realty, and Best Realty.
Any University, Any City, Any State
Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration
DMS, MS Office, Spreadsheet Software, ORACLE
World Class Logistics, CLM Annual Conference
Supply Chain Management, CLM Annual Conference
Member, Council of Logistics Management
What process should I follow to customize my resume to a particular job posting?
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 63% of HR managers will pay more attention to a resume that is tailored to the open position. Many job seekers are unaware of the importance of resume tweaking.
The following infographic teaches you how to customize your resume to the opportunities you seek.
Writing Your Cover Letter
Should I include a cover letter when I apply for a position?
Yes. Including a cover letter with your resume is important for three reasons:
1. To demonstrate that you understand the hiring process and can convey a professional image.
2. To generate enough interest in you to cause an employer to take time to read your more detailed resume.
3. To highlight a key qualification or accomplishment that you possess which was called out in the requirements for the position you are seeking. By highlighting how you meet an employer’s requirements in your cover letter, you immediately begin to establish yourself as a qualified candidate for the job.
What should I include in my cover letter?
Here is a recommended format for your cover letter:
- In the 1st paragraph, indicate the job you are applying for and where you saw the opportunity
- In the 2nd paragraph, briefly show you are qualified for the position by mentioning relevant work experience
- Determine what is relevant by reviewing the requirements for the position your are seeking and highlighting the requirements you meet
- In the 3rd paragraph, briefly show that you are further qualified for the position, mentioning relevant educational background
- Determine what is relevant by reviewing the educational requirements for the position you are seeking and highlighting those that you meet
- Another alternative would be to present the information in paragraphs two and three in a bulleted format instead
- In the 4th paragraph, briefly talk about your strengths as a person, such as your ability to work autonomously, your attention to detail, or any personal strengths that set you apart from others
- In the final paragraph, mention that your resume is enclosed or attached and that it will provide further details regarding your background
- Close with a statement about how you look forward to hearing from the potential employer soon
- Include your signature with your name typed below it
- In a cover letter to an executive recruiter or headhunter, you should also include your job titles of interest, your desired salary range, and your geographic locations of interest
Can I see a sample of a cover letter sent to an employer in response to a job posting?
1234 Main Street, Apt. A
Any City, CA 12345
July 7, 2011
Attn: (If to a specific person or department)
Employer City, State Zip Code
To Whom It May Concern:
Please consider me an applicant for the [Insert Job Title Here] position you recently posted on [Insert Location of Job Posting Here]. I believe I have the proper qualifications for the job.
I am an experienced pre-sales systems engineer with a track record of success in preparing and conducting software sales demonstrations. I am skilled in serving as the technical point of contact for major accounts, providing onsite technical support as well as assisting customers by telephone, and presenting to both technical audiences and C-level executives. In addition to my experience as a pre-sales system engineer, I have extensive knowledge of Enterprise Management, including servers, application, and databases performance.
I enjoy a challenge, whether it involves developing training materials, conducting product training, assisting with product testing and implementation, or training less experienced internal staff.
The skills I’ve gained are the ability to learn new software applications quickly and to a level of detail that allows me to serve in a troubleshooting or training role, the ability to adapt my communication style to fit the audience’s level of knowledge and areas of interest, and the ability to convey complex information in a manner that others can understand.
My resume is attached. It will provide you with further details regarding my background. I look forward to hearing from you soon.