Resumes and Cover Letters: a Senior Session Recap

By Lauren Wannermeyer, Intern at Syracuse University Career Services

Our Senior Sessions help you to prepare!

Did you miss Career Services’ first Senior Session on Resumes, Cover Letters, and preparing for a Career Fair? Here’s what you missed!

Tracy Tillapaugh and Shannon Feeney from Career Services presented on how to make our resume and cover letters stand out among the stack and how to make an impression at a Career Fair. The theme of the session was pretty obvious. To get a job (or even just get an interview), standing out is key.

Tracy kicked off the hour with a brief workshop on resumes, starting with the job description.

Glassdoor.com

The job description
You’d be surprised to hear how many people do not even completely read through a job description before applying for a job. This is an imperative step. If you don’t completely survey the job description, it’s impossible to be strategic with your resume. The idea is to put the most applicable work experience at the top, where it is most likely to be read. It may sound tedious to tailor your resume to every job you apply for, but if you just have a few separate sections (specialized experience, leadership experience, etc.) you can organize them based on the requested skills and experience on the job description.

Recruiters say they pay most attention to the top half and the bottom three lines of a resume. Be strategic with how you place your work/internship experience and your special skills.

We have all heard that resumes shouldn’t be more than one page. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to weed out irrelevant information. You want the experience on your resume to be relevant to the job you are applying for. This might mean taking some things out. While all of your clubs and involvement in college might have been formative, it might not be applicable. Keep this in mind.

Action Words
The next tip is to focus on action words. You should start every bullet point with a verb to kick off your description. Recruiters cannot get the full picture of your experience from a simple listing of the company you worked for and your position there. You should use verbs to explain your duties and responsibilities and try to relate them back to duties and responsibilities listed in the description of the job you’re applying for.

An Objective
Tracy’s final tip had to do with listing an objective. Think of your objective as a headline. It’s a brief statement of what you want to do. It helps recruiters clarify why they have your resume. It’s especially helpful when you’re at a career fair. Company reps are often at fairs recruiting for a variety of positions and they will have a hard time remembering why you spoke with them if your resume does not make your objective clear. An objective statement is completely optional, but it’s something to consider if you’re set in what kind of position you aspire to receive after graduation.

As the workshop continued, Tracy spoke about cover letters. Cover letters are often even more frustrating than resumes. They need to be even more specific to the position you are applying to. If there is one key point when it comes to cover letters, it’s relevance. Examples also matter. You can use all the adjectives you want to describe yourself and what kind of worker you are but it will never have the same effect as an anecdote that displays why you possess all the qualities that they are looking for.

Research is a MUST before Career Fairs

Next, Shannon offered excellent tips on how to make the most of career fairs. Her first tip was to do your research. Find out what companies are attending, figure out what tables you’d most like to visit, have your resumes set to go with those companies in mind. Look up the company’s website and social media accounts. Be prepared to have a conversation with the recruiter. You should never go up to a table and say “Tell me about your company.” If you’re serious about applying for a job, you should be able to tell them about their company and why you’d make a good fit. OrangeLink is a great resource. It allows you to look up the companies that are attending, their website and what positions they are recruiting for. Use it!

Next Shannon advised to have your elevator pitch ready to go. Most of us have had to come up with one at some point or another in class. Your elevator pitch should be brief and informative. It should have flavors of your personality and be memorable. These things are hard to achieve. If you have trouble coming up with your elevator pitch, Career Services can help!

If you’re nervous about talking to your dream company, practice. Start by going to a company you’re a little less interested in to warm up. You might find after working out the kinks with a less stressful company, you’re ready to go. Finally, don’t forget to apply. You can’t apply for jobs at Career Fairs, but you find out about a lot of opportunities. Maximize them by applying. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t!

Don’t miss the next Senior Session on Wednesday, February 15th at 3:30 p.m. in Hall of Languages room 207. Chuck Reutlinger will offer a workshop on Job Searching Secrets. Then, on Wednesday, February 22nd, same time, same place, Kim Brown and Dan Klamm will help you to understand how social media plays a role in your job search and why you MUST be on LinkedIn. RSVP on Orange Link!

Perfecting Your Career Expo Resume

By Chuck Reutlinger

Our Career Expo is Wednesday, February 8, from 11:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. in Schine’s Goldstein Auditorium. In this blog post, Career Services’ Associate Director Chuck Reutlinger shares his advice on making your resume stand out from the crowd.

First impressions count!

Creating a positive impression at a career expo starts with a good visual impression and is frequently followed by your presentation of your resume to an employer.  Most employer representatives will likely skim the document quickly and then either ask you some questions or wait for you to carry the conversation further.  Naturally, the easier they grasp your qualifications and selling points, the more they will focus on your specific interests and their specific opportunities.

5 tips to help you maximize the impact of your resume:

  1. Make sure it is easy to read.  Don’t use fonts that are too small, e.g. less than 10, or too decorative.
  2. Make sure you present your sections of information in the order of their likely importance to the employer.  Not sure what will be important?  Research the positions they may be seeking to fill by reading OrangeLink profiles or using other career information resources.
  3. Take a broad view of experience and don’t arbitrarily position voluntary roles to a section down the resume if they really allowed your selling points to be revealed better than some miscellaneous job you had just to make pocket money.  Integrate them instead into your Experience section and make sure your wording conveys the right message.
  4. Consider starting with a Qualifications Summary right after your contact information wherein you place 3 or 4 bullets under this heading and briefly capture skills, experiences and traits that relate to their needs.  It can alert skimmers to what is found below and thereby encourage their closer inspection.  It might also be all they use to then engage you in a more focused conversation. You might alter your summary for employers of different types if you mean to explore different career paths.
  5. Choose your words calculatedly as you describe experiences and activities so that the lead verbs in a phrase convey the skills you used to accomplish a result.  Don’t use “helped” or “assisted” or similar lead verbs since these don’t convey skills; focus on how you assisted or helped.

Recognize that your interactions with employers may be brief and that your resume may trigger a positive experience.  Note as well that your resume will remain with an employer after you have moved on to another employer, so attention to its construction can help them specifically remember you among all the students they may see.

Good luck!

For last minute assistance with your resume from employers, visit us during Resumania in 235 Schine, on Tuesday 2/7 from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. First come, first served!

What I’ve Learned from Three Years in Career Services

by Dan Klamm
Marketing & Communications Coordinator

As some of you may know, this is my last week working in Career Services at Syracuse University. Effective October 24, I will be moving to the university’s Division of Advancement and External Affairs to be the Assistant Director of Digital & Social Media. I am thrilled about this opportunity, though sad to leave an amazing group of colleagues, an exceptionally supportive boss, and a workplace that has presented me with many unique opportunities and challenges over the last three years.

I’d like to present you with some key learnings that I’ve acquired during my tenure in Career Services, in the hopes that these nuggets can help you navigate the job search and young professional life. Over the last three years, I’ve advised hundreds of students and alumni on career development issues, I’ve evaluated job candidates as a search committee member, and — as I approached my own job search, before this wonderful new position at SU became available — I’ve interviewed with organizations such as Edelman, Google, and NYU. This combination of experience provides me with a variety of perspectives and some key take-aways.

1) Before beginning your job search, develop a clear goal.
What industry would you like to work in? What organization(s) would you like to work for? What is your ideal position? Geographically, where do you want to be? Take the time to do some soul searching and figure out the answers to these questions. Conduct informational interviews with SU alumni to find out what certain job titles really mean or to find out what it’s actually like to work in a particular industry. Research salaries and cost of living information to see if your dream career in your dream city will give you the quality of life that you want. As your ideal job begins to take shape, develop a clear goal statement and a list of target employers.

Doing this heavy lifting at the outset will save you lots of time and energy down the road. Once you have a clear goal, you can channel all your efforts toward reaching that specific goal. Instead of applying for 90 different PR jobs across New York City, you can spend time customizing your cover letter and resume (and networking!) to apply to the 10 positions in fashion PR that you really want.

“I’ll take anything” is the kiss of death in a job search — especially in an interview. Hiring managers want to hear how excited you are to work in their industry, for their company, and in the specific position that you’re applying for. Having a clear goal in your mind will help you to convey genuine enthusiasm during an interview.

2) Customize all of your resumes and cover letters. Seriously.
Companies are receiving hundreds of applications for every job opening these days. Who is a hiring manager more likely to interview: the candidate who sends generic application materials or the candidate who says it’s his life dream to work at Company X and provides examples of how his background is a perfect fit for the open position? In most cases, it is the latter.

You don’t need to completely re-write each and every resume and cover letter that you send out, but you should tailor these documents so that they reflect the needs of the employer and the nuances of the job description. It shows that you’re interested in the job and not just sending generic applications out to dozens of companies.

3) It’s who you know AND what you know.
Personal connections can open doors, but in most cases, they won’t land you a job. It’s up to you to sell yourself in an interview.

4) Attack the interview.
An interview is not a passive thing for you to experience; it’s a two-way (or group) dialogue in which you need to take an active and enthusiastic role. Walk in there with an agenda and know the key points that you need to communicate. Even starting off by saying “Thank you for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity to interview for the position and I’m excited to be here today” sets the tone for the rest of the interview and says that you’re not just going to sit back and wait for questions to be lobbed at you. It shows you’re invested in the process and ready to actively engage the inteviewer(s).

Always prepare several key points about the strength of your candidacy. Regardless of the questions that you receive, make sure you’re able to reinforce these key points throughout the interview. Don’t wait for the interviewer to ask the right question or pick up on some small detail on your resume. It’s your job to sell yourself! At the end, wrap up by thanking the interviewer(s) for their time and reiterating your interest and fit.

5) Your reputation matters.
Every little thing that you do impacts your reputation in the professional world: the people you greet (or choose to ignore) in the hallway, how you handle criticism, how you react to success, the way you collaborate with others, and of course the quality of your work. Nothing goes unnoticed.

Your online reputation is equally important. I’ve seen job candidates score interviews based solely on their web presence and the relationships they’ve built through social media. Likewise, I’ve seen candidates rejected based on their online behavior. Pay attention to your online presence — because employers certainly do.

6) Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Unfortunately we all occasionally find ourselves in conversations with people who bring us down: people who belittle, people who condescend, people who tell us our sights are set too high, people who encourage us to settle.

Don’t settle.

You deserve to be surrounded by people who support and uplift you. During the stressful job search process, this is especially true.

7) Make your own opportunities.
No one is going to find you a job, introduce you to a mentor, or voluntarily give you a $10,000 raise. You need to make it happen. This means taking ownership of your career, putting in extra effort, and proactively taking steps — sometimes unconventional steps — to make yourself known.

For me, this meant reaching out to the editors of The Post-Standard and proposing to write a series of columns about social media in the job search. Surprisingly enough, they gave me the greenlight. About 2 months after my outreach effort, my first column appeared. I then leveraged my writing experience with The Post-Standard to approach an editor at Mashable, one of the most widely read blogs on the internet, about contributing guest posts. He, too, said, “Sure, sounds great!” and a few weeks later my first Mashable post went live.

For you, this could mean tweeting at your dream company to express interest in a summer internship, applying to speak at a big conference in your field, or asking your boss for a promotion. These things aren’t going to magically happen on their own; you need to make them happen.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned above all else in the last three years, it’s that relationships matter. I’d like to thank everyone who has been a part of my career to this point. From the colleagues I work with across the university, to the students I advise, to the alumni I meet while traveling: it’s been SUCH an enjoyable experience coming to work every day because of you. Thank you! I can’t wait to find out what my next step will bring, and I wish you the best with everything.