As a new year has just begun, some of our readers might be considering a new job or a career change. I’ve been in the process of job searching and applying as my graduation date is just around the corner and naturally I’ve been thinking about the subject a lot. This week’s post will focus on some tips on preparing your application and for an interview.
I recently went through the University of North Dakota’s (UND) Aviation Capstone as part of finishing up my Bachelor studies and we had a few weeks of class activities surrounding the idea of career preparation. A professor I had in class on several occasions came in as a guest lecturer and spends time outside of his classes as a counselor to individuals who are searching and applying for jobs.
One of the things he stressed the most was making sure that an application was completely filled out when applying. Leaving blank areas can invite more questions than necessary, but could possibly put a person’s application at the bottom of the stack. Potential employers need to know you can follow through on a task, so an application is a good place to see if you can read directions and completely fill out a form. In the aerospace field, you’ll have to do a lot of paperwork and forms, so an application is a good place to start when evaluating a potential job candidate.
Another point he made was to be as thorough as possible when providing information. For instance, in the airport industry you often have to go through a background check that can go back as far as five to ten years. While this is a painstaking process, providing as much information as possible makes the process go much smoother than leaving out key details. It can also raise some potential red flags to a future employer if they see large gaps during those time periods.
Lastly, it’s important to be entirely truthful in your responses to application questions. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it could mean the difference from not being considered all together or getting a lot of extra questions in the interview process.
Resume and Cover Letter
I’ve always thought of the resume and cover letter as the most important part of an application. This is mostly because a resume provides a snapshot of work history, education, skills, etc., while a cover letter gives a snapshot of why a company should consider you as a candidate. For those reasons, it becomes crucial piece of preparation for any possible job and should be periodically review to make sure information is up-to-date.
The resume is generally kept to one page. Some professionals with many years of experience will often have two, or even three, pages for their resume while academic professionals, such as professors, will have a curriculum vitae (commonly known as a CV) as their resume. It’s used most in the academic world, but contains greater detail than your average resume. College graduates will often use a traditional resume style unless going into an academic position or some related type of job.
Important items to include are your personal information such as mailing address, email and phone number as well as your name. The actual layout depends on your personal preference and generally includes the following items: an objective, educational degrees (who, what, where, and when), Grade Point Average (GPA), work history, as well as certifications held and personal interests or professional affiliations.
On my resume I have a section for my professional objective, Associate degree, Bachelor degree (clearly noted as in progress), honors level (if obtained), GPA, and then that section is followed by certifications I hold. Currently, I have my Private Pilot’s License (PPL) for Airplane Single Engine Land (ASEL) as well as my High Performance Endorsement. Eventually I plan to add certifications as I continue my training in airport operations and management.
The next section I have is work or related experience with jobs I have held in the last few years, particularly those I have held while at UND and in the Airport Management program. The challenging thing about being limited to one page is that I may not be able to fit all of the jobs held prior to a certain date, however, those jobs are still related to my program. While I may not be able to add it to my resume, it’s certainly something that can be worked into an interview when they ask about your previous experience.
Lastly, I have a section for my professional affiliations. This section is sometimes used for hobbies and personal interests and give an idea of what a potential candidate does outside their normal workday. For instance, for several years I was involved in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the US Air Force Auxiliary, so I list that on my resume as it was a significant period of time I spent in volunteer service. However, I am inactive in CAP as of right now, so I am careful to delineate dates that I was actively serving in the program. Oftentimes, applications will an applicant to list any volunteer service organizations, so I will use CAP if I come across such a question.
Lastly, cover letters should also be kept to one page and should be neat and to the point. A good place to start is to write about your intentions (applying for “X” job) and a summary of your work experience. It should also use key words that might have been in the job description and any pertinent information you may want to call their attention to. An employer may spend 5 minutes or less on your entire application, so make it clean and to the point, but with a personal touch. Addressing the specific person or organization in the header of the letter and salutation is also a nice touch. As with the resume, I generally use a template I’ve created, but I also make sure to review each application and tailor the cover letter to fit each one.
The Interview & Social Media
After you’ve finished the application process, you may be fortunate enough to get called in for an interview – this could involve a teleconference, a videoconference (common these days), or an in-person interview. While a potential employer may have an idea of you on paper, you only get one shot at an in-person impression.
My professor at UND always stressed being professional in every way when it comes not only to your work, but an interview. Preparing for your interview a few weeks ahead of time will help not only to reduce stress, but make sure you are on track. Preparing answers to possible technical questions for your particular line of work, or field, as well as scenario questions (“Tell me about a time…”) are a good way to prepare and get your head in the game.
Additionally, preparing what you will wear is also important. Suits are always a must and a black or navy blue with neutral or toned-down ties, accessories, etc. are a good start. Making sure that your personal grooming is taken care of a head of time when it comes to getting a haircut, or shaving that winter beard off (this is important to males when they interview at airlines). Additionally, going easy on the cologne or perfume, or forgoing it altogether can possibly prevent triggering your interviewer(s) allergies during the actual interview. Of course, don’t forget to shower or use deodorant – this isn’t college!
Preparing ahead of time will can go a long way to feeling more comfortable in the interview setting. As always, don’t get too comfortable – good stress is helpful in keeping you on your toes and focus.
Lastly, think long and hard about your social media use. It’s more of an issue for my generation because of the ability to quickly access the internet from our phones, tables, etc. A good rule of thumb is if your grandma would be shocked, then it’s probably something that shouldn’t be out there. Also, comments about the work environment, coworkers, and bosses should be avoided, especially if in poor taste. It doesn’t matter how private your settings are – someone, sooner or later, can find it. I’m not saying social media is a no-no, I would just be careful what you put out there in general.
One other note: you might want to consider using professional sites such as LinkedIn which are often free and can be an extension of your traditional resume. I’ve also used it to connect with those I’ve worked with or met in the industry and a way to network professionally. I can also use it to keep track of special projects, events, etc., that I’ve been involved with over the last several years in addition to awards and certifications earned. More and more, potential employers are using the internet to research candidates and LinkedIn is a positive way to present your past and present professional history. I’ve also referenced it on more than one occasion when digging back into the last several years for job applications.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully this article has been a good refresher on the job search process, but with some new twists on preparing an application. While it’s an exciting time to be in the market looking for a job as an almost-graduate, it can also be an unnerving process. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your college adviser, professor, or friends and family when preparing.
Best wishes to all those in the job market!