From cover letters with misspelled names, sloppy resumes, mailing a resume where the printer has obviously not done its job correctly, showing up for an interview 20 minutes late, and answering a question by telling your personal story of tragedy and bad decisions, to showing up for an interview knowing little about the organization, I’ve seen job candidates do it all when applying for a position at the library.
Often, you’ll never know why someone didn’t hire you. But there are strategic decisions you can make in presentation and in interviewing that will increase your chances of landing an offer. Especially today, you need something special that elevates you above the other candidates.
Let’s explore some ideas. First, clearly prepared resumes with great presentation always win out. Spelling errors are a big negative and indicate someone who isn’t paying attention or someone who may be sending out dozens of resumes without any mindfulness to the actual positions. A cover letter that is specific about the position is also an important element of the application because it can tell an employer a bit about you in a way that cannot be done on a resume.
Once an applicant has been asked for an interview, I am always impressed by the person who has visited our website and the facility, and knows something about our organization. Contrariwise, I am disappointed in the applicant that hasn’t taken the time to learn anything about us before they show up. Applicants who ask questions of us, show enthusiasm and a real interest in wanting work here rather than anywhere else always win points. I am also impressed by applicants who follow up an interview with a thank you note. Sometimes it is those little things that win you the job over another similarly qualified person.
But don’t just take my word for it: OWL can help you with tips from the experts! We have a wide selection of books on preparing resumes, writing cover letters, interviewing, dressing smart, and much more.
Here are a few favorites:
Electronic Resumes and Online Networking by Rebecca Smith (650.142 SMI). Smith shows how to use the internet for improved job searching, preparing the e-resume, where to apply online, and how to use interactive resume sites.
101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions by Ron Fry (650.14 FRY). Fry presents tough interview questions, then provides information on “what they want to hear”, “green light” or how to answer if your response is a good one, and “red light” or how to answer if your response may not be that good. For example, the question might be: “What did you learn from your internships?” If you learned a great deal, then you’ve got a “green light”. If on the other hand, your internship didn’t work out as you hoped, a “red light” appears but Fry helps you know how to respond in a way that still makes you an impressive candidate.
Job Interviewing Made Easy by Patty Marler and Jan Bailey Mattia (650.14 MAR). Interview skills are critical! Marler and Mattia give an excellent overview on what you need to know, from becoming an active participant in the interview to how to conduct the follow-up, as well as how best to negotiate salaries and benefits.
Help! I Need a Job: The Desktop Guide to the Perfect Interview by Katreena K. Hayes-Wood (650.14 HAY). Hayes-Wood divides her book into four distinct interview aspects: preparation, practice, observation and evaluation. In Preparation, she helps you learn how to get a job interview, access network contacts, make that great first impression, assess your skills, and do your research. In Practice, she explores everything from the traditional interview to “new” styles like behavioral interviews as well as illegal questions and questions you should have for your employer. In Observation, she helps you learn how to calm your nerves. Finally, in Evaluation, she discusses how to evaluate your performance, follow up with the employer, and evaluate offers.
Cover Letters Made Easy by Patty Marler and Jan Bailey Mattia (650.14 MAR). Marler and Mattia continue with advice on cover letters. They discuss the varieties of cover letters, what employers look for in covers, basic foundations for a good cover letter, and they give a number of sample letters.
Resumes by the Connecticut Department of Labor (650.14 CON). This slim book is an excellent primer on resume preparation as well as discussion of cover letters. The book discusses the purpose of a resume, parts of resume, style, grammar and presentation, action verbs, samples, and much more including resources available through the Connecticut Department of Labor.
Killer Cover Letters and Resumes! The WetFeet Insider Guide by Rosanne Lurie (650.14 LUR). Lurie offers an excellent guide to cover letters and resumes. Examples of various styles and presentations are clearly provided as well as methods to determine the best style to market your career background. She provides a particularly astute overview of formatting, style, and customization of resumes and cover letters.
The 110 Biggest Mistakes Job Hunters Make (and How to Avoid Them) by Richard Hermann and Linda Sutherland. Hermann and Sutherland take on the biggest errors that applicants make from writing canned job descriptions into their resumes, sending letters to the wrong person, repeating your resume in your cover letter, using the wrong paper, applying carelessly to help wanted ads, and many more. They tell you how to avoid and correct these mistakes.
What Color in Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. (650.14 BOL). This is the quintessential guide for those looking for a job and considering a change in careers. The Library of Congress selected it as one of 25 books that have shaped readers’ lives. It thoroughly guides readers on a whole range of career-related questions and decisions.
Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields (650.14 FIE). Fields helps readers learn how to make a living doing what you love by examining your passions and by introducing what he terms “renegade career paths”, and how to build that passion into a marketable career.
Dress Smart Women and Dress Smart Men by Kim Johnston Gross (660.28 GRO). Both books help women and men learn how to dress for success in the workplace. Their books cover dressing for a job interview, travel wardrobes, dressing to get ahead, and dressing depending on the type of work you do (corporate to a more relaxed/chic work atmosphere).
And finally, if you want to continue to explore resources but prefer those that are electronic, OWL now offers two online services for career-related assistance. Job Now provides live interactive help to assist with basic questions and tools to help you get the job you want. The Coin Career Library is a more comprehensive tool that lets you explore various career options and is particularly helpful to college students and people new to the workforce. To explore these two online tools, visit our website http://www.owlibrary.org then click on Online Research. You will find them in the sidebar. You will need your OWL library card.
Good luck and keep the faith!
Ann Marie is the Library Director at the Oliver Wolcott Library and is blessed to have selected a career that she loves, work in a place that she adores, and work alongside of some of the finest people on the planet.