Following up on the “Job/Internship search”, the article of this week focuses on the essential tools you need to prepare before starting the application process.
Now that you know where you want to work and what you want to do, you need to get your application tools ready! My first advice when preparing your personal toolbox is structure. It may not sound sexy, but structure really is my motto. And if this is not the first article you read from this blog, you already know that bullet points are my friends and explicit sentences are the best.
I remember one of my former bosses telling me: “When you send a message (whichever the message), make sure that the reader understands exactly (as exact as possible anyway) what you meant to say, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t try to write lyrics, stick to simple words, as long as these words stick to your intended meaning.”
So here is the structure I got for your application toolbox:
1) The classic tools (résumés , cover letters, value propositions, portfolios, references’ list)
2) The social tools (professional profiles, display of your passions and expertise, etc.)
3) The extras (business cards, QR codes, digital signature, etc.)
Welcome to the classics!
a. Résumés: keep it clean, clear and to-the-point
I am part of these people who believe that, in some industries such as communication, marketing, public relations, design and other creative fields, online profiles are more relevant than paper ones. But the truth is that paper (well, pdfs) résumés are very convenient as they sum up key information in only one or two pages. And this is the first advantage I see in these résumés.
Let me explain why: I have been looking for marketing interns for my firm. I posted the offer on several student websites and received over eighty applications (and I shall say it is truly is a small number compared to bigger companies that can receive over thousands applications for a single job). My time on a résumé? Up to twenty seconds! Just the time to scan over your experiences and skills and check if you could fit the position.
How? Well, the difference between these big companies receiving thousands résumés and us is that they often have software scanning the incoming résumés, selecting them according to key words and sending a smaller selection to “real people” in human resources. The idea, however, stays the same: highlight your key words! Build up your résumé based on your past experiences, areas of expertise and skills identified earlier and make sure to include key words from the job offer, from the position title and description, and from what you know of the industry.
Some students asked me about the construction of their résumés. Here is what I do for myself:
- Contact information
Keep it simple: first name, last name, phone number, email address, license and car (if required for the position). I would say forget the physical address as I doubt recruiters would send you a letter, but you can still indicate your city and country.
- Unique selling points
As you identified your skills and areas of expertise, write them on top of your résumé. You can write them as a list in one or two columns or in an introduction paragraph. Whatever you prefer, keep it short and straightforward: no more than ten bullet points for the list, or four lines for the paragraph.
- Professional experiences
In reverse chronological order, including internships, summer jobs and student jobs. Keep the same structure for all your experiences, such as: first line: dates and job title; second line: length of the job, company, city and country.
- Research work (if you did one)
You spent six or more months working on a subject, you better use it to good use! Add the title of your project, the subject (the main research question), and the names of your tutors. Keep it short but interesting as it could lead to additional interview questions.
Add university, college (including exchange programs) or graduating training. Forget high school. If you’re looking for a first job, then high school is now far behind you!
- Extra-curricular activities
Add student organizations, competitions, volunteering, and blogging activities. Should your entrepreneurial and/or charitable side!
- Technical skills and language skills
Remember also that you can build more than one résumé. The goal is not to have a single all-inclusive résumé, but several résumés: one for each of your areas of expertise. For instance, 1) “Marketing and Communication Assistant” including generic key words such as “brand marketing, marketing and communication integrated strategies, marketing communications, brand image”, etc. 2) “Web Marketing Assistant” including more specific key words such as “web marketing strategies, search engine optimization, social media marketing, online visibility, social reputation”, etc.
b. Cover letters’ body
Give yourself a break. Any recruiter knows that candidates do not build up a whole new cover letter for each position. The easiest way to apply to several positions without re-writing everything each time is to prepare a complete and well-structured letter body that highlights your key selling points and the value you can bring to companies. The introduction and conclusion are specific to the company you apply in. But make sure that the body is detailed enough so that you won’t have to change it for each new position. You can also prepare several letters: one for each résumé.
c. Value propositions
This value proposition summarizes your key skills and should hold in one paragraph. This is the message you should include into your application emails and social accounts’ introductions. Don’t forget to add the exact reason why you are applying, including the title and number of the job offer.
d. References’ list
Prepare a list with your best references. But make sure that these people are aware of it and are ready to give a nice recommendation.
Prepare a file with your best realizations: newspapers’ articles, papers for schools the one you got very good feedbacks), research work, drawings (if you are in graphic design), etc.
Next tools coming up soon:
1) The social tools (professional profiles, display of your passions and expertise, etc.)
2) The extras (business cards, QR codes, digital signature, etc.)