Columbia College’s Career Advisors are available to help current and graduate students meet their employment and further education goals. If you require assistance with questions, resume/cover letter writing, preparing for an interview, or other job search skills, please contact our Career Services Department for assistance at 403-235-9300.
Resume Writing Tips
The purpose of a resume is to market yourself to an organization and secure an interview. A targeted resume communicates relevant skills, education, experience and interests to a potential employer and assists the employer in assessing the applicant’s ability to do the job. Having a “perfect” resume is unlikely, however the following is a set of tips to keep in mind as you begin to write.
Appearances count! Good organization, and an uncluttered and easy-to-read resume will help in creating a positive first impression. Here are some tips:
- Keep your resume short and concise – recommended to be no more than two pages.
- Make sure your resume is on good quality paper, neatly typed or reproduced on a quality printer, without handwritten corrections or white out.
- Label each section of your resume clearly.
- Use point form; this will make your resume easy to read and will minimize wordiness.
- Make effective use of white space so your resume is eye catching.
- Font should be a minimum size of 10, average size of 12.
- Take some time for self-evaluation and reflection. Create a document that sells your strengths! Use the job advertisement and company’s website to help you.
- Start each bullet point with an action verb (supervised, directed, developed, organized, and planned, etc. to describe your skills and accomplishments.
- Highlight qualities or skills which are found in the job posting, are unique to you and which you have excelled.
- Be honest and accurate about your accomplishments.
- The content of your resume includes education, employment history, awards, community involvement, and volunteer positions; if a personal interest section is included, the content should be relevant to the job you are seeking.
- At the top of the document, include your name, telephone number, city, province, email address, and personal website if applicable.
Cover Letter Tips
The purpose of a cover letter is to provide a brief introduction of both you and your resume in response to an advertised position or in anticipation of a possible opening. A strong cover letter effectively highlights strengths and links abilities directly to the position and the organization, thereby sparking enough interest to secure an interview.
Things to Consider
- Speak the employer’s language. Consider what you have to offer and what skills/qualifications are relevant to the position and organization.
- Take note of the description of the work, not simply the job title. Assume that the duties outlined are the ones the employer considers most important and think about how to link your skills and experience directly to them. Always keep the employer’s needs in mind and don’t mention items that are irrelevant to the position.
- Consider how your qualifications match the qualifications on the job description, and if they do not exactly fit, think about how or why you feel your qualifications would be relevant.
- Conduct thorough research on the organization so that in your letter you are able to show the employer that you have done your homework and that there is a match between you and the organization.
- Whenever possible, find out the name of the individual who will be doing the interviewing, and address your letter directly to that person. Be sure to obtain the correct spelling of the name and their specific job title.
- Strong understanding of the position (ex. skills, qualities, values, knowledge, competencies etc. the employer is looking for).
- Knowledge of yourself; your values, skills, interests and experience (as they relate to the job).
- Knowledge of the organization and industry to which you are applying. Be familiar with the company’s mission and values. How does their vision relate to you?
- Understanding of the dynamics of the interview. Think of yourself as a potential solution to an employer’s problem or need. The employer needs to fill a position and you have a certain set of skills and abilities that may be exactly what the employer is looking for. The trick is to sell yourself and convince the employer that you are the right person for the job.
Before The Interview
- Find out more about the company/organization.
- Review your resume and decide which aspects of your employment, volunteer experiences, activities and academic history you want to emphasize that relates to the job.
- Practice answering sample interview questions beforehand.
- Bring extra copies of your resume and a separate piece of paper with your references on it. Also make sure you have a pad of paper and a pen to take notes if you need to.
- Know the name and contact information of the person who is interviewing you in case something happens (i.e. your car breaks down and you are going to be late).
- Research where your interview is being held. Give yourself plenty of time to get there. Arrive 10 minutes early for your interview to ensure that you will be on time and also have a chance to relax and focus.
Behaviour Based Interview Questions
What Are They?
The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Employers use the behavioral interview technique to evaluate a candidate’s experiences and behaviors so they can determine the applicant’s potential for success.
Answering Behavioural Questions: It’s recommended that the S.T.A.R. principle is used.
S—Situation (briefly describe the situation or task that you were assigned)
A—Action (what action did you take? What did you do?)
R—Result (what happened? What did you learn?)
The S.T.A.R method is a process to answer the questions by telling a brief story or situation
How Can I Prepare for A Behavioral Interview?
- Identify examples from your past experience where you demonstrated the skills found in the job posting. How can you “tell a story” about your use of particular skills or knowledge? Concentrate on developing complete S.T.A.R answers and remember that a good story has a beginning, middle and end.
- Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers illustrate your results.
- Be prepared to provide examples of when results didn’t turn out as you had planned. Find a way to turn the negative into a positive. What did you learn from the experience?
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions
- Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
- Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
- Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and to solve a problem.
- Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.