CV and Resume Writing
- Resume vs. CV
- Resume — A short 1 or 2 page document summarizing your credentials. Most appropriate for new graduates or people with few credentials.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) — A comprehensive document summarizing your credentials. Most appropriate for highly-experience professionals, high-level executives, PhDs, etc.
- If you want to have an awesome resume, do awesome things to put on your resume.
- The 6 second rule: design your resume/CV to communicate all of the reasons a company will want to hire you within the first six seconds of reading.
- Start your resume/CV with your personal branding statement and a summary of all the reasons a company will want to hire you.
- Make your resume/CV clean, professional and well-organized so that looks pleasing to the eye and information is conveyed easily and quickly.
- Consider ways to make your resume/CV unique and memorable, while still being clear, succinct and professional. Consider using color accents to create interest.
- PROOF READ, PROOF READ, PROOF READ!!!
Writing Professional Letters
- Your purpose of the cover letter is to get the employer to review your application and give you an interview. Don’t think past this when writing the letter.
- Go through EXTRAORDINARY efforts to identify a name to address the letter to. Never start with “To Whom It May Concern.” If you absolutely cannot identify a name, consider “Dear Sir/Madam,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,” or “Dear Committee,” whatever best applies.
- Cover letter cannot be generic. It must be highly personalized to the company and convince the hiring manager that is THE job you want. If you can submit the letter to a different company with only minimal modifications, it is not a good cover letter.
- The voice of the letter should be friendly, but professional. Do not sound cold and do not use emojis!
- Avoid saying too much about what you want from the company. Devote the letter to what you can do for them.
- BAD: “I have a degree in electrical engineering and I am looking for a company where I can progress my career.”
- GOOD: “I have a degree in electrical engineering, and along with my passion, I think I would be a great asset to your team.”
- Cover letter & resume come as a pair
- Resume – Robotic and comprehensive presentation of your credentials and experiences.
- Cover Letter — Emotional and short presentation of your credentials and experiences.
- Use consistent formatting between the two (and any other application documents you are asked to present).
- If submitting the application via e-mail, make the e-mail the cover letter instead of including an extra attachment (unless requested otherwise).
- Keep your cover letter short and never more than one page. Go for 1/2 to 2/3 of a page.
- Proof read! Proof read! Proof read!
- Header: Include your name, contact information, position # you are applying for, etc.
- Paragraph #1 — Attention Grabber
- Immediately create a direct and personal connection to the company.
- “I understand that your company has recently started developing the discontinuous Galerkin method for part of your product line. I worked extensively with this method during my PhD studies and could make immediate contributions to your company.”
- “I recently learned that your company opened a research facility in Philadelphia, very close to my family. This would be an ideal location for me to live and raise my family.”
- “I have been using your company’s software extensively during my PhD studies to design antennas, frequency selective surfaces, and some microwave circuit elements.”
- Complement the company and its mission and connect them and the job to your personal brand.
- Convey utter excitement for the job and that you REALLY want THAT job, not just any job.
- Immediately create a direct and personal connection to the company.
- Paragraph #2 — Why you?
- Brief summary of why you are the best for the job and what you can do for them.
- Do not repeat your resume. Briefly state why you are good match based on the job description.
- Tell one or two specific examples of achievement most closely related to the job.
- Paragraph #3 — Convince them you want the job!
- You must convince them this is THE job you want and that it is not just a generic application.
- Call to action — ask them to call and schedule and interview or move to next step.
- Thank them for considering you.
- Write drafts of your recommendation letters before even approaching the people you will ask letters from. This will improve your chances of them saying yes and often improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the letter.
- For multiple letters:
- Emphasize different things in the different letters. Maybe one focuses on your leadership, another focuses on your academics, another focuses on your interpersonal skills, etc.
- There will always be some overlap on topics they cover.
- Write the letters in as close of a voice of that person as possible. The letters must read very different! The letter writing may not edit your letter very much.
- Avoid vague and generic language that could apply to anybody.
- Include lots of examples of behaviors and accomplishments that are applicable to the job.
- A resignation letter is important and a professional courtesy to your organization. It may also be the only legal way to resign.
- Always make your letter positive, even if you have negative feelings or bad experiences causing you to resign.
- Avoid writing anything controversial, vulgar, offensive, or revengeful. You may need your previous manager’s recommendation later in life.
- Follow your organizations policies and procedures for resignations and deliver your letter to the appropriate person(s).
- Write professionally and avoid emotion (other than appreciation) in the letter.
- Keep the letter short and simple.
- Type and print the letter on paper. Hand deliver the letter if at all possible. Do not e-mail if you can avoid it.
- Use the letter as an opportunity to maintain, or maybe even strengthen, your relationship with your manger(s) and/or company.
- Minimum contents of a resignation letter:
- Date – Important to time-stamp your resignation.
- Company name and address
- Official statement of resignation
- Date of your last day – always give at least two weeks notice. Check your organization’s policies.
- Statement of appreciation for everything the organization or people have done for you.
- Offer to help during the transition period to finish tasks, train new people, etc.
- Signature – typed name, signed name, current job title, and contact information.
- What NOT to include in a resignation letter:
- Details about your reasons for resigning, unless it is something like illness or other unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances.
- Details about your future plans.
- Any complaints about the organization, its policies, or its people.
- Detailed instructions on how to cover your job duties.
- Rambling on about unimportant things.
Career Development Advice and Resources
- (PDF) (Video) How to Start and Maintain an Awesome Career
- Tips and resources for women to rise in their careers
- LearnHowToBecome — Job Search & Career Resource Center
- Asian Efficiency — Website devoted to time management and productivity
- Purpose of the interview
- Your perspective: (1) communicate your value, and (2) how you meet the requirements of the job.
- Their perspective: get the dirt on you and see if there are reasons to eliminate you.
- Prepare for the interview
- Look like THE candidate
- Talk, act and behave like THE candidate.
- Research the company, including how people dress, speak and act. Be compatible with this.
- Speak in their terms. Use the words they use in the job description.
- Review traditional interview equations.
- Review behavioral question: prepare 5-10 success stories
- Research the company, its organization, its industry, its competition, its culture, and its employees if you can.
- Do mock interviews and get feedback.
- Always convince the interviewer that YOU WANT THE JOB! Tell them his unprompted so they are convinced. Otherwise, they will assume this is just another job to you.
- Passion can overcome some shortcomings in qualifications.
- Be positive 100% of the time. All answers should have a positive spin. Avoid negativity at all costs.
- Don’t say anything negative about yourself.
- Watch your body language.
- Interviews are more like interrogations. Try to turn it into a conversation instead of an interrogation.
- Don’t lie, but you don’t have to disclose everything.
- Spend more time talking about what you will do than what you have done.
- Recruiters vs. Hiring Managers
- Recruiters: generally only focused on if you meet the requirements. Stick the script for recruiters.
- Hiring Managers: not as focused on requirements and more about if they like you and think you will be good in the job and really want the job. Maybe you can bring something extra to the job.
- There are stated job requirements and also hidden job requirements. If you can predict the hidden requirements and hit on them, you will greatly increase your chances of getting the job.
- Stated: Everything in the job posting/description.
- Hidden: Intentionally not disclosed because they are always changing, hard to state, or appear politically incorrect such as seeking certain personality types.
- There is always hidden elimination criteria so stay on subject and stick close to your resume unless pressed. This is especially true with recruiters.
- Always send a thank you note the same day as your interview (or the next day at the very latest) .
- Thank them for the opportunity to interview
- Say something nice about the interview.
- State that you look forward to interacting further.
Tips for Phone Interviews
- Smile and force it if you have to. It will make your voice more interesting, enthusiastic, likeable and upbeat.
- Compared to in-person interviews, you can be much more prepared with materials.
- Original job posting
- List of points to mention during interview
- Cover letter and recruiter emails
- Company details
- List of questions to ask them
- List of industry details and competitors
- Access to company website or annual report
- Control the environment. Make it quiet, undisturbed and pleasant.
- Consider standing and/or walking around during the interview to give an energy-filled delivery.
Common Interview Questions & Answers
- Tell me about yourself.
- Keep your total answer here to one minute or less.
- Start with your personal branding statement.
- “As you can see from my resume…” Briefly step them through your resume and how that makes you qualified for the job. Avoid irrelevant things.
- End with your most recent experience. “And that’s what brings me here today and why I am excited to learn more about this opportunity.”
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- This question is testing your negativity. Don’t badmouth previous company or its employees. Avoid saying anything negative. They don’t want to be badmouthed when you leave them.
- Tell a success story, but maybe say why delivering that success was more challenging than it had to be or how the company may have limited the amount of success achievable.
- “My current job does not give me the opportunity to work in these new directions…”
- You were laid off: “The company was downsizing and many people were laid off…”
- You resigned: “I felt I was ready to do more.”
- You were fired:
- Don’t volunteer that you were fired and avoid using the words “fired.”
- If pressed, talk about the problem that led to your firing. For example, “My employer changed my job expectations and I learned I really like the original expectations.”
- If asked for more detail: (1) admit you were fired, (2) state what you learned from being fired, and (3) how you will apply this experience to your new job.
- Why should we hire you? Why do you want to work here? What makes you the best candidate?
- Great question to be asked! This is your moment to shine!
- Be prepared with a list of the job requirements from the job posting and how you satisfy them.
- First thing to say: “I was hoping you would ask me that!”
- “As I understand it, you are looking for somebody who…” and then go down lost of job requirements and say how you satisfy each one.
- Show some personality and desire for the position. End with “I have always wanted to work for an organization like this because…”
- Why do you want this job?
- Same answer as “Why should we hire you.”
- What are your strengths?
- Same question as “why should we hire you?” Give the same answer.
- Interviewer may see some strengths as weaknesses. Stick with the strengths that directly address the job requirements.
- What is your weakness?
- King of trick questions to get dirt on you. Question really is “What reasons do I have for not hiring you?”
- In the early stages, interviews are primarily focused on criteria to eliminate candidates.
- “I have very high standards and unfortunately not everybody shares those standards which at times can lead to a bit of frustration. What I have found is that with a little bit of communication it never really has become a problem.”
- General template for an answer: (1) “I do…” (good), (2) “but it can lead to…” (bad), (3) “but then I do…” (good), and (4) “…and I completely fixed the problem.”
- What is your tolerance for ambiguity? How to you handle ambiguity?
- This is a trick question — you will get paid to eliminate ambiguity.
- BAD ANSWER: “I have a low tolerance for ambiguity.” You will need your hand held in your job.
- “I have a very high tolerance for ambiguity. I like to determine the details for myself. Its an opportunity to show off my capabilities, and when I do a lot of times people are impressed.” Follow with some specific examples from your experience.
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- This is trick question to get dirt on you.
- Avoid putting expectations on the employer that they cannot satisfy.
- Turn the interrogation into a conversation: “I expect to be advancing based on my job performance and likely taking on some new job responsibilities. Can I ask where you see this company going in the future? What are the long term plans for this department?”
- End with “Does that fit in with what you are looking for?” Take the opportunity to refine your answer based on their response.
- How do you handle stress? How do you handle conflict?
- Never say anything bad about yourself.
- “I actually handle it very well.” Then stop talking and let there be silence. Usually interviewer will move on to the next question.
- If pressed for more: “A certain amount of stress is sometimes unavoidable, but its never been a problem for me in the past.” Then stop talking and let their be silence.
- What is your leadership style? What is your management style?
- This is asked to verify that you can get things done, work with people effectively, and not be stopped by indecision.
- “I don’t have a single leadership style. In the past, I have had to adopt different techniques for different circumstances. My default style is to provide vision and to consult and enable. I see my primary job is to ensure those under me have everything they need to do their jobs and I help to remove obstacles. I coach them and mentor them, but definitely do not micromanage them. I also think part of managing people is to be a cheerleader and to recognize and reward achievement. I think everybody wants to feel important and appreciated. I think it is also motivating to set fun and ambitious goals that can really pull a team together.”
- What is your current salary?
- Companies are not really allowed to ask this question due to privacy and corporate espionage issues.
- “I have a personal policy to not disclose this information because its confidential and private and potentially creates some privacy issues. I am sure you understand.”
- What are your salary expectations? How much do you want to earn?
- Do not EVER give a number.
- “I really need to know more details before I can give you an accurate answer on that.” Those details may be work hours, overtime, benefits, travel requirements, work culture, housing, commute, cost of living, training, etc.
- If pressed for an answer, “I assumed this is an approved position so it must have an approved salary range. What is that approved salary range?”
- If pressed really hard, give a very wide range from very low to very high.
- Do you have any questions for us?
- Good candidates will ask relevant and penetrating questions. Not doing so signals you don’t care, are desperate for a job, or have not done any preparation.
- “Where do you see this industry going?”
- “What challenges do you see ahead for this role?”
- “What challenges do you see ahead for this company?”
- “What do you enjoy most about working for this company?”
- “If you were the CEO, what would you change?”
- “Can you describe a typical day for someone in this role?”
- “If I was in this role, what your expectations of me for the first 30/60/90 days?”
- “Can you describe the types of people that are generally successful in this role?”
- If interview is going well: “Have you seen anything in other candidates that you haven’t yet seen in me that I could perhaps speak to?”
- Always end with: “Where do we go from here?”
Questions to Ask on an Interview
Asking questions is a great way to show interest and give yourself another chance to show that you are the best for the job. A genuine interest in where you work will build report with the hiring manager.
- How will you measure my success?
- Try to learn what you will have to achieve to be successful.
- What are you hoping I will accomplish in my first year?
- This question probes the type of learning curve the employer expects and the general pace of the job.
- You may also get details on specific projects.
- If expectations seem unreasonable, ask what resources you will be given to achieve those expectations.
- What are some of the challenges I may face in this position?
- Hope to get details about the job and expectations not covered in the job posting.
- Based on others you have seen in this job previous, what separated the good ones from the not-so-good ones?
- This gets straight to what the hiring manager is looking for.
- Asking this question conveys you plan to be extraordinary.
- Can you describe a typical day or week on the job?
- Try to get a feel what portion of the day/week is filled with what you actually want to do.
- You may hear “every day is different.” In this case, ask them to describe the last month of the person current in the job. If still no clear answer, be cautious! You may be walking into a mess!
- What are the goals of the company? Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
- Look for a company with a plan.
- Demonstrates you are thinking ahead.
- What opportunities are there for professional development, training, and progression?
- Can you describe the work culture here? What type of people tend to thrive and what types do not thrive?
- What do you like about working here?
- Ask anything about salary, benefits, paid leave, etc. This comes later.
- Try to close the deal on the first interview. Top performers will always take time to evaluate. You are a top performer!
- Ask simple things you could have learned doing to simple research before the interview.
- Do not EVER give a number for salary expectations.
- Let the employer make the first offer.
- Companies are generally not allowed to ask you what your current salary is.
- If asked, reply with something like “I really need to know more details before I can give you an accurate answer on that.”
- Never accept the first offer.
- The first offer they make is likely a good one that they worked hard to put together.
- Be polite, positive, and professional.
- This is as much about building respect as it is getting a better starting salary.
- Ensure the employer they are your dream job and you will hit the ground running.
- You need to make it worth their time to revise the offer and build their confidence you will accept if they do.
- You can negotiate things other than salary.
- Health benefits
- Sign-on bonus
- Vacation time
- Working remotely
- Stock options
- Do your research and know your value.
- Do not panic or get depressed.
- There are many reasons an organization may decline you that have nothing to do with your qualifications.
- Respond with relaxed confidence but disappointment. Declined jobs can often turn into future opportunities if you handle yourself well.
- “I am sorry to hear this news. I think I would have enjoyed this job and I would have performed well above your expectations. Please let me know if there are any future opportunities with your organization that you think I would be a good match for.”
- Request feedback.
- Politely and humbly ask for feedback so that you can strengthen your application package and be more competitive in the future.
- “Can you provide me any feedback on your decision that would help me improve my application package or how I interview so that I can be more competitive in the future?”
- Do not sound like you are challenging the organization. Giving honest feedback to a person that is challenging them is asking for a lawsuit. Organizations will stop communication and not give you any meaningful feedback.
- Revise your application package based on their feedback.
- Take some time before making any changes. Avoid making immediate radical changes to your CV and application package. You may be reacting more to your emotion than logic and reason.
- Do not change your application package in a way that is not you or that sells you for a direction you do not want to work.
- Definitely revise your package in ways that make it stronger for all jobs you may be interested.
- Consider more carefully changes to the package that strengthen some aspects by weakening others.
- It might not be your application package at all. Maybe you need to improve your interviewing skills or you are applying to jobs that you are not a good match for.
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