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5 Ways to Prepare for Your Big Interview

5 Ways to Prepare for Your Big Interview

interview-1018333_640Newly minted college graduates are beginning their job hunts; undergrads have already gone home for the summer and are now searching for the perfect summer internship or part-time work. This can only mean one thing—it’s interview season! Even if your resume is spot on and your cover letter could bring a hiring manager to tears, you need a solid interview to seal the deal. Janette Bell, staffing manager, and LaCoya Williams, training and performance management manager, from UD’s Department of Human Resources spoke to a Career Development class about how to prepare for an interview that will be memorable for all the RIGHT reasons. Here’s what they said:

Research the company.
“Always assemble relevant information about the company,” said Bell. “Be prepared to talk about why you’re interested in them and the work they do.”

But don’t go too far by trying to connect to your interviewer or recruiter via LinkedIn or Facebook before the interview. According to Williams, that’s inappropriate. But going through the company’s Twitter account is fine. And learning about their upcoming initiatives or marketing campaigns will demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in working there.

Prepare answers to the most common questions.
The most common type of interview consists of behavior-based questions in which the interviewer will ask you to describe a time when you were faced with a situation or encountered a problem.

“You don’t want to sound like a recorded message, but you do want to have practiced what you’ll say when the interviewer asks you something like, ‘What is your biggest weakness?’” said Williams.

For a list of other common interview questions, click here.

Practice telling stories.
“Review the information on your resume and cover letter, and craft a story about how you did what you did,” said Williams. “Focus on STAR: Situation you were in, Task you were given, Actions you took, and Results you achieved.”

Most importantly, be ready to relate your story to the job qualifications.

Have at least two questions ready.
When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, don’t respond with any version of “no.”

“By the end of the interview, you should have thought of a couple of questions. But if you haven’t, have a few prepared ahead of time,” said Bell.

Questions about the training program or the person who previously held the job are good examples. For more sample questions you could use, check out the OPCD website: http://udallas.edu/offices/opcd/jobseekers/resumes/intervieweequestions/

Dress up, and don’t be late.
Bell says your clothes should be cleaned, ironed and comfortable—nothing too casual and nothing too revealing. And always err on the side of being overdressed. “Even if you’re not sure that everyone in the office wears a suit, you would be safer wearing one than not,” she said.

Williams adds that you should carry a padfolio or a small notebook. “Don’t bring a research binder, just something that can hold copies of your resume and paper for notes.”

Check out the OPCD site for more info on proper interview attire (what to wear and what not to wear).

Finally, practice your route and prepare for traffic BEFORE the interview. Know exactly how long it will take you to make the drive, park and enter the building. Be prompt, but not too early. Bell advises to arrive about 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time.

Visit the OPCD website for more career planning information.

Dos and Don’ts of a Successful LinkedIn Profile

Dos and Don’ts of a Successful LinkedIn Profile

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Statistics show that about 80 percent of today’s jobs are landed through networking. But how, exactly, do you go about finding opportunities to network? Robert Yale, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Satish & Yasmin Gupta College of Business, spoke to Director of Career Services & QEP Julie Janik’s career development class about making professional connections and building your personal brand through LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is not Facebook for the over-40 crowd,” said Yale. “It’s a social network for professionals with over 450 million users. It can be the bridge between you and potential employers if you work diligently to create a profile that sets you apart.”

Here are the dos and don’ts that make for a successful student LinkedIn profile:

Do get a professional photo
Eye tracking studies show that recruiters spend 20 percent of their time focused on the photo in a LinkedIn profile. Because of this, Yale says you must use a professional image: “Use a tightly cropped photo. Wear business attire and make sure you’re recognizable.” And make sure you’re the only person/animal/object in the photo: “Don’t use an image of you with a dolphin unless you’re a dolphin trainer.” And beware: if you don’t upload a photo, LinkedIn will choose one from another of your social media accounts. What first impression do you want to make?

Don’t list your class year
According to Yale, listing your class year (freshman, sophomore, etc.) can exclude you from a recruiter’s searches. If, for instance, you forget to update your status from sophomore to junior, any keyword searches looking for juniors will bypass your profile. Another note about searches: list your degree by its acronym (BA, MBA). That’s what automatic searches are programmed to look for.

Do complete the experience section with future employers in mind
This means don’t list your title as “student” in the experience section. “College is about more than being a student,” said Yale. “So in the experience section, list all of your volunteer and extracurricular activities, as well as your internships and summer jobs.” Think hard about what you learned and how those experiences translate into transferable skills. List those skills in your profile.

Don’t sell yourself short
When writing about your experience, don’t minimize the work you did by over-clarifying the position. If you were a student worker, list your job title only — do not list it as “student worker for XYZ Department.” Don’t describe your work at a day camp as a “short summer job.” Instead, focus on how you met your employer’s expectations and what skills you gained as a result of the experience.

Do be definitive and declarative in all your profile entries
Don’t say you are “planning to go to graduate school” or “hoping to land an internship with a large accounting firm.” Instead, show the steps you are taking to reach that goal. Statements like “preparing for medical school” or “completing course work required to secure internship” are straightforward and goal oriented. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Do make connections
Yale hears many students say they don’t have connections beyond school. “So get creative,” he said. “Start thinking about your parents and their friends, aunts, uncles, and your friends’ parents. Once you make your first layer of connections, the doors are open for you to connect with their connections, and so on.” This is also where networking comes in. When you go to a job fair, pick up cards from employers that interest you and add them to your network. If you notice that one of your connections is linked to a person that could help you or a company you’d like to work for, ask your connection if they will introduce you. “Be diligent, and your network will grow exponentially,” said Yale.

Visit the OPCD website for more career advice.

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

Computer-Guy-800pxSummer is almost here—and whether you’re hunting down that perfect internship or applying for your first “real” job, there’s an often overlooked and extremely important component of the candidate- screening process you need to know about: the cover letter.
“Your cover letter can be the difference between whether or not you’ll move forward in the interview process,” said Julie Janik, Director of the University of Dallas’ Office of Personal Career Development. “It can give you a chance to explain your experience in a way your resume cannot.”

With that in mind, here are 5 tips for writing the perfect cover letter.

Don’t make it all about you
Janik says that the cover letter shouldn’t be about why you want the job but, instead, why the employer should want you: “The cover letter should be 3-5 paragraphs that explain why you are the right candidate for the position.” Never start a sentence with any variation of “I want this job because…” The bulk of the content should focus on what you would bring to the specific position, not what you hope to gain from it.

Don’t use a template
Templates (especially the ones you find online) are overused; most recruiters can spot them from afar. Janik suggests staying away from them, including the ones you’ve made for yourself to streamline the job hunt: “I’ve seen many students use the same template over and over and then forget to change the name of the company. That’s an automatic disqualifier.” She says it’s worth it to take the time to write every cover letter you submit from scratch.

Make it personal, but not too personal
In the same way that a template feels formulaic, describing yourself as a “hard worker with critical thinking skills” without spelling out results to back up your claim will make your cover letter sound generic. Janik says that if most people in the room can make the same claims as you (i.e., “I have a great work ethic” or “I’m a leader”), you are not being specific enough: “Stay away from the generic fluff and use examples instead.” On the flipside, there is no reason to go into detail about your family life or your childhood unless it explains a direct tie to the job or company. For example, you could mention that you became interested in finance because your mother is a financial planner, or that you want to be a camp counselor because summer camp was the highlight of your childhood.

Don’t rehash your resume
Instead of rehashing the experience and accomplishments you listed on your resume, use your cover letter to address how those accomplishments apply to the specific job description. “The employer listed the position because they have a need,” Janik said. “And it’s up to you to connect the dots between what they need and what you have.” Bridging that gap between yourself and what the employer wants is especially important when your major or experience may not seem directly related to the job description. Spell it out in your cover letter.

Make a follow-up plan
“You should always end your cover letter with a specific plan for follow up,” Janik said. If you have a contact name and phone number for the position, indicate that you will call that person in one week to follow up. If you do not have a phone number, indicate that you will follow up by email. If you have no one specific to contact, write that you are looking forward to hearing back from the organization. And then make sure to follow up as you have indicated.

If you have any questions about cover letters or resumes or need help finding a job or internship, come by Augustine 132 or email the Office of Personal Career Development.

OPCD Job Fair Essentials

OPCD Job Fair Essentials

“Hey, I think I’ll run by that job fair after class. I heard that one of the companies really likes UD grads.”

“But you’re wearing a tank top and cut-offs.”

“So what? I just want to grab the brochure and apply online.”

What’s wrong with this scenario, you ask? A job fair is more than just a “stop by if you can” kind of event. You can obtain advice about applying with a particular company directly from the company’s own staff. You might even get an interview!

Here’s how to prepare for an OPCD job fair

  • View a list of employers and professionals attending the job fair on the OPCD website. 
  • Research the employers with whom you would like to speak.
  • Prepare your resume and have a career counselor review it.
  • Bring several copies of your resume on quality paper—carry them in a folder or a portfolio.
  • Practice your 20 second introductory speech that includes 1) Who you are, 2) Your area of interest, 3) Why you are interested in their organization, 4) Relevant skills you have to offer. This could be the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO!

Making the most of the OPCD job fair

  • DRESS PROFESSIONALLY. For job fairs, campus recruiting events, and mock interviews, business attire is essential.
  • Collect business cards from every person with whom you speak in order to follow up and send thank you notes.

Click here to visit the OPCD website for more job fair, resume and interview tips.

7 Things to Do Over Semester Break to Help Your Career

7 Things to Do Over Semester Break to Help Your Career

outoffocus_christmas_lights_195935As the semester draws to close, most of you will be looking forward to a month of rest and relaxation at home. But the break between the fall and spring semesters is an opportune time to take a few simple steps that can help your career after graduation.

Ask your relatives and your parents’ friends for informational interviews.
An informational interview is a conversation during which you can learn about a career field or particular company. Speaking with someone one-on-one about what he or she does every day is a great way to learn more about what a job is really like. And while an informational is not an actual job interview, it is not an informal setting. You should behave professionally and come prepared with thoughtful questions. The UD alumni network and friends that have already graduated are also great resources for informational interviews.

Research internships—know the deadlines and use your time off to work on your resume and cover letter.
Not only will an internship provide you with hands-on experience that can help you land a job after graduation, but it can also show the kind of day-to-day experience you can expect in a particular field. Internships are an important step in the discernment process—you might leave an internship knowing exactly what you
don’t want to do. Click here for the internship deadline calendar.

Get your applications for summer REUs ready.
If you are a science major, research is crucial to your success. The best REUs are highly competitive and will require a thoughtful application. Spend your semester break researching REUs and preparing your application.

Check OPCD’s Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships page to see if you qualify for any opportunities.
Use the break to gather letters of recommendation and work on your personal statement. Click here for more information on the process.

Look for long-term volunteer opportunities for the spring or summer semester.
Not only will you be giving back to the community, you can gain experience that many employers will value. You may even be able to receive course credit for approved community service.

If you’ve written an exceptional paper or conducted in-depth research in your field, explore avenues to present your work to the public.
This could mean making a presentation during a campus event or sharing your work with an organization tied to your area of research. Many scientific, literary, and educational societies welcome student participation. You can apply for a University of Dallas Experience Award funding to offset your travel expenses. Click here to learn more about UDE Awards.

Visit our office after the New Year and before the semester starts. We can help you fine-tune your resume and cover letter, research internship opportunities, and apply for prestigious scholarships and fellowships. Make time now, before your new classes begin. Click here to make an appointment.

4 Ways to Get Ready for Graduation Now

4 Ways to Get Ready for Graduation Now

opcd3If you’re a senior, it’s never too early to start thinking about where you will land after graduation. Here are some things you can do to prepare for life after May 15th.

It takes six to twelve months, on average, to find meaningful employment after graduation. Begin researching opportunities and polishing your resume NOW to give you a head start on other May graduates.

Many companies want to hire recent graduates without much experience. The Office of Personal Career Development hosts employers on campus that are looking for UD graduates. Pay close attention to the emails you receive from us and meet these employers when they come to campus. To sign up for our mobile job alerts, click here.

OPCD job fairs are a great place to meet potential employers from a variety of fields. Oftentimes, the companies that participate in our fairs are familiar with UD students and have hired them for internships and permanent jobs in the past. Dress professionally and bring several copies of your resume.

OPCD hosts panels and speaker events throughout the year. The speakers are experts in their fields and will provide invaluable information about the industries and companies for which they work. Attend as many of these events as you can. Come prepared with thoughtful questions and copies of your resume.