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7 Things You Must Do Before Applying for a Job

The job market is more competitive than ever, requiring applicants to bring their A game when pursuing new opportunities. That’s why Computer Systems Institute (CSI) prepares students for success beyond the classroom, and is available to help with career development, resume writing, and interview preparation. If you’re diving into the job hunt, make sure you prepare to put your best foot forward BEFORE submitting your first application. Here’s how.

Update Your Resume

Think of your resume as a personal advertisement that boasts your work history, education, qualifications, and skills. According to the Ladders Inc. 2018 Eye-Tracking Study, recruiters often have less than 10 seconds1 to review your submission, so you have to make a strong first impression FAST. Follow our tips for creating a stand-out resume that deserves a second glance:

  • Tell a story about yourself AND the prospective role (personalization is key!)
  • Break the content into clearly defined sections
  • Incorporate keywords and phrases
  • Use a design that correlates with the job you want
  • Proofread again, and again…and again

Craft a Personalized Cover Letter

This one-page document should explain why you want to work at the company, why you’re a good fit for the role, and any other relevant information about what you will offer. Paint a picture of your qualifications with your words, and, most importantly, tailor every cover letter you write to the job and company.

Contact Your Professional References

Many employers request contact information for at least three references. This allows them to confirm your abilities from a third party and get a better understanding of how you will fit into the role. Be very strategic when determining who to list. Consider:

  • Who will sing your praises?
  • Who is familiar with your skills and work ethic?
  • How long have you known this person?

Pro tip: ALWAYS ask before listing your references. You want to give them a chance to decline, brush up on your qualifications, etc.

Prepare Your Portfolio

Show that you can do more than talk the talk. Your portfolio should confirm that you have the skills needed for the job you are applying for. Only include your best pieces of work that show the breadth of your abilities. It never hurts to get a second opinion on what to include from a current or former instructor, mentor, or trusted peer.

Ensure Your Online Presence Is Professional

A CareerBuilder Study2 found 54 percent of employers have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles. Trust us, you do not want to fall in this category. As you post on your social channels, avoid publishing offensive content or photos that cast you in a negative light. You should also consider making your social media profiles private.

On the flip side, don’t forget that social media can be used to your advantage as well! Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a must today, and is a great way to reiterate the information on your resume.

Network. Network. Network.

It’s simple: The more connections you have, the greater your chances of advancing your career. Break out of your comfort zone and ask to grab coffee or lunch with the people in your network, and remember, it’s not all about you. Consider what you can bring to the table to help the other person, and understand that sometimes networking can take months or even years to pay off.

Lean on CSI for Career Help!

Have questions about preparing for the job search? Don’t hesitate to reach out to careerservices@csinow.com for assistance! Simply include your name, career objectives, and any relevant documents (resume, cover letter, etc.), and we’ll be in touch.


1 Ladders Inc. “Ladders Updates Popular Recruiter Eye-Tracking Study With New Key Insights on How Job Seekers Can Improve Their Resumes.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 6 Nov. 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ladders-updates-popular-recruiter-eye-tracking-study-with-new-key-insights-on-how-job-seekers-can-improve-their-resumes-300744217.html.

2 CareerBuilder. “Number of Employers Using Social Media to Screen Candidates at All-Time High, Finds Latest CareerBuilder Study.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 26 June 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/number-of-employers-using-social-media-to-screen-candidates-at-all-time-high-finds-latest-careerbuilder-study-300474228.html.

5 Resume Tips for Recent Graduates with Limited Experience

Sending a text. Pouring a cup of coffee. Reviewing a resume. What do these things have in common? They all take 10 seconds or less.

*Cue your double take*

That’s right, recruiters spend less than 10 seconds – 7.4 to be exact – screening a candidate’s resume, according to the Ladders Inc. 2018 Eye-Tracking Study. Taking this into account, it is critical that you clearly and quickly sell your skills and talents to potential employers. This can be particularly challenging for students or recent graduates who have limited relevant job experience…but not impossible. Here’s how to create a resume that warrants a second glance:

Tell a story about yourself AND the prospective role. When crafting your resume, you must draw a clear picture of your talents, work history, education, career goals, and more. The kicker? All of this information should be tailored to the position requirements. Always, always customize your resume.

Break your resume into clearly defined sections. Your resume should include:

  • Your name, email address, and phone number.
  • A summary of your qualifications that highlights your achievements, skills, and experience. This brief blurb should appear directly under your name and contact information to help recruiters quickly glean your qualifications.
  • An education section that features the name and location of your school, the credentials you earned, your field of study, and your graduation year (or anticipated graduation year). You can also include your GPA if it demonstrates academic merit. According to Monster, “It’s best to only list a GPA of 3.0 or above.”
  • The industry certifications you have earned. If you are new to the workforce, you likely won’t be able to boast years of experience, but what you lack can be supplemented with other relevant qualifications that can validate your skills to potential employers, such as certifications.
  • A list of your professional skills that relate to the job listing like attention to detail, communication, and collaboration.
  • The awards you have received, if applicable. There is no time to be modest when it comes to your achievements!
  • Your work history, listed in reverse chronological order (meaning your most recent experience appears first). As you build this section, consider any and all relevant experience you might have, including externships, volunteer work, etc. Ensure that everything included focuses on the specific results/outcomes you achieved.

When crafting this content for your resume, you must think strategically. As mentioned above, every piece of information you share should tie back to the job you are applying for.

Incorporate keywords and phrases into your resume. Upon first glance, a recruiter or keyword tracking system will look for specific words and phrases that show your skills and expertise. According to Indeed, the keywords you use should describe your hard and soft skills, as well as demonstrate your accomplishments.

Design your resume for the job you want. There are countless resume templates available on the web, some flashier than others. When choosing a design, consider the job you are applying for. If you are pursuing a career in graphic design, use your resume to showcase your skills. If you are entering the world of medical coding and billing, you may want to consider a more reserved approach.

When in doubt, follow these best practices:

  • Use Verdana or Arial fonts.
  • Avoid varying the font size on your resume. Instead, use an 11 or 12 font size, and consider bolding headlines and dates for differentiation.
  • Do not use italics, fancy fonts, or page borders.
  • Never include watermarks or background colors on your resume. Use a plain white background with black font.
  • Always print hard copies of your resume on quality paper.

Proofread again, and again…and again! One of the easiest ways to ensure your resume gets cast aside is by having spelling or grammar mistakes. Try reading your resume aloud, asking a friend or advisor to review, and using Spell Check before submitting.

This is a lot of information to digest. But the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. As a student or recent graduate, you have multiple tools at your disposal to create a knock-out resume. Organizations like Computer Systems Institute (CSI) are committed to helping you from your first day on campus (or Zoom!) through the job search.

Keep in mind that a resume is just one component needed when applying for a job. To learn more career preparation tips and tricks, check out CSI’s blog.

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