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 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,

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,