There’s a lot of talk and concern these days about robots and computers replacing human beings in the workplace. As mentioned in a previous blog quoting AmSkill’s Mechatronics Master Instructor, Jeff Cole, that concern is overrated: While robots are now more and more “employed” to do a variety of tasks, we still need people with special skills to maintain them.
While that’s great news for us humans, there is a critical phase of the job-hunting process where computers play a key role and could very well determine whether (or not) your job application is ever seen or read by a real person. This online world in which we live has changed more than just how (and how fast) we communicate, shop, get our news and be entertained. It’s also changed how we find employment.
Following are some tips to help you navigate the online job application process and be ready to shine when selected for an interview.
Creating or Updating Your Resume
Think of your resume as a one- or two-page document that summarizes how you might tell your work-life story to someone over a cup of coffee. You don’t have a lot of time (longer is not better), so you want to choose your words carefully, focus on your key strengths and experience and how they will help your prospective employer be more successful. You want your resume to look clean and professional but focus more on its content than how “creative” it looks.
TIP: If you don’t have a document software program on your computer, you can use Google Docs to write your resume and save it in a variety of formats. If you already have Gmail, you’ve got a Google account and if you don’t, it’s free to create one.
Be sure to incorporate into your resume the same key words that are used in the employer’s job description. This is where the computers come in. Many employers use applicant tracking systems that search for certain words in applications; if those words are found in your resume, you have a much better chance of your application making it to the hiring manager’s inbox.
A good, simple resume will include the following:
- Contact information: This is your header. Include in bolder/larger font your first and last name, followed by your address, telephone number (mobile), email address and, if you have a LinkedIn profile, a link to your page.
- Summary Statement: In one or two sentences, summarize your top one or two skills, years of experience, and core competencies.
- Work Experience: List employers beginning with the most recent, along with two or three bullets under each describing your key responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Education: Hit the highlights, including high school, technical school, college (community and university) along with years attended and degrees/certifications earned.
Landing the Interview
NOTE: This is one of many areas where graduates of the AmSkills 2-week Career Discovery Bootcamp have a huge advantage, as they are guaranteed interviews with multiple employers on the final day.
- Online is the new “in line.” Most companies these days have an online job application process, and some accept applications only via their online portal or the major job boards (like Indeed) on which they advertise. Be careful to fully complete all sections of the online application and upload your documents in the requested format.
- Completing the online job application sometimes requires you to create an account on the company website or online job board you are using. You will use this information to log back into the site and check the status of your application, and sometimes the tracking system will automatically send you an email with any status updates.
- Writing and uploading a brief, personalized cover letter for each prospective employer might help get you noticed. The information you need is already in your resume, but this letter gives you the opportunity to address the more detailed job requirements of the position and highlight how your knowledge and skills can directly support the company’s needs.
- Personal contacts can be a big help. Networking sites like LinkedIn offer free accounts and can go a long way toward helping you get your foot in the door. Use your resume to populate the content on your LinkedIn page, then connect with people you know. Using the search feature, you can look for other LinkedIn members who already work for the company where you hope to interview. Connect with them (be sure to personalize your request to connect) and, who knows, maybe they know the hiring manager!
- Be patient regarding applications you’ve already submitted and keep applying for other positions for which you are qualified. While most companies are professional enough to let you know whether you’ve been selected for an interview or not, “ghosting” is an unfortunate reality these days.
So, you’ve done it! They’ve called and scheduled an interview. Now what? While this could be the subject of an entirely separate blog, keep these thoughts and suggestions in mind.
- Don’t be surprised if your interview (at least your first one) is conducted via Zoom or another video conferencing site. After all, there’s a good chance the interviewer is working remotely.
- Whether you are interviewing in person or online, prepare for the interview as if you were attending in person, with respect to what you wear, how you look, your personal grooming and (if online) your video background.
- If interviewing in person, bring two or three copies of your resume with you just in case they are needed by others who may have joined the interviewer.
- Be prepared to provide a summary that covers the highlights of why you are the person for the job (your cover letter may help with this), then do your best to provide honest and thoughtful responses to more specific questions.
- While it’s natural to be a bit nervous, thinking of the interview as a conversation between colleagues may help calm those fears.
- Thank the interviewer when they are done. If the information isn’t volunteered, it’s not unreasonable to ask when you might expect to hear back from them.
Remember, you are in the driver’s seat; the demand for US workers is at or near an all-time high. You’ve got what it takes, and hopefully these tips will help you more easily navigate the process. Here’s wishing you the best for a successful job search!