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Job Hunting: It’s Like a Job, Only Harder

Expert tips for writing resumes, cover letters and thank you notes

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(ARA) - For recent college graduates or professionals beginning a new job search, a job hunt can be an exhausting process. One of the reasons is that, according to the experts, to be successful in your job search, you have to "market" yourself, and many people just don’t know how.

According to Loribeth Dalton, director of career services for The Art Institute of Las Vegas, "The job search is very similar to sales and marketing. To be successful you must follow a linear strategic plan."

For example, says Dalton, start with the two of the most important building blocks for a successful job search: the resume and cover letter. "The purpose of a resume is to tell an employer what a person has done in the past. The cover letter tells the prospective employer what skills and abilities the job seeker has that will allow them to be successful in the future with their company," she says. "Each cover letter should be crafted to be very specific to the job applied for."

Michael Courteau, professional development instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota recommends never having a resume longer than one page. Anything beyond that won’t get read. "Conventional wisdom is that most resumes are read, on average, for eight seconds, so adding another page to your resume becomes unnecessary, since you’ll only be placing an even greater textual demand on the reader’s eight seconds," he says.

If you have limited work experience, like a new college grad, consider creating a functional resume that emphasizes skills. For example, says Courteau, near the top of your resume you would list such skills as knowledge of specific software, bilingual skills, or relevant volunteer experience.

In your cover letter, says Kirsten Wright, graduate employment advisor at The Art Institute of Washington, "point out the strengths of your resume and direct a potential employer to things that you cannot explicitly state in your resume but that make you stand out."

In both resumes and cover letters, always use high quality paper. Stay away from slang language and avoid using contractions. You want to present yourself as a professional, even if you’ve never held a formal job before.

Find out if your school has a career services department, and if so, ask for guidance. "That’s what they’re there for," says Diana Graves-Sharple, director of career services of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Graves-Sharple also recommends seeking out friends, family, professional organizations, trade journals, job boards, recruiters, staffing agencies and industry specific directories to help in your job search. "Research your city, or the city you’d like to work in, the job market, and know the industry and the companies that you are contacting for potential employment," she advises.

With all the job seeking information available on the Web -- including Career Builder.com, CreativeHotlist.com, TalenZoo.com, and FlipDog.com. -- are today’s graduates in better shape than a generation ago to find a job? "Overall, I’d have to say yes," says Jennifer Abramski, assistant director of career services of The Art Institute of Seattle.

But, she adds, there are common mistakes she sees over and over again. For example, graduates need to respond quickly to job leads, i.e. within a day. They need to return a potential employers’ call immediately and be on time for interviews. Abramski adds, "five minutes late is not on time." Be enthusiastic. Often the recent graduate still has the "laid back" college mentality, but this doesn’t work well in a job interview situation. "Employers often end up thinking you’re not interested in the job or the company," she says. Remember, a first job is not necessarily a dream job. But it does add to your professional experience.

All these experts agree, thank you notes for an interview need to be sent within one day of an interview. Thank you notes "can tip the scales in your favor," says Kristin Wright. "When all other skill sets and experiences are equal, this can be the factor that gets you hired," she adds. Thank you notes also give you the opportunity to point something out about yourself that you didn't make clear during the interview process.

When it’s time to sit back and wait for the job interview calls to come in, remember to listen to the outgoing message of your home answering machine or cell phone. Edie Beattie, career services advisor at The Art Institute of Charlotte, remembers calling a graduate who was actively job searching and hearing an outgoing message of "Whad Up?" and then beep. If a potential employer hears that, your job offer could be doomed.

So whether you’re a new college graduate or an experienced professional who has been recently downsized, the guidelines are the same. Write a good resume and cover letter, be organized and keep track of who you interview with, write thank-you notes and maintain a professional image, even if you’re just at home waiting for the phone to ring. You never know.

Courtesy of ARA Content

1. A resume describes how you can contribute to the company in the future. True: False:
2. A different cover letter should be written for each job you apply for. True: False:
3. Resumes are usually looked at only very briefly. True: False:
4. A functional resume mainly describes your experience. True: False:
5. Resumes and cover letters should use only formal language. True: False:
6. Interviews require a similar mentality to college. True: False:
7. Thank you notes give you the chance to add to what you said in the interview. True: False:

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