By REGINA BORSELLINO
Does job searching sometimes feel like you’re flinging resumes and cover letters into a black hole? You may be wondering if your applications are being read at all.
Perhaps you’ve heard that computerized resume scanners reject applications before they even make it into human hands. And yes—at many companies that receive a high volume of applications, that’s true.
The internet has completely transformed the job searching landscape. Long gone are the days when you’d “pound the pavement” or “go in and ask to speak to a manager” for all but the smallest local businesses. Instead, you apply online—which is a double-edged sword for everyone involved. Because you don’t have to physically fill out and deliver an application or send out resumes and cover letters via snail mail anymore, you can apply to a lot more jobs. But so can everybody. This means that an open position can easily get far more applications than companies have the resources to read.
Just ask Muse Career Coach Yolanda M. Owens, Founder of CareerSensei Consulting, who has more than 20 years of recruiting experience in a range of industries, including healthcare, tech, and financial services. When she was a corporate recruiter, she would post a job opening and get back, she says, “over 300 applications for an entry-level position within a week.” She was generally recruiting for between 15 and 20 roles at a time, meaning that she might have 6,000 applicants to track at once!
So hiring managers and recruiters like Owens frequently use an applicant tracking systems (ATS)—software that helps them organize job applications and ensure none fall through the cracks. If you’ve applied to a job any time since 2008, your application has probably passed through an ATS. Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS of some kind, according to research conducted by Jobscan. Any time you apply for a job through an online form or portal, your application is almost certainly going into an ATS.
But an ATS does more than just track applications—it can also act as a filter, parsing every resume submitted and forwarding only the most relevant, qualified job seekers to a hiring manager or recruiter. That’s the resume-scanning technology you’ve probably heard about.
Luckily, getting past the ATS is a lot easier than you might think. Follow these dos and don’ts to create an ATS-friendly resume that’ll sail right through—and impress the hiring manager, too.
1. Do Apply Only to Roles You’re Qualified For
ATSs get a bad rap as the “robots” standing between you and your new job, and when you hear that Owens read only 25% of the applications she received for most postings, it might reinforce that impression.
But the reason she looked at such a small percentage of applications? Most candidates were not qualified for the job she was filling. And some were completely irrelevant. “If I’m looking at an entry-level [accounting] position and seeing someone who is a dentist or a VP,” Owens says, it’s totally fair for the ATS to discard those.
So first and foremost, make sure you’re truly qualified for the roles you’re applying to. This doesn’t mean you have to hit every single job qualification or apply to a job only if you have the traditional background for it. Owens says she was always “trying to cast a wide net and not exclude too many factors to pass up a candidate who might not be traditional”— career changers looking for an entry point into a new field, for example, or folks who had impressive transferable skills. But if you don’t have the core skills needed to perform a job, you’re better off not wasting your time or a recruiter’s.
2. Don’t Apply to Tons of Jobs at the Same Company
An applicant tracking system also allows recruiters to see all the roles you’ve applied to at their company. Owens often noticed the same person applying to every single opening the company or one of its departments had. When you do this, a recruiter can’t tell what you’re actually interested in or if you’re self-aware about your abilities.
If a company has two very similar roles open, absolutely apply to both. Or if you have a wide range of skills and interests and would be equally happy in two very different roles, then you can apply to both, though you should definitely tailor or target each resume you submit to the specific job.
But you generally shouldn’t be applying to both an entry-level position and a director-level position, or a sales position and a video-editing position. And you definitely shouldn’t be applying to every opening a company has. That just shows you haven’t taken the time to consider what the right role for you is—and a recruiter isn’t likely to take the time to do it for you.
3. Do Include the Right Keywords
At its core, what any applicant tracking system is programmed to do when it “reads” a resume is the same as what a person would do: It’s scanning for key pieces of information to find out whether or not you’re a match for a job opening. “ATS algorithms aren’t that different from the human algorithms, we’re all kind of skimming for the same things,” says Jon Shields, Marketing Manager at Jobscan. So when it comes to writing a resume that can make it past an ATS, you want to make sure that key information is there and that it’s easy to find.
One of the ways the ATS narrows an applicant pool is by searching for specific keywords. It’s like a Google search on a much smaller scale.
The recruiter or hiring manager can decide which keywords to search for—usually whatever skills, qualifications, experience, or qualities are most important for performing the job. For entry-level roles, that might mean certain majors, whereas for a tech position, it might be certain coding languages.
So if you want to make it past the ATS, you’ll need to include those important keywords on your resume. Hint: Look for the hard skills that come up more than once in a posting and are mentioned near the top of the requirements and job duties. Hard skills include types of software, methodologies, spoken languages, and other abilities that are easier to quantify. (The most important keyword could even be the job title itself!)
Depending on your industry, certain degrees and certifications might also be important keywords. Particularly in fields like nursing and teaching where state licenses are necessary, employers are going to want to know at a glance that you’re legally allowed to do the job you’re applying for.
If you’re having trouble identifying the important keywords in a job description as you craft an ATS-friendly resume, there are tools online (like Jobscan, Resume Worded’s Targeted Resume or SkillSyncer) that can help you.
Note: In some cases, an ATS scanning for keywords will only recognize and count exact matches. So if you have the correct experience, but you wrote it using language that’s different than what the system is looking for, you might not come up as one of the most qualified applicants. For example, if you write that you’re an “LSW” but the ATS is checking for “Licensed Social Worker,” it might drop your resume. (To be safe, write out the full name, then put the abbreviation in parentheses.) Or if you wrote that you’re “an Excel expert,” but the ATS is searching for someone who has “experience with spreadsheets,” your resume might never get to the hiring manager. When in doubt, match your phrasing to what’s in the job description, as that’s likely to be what the ATS is looking for.
4. Do Put Your Keywords in Context
Applicant tracking systems can recognize that a key skill or experience is present. But interpreting the strength and value of that experience is still for people to do. And humans want to see how you used your skills.
It’s obvious to a recruiter when you’ve just worked in a keyword because it was in the posting, without tying it to a specific personal achievement—and it doesn’t win you any points. “Instead of focusing on regurgitating a job description, focus on your accomplishments,” Owens says.
Plus, remember that you won’t be the only one adding those important keywords to your resume. “If [you’re] all using the same job descriptions and the same buzzwords, what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd?” Owens asks. Answer: your accomplishments, which are unique to you.
When describing your current and past positions, “ensure your bullet points are actually achievements, and use numbers and metrics to highlight them,” says Rohan Mahtani, Founder of Resume Worded. Instead of just telling recruiters and hiring managers that you have a skill, this will show them how you’ve used it and what the results were.
5. Don’t Try to Trick the ATS
ATSs have brought up a whole new host of problems with applicants “trying to cheat the system,” Owens says. You might have come across advice about how to tweak your resume to fool an applicant tracking system—by pasting keywords in white, pasting the entire job description in white, repeating the keywords as many times as possible, or adding a section labeled “keywords” where you stick various words from the job description.
Don’t do any of this!
Any tricks that have to do with pasting keywords in white will immediately be discovered because the ATS will display all text in the same color on the other end. So even if this gets your application flagged to a human recruiter, they’ll see that you added the full text of the job description or just wrote “sales sales sales sales” somewhere and move onto the next candidate as quickly as they can. Not only are you failing to prove you’re qualified for the job, but you’re also showing that you’ll cheat to get ahead!
If you were considering adding a “keyword” section, remember that it lacks any context. If you can’t also speak to your experience with the skill, it probably doesn’t belong on your resume, and if this is true of one of the main keywords, this isn’t the job for you. What you can do, however, is include a keyword-rich resume summary—not an objective statement—that concisely puts your skills in context at the top of your document.
You also want to be careful you’re not just stuffing your resume full of keywords. “You can use a keyword as much as you like so long as it’s used in [the] correct context that makes it relevant to the job description,” says Nick Francioso, an Army veteran who mentors other veterans during career transitions and the founder of resume optimization tool SkillSyncer. But if you just cram in random keywords all over the place, you might make it past a resume scanner only to irritate a recruiter or hiring manager with a resume full of nonsense.
6. Do Choose the Right File Type
In the great resume file-type debate, there are only two real contenders: .docx vs .pdf. While PDFs are best at keeping your format intact overall, the .docx format is the most accurately parsed by ATSs. So if you want to get past the ATS, use a .docx file. But also follow directions (if the listing asks for a certain file type, give it to them!) and take the posting’s word for it (if a posting says a PDF is OK, then it’s OK).
And if you’re considering using an online resume builder, first check what file type it spits out—Mahtani cautions that some online resume builders will generate your resume as an image (.jpg or .png, for example).
Pro tip: If you don’t have Microsoft Word or another program that can convert your resume to .docx or .pdf, you can use Google Docs to create your resume, then download it in either format for free.
7. Do Make Your Resume Easy to Scan (by Robots and Humans)
In addition to making sure that your resume has the right content for an applicant tracking system, you also need to make sure the ATS can make sense of that information and deliver it to the person on the other end in a readable form.
Fortunately, ATS-friendly resume formatting is very similar to recruiter-friendly resume formatting. Like a human, the ATS will read from left to right and top to bottom, so keep that in mind as you format. For example, your name and contact information should all be at the top, and your work history should start with your most recent or current position. There should be “no surprises about where info is supposed to be,” Shields says.
Among the three common resume formats you can choose from—chronological, combination, and functional—ATSs are programmed to prefer the first two. Recruiters also prefer chronological and combination formats (starting to notice a theme?). “For me, it’s more about storytelling to demonstrate a person’s professional progression,” Owens says. That story is harder to see with a functional resume, which can confuse applicant tracking systems, too. Without a clear work history to draw from, the software doesn’t know how to sort different sections of text.
“Ultimately recruiters just want to find the info they’re looking for as quickly as possible,” Shields says. So making a resume ATS friendly will actually help your resume be more readable to recruiters as well.
8. Don’t Include Too Much Fancy Formatting
It may pain you to hear this, but you likely need to get rid of that expensive resume template or heavily designed custom resume. “If you speak to experienced hiring managers [and] recruiters, they’ll tell you that creative [or] fancy resumes are not only harder for [an] ATS to read, but also harder for them to read!” says Mahtani.
In order to scan your resume for relevant keywords most ATSs will convert the document to a text-only file. So at best, any fancy formatting will be lost. At worst, the ATS won’t be able to pull out the important information and so a person may never lay eyes on your nice designs—or read about the experience and skills that actually qualify you for the job.
When designing a resume to go through an ATS, avoid:
- Text boxes
- Images: In the U.S., your resume should never include your photo.
- Graphics, graphs, or other visuals
- Columns: Since ATSs are programmed to read left to right, some will read columns straight across rather than reading column one top to bottom and then starting column two at the top.
- Headers and footers: Information in the header and footer sometimes gets dropped by the ATS completely. Make sure all text is within the document body.
- Uncommon section headings: Stick to conventional labels like “Education,” “Work Experience,” and “Technical Skills,” so the ATS knows how to sort your information. This is not the place to get creative with something like “Where I’ve Made an Impact.”
- Hyperlinks on important words: Some systems will display only the URL and drop the words you linked from, so don’t link from anything important (like your job title or an accomplishment). Instead, paste in the URL itself or link out from a word like “website” or “portfolio.”
- Less common fonts: Stick to a universal font like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, or Cambria. Avoid fonts you need to download, which the ATS may have trouble parsing.
Here are some elements you can use without tripping up an ATS:
- Underline: But stick to using underlines in headings and for URLs, Shields says. In general, people have been trained to see any underline within sentences as links.
- Colors: Just know that the ATS will return all text in the same color, so make sure your color choices aren’t vital to understanding the text of your resume.
- Bullets: Bullets are an important component of any resume, but stick to the standard circle- or square-shaped ones. Anything else could get messy.
Still not convinced that you should ditch your fancy resume? To show how formatting can trip up an ATS, we created a resume with many of the “forbidden” design elements—including columns, separate text boxes for the job seeker’s name and contact information, a table, icons, and text in the header—and used it to apply to a job at The Muse. The resume contains all the keywords found in the job posting, and since Victoria Harris is a fictional person, she hits every single requirement, making her an ideal candidate for the job.
Here’s what the resume looks like after it’s been run through an ATS:
You’ll immediately notice that the columns have been smashed together. Victoria’s current position is still first, which is good, but what comes next is an indecipherable jumble: “Education Sales Cloud Apollo.io.” Then, the ATS has combined the start date of her current job with her graduation date and interpreted that she’s been in her current position for just one month instead of over a year.
When you finally get to her bullet points, they’ve also been destroyed. Her fourth bullet, for example, now ends with: “Salesforce Analytics Cloud and Salesforce Sales Cloud Salesforce Salesforce.” Victoria wasn’t keyword stuffing, but it sure looks like she was.
Yes, this feels like a lot. But the main thing to take away when it comes to creating an ATS-friendly resume is that “it will help even if you’re not going through an ATS,” Shields says. At the end of the day, what an ATS is looking for in a resume is not that different from what a person is scanning for—so if you make a resume that beats the ATS, chances are it’ll impress a whole lot of humans, too.
Buderim’s Hall Contracting starts work next month on the $24 million Ewen Maddock Dam upgrade that will create up to 70 local jobs.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the project would bring the dam in line with modern engineering design standards and improve the existing beach and swimming area.
“Across the state, our publicly-owned water infrastructure has to meet modern engineering and safety standards,” he said.
“This project is part of an ongoing dam improvement program that ensures all of our dams perform safely well into the future.
“This is a great outcome with a local contractor being awarded the work for the first stage.’’
Construction on the 18-month first stage is planned to begin at the end of March and will involve raising and strengthening the existing embankment walls with significant improvements to the recreation area.
The dam’s water level will have to be lowered to about 60 per cent of its full supply to allow the works to proceed.
Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan said the designated swimming and beach area as well as Maddock Park would need to close for up to 18 months during the first stage.
“We understand that Ewen Maddock Dam is a very popular recreation destination and apologise for any inconvenience to the local community,” he said.
“Seqwater has staged construction to reduce the amount of time water levels have to be lowered and to minimise the closure of the lake.
“The walking and mountain bike trails will still be available at the Ornamental Wetlands area, off Steve Irwin Way on the opposite side of the lake.”
“We aim to re-open for recreation as soon as practical once the 18-month first stage is complete.’’
The second stage will involve strengthening the existing spillway and will be subject to a separate tender process. The timing of Stage 2 works is expected to be finalised by end of the year.
Community information pop-up stalls will be held at the Ewen Maddock Park beach area next month.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy
The Honourable Dr Anthony Lynham
The Palaszczuk Government delivered 4,700 Queensland jobs in January, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The ABS data show that 4,700 Queensland jobs were added across the month, taking total job creation in Queensland under the Palaszczuk Government to 240,500, including 128,400 full‑time jobs.
Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Jackie Trad, said the rise in January meant the Palaszczuk Labor Government had now achieved 40 consecutive months of employment growth.
“We know there is nothing more important to Queensland families than the security of having a job,” Ms Trad said.
“That’s why we have maintained an unrelenting focus on creating more jobs in more industries, right across Queensland.”
“Today’s data means the Queensland economy has seen a rise of 128,400 full-time jobs since the Palaszczuk Government was elected.
“Compare that to the record of the LNP – with Deb Frecklington as Assistant Treasurer, they oversaw a net decline in full‑time employment, due in no small part to the fact they sacked 14,000 Queensland workers.”
Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman said the result indicates strong confidence in Queensland.
“Our Skilling Queenslanders for Work and Back to Work programs continue to deliver opportunities for thousands of Queenslanders to enter the workforce,” Minister Fentiman said.
“We are equipping Queenslanders with skills and training they need to secure the jobs in growing Queensland industries.”
The Deputy Premier said the ABS figures showed the participation rate had increased under the Palaszczuk Government, another indicator of the nation-leading confidence held by Queensland consumers.
“Last week Queenslanders were confirmed as the most confident consumers in the country, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey. At the same time, Queensland business conditions and confidence both rose in January, even as the national average declined,” she said
“We know that coronavirus will continue to impact both the tourism and export sectors, and I echo the Premier’s call for the Commonwealth to match our $27 million assistance package dollar for dollar.
“Coronavirus is one of the issues I will be discussing with other state and territory treasurers at the Board of Treasurers meeting tomorrow – sadly it’s an issue the Federal Treasurer doesn’t think is worth discussing until April.”
IMAGE | Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
The Honourable Jackie Trad
Unless you are one of the lucky few who works in a high-demand career, finding a new job can be a challenging and frustrating experience. You can make the job search a bit easier on yourself if you use proactive strategies for finding a new job – and the tips for finding a new job included in this article are applicable to all jobseekers, from those just starting out to experienced candidates who need a quick refresher.
Here are some of my best tips for finding a new job at any career level.
1. Get clear on what you want
Before starting your job search, take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and the type of work you enjoy doing. The better you know yourself, the more likely you’ll find a new job that provides you with greater satisfaction. What do you want in a job? What’s most important, title, money, promotion, the work itself, location, or company culture?
2. Research your target companies
Once you know what you want, it’s time to find out what the companies you’re applying for want. A great tip for finding a new job is to investigate a company’s Glassdoor page. It will help you get a feel for their company culture, figure out what questions they commonly ask in interviews, and even discover what salary you’re likely to be paid.
Your resume is still one of the most critical tools of a job search. One of my best tips for finding a new job is to have an achievement-oriented resume that includes quantifiable achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
3. Tailor your resume to each job
Your resume is still one of the most critical tools of a job search. A lot of resumes I see are full of responsibilities (instead of tangible achievements) and jobseekers send the same resume to various openings. One of my best tips for finding a new job is to have an achievement-oriented resume that includes quantifiable achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Make yourself an obvious fit. Study the words and phrases that are used in the job description? Make sure you include them in your resume (provided you have that experience, of course). Tailor your resume to each job – the recruiter should know within a few seconds of looking at your resume that you have the skills they are looking for.
Editor’s note: You can tailor your resume, or build a new one from scratch, using LiveCareer’s free resume builder.
4. Create your online career brand
Building your brand simply means showcasing your expertise and passion online where employers searching the Web can find it. Most recruiters, including myself, use LinkedIn as their primary search tool and if you’re a professional, you need to be using LinkedIn to your full advantage. It’s a great resource for finding people working at companies that interest you and also for positioning yourself to be found by recruiters and hiring managers with relevant openings.
5. Get organized
Before you start applying for jobs or interviewing with employers, take a moment to develop a system that works for you in organizing your job search. A simple spreadsheet works best for many to keep a track of the jobs you’ve applied for, where you have been invited to interview, etc.
6. Build, cultivate, and utilize your network of contacts
For the vast majority of jobseekers, a large and strong network of contacts — people who know you and want to help you uncover job leads — results in more job opportunities. Networking – in person and online – is essential to your success in your job search.
It also helps you to get a good idea of what is out there and available, so you can be more strategic in your job search. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people on LinkedIn, and if you know someone working at a company that interests you, ask for a referral. Hiring managers would prefer to interview people who came recommended before sorting through the resumes arriving via a career website.
7. Don’t limit yourself to online applications
If you rely only on submitting online applications, you could be looking for a job for a very long time. By the time you apply, the company might be in the final interview stage, or the job might have even been filled. Contact companies that interest you directly – you might get in contact with an internal recruiter or schedule informational interviews with people who work in those companies. Ideally, you want to be known to the people who might influence you getting your foot in the door.
8. Aim to complete a few job-related goals daily
It takes a great deal of time and effort to find a new job. In a long job search, it’s easy to get discouraged and distracted, but by focusing on achieving daily goals you can motivate yourself while also building a foundation for success.
9. Be kind to yourself
Looking for a job can be stressful. So, take some time to meditate, exercise, watch a movie or whatever it is that helps you unwind. Create a good support network – having people to brainstorm with or vent your frustrations to will help the process be less painful.
10. Develop examples and stories that showcase your skills
This is one of the main tips for finding a new job. People remember stories, so your goal should be developing a set of interview stories you can use in networking meetings or job interviews that clearly demonstrate your skills, achievements, and passion for your work. Be memorable! Using stories (use the STAR format) may also help you feel more comfortable talking about yourself.
11. Prepare for all job interviews
Before you get called for your first interview, develop responses for common interview questions, and then practice them — ideally using the mock-interviewing technique with a friend, network contact, or interview coach. The more prepared you are for the interview, the more comfortable you’ll be – and the more likely you’ll succeed.
For the vast majority of jobseekers, a large and strong network of contacts — people who know you and want to help you uncover job leads — results in more job opportunities. Networking – in person and online – is essential to your success in your job search.
12. Write thank-you notes after interviews to all interviewers
A quick note (by email is fine) of thanks that emphasizes your interest and fit with the job and employer will not get you the job offer, but it will help make you stand out from the majority of jobseekers who do not bother with this simple act of courtesy.
13. Continue following up with hiring managers
Your work is not done once the interview is complete or the thank-you note sent. Following up with the hiring manager regularly shows your interest and enthusiasm for the job. The key is doing so in a way that is professional while not making you sound pesky or needy.
14. Expect the job search to take longer than you think
You can hope to have a new job within a short period, but the likely reality is that it might take months to find the right opportunity and get offered the position. You should mentally prepare yourself for a long battle — and then you can be happily surprised if you are one of the lucky few whose job search is short.
5 Final Thoughts on Finding a New Job
Here a few other tips for finding a new job if your job search situation does not fit the typical model – if conditions are such that finding employment will be unusually hard.
First, having both a positive attitude and outlook is extremely important. Employers can sense desperation and despair; organizations want to hire positive and competent people. If you’ve been unemployed for a long period and depressed or recently downsized and angry, find a way to shrug it off when job hunting or you will only be hurting yourself.
Second, if you’re an older worker trying to find a job, you may face age discrimination. Among the ways to proactively counter any issues about your age are to limit the number of years of experience you list on your resume (by keeping to the last 10-15 years), eliminate dates in the education section of your resume, and focus on adaptability and flexibility in the interview.
Third, remember that you may need additional training or experience, especially if you are entering a new career field.
Fourth, you may need to consider temping or volunteering for a short period to gain experience and build network contacts that can lead to a full-time position.
Fifth, in the most extreme cases, you may need to consider relocation to a place that has a higher concentration of jobs in your field.
Hope you’ve found these tips for finding a new job useful. I’d love to hear what you’re going to change in your job search after reading this article.
The Sunshine Coast continues to strengthen its reputation on the world stage with the announcement the region is a Top7 Global Intelligent Community for the second successive year.
The New York-based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) announced the finalists in the annual Top7 Awards on February 10, 2020 in Taiwan.
As a Top7 community, the Sunshine Coast is in the running for the prestigious Intelligent Community of the Year award, to be announced in June.
This acknowledgement follows the Sunshine Coast being named a global Smart21 community for 2020, the sixth time the region has achieved this recognition.
Sunshine Coast Council Mayor Mark Jamieson said being one of the Top7 Intelligent Communities of the world for the second time reinforces the impact and value to our community of the region’s economic, environment and community strategies and their emphasis on sustainability in all of its forms.
“The Top7 award demonstrates we are continuing to deliver world-class initiatives together with the community across the six indicators of broadband, knowledge workforce, innovation, digital innovation, engagement and sustainability,” Mayor Jamieson said.
“Our region’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, which has expanded 65 per cent in the last four years, reflects the dynamic network of education programs, business incubators, co-working spaces, advocacy events and meet-ups which support and encourage entrepreneurial talent, new ideas and creativity.
“At the end of the day, that is what being Australia’s most sustainable region: healthy, smart, creative – is all about.
“Connecting people and ideas that benefit the wellbeing of our communities is a hallmark of our council’s approach. Securing a place in the Top7 Global Intelligent Communities’ list recognises the value of our efforts in this regard.”
2020 Sunshine Coast Citizen of the Year Mark Forbes, founder of Sunshine Coast eating disorder support service endED, agreed the region was renowned as a world-leading community.
“As the National President of the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association, I celebrated Sunshine Coast’s winning bids to host the 2016 World Outrigger Sprint Championships and the 2019 World Marathon Championships, being awarded over strong international competing bids from Tahiti, Hawaii and Italy,” Mr Forbes explains.
“Now, my wife and I have started our charity endED and chose the Sunshine Coast as the place to build Australia’s first live-in eating disorder residential facility – endED Butterfly House.
“We chose the Sunshine Coast because a council priority was to establish the region as the Health Hub of Australia.
“The region is also the ideal population size that still holds strong community values and retains a commitment to connectivity. endED Butterfly House will be completed by mid-2020 with the first clients entering residential late 2020.”
RoboCoast co-founder Simon Richardson said council had committed to ongoing support for education of robotics, engineering and coding for the region’s youth to help prepare them for the jobs of the future.
“RoboCoast workshops and competitions have inspired students to pursue a career in mechatronics or mechanical engineering, something they wouldn’t have previously thought possible,” he said.
“They started out building LEGO sumo robots, but have now designed and manufactured robots in AutoCAD, won the National Championships in Sydney and will represent Australia at NASA in Houston in April – what an amazing experience.”
HeliMods’ Head of Strategic Engagement and Special Projects, Sandra Brodie, said the Sunshine Coast offers the best opportunities, all in one area.
“I made the decision to leave a senior career position in Melbourne and ‘city life’ in search of a more holistic and fulfilling lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast,” Ms Brodie said.
“I wanted to be somewhere I could still pursue a meaningful, high-value career path, with plenty of opportunity and growth for me and my future family, while at the same time, having the ability to live in closer connection to both nature and a sense of community.
“I believe the Sunshine Coast is an incredibly unique location globally, in that it is possible to combine all of these elements and thrive in a truly integrated and balanced way.”
It is a sentiment echoed by renowned recipe book author and Sunshine Coast identity Kim McCosker, of 4 Ingredients, who was proud to attend the 2019 Global Intelligent Community Awards with Mayor Jamieson in New York last June.
“What makes living and working on the Sunshine Coast so incredibly special is its intrinsic values; and the wonderful thing is that they are available to everyone,” Ms McCosker said.
“The Sunshine Coast is an incredibly supportive and connected community and is fast becoming known as the Entrepreneurial Capital of Australia.
“Yet when you aren’t working, it’s easy to unwind and relax in our natural ecosystem that stems from the lush green hinterland, to the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean.
“It’s this balance, between work and life, that is probably the greatest gift the Sunshine Coast has to offer, and one I know my family and I cherish above nearly all else.”
by Alyse Kalish
We love having examples. It’s so much easier to follow a recipe, build a puzzle, or yes, even write a cover letter when you know what the end product should look like.
So that’s what we’re going to give you—all the cover letter examples and tips you need to make yours shine (we’re unfortunately not experts in recipes or puzzles).
Want to get right down to business? Skip ahead to:
- Why Bother With a Cover Letter at All?
- The Elements of a Perfect Cover Letter
- Example #1: The Traditional Cover Letter
- Example #2: The Impact Cover Letter
Why Bother With a Cover Letter at All?
Before we jump in, it’s worth emphasizing why cover letters still exist and are worthy of your attention. I bet when you see a job listing where one’s “optional” you gleefully submit a resume and move on. But you’re truly doing yourself a disservice by not creating one (or by writing one that’s super generic or formulaic).
“When you’re writing a resume you’re oftentimes confined by space, by resume speak, by keywords—you’re up against a lot of technical requirements,” says Melody Godfred, a Muse career coach and founder of Write in Color who’s read thousands of cover letters over the course of her career, “whereas in a cover letter you have an opportunity to craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the position you’re applying to but also the company you’re applying to.”
When you’re writing a resume you’re oftentimes confined by space, by resume speak, by keywords—you’re up against a lot of technical requirements, whereas in a cover letter you have an opportunity to craft a narrative that aligns you not only with the position you’re applying to but also the company you’re applying to.
It helps you explain your value proposition, stand out from the stack, and create “continuity between your application and the person you’re going to be when you walk into the room,” Godfred says. If there’s a gap in your resume, you have the opportunity to explain why it’s there. If you’re changing careers, you have the chance to describe why you’re making the switch. If your resume’s pretty dull, a cover letter helps you add personality to an otherwise straightforward career path.
Convinced? A little less worried? Maybe not sold on the idea but now know why you need to spend time on it? Either way, let’s get started—we promise this will be painless.
The Elements of a Perfect Cover Letter
Let’s go back to puzzles for a second. They’re made up of bits and pieces that fit together a specific way to complete the whole, right?
Cover letters are a little like puzzles. When you put each component in its proper place (and remove any parts that don’t fit), you create a complete picture.
Every great cover letter includes the following:
An Engaging Opening Line
Not “I’m applying for [position].” Not “I’m writing to be considered for a role at [Company].” Not “Hello! How’s it going? Please hire me!”
Your opening line is everything. How you start a cover letter influences whether someone keeps reading—and you want them to, right?
“Starting with something that immediately connects you to the company is essential—something that tells the company that this is not a generic cover letter,” says Godfred. “Even if your second paragraph is something that doesn’t ever change, that first intro is where you have to say something that tells the employer, ‘I wrote this just for you.’”
It can be a childhood memory tying you back to the company’s mission. It can be a story about the time you fell in love with the company’s product. It can be an anecdote from another job or experience showing how hard of a worker you are. Whatever you decide to open with, make it memorable.
A Clear Pitch
The next few paragraphs, Godfred explains, are where you include one of two things: “If you’re someone who’s transitioning careers, and you need to explain that transition, you do it there.” But if you’re not a career changer, use this section to “hit them with the strongest results you have that are aligned with the opportunity,” she states.
Godfred emphasizes that this section should have a balance of soft and hard skills. Talk about your experience using Salesforce or doing SEO work (and get those job description keywords in! More on that later), but also highlight your ability to lead teams and communicate effectively.
“Companies are embracing authenticity, they’re embracing humanity, they’re looking for people who are going to fit their culture. So what are your values? What do you stand for?” says Godfred. These values should be as much a part of your cover letter as the nitty-gritty.
A Great Closing Line
Kahn explains that your closing line could include your next steps, such as “I welcome the opportunity to speak with you more about how I can contribute to [team]” or “I would love to schedule a time for us to discuss this role and my experience.”
But more importantly, “you want to make sure that you’re gracious and thanking them,” he says. While seemingly cliché, it never hurts to end on a simple “thank you for your consideration.”
You can, however, exclude the “references upon request” line. “If an employer wants your references, you better believe they’ll ask for them,” says Godfred.
A Few Other Cover Letter Essentials
Secondly, keep the applicant tracking system, or ATS, in mind. This robot will be sifting through your cover letter much in the way it does with your resume, so you’ll want to scatter relevant keywords from the job description throughout your cover letter where it makes sense.
Third of all, get your contact information on there, including your name, phone number, and email (most of the time, your address and theirs is irrelevant)—and on every page, if yours goes over one.
“Imagine you come across a cover letter and you print it out with a bunch of applications to review and it doesn’t have the person’s contact information on it,” states Godfred. “You never want to put yourself in a situation where you’re the right person and they can’t find you.”
And know that the ATS can’t read crazy formatting, so keep your font and layout simple.
How to Get Started Writing a Cover Letter
Overall, says Godfred, “when you’re up against dwindling attention spans, the more concise you can be the better. Make every single word count.”
To get started, she always suggests that her clients do a “brain dump.” Once you just get your ideas onto the page, then “ask yourself how you can cut half of it.” Through this process, “you’ll find that those very generic phrases oftentimes are the first to go,” she says. You only have so much space to get your point across, so focus on the information that isn’t stated elsewhere rather than simply regurgitating your resume.
This can feel like a lot to do on one cover letter, let alone several, so Kahn likes to remind his clients that quality comes first. Target the jobs you’re most closely drawn to and qualified for and give them all your energy, rather than try to churn out hundreds of cover letters. You may not be able to apply to as many jobs, but you’re guaranteed to have better results in terms of response rate.
Cover Letters Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Whether you’re writing a cover letter for a data scientist or executive assistant position, an internship or a senior-level role, a startup or a Fortune 500 company, you’re going to want to tailor it to the role, company, and culture (not to mention, the job description).
Don’t fret! We’ve got examples of the four basic types of cover letters below: a traditional cover letter, an impact cover letter, a writing sample cover letter, and a career change cover letter. We’ve also included the exact job descriptions they’re written for—to help inspire you to tailor yours to a specific position.
One note before you read on: There’s a difference between your cover letter and the email you send with your application. If you’re not sure whether to copy and paste your letter into your email or attach it as a document, common practice is to pick either/or, not both.
Example #1The Traditional Cover Letter
A traditional cover letter, is, as you guessed it, based on your average cover letter template. You’ll most likely write this version if you’re applying to a very traditional company (like a law firm or major healthcare company) or a very traditional role (like a lawyer or accountant), or when you’re just looking to lean more conservative and safe.
The Job Description
Let’s say you’re applying to a paralegal job opening. The job description might look something like this:
- Draft routine legal documents for review and use by attorneys
- Coordinate and organize materials and presentations for board meetings
- Research legal and related business issues and report findings and conclusions to team
- Provide overall legal administrative support of the legal team
- Maintain calendars and ensure timely filings
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent of relevant education and work experience
- Strong communication skills (oral and written)
- Strong organizational, multitasking, and prioritizing skills
- Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite
- Trustworthy, positive, energetic, and optimistic attitude with a willingness to roll up your sleeves
The Cover Letter Example
Under the constraints of keeping things strictly professional, here’s what you could write without sounding too boring or jargon-y:
Dear Ms. Jessica Tilman,
In my five-year career as a paralegal, I have honed my legal research and writing skills, and the attorneys I’ve worked with have complimented me on my command of case law and litigation support. Spiegel Law Firm’s 20 years in practice proves that the firm has strong values and excellent attorneys, which is why I want to be a part of the Spiegel Law Firm team.
I currently serve as a paralegal for Chandler LLC, where I work closely with the partners on a number of high-priority cases. During my time here, I implemented a new calendar system that ensures timely filing of court papers. This system has prevented missed deadlines and allowed for better organization of internal and client meetings.
Previously, as a paralegal for the Neuerburg Law Firm, I received praise for my overall support of the legal team and my positive attitude.
My further qualifications include a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, a paralegal certificate, and training in LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Microsoft Office Suite.
I would love the opportunity to discuss how I can contribute to your legal team. Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Why This Works
It’s short, sweet, and to the point. It shows both a knack for getting things done in a thorough and timely matter and an energy for helping out wherever it’s needed. They also toss some important keywords in there: implemented a new calendar system, My further qualifications include a Bachelor’s Degree…, training in LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Microsoft Office Suite…
Finally, it expresses a genuine interest in this specific firm in its opening lines.
Example #2The Impact Cover Letter
The impact cover letter works best for roles where you’re expected to deliver on certain goals or results. Maybe you’re in sales and the job calls for hitting a certain quota each quarter. Or maybe you’re an event planner looking to show you can run X number of conferences or create Y number of marketing campaigns. The key for this, then, will be to put your accomplishments front and center.
The Job Description
You’ve come across an opening for an email marketing manager. The job description states the following:
- Manage email marketing strategy and calendar, including copywriting, optimization, monitoring, reporting, and analysis of campaigns
- Improve campaign success through conversion optimization, A/B testing, and running experiments
- Measure and report on performance of campaigns, assessing against goals
- Collaborate with the design team to determine content strategy and ensure brand guidelines are followed in emails
- Partner and collaborate cross-functionally with sales, product, product marketing, and data teams
- 3+ years in email marketing or equivalent field
- Experience with Google Analytics, HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, and SEO a plus
- Excellent communication skills (oral and written) and an eye for copyediting
- Team player with strong interpersonal, relationship-building, and stakeholder management skills
- Excellent project management, problem solving, and time management skills, with the ability to multitask effectively
The Cover Letter Example
Your personality can shine more directly through this kind of cover letter, but you’ll want to make sure your hard skills and successes stand out:
Dear Russ Roman,
I have a problem. See, my inbox currently (and embarrassingly) hosts 1,500 unread emails—including newsletters from at least 50 different brands.
But this problem only fuels my passion for creating emails that are worth opening. Because from my perspective, as someone who can barely get through their own stack of mail, that’s a true win.
I’ve been following Vitabe for years, and can proudly say that I open every single email you send to me. I’m a sucker for a good subject line—“Take a Vitamin-ute—We’ll A-B-C You Soon” being my favorite—and the way your email content feels both fun and expert-backed really speaks to me. This is why I’m thrilled to submit my application for a role as email marketing manager at your company.
I have over four years of experience working in the email marketing space. In my current role at Westside Bank, I was able to implement new email campaigns centered around reengaging churned clients. By analyzing data around the types of clients who churn and the engagement of our current email subscribers, as well as A/B testing headlines and newsletter layouts, we were able to increase email subscribers by 15% and convert 30% of those subscribers to purchase our product, a significant increase from the previous year. I also launched a “Your Credit Matters” newsletter focused on educating our clients on how they spend and manage their credit—which became our highest performing campaign in terms of open-rates and click-through to date.
Previously, as a member of the marketing team at Dream Diary Mattresses, I collaborated with the sales and product team to understand how I could best support them in hitting their quarterly goals. One specific project involving creating personalized emails for customers drew more people to come back to our site after 30 days than direct paid ad campaigns, leading to a 112% increase in revenue from the last quarter.
I take the content I write and the calendars I manage seriously, editing and refining to the point beyond being detail-oriented into scary territory, and I feel my experience and drive would greatly help Vitabe further develop their email program for success.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Why This Works
This sample cover letter concisely highlights the person’s significant achievements and ties them back to the job description. By adding context to how their projects were created, monitored, and completed, they’re able to show just how results-driven they are.
One thing worth noting: This person didn’t include skills such as Google Analytics, HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, and SEO—all of which are listed in the job description. The reason they decided not to was simply because those skills are most likely in their resume, and they wanted to use the space they had to discuss specific projects and tell a story not visible on other parts of their application.
Example #3The Writing Sample Cover Letter
Often for roles where communication is king, such as PR, copyediting, or reporting, your cover letter will either substitute for or complement your writing samples. So it’s just as important to write eloquently as it is to showcase your skill set.
The Job Description
Let’s take the example of a staff writer position. The requirements might include the following:
- Pitch and write editorial content and collaborate with teams to report on timely issues and trends
- Evaluate content performance and digital trends on a daily basis to constantly adjust pitches and packaging
- Utilize CMS tools, strategically select photos and videos, and request original graphics to optimize all written content for maximum engagement
- At least 2-3 years of experience creating content at a digital-first outlet
- Strong writing and reporting skills, and the ability to write clearly and quickly
- Familiarity with working in a CMS and with analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Deadline-driven, strategic thinker with a knack for crafting click-y headlines
- Strong collaborator who thrives in fast-paced environments
The Cover Letter Example
Have fun with this one, but make sure you’ve tripled-checked for spelling and grammar mistakes, and are showing off your best writing tactics:
Dear Mr. Kolsh,
Since I could walk, I’ve been dancing. And since I could read, I’ve been glued to Arabesque Weekly.
At one point, you featured one of my local heros—a ballerina who struggled with an injury early in her career and went on to become a principal at Pacific Northwest Ballet—and I plastered the article above my childhood bed. It’s still there today.
Of course, I never became a star myself, but it was that article and so many others you’ve published that taught me that dancing was about more than just pirouettes and arabesques (sorry, I had to)—and that the right kind of writer can shed light on aspects of the art that make it surprising, impactful, and universal. I can be that writer.
As an editorial assistant for The Improv Group for the past two and a half years, my main responsibility was to get all of our content ready to go live. This included a final round of proofreading, adding in HTML where necessary, fact-checking, and finding photos, videos, and GIFs that would complement the content and optimize audience engagement. As I tinkered with each post, I became intimately familiar with our internal CMS and what makes a piece perfect.
But, by far, my favorite aspect of this role has been writing. Each week, I pitch and write at least one article, from 250-word news items to 900-word advice pieces to even longer personal essays. I love the challenge of developing pitches that align with the trends we see in the data, fit in with the company’s brand and mission, and allow me to flex my creative muscles.
Collaborating with my team to form the best content library we can has been a dream come true. I am ready to use my experience to help Arabesque Weekly achieve all its big and small goals. And I hope to one day write a story that another child tapes to their wall forever.
It would be an honor to be a part of your editorial team, and I look forward to the possibility of discussing the opportunity with you.
Hoping to be your next staff writer,
Why This Works
This candidate is clearly passionate about this specific publication and leads with a unique personal anecdote tied to the company’s mission and further showing their ability to tell stories in a compelling way. There are relevant keywords and phrases, sure, but they’re not just thrown in there. Every sentence carries a specific voice, proving this person knows how to communicate effectively.
Example #4The Career Change Cover Letter
Like I said earlier, cover letters can play a big part in helping career changers prove their worth—especially when it’s unclear how your skills transfer over to this new field.
Writing a career change cover letter requires a bit more strategy. You’ll want to highlight the obvious skills you have that relate to the job description, but you’ll also want to draw a line between experiences you’ve had in the past and responsibilities you might have in this new role. Finally, you’ll want to explain, if not emphasize, why you’re making the switch and what’s driving you toward this specific industry, company, or position.
The Job Description
Let’s say you’re someone who has experience supporting a sales team as an administrative assistant, and you’re now looking to become a sales representative. You come across the following job posting:
- Develop new sales techniques and strategies to build pipeline and hit team goals
- Coordinate with other teams to increase lead generation efforts
- Assist in the processing of new business, including contacting customers to finalize sales and service transactions
- 1-3 years of successful sales experience
- Strong communication skills (oral and written)
- Ability to thrive in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment
- Ability to work independently to plan, set priorities, and effectively organize work
- Proven ability to be persuasive, persistent, and confident in closing a sale
The Cover Letter Example
Here’s how you might translate your past experience over to this new (and exciting) prospect:
Dear Maria Ross,
The head of sales at Sunshine Inc. was in a bind. She needed six client meetings scheduled, 18 service transactions processed, and a summary of the team’s new lead generation campaign drafted before getting on a flight to Austin—in three hours. So, she turned to her cool-headed, sales-savvy administrative assistant for help. That assistant was me. Not only did I execute everything on her to-do list, I did it all before her plane left the ground.
For three years, I worked in lockstep with a busy, growth-oriented sales leader to support the business development team. As the sole administrative assistant in the department, I balanced a swath of competing priorities, ranging from data entry and meeting coordination to contacting customers, finalizing transactions, and creating promotional materials. This role helped me to develop a comprehensive understanding of the sales cycle, sales strategy, and pipeline growth.
Like many others, my career path hasn’t been entirely straightforward. After leaving Crabapple Media, I enrolled in a local coding training program. Six months later, I emerged with a certificate in computer programming and a certainty that I did not want to be a coder. But education is never wasted. I’m now an aspiring sales representative with experience supporting a thriving sales team and extensive knowledge of the tech space.
Here’s a little bit more about how my experience would translate into this role:
- At Crabapple Media, I assisted in coordinating three annual sales strategy rollouts, each yielding a 26% increase in pipeline YoY.
- At Sunshine Inc., I supported 12 independent team members in their lead generation efforts. I also assisted in processing an average of 300 sales transactions every quarter.
- I thrive in busy, ever-changing environments that require me to communicate clearly and concisely. Supporting a high-volume team and a busy executive helped me to hone these skills—I typically sent more than 200 emails a day!
I would, of course, love to schedule a time for us to discuss this role and my experience, and I truly want to thank you for considering me.
All the best,
Why This Works
The opener draws you in, leading you to want to learn more. It toots the person’s horn, but in a way that’s traceable. Then, the next couple sections explain both their experience in the sales space and in roles before, eventually tying that back to why they’re applying to this specific job. Similar to the impact cover letter, the author lists some of the more important qualities they bring to the table, doing a bit of keyword stuffing and resume gap explaining along the way.
Hopefully these cover letter examples help as you go to tackle your own. Remember: This is just one small step in the process! Take your time, but learn to move on when you’ve given it your all.
Following an extensive community consultation process to identify the community’s values and ideas, a 15 year visionary roadmap for Landsborough’s public spaces has been endorsed by Sunshine Coast Council.
Division 1 Councillor Rick Baberowski said the Landsborough Placemaking Master Plan’s development had been a collaborative process between community and council.
“Placemaking is all about involving the community in the design and management of public spaces to create a ‘sense of place’ for a town,” Cr Baberowski said.
“It is about much more than the bricks and mortar. It’s about improving our public spaces to strengthen Landsborough as a destination and encourage community and local businesses to invest in activations such as arts, events and shop front improvements.
“More than 1,000 people were engaged through surveys, community events, workshops and general correspondence during three engagement phases from January 2018 to September 2019.
“I and really proud of the community and appreciate the efforts of each and every person who shared their thoughts about Landsborough to help us create this visionary roadmap to the future.”
Together with the community, a vision for the town’s public spaces has been developed:
Landsborough continues to evolve into a vibrant, well-connected and creative community. Drawing on its past, to enrich its future, it will be a place for today’s lifestyles with a village atmosphere. Diverse public spaces are sensitively designed and layer social, cultural and recreational uses, as well as activities—to create memorable experiences that sustain Landsborough as a locally loved destination. Distinctively relaxed and accessible, Landsborough balances its rural character, with a strong connection to nature and never loses its sense of being in the Glass House landscape.
Landsborough residents, visitors and businesses can expect to see work on the Cribb Street Streetscaping component of the plan start in coming months.
In addition to council’s capital works budget commitment, implementation of other parts of the plan may be delivered by a variety of stakeholders, including private developers, other levels of government and the local community.
Works on State Government owned land, will require the approval of the relevant State Government department.
Visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au to download a copy of the plan.
by The Muse Editor
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what questions a hiring manager would be asking you in your next job interview?
We can’t read minds, unfortunately, but we’ll give you the next best thing: a list of more than 40 of the most commonly asked interview questions, along with advice for answering them all.
While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right person for the job.
Consider this list your interview question and answer study guide.
- Tell Me About Yourself.
- How Did You Hear About This Position?
- Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?
- Why Do You Want This Job?
- Why Should We Hire You?
- What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
- What Do You Consider to Be Your Weaknesses?
- What Is Your Greatest Professional Achievement?
- Tell Me About a Challenge or Conflict You’ve Faced at Work, and How You Dealt With It.
- Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills.
- What’s a Time You Disagreed With a Decision That Was Made at Work?
- Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake.
- Tell Me About a Time You Failed.
- Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
- Why Were You Fired?
- Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment?
- Can You Explain Why You Changed Career Paths?
- What’s Your Current Salary?
- What Do You Like Least About Your Job?
- What Are You Looking for in a New Position?
- What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?
- What’s Your Management Style?
- How Would Your Boss and Coworkers Describe You?
- How Do You Deal With Pressure or Stressful Situations?
- What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work?
- Are You Planning on Having Children?
- How Do You Prioritize Your Work?
- What Are You Passionate About?
- What Motivates You?
- What Are Your Pet Peeves?
- How Do You Like to Be Managed?
- Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
- What’s Your Dream Job?
- What Other Companies Are You Interviewing With?
- What Makes You Unique?
- What Should I Know That’s Not on Your Resume?
- What Would Your First 30, 60, or 90 Days Look Like in This Role?
- What Are Your Salary Requirements?
- What Do You Think We Could Do Better or Differently?
- When Can You Start?
- Are You Willing to Relocate?
- How Many Tennis Balls Can You Fit Into a Limousine?
- If You Were an Animal, Which One Would You Want to Be?
- Sell Me This Pen.
- Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?
- Do You Have Any Questions for Us?
- Bonus Questions
These frequently asked questions touch on the essentials hiring managers want to know about every candidate: who you are, why you’re a fit for the job, and what you’re good at. You may not be asked exactly these questions in exactly these words, but if you have answers in mind for them, you’ll be prepared for just about anything the interviewer throws your way.
1. Tell Me About Yourself.
This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Muse writer and MIT career counselor Lily Zhang recommends using a present, past, future formula. Talk a little bit about your current role (including the scope and perhaps one big accomplishment), then give some background as to how you got there and experience you have that’s relevant. Finally, segue into why you want—and would be perfect for—this role.
2. How Did You Hear About This Position?
Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.
3. Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?
Beware of generic answers! If what you say can apply to a whole slew of other companies, or if your response makes you sound like every other candidate, you’re missing an opportunity to stand out. Zhang recommends one of four strategies: Do your research and point to something that makes the company unique that really appeals to you; talk about how you’ve watched the company grow and change since you first heard of it; focus on the organization’s opportunities for future growth and how you can contribute to it; or share what’s gotten you excited from your interactions with employees so far. Whichever route you choose, make sure to be specific. And if you can’t figure out why you’d want to work at the company you’re interviewing with by the time you’re well into the hiring process? It might be a red flag telling you that this position is not the right fit.
4. Why Do You Want This Job?
Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you’re doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).
5. Why Should We Hire You?
This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, but also deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.
6. What Are Your Greatest Strengths?
Here’s an opening to talk about something that makes you great—and a great fit for this role. When you’re answering this question, think quality, not quantity. In other words, don’t rattle off a list of adjectives. Instead, pick one or a few (depending on the question) specific qualities that are relevant to this position and illustrate them with examples. Stories are always more memorable than generalizations. And if there’s something you were hoping to mention because it makes you a great candidate, but you haven’t had a chance yet, this would be the perfect time.
7. What Do You Consider to Be Your Weaknesses?
What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you get more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
Questions About Your Work History
The meat of any job interview is your track record at work: what you accomplished, how you succeeded or failed (and how you dealt with it), and how you behaved in real time in actual work environments. If you prep a few versatile stories to tell about your work history and practice answering behavioral interview questions, you’ll be ready to go.
8. What Is Your Greatest Professional Achievement?
Nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs, so don’t be shy when answering this interview question! A great way to do so is by using the STAR method: situation, task, action, results. Set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a junior analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), then describe what you did (the action) and what you achieved (the result): “In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 person-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 25%.”
9. Tell Me About a Challenge or Conflict You’ve Faced at Work, and How You Dealt With It.
You’re probably not eager to talk about conflicts you’ve had at work during a job interview. But if you’re asked directly, don’t pretend you’ve never had one. Be honest about a difficult situation you’ve faced (but without going into the kind of detail you’d share venting to a friend). “Most people who ask are only looking for evidence that you’re willing to face these kinds of issues head-on and make a sincere attempt at coming to a resolution,” former recruiter Rich Moy says. Stay calm and professional as you tell the story (and answer any follow-up questions), spend more time talking about the resolution than the conflict, and mention what you’d do differently next time to show “you’re open to learning from tough experiences.”
10. Tell Me About a Time You Demonstrated Leadership Skills.
You don’t have to have a fancy title to act like a leader or demonstrate leadership skills. Think about a time when you headed up a project, took the initiative to propose an alternate process, or helped motivate your team to get something done. Then use the STAR method to tell your interviewer a story, giving enough detail to paint a picture (but not so much that you start rambling) and making sure you spell out the result. In other words, be clear about why you’re telling this particular story and connect all the dots for the interviewer.
11. What’s a Time You Disagreed With a Decision That Was Made at Work?
The ideal anecdote here is one where you handled a disagreement in a professional way and learned something from the experience. Zhang recommends paying particular attention to how you start and end your response. To open, make a short statement to frame the rest of your answer, one that nods at the ultimate takeaway or the reason you’re telling this story. For example: “I learned early on in my professional career that it’s fine to disagree if you can back up your hunches with data.” And to close strong, you can either give a one-sentence summary of your answer (“In short…”) or talk briefly about how what you learned or gained from this experience would help you in the role you’re interviewing for.
12. Tell Me About a Time You Made a Mistake.
You’re probably not too eager to dig into past blunders when you’re trying to impress an interviewer and land a job. But talking about a mistake and winning someone over aren’t mutually exclusive, Moy says. In fact, if you do it right, it can help you. The key is to be honest without placing blame on other people, then explain what you learned from your mistake and what actions you took to ensure it didn’t happen again. At the end of the day, employers are looking for folks who are self-aware, can take feedback, and care about doing better.
13. Tell Me About a Time You Failed.
This question is very similar to the one about making a mistake, and you should approach your answer in much the same way. Make sure you pick a real, actual failure you can speak honestly about. Start by making it clear to the interviewer how you define failure. For example: “As a manager, I consider it a failure whenever I’m caught by surprise. I strive to know what’s going on with my team and their work.” Then situate the example in relation to that definition and explain what happened. Finally, don’t forget to share what you learned. It’s OK to fail—everyone does sometimes—but it’s important to show that you took something from the experience.
14. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Job?
This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your current employer. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go from your most recent job? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally acceptable answer.
15. Why Were You Fired?
Of course, they may ask the follow-up question: Why were you let go? If you lost your job due to layoffs, you can simply say, “The company [reorganized/merged/was acquired] and unfortunately my [position/department] was eliminated.” But what if you were fired for performance reasons? Your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Frame it as a learning experience: Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. And if you can portray your growth as an advantage for this next job, even better.
16. Why Was There a Gap in Your Employment?
Maybe you were taking care of children or aging parents, dealing with health issues, or traveling the world. Maybe it just took you a long time to land the right job. Whatever the reason, you should be prepared to discuss the gap (or gaps) on your resume. Seriously, practice saying your answer out loud. The key is to be honest, though that doesn’t mean you have to share more details than you’re comfortable with. If there are skills or qualities you honed or gained in your time away from the workforce—whether through volunteer work, running a home, or responding to a personal crisis—you can also talk about how those would help you excel in this role.
17. Can You Explain Why You Changed Career Paths?
Don’t be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you’ve made the career decisions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferable to the new role. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection; in fact, it’s often more impressive when a candidate can show how seemingly irrelevant experience is very relevant to the role.
18. What’s Your Current Salary?
It’s now illegal for some or all employers to ask you about your salary history in several cities and states, including New York City; Louisville, North Carolina; California; and Massachusetts. But no matter where you live, it can be stressful to hear this question. Don’t panic—there are several possible strategies you can turn to. For example, you can deflect the question, Muse career coach Emily Liou says, with a response like: “Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails. I’ve done a lot of research on [Company] and I am certain if it’s the right fit, we’ll be able to agree on a number that’s fair and competitive to both parties.” You can also reframe the question around your salary expectations or requirements (see question 38) or choose to share the number if you think it will work in your favor.
19. What Do You Like Least About Your Job?
Tread carefully here! The last thing you want to do is let your answer devolve into a rant about how terrible your current company is or how much you hate your boss or that one coworker. The easiest way to handle this question with poise is to focus on an opportunity the role you’re interviewing for offers that your current job doesn’t. You can keep the conversation positive and emphasize why you’re so excited about the job.
Questions About You and Your Goals
Another crucial aspect of an interview? Getting to know a candidate. That’s why you’ll likely encounter questions about how you work, what you’re looking for (in a job, a team, a company, and a manager), and what your goals are. It’s a good sign if your interviewers want to make sure you’ll be a good fit—or add—to the team. Use it as an opportunity!
20. What Are You Looking for in a New Position?
21. What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?
22. What’s Your Management Style?
The best managers are strong but flexible, and that’s exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach…”) Then share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company’s top salesperson.
23. How Would Your Boss and Coworkers Describe You?
First of all, be honest (remember, if you make it to the final round, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and coworkers for references!). Then try to pull out strengths and traits you haven’t discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.
24. How Do You Deal With Pressure or Stressful Situations?
Here’s another question you may feel the urge to sidestep in an effort to prove you’re the perfect candidate who can handle anything. But it’s important not to dismiss this one (i.e. don’t say “I just put my head down and push through it” or “I don’t get stressed out”). Instead, talk about your go-to strategies for dealing with stress (whether it’s meditating for 10 minutes every day or making sure you go for a run or keeping a super-detailed to-do list) and how you communicate and otherwise proactively try to mitigate pressure. If you can give a real example of a stressful situation you navigated successfully, all the better.
25. What Do You Like to Do Outside of Work?
Interviewers will sometimes ask about your hobbies or interests outside of work in order to get to know you a little better—to find out what you’re passionate about and devote time to during your off-hours. It’s another chance to let your personality shine. Be honest, but keep it professional and be mindful of answers that might make it sound like you’re going to spend all your time focusing on something other than the job you’re applying for.
Read More: 5 Secrets for Acing Your Next Interview
26. Are You Planning on Having Children?
Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation and might not realize these are off-limits—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”
27. How Do You Prioritize Your Work?
Your interviewers want to know that you can manage your time, exercise judgement, communicate, and shift gears when needed. Start by talking about whatever system you’ve found works for you to plan your day or week, whether it’s a to-do list app you swear by or a color-coded spreadsheet. This is one where you’ll definitely want to lean on a real-life example. So go on to describe how you’ve reacted to a last-minute request or another unexpected shift in priorities in the past, incorporating how you evaluated and decided what to do and how you communicated with your manager and/or teammates about it.
28. What Are You Passionate About?
You’re not a robot programmed to do your work and then power down. You’re a human, and if someone asks you this question in an interview, it’s probably because they want to get to know you better. The answer can align directly with the type of work you’d be doing in that role—like if, for example, you’re applying to be a graphic designer and spend all of your free time creating illustrations and data visualizations to post on Instagram.
But don’t be afraid to talk about a hobby that’s different from your day-to-day work. Bonus points if you can “take it one step further and connect how your passion would make you an excellent candidate for the role you are applying for,” says Muse career coach Al Dea. Like if you’re a software developer who loves to bake, you might talk about how the ability to be both creative and precise informs your approach to code.
29. What Motivates You?
Before you panic about answering what feels like a probing existential question, consider that the interviewer wants to make sure you’re excited about this role at this company, and that you’ll be motivated to succeed if they pick you. So think back to what has energized you in previous roles and pinpoint what made your eyes light up when you read this job description. Pick one thing, make sure it’s relevant to the role and company you’re interviewing for, and try to weave in a story to help illustrate your point. If you’re honest, which you should be, your enthusiasm will be palpable.
30. What Are Your Pet Peeves?
Here’s another one that feels like a minefield. But it’ll be easier to navigate if you know why an interviewer is asking it. Most likely, they want to make sure you’ll thrive at their company—and get a glimpse of how you deal with conflict. So be certain you pick something that doesn’t contradict the culture and environment at this organization while still being honest. Then explain why and what you’ve done to address it in the past, doing your best to stay calm and composed. Since there’s no need to dwell on something that annoys you, you can keep this response short and sweet.
31. How Do You Like to Be Managed?
This is another one of those questions that’s about finding the right fit—both from the company’s perspective and your own. Think back on what worked well for you in the past and what didn’t. What did previous bosses do that motivated you and helped you succeed and grow? Pick one or two things to focus on and always articulate them with a positive framing (even if your preference comes from an experience where your manager behaved in the opposite way, phrase it as what you would want a manager to do). If you can give a positive example from a great boss, it’ll make your answer even stronger.
32. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn’t the first time you’re considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.
33. What’s Your Dream Job?
Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is really in line with your ultimate career goals. While “an NBA star” might get you a few laughs, a better bet is to talk about your goals and ambitions—and why this job will get you closer to them.
34. What Other Companies Are You Interviewing With?
Companies might ask you who else you’re interviewing with for a few reasons. Maybe they want to see how serious you are about this role and team (or even this field) or they’re trying to find out who they’re competing with to hire you. On one hand, you want to express your enthusiasm for this job, but at the same time, you don’t want to give the company any more leverage than it already has by telling them there’s no one else in the running. Depending on where you are in your search, you can talk about applying to or interviewing for a few roles that have XYZ in common—then mention how and why this role seems like a particularly good fit.
35. What Makes You Unique?
“They genuinely want to know the answer,” Dea promises. Give them a reason to pick you over other similar candidates. The key is to keep your answer relevant to the role you’re applying to. So the fact that you can run a six-minute mile or crush a trivia challenge might not help you get the job (but hey, it depends on the job!). Use this opportunity to tell them something that would give you an edge over your competition for this position. To figure out what that is, you can ask some former colleagues, think back to patterns you’ve seen in feedback you get, or try to distill why people tend to turn to you. Focus on one or two things and don’t forget to back up whatever you say with evidence.
36. What Should I Know That’s Not on Your Resume?
It’s a good sign if a recruiter or hiring manager is interested in more than just what’s on your resume. It probably means they looked at your resume, think you might be a good fit for the role, and want to know more about you. To make this wide-open question a little more manageable, try talking about a positive trait, a story or detail that reveals a little more about you and your experience, or a mission or goal that makes you excited about this role or company.
Questions About the Job
At the end of the day, the people on the other side of the hiring process want to make sure you could take on this role. That means they might ask you logistical questions to ensure that timing and other factors are aligned, and they might have you imagine what you’d do after starting.
37. What Would Your First 30, 60, or 90 Days Look Like in This Role?
Your potential future boss (or whoever else has asked you this question) wants to know that you’ve done your research, given some thought to how you’d get started, and would be able to take initiative if hired. So think about what information and aspects of the company and team you’d need to familiarize yourself with and which colleagues you’d want to sit down and talk to. You can also suggest one possible starter project to show you’d be ready to hit the ground running and contribute early on. This won’t necessarily be the thing you do first if you do get the job, but a good answer shows that you’re thoughtful and that you care.
38. What Are Your Salary Requirements?
The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and reaching out to your network. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then make sure the hiring manager knows that you’re flexible. You’re communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.
You can also try to deflect or delay giving a number, especially if you get this question very early in the process, by saying something like, “I was hoping to get a sense of what range/band you had in mind for this role” or, as Liou suggests, “Before discussing any salary, I’d really like to learn more about what this role entails.”
39. What Do You Think We Could Do Better or Differently?
This question can really do a number on you. How do you give a meaty answer without insulting the company or, worse, the person you’re speaking with? Well first, take a deep breath. Then start your response with something positive about the company or specific product you’ve been asked to discuss. When you’re ready to give your constructive feedback, give some background on the perspective you’re bringing to the table and explain why you’d make the change you’re suggesting (ideally based on some past experience or other evidence). And if you end with a question, you can show them you’re curious about the company or product and open to other points of view. Try: “Did you consider that approach here? I’d love to know more about your process.”
40. When Can You Start?
Your goal here should be to set realistic expectations that will work for both you and the company. What exactly that sounds like will depend on your specific situation. If you’re ready to start immediately—if you’re unemployed, for example—you could offer to start within the week. But if you need to give notice to your current employer, don’t be afraid to say so; people will understand and respect that you plan to wrap things up right. It’s also legitimate to want to take a break between jobs, though you might want to say you have “previously scheduled commitments to attend to” and try to be flexible if they really need someone to start a bit sooner.
41. Are You Willing to Relocate?
While this may sound like a simple yes-or-no question, it’s often a little bit more complicated than that. The simplest scenario is one where you’re totally open to moving and would be willing to do so for this opportunity. But if the answer is no, or at least not right now, you can reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, briefly explain why you can’t move at this time, and offer an alternative, like working remotely or out of a local office. Sometimes it’s not as clear-cut, and that’s OK. You can say you prefer to stay put for xyz reasons, but would be willing to consider relocating for the right opportunity.
Questions That Test You
Depending on the style of the interviewer and company, you could get some pretty quirky questions. They’re often testing how you think through something on the spot. Don’t panic. Take a moment to think—and remember, there’s no one single correct answer or approach.
42. How Many Tennis Balls Can You Fit Into a Limousine?
1,000? 10,000? 100,000? Seriously? Well, seriously, you might get asked brain-teaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—they want to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So take a deep breath and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)
43. If You Were an Animal, Which One Would You Want to Be?
Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say…”
44. Sell Me This Pen.
If you’re interviewing for a sales job, your interviewer might put you on the spot to sell them a pen sitting on the table, or a legal pad, or a water bottle, or just something. The main thing they’re testing you for? How you handle a high-pressure situation. So try to stay calm and confident and use your body language—making eye contact, sitting up straight, and more—to convey that you can handle this. Make sure you listen, understand your “customer’s” needs, get specific about the item’s features and benefits, and end strong—as though you were truly closing a deal.
When it comes time for the interview to wind down, you might have a chance to add any last thoughts and you’ll almost certainly have time to ask the questions that will help you decide if this company and role might be great for you. In fact, if they don’t leave time for you to ask any questions at any of your interviews, that might be a red flag in itself.
45. Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?
Just when you thought you were done, your interviewer asks you this open-ended doozy. Don’t panic—it’s not a trick question! You can use this as an opportunity to close out the meeting on a high note in one of two ways, Zhang says. First, if there really is something relevant that you haven’t had a chance to mention, do it now. Otherwise, you can briefly summarize your qualifications. For example, Zhang says, you could say: “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.”
46. Do You Have Any Questions for Us?
You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s an opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit from your perspective. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team? You’ll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so have a few less-common questions ready to go. We especially like questions targeted to the interviewer (“What’s your favorite part about working here?”) or the company’s growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”)
Read More: 51 Great Questions to Ask in an Interview
Looking for more interview questions? Check out these lists of questions (and example answers!) for different types of interviews.
- For a phone interview: 13 Questions Hiring Managers Love to Ask in Phone Interviews (and How to Answer Like a Pro)
- For an internship: 8 Questions You’ll Be Asked in an Internship Interview (Plus, How to Answer Them!)
- For a sales role: The 6 Sales Interview Questions You Will Get Asked (and How to Answer Them)
- For a data science role: 20 Interview Questions Every Data Scientist Should Be Ready to Answer
- For a nursing position: 8 Questions You Might Get Asked in a Nursing Interview (and How to Answer Them)
- For a customer service job: 9 Common Customer Service Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
- For a teaching position: 15 Common Questions Asked in a Teacher Interview (and How to Answer Them With Ease)
As the new year gets underway young Queenslanders are being urged to consider the exciting careers vocational education and training can lead to.
Minister for Training and Skills Development Shannon Fentiman is encouraging the latest cohort of year 12 graduates and young Queenslanders under 21 to take advantage of the Palaszczuk Governments free training initiatives.
“Qualifications in aviation, science and engineering along with apprenticeships in electrical, construction, hospitality and much more are on offer for free,” Ms Fentiman said.
“We want to make sure all young Queenslanders have access to world class training that will lead to a successful and exciting career.”
“So far more than 16,000 students have taken advantage of free training through our free apprenticeships for under 21s and free tafe initiatives since August 2018.”
The Minister said the programs are part of the Palaszczuk Government’s significant VET spending of almost $1 billion annually which supported almost 240,000 students in 2019.
“Last year more than 22,500 Year 12 students achieved a Certificate qualification while they were still at school, giving them a head start before they even graduated.”
“We are providing the training for more jobs in more industries.”
“I encourage all of the 37,000 graduates still thinking about what to do this year to consider the fantastic opportunities available at Tafe.
To take up free tafe, 2019 Year 12 graduates must enrol and start training in one of the 172 eligible qualifications by the end of 2020.
All Queenslanders under the age of 21 are also eligible to take up one of 139 apprenticeships and traineeships for free – this will mean employers won’t have to bear the training cost to take on an apprentice or trainee.
The State Government’s Take on your future advertising campaign will continue this year to attract more young people and employers to the apprenticeship program.
For further information on the Queensland Government’s support for vocational education and training visit www.desbt.qld.gov.au or call 1300 369 935 or the free apprenticeships hotline 1800 210 210.
For TAFE Queensland enrolments contact 1300 308 233 or visit www.tafeqld.edu.au.
Shannon Fentiman MP : Minister for Employment and Small Business and Minister for Training and Skills Development :
1 William Street, Brisbane Qld 4000, Queensland Wide
07 3719 7500
by ALYSE KALISH
Your resume is arguably the most valuable piece of paper for your career. But this document can be daunting for many. Maybe you’re not sure how to fit in all your information onto one page. Maybe you’re not sure about the right way to format and write your resume. Maybe you don’t even know what the heck a resume is!
Whatever your concern, we’ll break down everything you need to know about making the perfect resume, from scratch.
- What Is a Resume?
- What Are Employers Looking for in a Resume?
- How Do You Write a Resume?
- Pick Your Format
- Start With Your Basic Information
- Add in Your Work Experience
- Consider Including Volunteer Work or Other Experience
- Don’t Forget Your Education
- Top It Off With Some Skills and Interests
- Write a Resume Summary Statement (if Relevant)
- Tailor It to the Job (and the ATS)
- Edit and Refine It
- What Are Some Examples of a Good Resume?
What Is a Resume?
A resume is a summary of your career, whether yours is just getting started or has been going on for years. Coming in at around one page in length (two only under specific circumstances), it showcases the jobs you’ve held and currently hold, the responsibilities you’ve taken on, the skills you’ve developed, and the qualities you bring to the table as an employee. Together, those things make it super easy for any hiring manager to see your qualifications and fit for a role.
For all the work you may put into writing one, hiring managers actually spend very little time—mere seconds in many cases—looking at your resume. But despite this sad fact, it’s safe to say that creating a great resume (rather than hastily throwing one together) still matters.
“If you miss the mark, your resume may never be read. Even worse, you might be removed from the applicant pool by a computer before a human even knows you exist,” says Muse career coach Heather Yurovsky, founder of Shatter & Shine. So you want to get it right because, as she explains, isn’t the goal to “spend less time looking for a job and more time in a role you love?”
You might be wondering if you can lean on your LinkedIn profile instead of writing a resume. The answer, sadly, is no. Most hiring managers still expect you to submit a resume, even if they also look at your LinkedIn. Even if you don’t need a resume for a job you’re applying for now, you’re going to need one at some point in your career—they’re not anywhere close to going out of style. So it’s best to always have one at the ready should an opportunity pop up.
And although LinkedIn has plenty of benefits, a resume has one clear advantage: While your LinkedIn is usually a broader picture of your career trajectory, your resume gives you the opportunity to tailor your career story to a specific role or company (more on that later).
What Are Employers Looking for in a Resume?
Hiring managers look for three things on your resume, “What did you do? Why did you do it? And what was the result?” says Muse career coach Martin McGovern, owner of Career Therapy. “If you can answer all three of these questions in…your resume bullet points, you’re going to be on the right track.”
Clear, easy-to-understand language is key. “The truth is that most resumes make no sense. They are stuffed with jargon, they are too technical, and they are filled with redundancies. Try to read a resume that isn’t yours and you will quickly realize that it feels like an alien wrote it,” McGovern adds. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter who has no idea how your role works—how can you make your resume accessible to them?
The hiring manager also cares about more than just you and you alone—they care about you in relation to them. “Hiring managers want to see if a candidate matches the requirements” of the role they’re hiring for, Yurovsky explains. “Your resume should paint this picture so the hiring manager not only knows what day-to-day responsibilities you can handle, but why you, above other[s], bring value to their organization.”
How Do You Write a Resume?
Whether you’re someone who’s never written a resume in your life, or you need a nice, thorough refresher on the process of creating one, follow these steps to go from a blank page to a complete—and dare I say beautiful—document.
1. Pick Your Format
Before you start typing one single thing, you have to decide what you want the overall resume to look like.
Resume builders can be helpful for this step—they’ll take all your basic information and organize it for you, eliminating some of the legwork. You can also use a pre-made outline, such as one of these free Google Docs templates.
But it’s often safest to start with a clean slate all on your own and eventually upgrade to a more advanced layout. This allows you to course correct, edit and re-edit, and choose a resume format that best fits your particular situation (after all, not everyone has a career trajectory that’s easy to compartmentalize).
In general, you’re most likely to cover and/or include sections on the following:
- Your work experience
- Your non-work experience, including professional organizations, community involvement, or side projects
- Your education and certifications
- Your skills (specifically hard skills) and interests
So how do you format and organize all of that information?
By far the most common (and safest, if you’re not sure which route to take) option is reverse chronological order. This means you organize your experiences from most recent to least recent. So your work experiences would go above your education, and your current role would go above previous roles you’ve held. This of course has its exceptions—maybe you went back to grad school between jobs, or your most recent role is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for. So the whole page may not be exactly in reverse chronological order depending on your situation. It’s just a guideline.
There’s also something called a functional or skills-based resume. This is used pretty rarely, mainly with career changers and those with limited or complicated work histories. It gets its name because it’s primarily about listing your skills rather than experiences, and showcases them above your work history and education.
You can also opt for a combination resume, which is a mix between a reverse chronological resume and skills-based resume. It highlights your skills at the top, but allows just as much room below to cover your job and school experience.
Use caution when choosing these two formats: “Combo and skills-based [resumes] can be hard to follow, because [they force] the reader to hunt for connections between your skills and experience, and [don’t] provide the full context of your work,” says Muse Career Coach Angela Smith, founder of Loft Consulting. “I’ve also heard a lot of recruiters say that they automatically discount skill-based resumes because they feel the candidate is trying to hide something. I don’t necessarily believe that, but I think it’s important for job-seekers to know that perception is out there.”
2. Start With Your Basic Information
Your contact information should always go at the top of your resume. In this header you’ll want to include anything that could be helpful for a recruiter to get in touch with you. Usually, this means adding in:
- Your full name (preferably the name you use across the web)
- Your phone number
- Your personal email address
You might also choose to include other basic information, such as your LinkedIn or personal website URL, your GitHub (for technical roles), your social media profiles (if relevant to the job), or your address. If you’re looking to move for a job, you may choose to leave out your address or write “open to relocating” to better your chances of getting an interview.
The key is to make this part as clear as possible. If a hiring manager can’t reach you, there’s no point in perfecting the rest of your resume.
3. Add in Your Work Experience
This section will most likely be the bulk of your resume. Even if you’re changing careers, employers still want to see where you’ve worked, what you’ve done, and the impact of that work to get a sense of your background and expertise.
Your “Work Experience” might be one entire category, or you might choose to break it up into “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience” to highlight the jobs that are most important for hiring managers to focus on. Either way, you’ll almost always want to have your most recent experience at the top and your older experience down below.
Within your work experience, you’ll want to include each official job title, the company (and possibly its location), and the years you worked there. Below that, you’ll add in two to four bullet points explaining what you did in that job, the skills you built and exercised, the tools you used, and the results of what you did. If you accomplished a lot during your time there, focus on the responsibilities that made the most impact or you’re the most proud of, as well as the ones that best align you with the job you’re applying for (more on that in the following sections). It’s key here to list, if relevant, quantitative as well as qualitative accomplishments.
For example, you might write:
Associate Accountant, Finances and Co., Ann Arbor, MI
September 2017 – Present
- Manage billing and invoicing for more than 50 clients, ensuring the deadlines and needs of our enterprise partners, including Big Company and Super Star Org, are met
- Collaborate closely with sales, account management, and project management teams on project setup, maintenance, and invoice management
- Assist in the streamlining of invoicing guidelines and procedures through documentation and the implementation of new software, resulting in an average two-week decrease in total time spent per client
Your resume bullets should be in past tense if you’re referring to past jobs and present tense if you’re talking about your current roles. In addition, your bullets should always start with a strong action verb that best describes what you did. And if you have examples of your work, consider hyperlinking them here as well.
If you have a ton of experience and this category is starting to run long (read: over one page), consider kicking out your oldest jobs unless they’re super relevant to the job you’re applying for, or extra impressive for your field.
Not sure where to start? “It’s helpful to do a brain dump and create a document that has everything and anything you consider as experience or an achievement,” says Yurovsky. From there, she explains, you can start to whittle down what is and isn’t important. And you can refer to this document later if you ever decide to update your resume for a specific role.
Need more specific advice on listing your work experience on your resume? Check out these additional resources:
- When you’ve held multiple jobs at the same company: 2 Jobs, 1 Company: How to Show Multiple Positions on Your Resume
- When you’re not sure what your accomplishments are or how to explain them: Resume Revamp: How to Turn Your Duties Into Accomplishments
- When you want to spruce up a boring or insignificant job: How to Make Your Most Boring Jobs Sound More Interesting on Your Resume
- When you’re considering fudging a job title: The Answer to “Can I Change My Job Title on My Resume to Make It More Accurate?”
- When you’ve had a bunch of short-term gigs: How to List Temporary Jobs on Your Resume
4. Consider Including Volunteer Work or Other Experience
Anything you’ve done that’s not work experience—your side gig, volunteer work, special projects—can be hosted under clearly-labeled sections (“Volunteer Experience” or “Activities,” for example). Depending on how robust your work experience is, these things may be worth including, particularly if they’ve helped you level up your skill set or better align you with your dream job. Plus, they make you look that much more well-rounded, passionate, and hardworking.
If you’re a recent grad, you might also build out a section for on-campus activities, such as clubs, organizations, or leadership experience. This can be a great supplement if you’re lacking in the jobs department. You can frame these just as you would professional jobs—including your title, the organization’s name, and bullets describing what your role was and what you accomplished.
5. Don’t Forget Your Education
If you’re still in school or just graduated, your education can go at the top of your resume, but for pretty much everyone else, this goes near the bottom. Most people include their school, graduation year (for folks less up to about a decade out of school), major, and degree. Brand-new grads might also write in their GPA, honors and awards, study abroad, thesis, or other notable achievements. But keep this section super simple, as you don’t want it to take up too much space over your work experience.
It’s possible you have unique education experience, such as taking an online course or certification. If you did this specifically as a way to boost yourself within your industry, definitely include it. Again, list everything more or less reverse chronologically—so a grad school degree would go above an undergrad degree, and a more recent relevant online course would go above that.
Learn more about the ins and outs of listing your education on your resume:
- How to (and How Not to) List Education on Your Resume
- How to List Online Courses on Your Resume the Right Way (Because Yes, There Is a Wrong Way)
6. Top It Off With Some Skills and Interests
The skills section of a resume gets a bad rap, but it’s just as important as the rest of the stuff you include. It’s a quick list a recruiter can scan to see if your skill set aligns with what they’re hiring for. And it’s super ATS-friendly (ATS stands for “applicant tracking system,” the robot that in some cases reads your resume before a human does) because it allows you to add in keywords the machine is scanning for.
Usually this section goes at the bottom of your resume, but in special cases—such as a skills-based resume or when someone’s switching fields—you may place it further up.
Be strategic when filling in your skills. Don’t list things you actually couldn’t do at a high competence level (I’m looking at those of you who say you’re “great” at Excel), and maybe nix skills that are completely irrelevant to the job you want. For example, you may not even need to include Excel if you’re applying for say, a design position, unless it’s listed as a job requirement.
Maybe you’re thinking, I’m a really good volleyball player, but that’s not a “skill,” right? No, it’s not, but it is a hobby. Adding in a hobby section at the bottom of your resume is underrated, and frequently a smart choice. It can be a great conversation starter with a hiring manager, and it can show that you’re a good culture fit—or a culture add—for the company. Also, it’s just a nice way to add in some of your personality. So tack on a bullet point listing out some of your interests, such as hiking, rowing, or crafting (no more than five to seven work-appropriate verbs), and you’re all set here.
7. Write a Resume Summary Statement (if Relevant)
You may have heard of a resume summary statement. They’re not super common, but they can be useful to include near the top of your resume if you’re looking to add clarity or context to your resume. If you’re a career changer, you might find a summary statement helpful in explaining your leap and tying your experience to your new path. Or if you’re a more experienced professional, you can use a summary statement to highlight a theme that brings your career trajectory together.
Overall, you probably won’t need a summary statement if your career is pretty linear and your bullet points do a great job of emphasizing what you have to offer in terms of skills and experience. But if you think it makes sense to include one, “Take the time to think about what the person reading your summary wants to know before you write it,” says McGovern. “Good summaries explain why you do what you do and how it can help. For instance: Merging a background in ABC, I help companies improve XYZ through 123. Summaries shouldn’t be any more complicated than that.”
So, taking McGovern’s example, you might say:
Merging a background in social media marketing and PR with seven years in the consumer tech space, I help companies improve their internal and external communication and brand awareness through data-driven, quality content and strategies that align with the modern trends of the space.
Yurovsky adds that “you don’t want your summary statement to be a dense paragraph with too much information. You want it to be easy to read, concise, and memorable. Almost like a tagline.”
8. Tailor It to the Job (and the ATS)
Once you have your resume written out—you’ve broken down your work experience, tagged on some activities and additional experiences, and listed out your skills—it’s important to go back to the job description (or multiple job descriptions, if you’re applying to several similar jobs) and make sure that what your resume says matches up with the kind of candidate the employers are looking for. In other words, tailor it.
Let’s explain further. You’ll want to begin by tackling the ATS. This means combing the job description to see if individual words and phrases line up. What skills are they asking for, and have you listed them (so long as you actually have them)? What words are they using to describe their ideal hire, and do you use similar language in your resume?
Next, take a bird’s-eye view. If you were the hiring manager for the role, where on your resume would your eyes be drawn to? And what would you be looking for? Whatever you think will be most important for the recruiter, make sure it’s near the top of your resume, or otherwise emphasized.
Finally, dig into the role and responsibilities of the job. Does your resume reflect similar experience? If not, is there a way you can spin it so that it’s clear you’re capable of doing the job (and doing it well)?
These articles can help you if the word “tailoring” makes you start to sweat:
- What It Really Means to “Tailor Your Resume”
- Your Guide to Making Unrelated Experience Look Relevant on Your Resume
- A Cool Trick: How to Spin 1 Resume Bullet 5 Different Ways
9. Edit and Refine It
Please, please don’t just write your resume and shoot it out without giving it a second glance. Hiring managers may not spend hours browsing it, but if there’s one thing that sticks out more than anything else it’s a glaring typo.
The best approach? Write a rough draft, then leave and come back to it later with fresh eyes to give it an edit.
Cover the basics: Is your contact information correct and updated? Are you using the right verb tenses? Does everything look consistent and accurate in terms of spelling and grammar?
Then do some cutting if your resume’s quite long. It’s no longer a hard-and-fast rule that all resumes must be only one page—but consider it a smart guideline for most applicants, especially if you’ve got less than 10 years work experience. The exception is if you’re very senior or very established in your career; in this scenario, a two-page resume isn’t completely out of the question. Everyone else, read this article for advice on how to cut your resume down.
Formatting-wise, it’s key to consider a couple things. First, what font are you using, and is it legible (for a human and a robot)? When in doubt, go with one of these simple, but sleek, options: Arial, Arial Narrow, Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, or Helvetica.
Second, are you going to save it as a Word document or PDF? Neither option is wrong, although a PDF helps ensure that your formatting is maintained, no matter what type of computer the hiring manager uses to open the document.
Third, is your resume formatted in a way that it’s skimmable? If it’s feeling crowded or overrun with words, read this: 12 Tiny Changes That Make Your Resume Easy for Recruiters to Skim.
Once you’ve given it a few good looks, it may be worth sending it to a friend or colleague (or even a career coach) to get a second opinion. Don’t just have them edit it for spelling and grammar—they should dig into your bullets and offer feedback on whether or not your resume is showing you in the best possible light (it’s smart to also send them the job description for something to compare it to).
What Are Some Examples of a Good Resume?
Here’s the thing: Your resume won’t ever look exactly like someone else’s, nor should it. How you choose to format it, organize your information, and talk about specific experiences depends not just on your career path, but on your field, the job you’re applying for, the company that job is at, and more.
So there isn’t a universal way to do a resume. But there are common themes. To give you some context as to how yours might turn out, here are three examples of different kinds of resumes.
The Most Popular: A Reverse Chronological Resume
As previously mentioned, a reverse chronological resume is preferred by many coaches and HR experts, mainly because it’s super readable. When everything’s in a clear order, it’s easy to skim and even easier to draw lines between experiences.
Who it’s good for: Just about everyone—from students applying to internships all the way up to senior-level executives (with an optional resume summary statement)
The Unorthodox Route: A Functional or Skills-Based Resume
Rather than listing out your experience in reverse chronological order, a functional or skills-based resume has bullet points that reflect how each of your skills is demonstrated by the work you’ve done over the course of your career. At the bottom, you’ll include everything else, such as your education, job history, professional achievements, community involvement, and other technical skills. This is a good option if you have a somewhat all-over-the-place work history and want to tie everything together neatly.
Who it’s good for: Career changers whose work experiences may not appear to be relevant and people with an abundance of temporary jobs or gaps in their work histories.
The Creative Angle: An Infographic Resume or Resume Website
This resume type is characterized by how it’s formatted visually. You may choose a reverse chronological order or skills-based style to organize your information, but also use graphics, colors, unique fonts, and even multimedia elements to help that information pop. Keep in mind that any creative resume is still likely subject to an ATS—and certain elements may be unreadable by a robot. So consider going this route only if you know a human will be reading your resume (and that said human might enjoy it).
Who it’s good for: People applying to creative roles (designers, editors, writers, marketers, video producers, for example), startups, or fun companies, or to jobs where a creative resume is encouraged, if not required.
Not a designer but want your resume to look just as pretty as this example? Check out these articles:
- 5 Sites to Create an Awesome Infographic Resume (Even if You’re the Least Creative Person Ever)
- How to Build a Resume Website That Will Impress Every Hiring Manager Who Sees It
- 5 Digital Tools That Will Make Your Resume Infinitely More Beautiful
Your resume is a living, breathing document. So while you won’t go through this whole process every time you apply for a job, you should be thinking about all these things as you go to update your resume for your next career step. You might decide later on to switch up the order, or remove or add things, or even get creative and try out a whole new format. If you’re not getting the calls back you expect, you may decide to scrap it and start over—and that’s totally OK.
Regardless of where this piece of paper goes and how it grows, when you give it the care and attention it deserves, you set yourself up for success. And you’ll make it that much more likely that you’ll land an interview and get the chance to prove to the hiring manager—over the phone or in person—what you’ve got to offer.