Customizing Your Resume and Cover Letter

Searching for a new job is a job in itself, and you should treat it as such; work! Although it may be easy to send the same resume and generic cover letter for every job posting, you are not doing yourself any favors by cutting corners. Customizing your cover letter and resume for each and every job you apply to could be the difference between you receiving an interview offer or not. From a hiring manager’s perspective, this is what a custom application says about you:

  1. You want THIS job, not just any job.
  • Taking the time to write a customized cover letter and tailoring your resume for a specific position will show the hiring manager that you are willing to put in time and effort to apply for this job, which means you really want it!
  • Sending a generic cover letter and resume shows a hiring manager that you must not really want the job that badly, since you weren’t willing to put in the extra effort to customize your application.
  1. You really are qualified.
  • By customizing your cover letter for a specific job posting, you can specifically mention the skills and experiences that make you a great fit for the position.
  • You can also highlight these skills and experiences on your resume, which will further show a hiring manager that you really are qualified.
  1. You know the value of hard work.
  • Making the effort to customize your application will show a hiring manager that you are willing to work hard to meet your goals. You understand that making the extra effort to customize your application could improve your chances of landing an interview.
  • When hiring managers receive generic cover letters or cover letters that were written for other positions, they will assume the applicant is lazy and unwilling to put in extra effort to reach their goals.

Etiquette for New Hires

Landing a new job isn’t always easy, and often you need to rely on your networking contacts to help you find the right fit. If you recently started a new position, there may be friends or acquaintances that helped you out along the way, and it’s important to show them your gratitude. Here are some suggestions for doing just that:

  1. Send a handwritten thank you note: It may seem a bit old-fashioned, but a handwritten note shows you took the time to express your gratitude. In the end, this small act can reaffirm why a networking contact was so eager to assist you in the first place.
  2. Send a thank you email: Since an email is a bit less personal, it can be a good option for thanking contacts who you know more on an acquaintance level. It will still acknowledge their efforts while showing your appreciation.
  3. Send a small gift: This could be anything from personalized post-it notes, to a small gift basket, or even a box of chocolates. Sending a small token can be an even more personalized gesture than writing a note.
  4. Buy them a meal or drink: Taking someone out for a meal or a drink on you is a great opportunity to not only express your gratitude, but to also fill them in on how your new job is going.

Tips for Metro Riders

If you are one of those lucky Washingtonians who doesn’t have to battle through traffic on the Beltway every morning to commute to work, you most likely take the metro! Learn how to make your metro commute easier, safer, and all around more enjoyable by following the tips below:

  1. Buy a SmartTrip Card: Not only will these cards get you through the turnstiles a little more quickly; they also save you up to a dollar or more on every trip!
  2. Wear comfortable shoes: Commuting via metro typically means that you will have to do a bit of walking to get to and from the station, so wear comfortable shoes and bring your work shoes in a separate bag if necessary.
  3. Hold onto your bags at all times: Holding onto your bags will not only protect you from theft, but it’s also considerate for other passengers to keep your bags off the floor and seats.
  4. Keep your fare card handy: While you want to keep your fare or SmartTrip card somewhere safe, you also want to have it easily accessible so that you don’t have to hunt through your entire purse or wallet to find it when exiting the metro.
  5. Stand right, walk left: This rule of thumb applies to riding the escalators. If you are standing, stand to the right, this leaves the left side open for walking passengers to pass by you unobstructed.
  6. Report any suspicious behavior or unattended bags: Metro police request that passengers report any suspicious behavior or unattended bags they notice to a uniformed metro worker or police officer. This action will help keep you and other riders safe while on the metro.
  7. Plan your trips ahead of time: If you are a daily commuter, you probably know what time your train arrives every morning, but it’s always a good idea to check for any metro delays or alerts before you leave the house to avoid any interruptions to your routine.





When you are unemployed, it’s important to take advantage of every resource you have in order to find a job. While you are submitting your resume to every job posting you feel qualified for, you should also pursue some less traditional means. For example, networking is a great way to learn about new job opportunities and get your name in with the right people.

You should discuss your career goals with your friends and even your former colleagues. Your friends are great networking tools, especially if they work in a similar industry. They might know of companies in your industry that are hiring, or have connections to such companies. If your friend is employed and satisfied with their current career, they might not pay attention to job openings they hear about. That’s why it’s important for you to let them know you are in the market for work, so they can keep an ear out for you. Also, if any of your former coworkers left to work at a new company, than that company is a great place to look into. They are clearly hiring candidates with a similar background and experience to your background, and your former coworker could provide a reference on your behalf to the hiring supervisor.

Linked In is another useful networking resource. You can use the professional networking website to connect with hiring managers, former colleagues and the like. Also, you can ask your former supervisors or colleagues to provide recommendations for you to post on your profile. These recommendations are a great resource to bring to job interviews. They also boost your chances of getting an interview if a hiring manager looks you up on Linked In after reviewing your submitted resume. Companies will post job openings on their Linked In page, so it’s a good idea to connect with companies you are interested in working for as well.

Do not leave any resource untapped when searching for new employment. Help could come from anywhere, and you don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity.


Important Qualities to Highlight

While every position requires different experiences, strengths and skills, there are certain qualities that are beneficial to any professional. When writing your resume or speaking to a potential employer, highlighting these qualities and giving examples of how they have benefited you in the workplace will give you a leg up on the competition.

  • Initiative: Taking initiative outside the set responsibilities of your position is an ideal quality to have as an employee. Employers want to hire someone who can confidently complete their assignments, but they also want someone who will go above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Prioritizing: Being able to prioritize your responsibilities is another great quality to have in the workplace. An employer wants someone who can not only balance his or her many responsibilities, but also be able to recognize which ones are most important or time sensitive.
  • Communication: Strong communication skills will help you no matter what job you are applying for. Being able to speak professionally, clearly, and politely will take you far as a professional. Also, having good writing skills is equally important.
  • Reliability: A potential employer wants to know that he or she can count on you to be there when they need you. An ideal employee should be punctual and have a solid attendance record. When an employer needs extra help, a reliable employee will step in and pick up the slack without waiting for instruction.

Highlighting these key qualities on a resume or in an interview will definitely benefit you.

Three Ways to Avoid Wasting Your Time

When you’re unemployed, job searching can take up the majority of your free time, so it’s important you use that time wisely. Below we have included a few tips on how to make sure every second you spend on the job hunt is time well spent.

  1. Devote a time and place to job search:
    • Rather than casually browsing job sites all day while you eat, watch television or listen to the radio, set aside a certain amount of time each day to devote to your job search. If you allot a certain time period to job searching and nothing else, you will be more focused and productive.
    • You should also assign a particular area of your house or even the local coffee shop as your devoted job search destination. Job-hunting from your couch in front of the television could be a distracting waste of your time.
  2. Apply for jobs you are qualified for:
    • The most common way job seekers waste their time is by applying for jobs they are over or under qualified for. While it doesn’t hurt you to apply for a job you aren’t qualified for, it’s definitely a waste of time.
    • Most job seekers believe they have to submit their resume to as many opportunities as possible in order to increase their chances of landing an interview, but in the end, you are wasting your time applying for any job you aren’t qualified for.
    • The same thing goes for jobs you are overqualified for. With the job market still doing poorly, most job seekers are willing to take pay and responsibility cuts in order to land a position. While you might think that companies would want to hire someone with even more experience than they are looking for, the opposite is usually true. An employer does not want to bring on an employee that would be taking a huge pay cut for the position, because there is nothing to stop them from leaving as soon as they find a better (higher-paying) opportunity. This situation would leave them back where they started, looking for a qualified candidate to fill the opening. In a sense, hiring an overqualified employee could be a waste of their time, as well as yours.
  3. Research the companies and positions you are applying for:
    • Even if you apply for a position you are qualified for, you should still make sure the company is a place you would be comfortable working at. Spending a little extra time researching the company could end up saving you from wasting a lot more time further down the line.
    • For example, say you apply for a position with a company you haven’t researched and they bring you in for an interview. During that interview you realize that the company is not a place you would want to work for due to a disagreement in values, money, policy, etc. You will have wasted your time prepping for and going to the interview, and you will also have wasted the company and hiring manager’s time.


Follow these simple tips and you will be sure to increase your productivity while on the job search!

Advice for Recent College Grads

If you have recently graduated college and have not found permanent employment, you will find yourself associated with a large volume of your peers who are in the same boat. While the job market is still not what it used to be, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself stand out amongst the crowd.


  • If you completed any internships during school, you should consider contacting your former supervisors. It’s possible the company you interned with has new openings that you would not find by yourself. If you enjoyed your internship and left on a positive note, your former supervisor would probably be willing to consider you for any new or current openings with the company. Applying for positions with companies you interned for will give you an edge up on any competition. The hiring manager will already know what you’re capable of and you clearly have appropriate experience.
  • Friends or relatives might also know of positions you might not be able to find on your own. For example, if you have a family friend who works in the industry you are trying to break into, they might have advice based on their own experiences.
  • Professors can also be valuable resources in your job search. Professors are typically very involved and experienced in the fields they teach in, and are usually well connected. Any of the professors you had for your core classes could have connections to major players in the industry you seek to work in. Even if it has been a while since you graduated, it wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with some of your former professors and ask for any guidance or assistance they can give you.

Consider temping:

  • Temping is a great option for recent college grads, because it helps them gain knowledge and experience prior to joining the workforce full time. Temping would also help you pay your bills and occupy some of your free time while you pursue a permanent position.
  • Working as a temp is also ideal for any recent college grads that don’t have much office experience on their resume. If you are looking to work in a corporate or office environment permanently, it helps to be able to go into a job interview with visible experience on your resume.
  • Temping is also a great option because it prevents you from having large gaps on your resume. If you graduate in May and are still searching for permanent work in October, you can go into an interview and show a hiring manger that you have been consistently working since graduation. Employers would much rather see that you’ve been actively involved in the workforce than spending all your time at home applying for jobs.

Applying for jobs day in and day out may not be enough to help you land your dream job, so make sure you think outside the box. With such tough competition out there in the job market today, don’t leave any resource untapped. Differentiate yourself and your resume from the rest of the recent graduates you will be competing against, and you will be sure to come out on top.

How to Tell if You are Qualified for a Position

There are a lot of job seekers out there who apply for every job posting they find interesting, whether or not they think they are truly qualified. Avoid wasting your time applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for, so that you can spend more time working on applications for positions you could realistically acquire. Learn how to tell whether or not you are qualified for a job by reading the following advice.

First, most job postings include a specific job title. If you are looking to apply for a position as an Executive Assistant, but you do not have that title listed anywhere on your resume, you most likely will not be considered as a qualified candidate. The first thing hiring managers look for on a resume is relevant experience in a similar role.

Next, most job postings include a required number of years of experience. If the job description is asking for candidates with seven to ten years of experience and you only have two years, then the position is probably not a great fit for you.

Job postings often list a required amount of education, as well. If they say a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is necessary, then it is not worth your time to apply if you do not have the required degree. The same goes for specific certifications or clearances.

Another qualification to keep an eye out would be required software skills or experience. If a job posting says that all applicants must have experience writing HTML code or working with QuickBooks software, then you should not apply unless you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you have worked with that software in the past.

Needless to say, these are not hard and fast rules – there are always exceptions for special circumstances. There are also definitely gray areas where postings do not specifically list the necessary qualifications. Simply use your best judgment to decipher whether or not you are truly qualified for each posting as you read it.

What Traits Are Hiring Managers Looking for?

When hiring managers search for the perfect candidate to fill a position, they look for a particular set of traits in their ideal candidate. These traits are what will set you apart from your competition and increase your chances of landing the job. Find out what they are in the list below:

  1. You met the minimum job criteria
  2. You have relevant experience
  3. You understand and support the mission of the organization
  4. You can site specific examples demonstrating your ability to do the job
  5. You demonstrate competent communication skills and are able to connect with your audience
  6. You interview well and confidently, and have strong responses to interview questions
  7. You build rapport in the interview including showing resourcefulness, intellect, and passion
  8. You ask questions to demonstrate interest in the organization (and to indicate that you did your homework on the company)
  9. You offer enthusiastic references
  10. You have potential for growth and development

At the end of the day, the real deciding factor boils down to one important quality: They like you. How you personally connect with the receptionist, hiring manager, and anyone else you meet during your interview is incredibly important. A less-qualified person might get the job over someone more qualified simply because they had better chemistry with the hiring manager. So it’s important to remember that being likeable is just one more trait hiring managers look for when interviewing candidates!




Last Minute Interview Checklist

You’re about to head out to an interview for your dream job and your mind is running a mile a minute. Before you step out the door, take a moment to go over this short checklist to make sure you are fully prepared.


  • Read over your resume again. Check for any small grammatical or spelling errors you might have missed the first time around.
  • Check yourself out in the mirror. Make sure your tie is straight, your shirt is tucked in, and there isn’t a hair out of place.
  • Make sure you have everything your interviewer asked you to bring. This could include the proper amount of resume copies, proper identification, a list of references, or a sample of your work.
  • Don’t bring anything you don’t need in the interview. Don’t bring food or drinks into your interview and avoid eating right before going in. You don’t want to spill anything on your suit or get something stuck in your teeth.
  • Look over the job description one last time. Also, it would be good to check out the company’s “About Us” section on their website. Make sure to completely familiarize yourself with the job and the company before your interview. You want to be fully informed so you can both ask thoughtful questions and answer questions thoughtfully.
  • Check the time again. While you don’t want to be late for your interview, you also don’t want to be too early. Showing up too early is just as rude as being late. Try not to arrive more than 10 minutes early for your interview, but leave some wiggle room in your schedule to allow for any traffic or public transportation issues that may arise. If you end up arriving to the building earlier than you would like, find somewhere cool to take a seat and look over your resume again before going in.
  • Right before you walk out the door, take one last look in the mirror and repeat a positive affirmation. Make eye contact with yourself and repeat a phrase like “I will get this job.” Affirmations are a great way to build confidence, and interviewers will be more inclined to hire a confident candidate than a nervous one.


Check off every item on this list, then take a deep breath and get going!