Learn how to improve your job application and increase your chances of becoming the successful candidate! Discover how to write a strong resume, create an effective cover letter and prepare for a job interview. Use the tips below to take your job application to the next level and find the right career.
Write your resume
A well-written resume will help to sell your skills and abilities, giving you the best chance of getting the job you want. It should be clear and well organized. Consider the following tips when putting together your resume.
Personal information — your name, address, phone number and email address.
Include only one phone number and email address to make it simple for an employer to reach you. Don’t include overly personal information, such as your birthdate or marital status.
Work and volunteer experience — previous job titles, tasks and key accomplishments. Be specific when describing your previous roles and responsibilities. Use the action words guide to identify verbs that best reflect your experience. Related skills — job-specific skills, certifications, computer skills and trades credentials. Include skills that might be useful to the position, such as first aid certification or languages you speak. Look at the job posting and use the same keywords or skills listed to describe your own. Streamline your resume by removing skills or certificates that are not relevant to the job you are applying for. Relevant education — post-secondary credit, and non-credit programs and courses. Lead with the information that is most relevant to the job you’re applying for—even if that means putting your work experience or a specific training certificate at the top. Not all resumes need to be in chronological order, so a strength-based resume may do a better job of highlighting your important skills. Awards and achievements — work-related, academic and community awards. Include those relevant to the job you’re seeking. Memberships — professional, business-related, school or community groups. This is a great way to show a potential employer that you are an involved member of your community—which shows that you will make an engaging co-worker and contribute to a positive work culture. Likewise, if you lack work experience, your involvement in local groups or professional organizations can help supplement your resume. References — former supervisors or colleagues who will confirm your skills and speak positively about the quality of your work. Unless the employer requests your references upfront, you do not need to include them in your resume. When you do provide them, remember to contact your references for their permission beforehand. Additional tips and resources
Although the resume length for a job can vary depending on the field, resumes usually are between one and two pages.
Maximize space by only including the information relevant to the job posting. Take the time to customize your resume to fit the job; you are more likely to get an interview.
Use a resume template to get started. Most document editing software have ready-to-use templates. If you are applying for a traditional company job, consider using a simple template; if you are applying for a creative position, consider using a non-traditional template (or even a website or online portfolio) to showcase your work.
The Government of Canada provides a resume building tool to help guide you through the process.
Check the job posting to ensure you are including all the requested information. Some employers use an online application tool to screen potential employees instead of using a traditional resume.
It’s okay to reach out to a potential employer before applying! If you still have questions about the position after reading the job posting, it’s better to connect with the employer before you apply—you save yourself and the potential employer valuable time.
Create your cover letter
A cover letter is an opportunity to expand on your resume and explain why you are the right fit for the job. However, not all jobs require a cover letter to apply—so always check the job posting before you send one to ensure the employer requested it. When in doubt, include one! Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started.
Address your letter to the hiring manager or program leader
Instead of just saying, “To whom it may concern,” look at the job posting or the company’s website to find the hiring manager’s name to include in your letter.
Use an outline
Treat your cover letter like a short essay. Here’s a basic outline for a simple three-paragraph letter:
Introduce yourself and why you are interested in the position.
Include a brief paragraph explaining how you meet the specific experience and/or education requirements.
Finish with a conclusion describing how your unique combination of education, experience and skills make you the best person for the position.
Watch the length
You want your letter to be direct and concise. Aim to have your cover letter no more than one page.
Share concrete examples
Avoid repeating your resume, rather use it to highlight a few key experiences that relate to the job you are applying for. Show your future employer why you are the right fit.
Highlight how you meet the competencies detailed in the posting, using keywords or skills listed in the job posting. Read Skills for the Future Workforce to learn more about the type of skills employers are looking for.
Use active voice and avoid wordiness
Use active language and avoid wordiness—it will improve your writing and save space for the important details. Example of active versus passive language:
Active voice: “I led a team of 20 employees at X company.”
Passive voice: “I had once managed 20 employees as the leader of a team for X company.”
The University of British Columbia provides advice and examples of resumes and cover letters for students entering the workforce for the first time.
Want to learn more about what makes a winning resume? Take a look at the LinkedIn Cover Letter Feed.
Prepare for interviews
Once your resume or application has caught the attention of an employer, you may be asked to meet for a formal interview. The key to any successful interview is preparing ahead of time. Use the following interview tips or watch the video below to help you get ready.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Research the organization
Employers want to know that you did your homework for the interview. Show your potential boss that your skills and values align with the company’s interests. Learn what they do, who they serve, what makes their business different from their competitors and how long they’ve been in business.
Research the job
By knowing all the requirements for the position—such as the industry-standard skills, tasks and education—you can show the interviewer how your experience makes you qualified. If an employer requests, “equivalent education or experience,” consider referencing non-professional experiences that fit the qualifications. (For example, if a job posting asks for leadership skills, you might describe your three years as a volunteer coach for a youth soccer team.)
Prepare for common interview questions
It’s difficult to prepare for every question, but you can build your confidence by practising common questions beforehand. The following resources are a great starting point:
Common Behavioural Interview Questions – UBC
Competency-Based Interview Questions – BC Public Service
You may also want to ask a friend or a family member to help you with a mock interview. Practise answering potential interview questions in a familiar environment; you will feel more comfortable and confident in the real interview. Plus, repetition will help train your brain for the real event.
Prepare questions for the interviewer
By preparing a few questions beforehand, you not only show your potential employer you’re interested, but it also helps you figure out if this is the right job for you. You can ask questions about the work environment, the daily tasks or even about the company.
Arrive a few minutes early
Research the location of the interview, check your commute time or the bus route, and leave early to ensure you arrive just before your scheduled interview time.
AT THE INTERVIEW
In many cases, you’ll compete with several candidates for the job. How you present yourself will affect your chances of success.
Dress to impress
Dress one step above the regular dress code—for example, if you’re applying to a work environment with a uniform or a casual dress code, wear business casual. Likewise, if you’re applying to work at an office with a strict business casual policy, wear business clothes (a suit or dress suit combo). Although professional business fashion changes over time, it’s better to slightly overdress and put in the effort, rather than appear underdressed for the interview. Note: If you don’t have professional interview clothes, there are several community organizations that can provide you with an outfit. Programs such as Dress for Success and Working Gear are just a few organizations that offer this service. If you can’t find one near you, contact your local WorkBC Centre to learn more about the resources available in your community.
Show the interviewer you’re engaged and interested
You can demonstrate engagement through a variety of methods: making polite small talk you’re your potential employer before the interview, smiling, making eye contact, and taking the time to thoughtfully respond to their questions. Engage with the employer through active listening (to hear and understand the speaker), which will help you avoid miscommunication and other common interview errors. Read Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples to learn more.
When prompted near the end, use the available time to “interview” the employer. Be sure to ask at least one or two relevant questions about the job or company—it shows you’re interested!
Bring your references’ contact information
Sometimes a potential employer will request your references at the end of an interview, so always come prepared. However, it’s standard courtesy to notify your references before you give their information to your interviewer or potential employer.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
Send a thank-you email
In addition to expressing your appreciation for the interview, a thank-you email brings that personal aspect to the job selection process. Being friendly, polite and professional goes a long way when applying for a job. A thank-you note is typically sent within a day or two of your interview.
Reflect on the process
Job interviews are difficult, and, like any new skill, it takes time to learn. Even if you weren’t the successful candidate, it was still a valuable opportunity to practise your interview skills and network with the company—and it’s always possible that the employer may remember you and invite you to apply for a new opportunity in the future.
WorkBC Centres have useful career resources that can help you prepare for an interview. Contact your local centre to book an appointment with an employment counsellor.
UBC's Student Services offers more detailed information on what to do before, during and after an interview.
Okanagan College has questions to consider and a checklist of things to do as you get ready for an interview.
The Government of Canada Job Bank provides insight into how to plan, what to bring and what to do during and after an interview.
Develop your networking skills
Statistics show that 80% of job vacancies are not advertised. In some regions, that percentage is higher. Networking is a vital way to identify work opportunities and connect with potential employers in the “hidden” job market.
Your current social circle, both online and offline, is a good place to start to expand your network of acquaintances, but you’ll find other excellent networking opportunities listed below. Whatever networking strategies you employ, expanding your network will expand your prospects.
Networking for career development
Volunteer — This is a fine method for broadening your network and allowing prospective employers to discover your abilities. You can gain experience, make connections, demonstrate your skills and get noticed. Volunteering provides an opportunity for word to spread about your talents and availability. And sometimes paid employment grows directly out of volunteer activities.
Join a job club — For those who are eligible, job clubs have many advantages: you quickly find out you are not alone, discover which job-search methods that are working for people, and gain a built-in network of people who know people. Someone in the job club may have a friend or relative looking for a landscaper, which may be your job target. You never know when an opportunity could present itself.
Find groups in your area(s) of interest — Join a new group to build your network. If you like computers and are passionate about programming, find a programming user group. Such groups allow you to build lasting, mutually helpful professional relationships. As you become connected, you’ll likely discover career opportunities.
Tell community groups you are a part of — Organizations you are already part of may have many members, some of whom already know you well. Talk to them about your career or job-search goals. If people don’t know that you’re looking for work, then they can’t share any opportunities with you.
Social media networking — These days, social media is an excellent method for connecting with employers and job opportunities. Find out more about using social media in your job search below.
Attend job fairs — Job fairs are another great opportunity to connect with people: employers who are seeking workers, employment service providers and other job seekers. Even if a company isn’t looking for someone with your background, they may know of someone else who is. They may be happy to pass on your resume or keep it for their own future needs. Be proactive and do some homework on the companies you plan to approach at the job fair (participating companies are usually listed in advance event notices). Your obvious interest and preparation will increase your chances of winning an interview.
When networking, always thank the people who have given you advice or contacts by emailing or mailing them a thank-you note. Networking is all about building relationships. Showing that you appreciate the time of a person who helps you is your investment in a relationship that may ultimately benefit both of you.
Using social media in your job search
With more and more companies and recruiters using social media to find and screen potential employees, it’s fast becoming a vital part of the job search process.
Top 3 social media sites for job seekers
How to effectively use a social media network
The key reason more people are using social media to help with their job search is because it’s a great way to connect with people. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, it’s important to spread the word that you’re looking for work. If you don’t let anyone know that you’re searching for jobs, then the potential to network and advertise your skills is wasted. The next time you’re on your favourite social media site, make sure you let your friends and followers know that you’re looking for a job. Your friends may not know of any immediate job openings, but if any come up, they’ll definitely think of you if they know you’re looking. Social media is all about spreading the word, so be sure to spread your message as far as possible.
Create a professional profile
Many employers are now using social media to help screen potential hires, so if you applied for a job recently, there’s a good chance that your profile has been looked at by someone in the company you applied to.
For this reason, it’s very important that you tidy your online profiles by removing any questionable photos or messages before you start looking for work. It’s also a good idea to replace your profile picture with one that shows your professionalism and good taste.
If you’d prefer to keep your profile private, make sure that you update the privacy settings on any of the sites you use to ensure that only your friends can view your content.
“Follow” or “like” career experts
One of the great things about social media is how quickly you can access the latest job-search advice and trends. Sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn are teeming with recruiters, bloggers, career counsellors and HR personnel who are eager to share their expertise with job seekers.
Whether it’s an infographic, blog post, article or study, you’ll find plenty of useful information and tips on social media that can help you land your dream job. The next time you go online, make sure you devote some time to follow the experts or companies in your field of interest.
Due in part to the marketing potential of social media and its growing user base, many employers are now using social media as a way to spread company news, job postings, and promotions.
And because it’s so fast and easy to spread the word through social media, many employers are now announcing job opportunities on their social media feeds long before they post them on job boards or newspapers. For this reason, it’s important to connect with employers online to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Following employers of interest will also keep you up-to-date on their current events, which may assist you in future interviews.