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Resumé-building often starts in high school, but budding professionals usually lack the skills needed to prepare for an actual interview.
Professionals and students alike advise that getting an internship or job requires the job-seeker to focus on certain essential documents and skills. While it can be beneficial to build your resumé piece by piece, there are important details to focus on in interviews, such as your mannerisms and answers to crucial questions.
According to Sharon Mickens, the assistant director of employer relations for Pitt’s Career Center, an applicant will likely have to first submit a resumé and application online. Mickens said this is typical, regardless of how the potential employee learns of the opportunity.
Mickens said it’s important to adjust your resumé to an online platform to increase the chances of scoring an interview.
“Typically applicant tracking systems (ATS) screen out candidates before they’re even seen by someone in human resources. It’s important to use relevant keywords and to avoid using a template with tables as they’re unable to be read by that system,” Mickens said in an email.
Jessica Druga, a career consultant for engineering, said applicants can further customize resumés depending on the job description. By targeting specific keywords, such as certain skills the employer is looking for, in bulleted lists of accomplishments, an applicant can make an individual resumé stand out from other online applications.
“It’s really important to tailor [a resumé] as much as possible so your resumé can have different types of experience listed,” Druga said. “Tailoring it, looking at the job description, seeing what experiences you have relative to it.”
If an applicant is offered an interview, Mickens and Druga said preparing beforehand is key to a successful interaction. Depending on the industry someone is applying for, the applicant can Google interview questions for their specific field.
Mickens recommends using the STAR method — Situation, Task, Action, Results — to practice answering common questions. Interview questions will often require the applicant to present a job situation, the task at hand, the actions they took to solve that task and the result of those actions. Employers use these responses as an indicator of future behavior, Druga said.
According Druga, it’s helpful to practice this way because interviewers often pose questions that leave the interviewee in a vulnerable position.
The STAR method and an understanding of the position for which someone is applying are helpful for interviews, Mickens said.
“Familiarize yourself with the job description and qualifications of the position to which you are applying. Make sure you know your resumé inside and out, and can connect your experiences to what’s required of the job,” Mickens said.
It’s helpful to prepare in the mirror or with someone else with these techniques in mind, Druga said. Practicing in front of a peer can help an interviewee handle certain things that he or she may not expect, such as an interviewer’s negative facial expressions.
Druga said recording a practice interview can also help a candidate understand how they sound to others.
“[Recording] can maybe help us realize how many times we say ‘um’ or ‘like like like,’ even our tone in general. We might have a really flat [tone] without even realizing it, and that can really drain the listener. They might have made a decision already based on that,” Druga said. “They want someone who’s enthusiastic, someone who has done research, knows their stuff.”
Nora Kraus, a sophomore supply chain management and marketing double major, worked for Aldi as a district manager intern in Saxonburg in the summer of 2018. Getting there required two interviews and displaying a variety of interpersonal skills to make her an ideal candidate for the job she wanted.
Kraus had done her own research before her interview. She searched example behavioral interview questions beforehand and said she used previous experience to answer them.
“I’d say some of my biggest recommendations are just to reflect on previous experiences, because you don’t want to be sitting there and scrambling to find an answer to a pretty basic question that you definitely experienced before, that you just can’t think of it because you’re on the spot,” Kraus said.
Kraus said this was particularly helpful when asked to describe a specific behavioral situation — an example of a time she failed.
“I did end up drawing back on my camp counseling experience because that’s what was fresh and what was recent,” Kraus said. “I talked a little bit about an experience I had with a camper of mine who was giving me a lot of trouble and how I wished I handled the situation with her differently.”
Kraus said she wouldn’t have heard about the job if it weren’t for one essential skill — networking. She heard about the job through a friend from a business organization she’s a part of, Phi Beta Lambda.
Networking is a buildable skill, according to Druga. Whether it be at a career fair or a connection on LinkedIn, Druga said networking is an excellent way to connect with future employers. Once those connections are made, it’s important to follow up regularly to strengthen them.
While networking is important, Druga also emphasized the importance of obtaining experience. She said students need to have something concrete to talk about during interviews.
“It’s getting involved in the campus community and the surrounding community, doing something good like volunteering to help out in a soup kitchen or even becoming an active member in a sorority or fraternity or a club that interests you,” Druga said. “It could be something that helps you stand out and become unique to other competitors.”