Thursday, August 21, 2014

Using a School District's Website to Your Advantage

As you begin a job search, it is tempting to follow the “one resume fits all” approach because it is easier and saves time when you have a variety of jobs to apply for. However, mass producing your resume and sending it to every school within an hour’s drive is definitely not the way to go. The best approach to apply for any job is to individualize your resume and cover letter for each position within a school or district.  Once you have decided what schools you want to apply to, the next step is to visit the school or district website before completing your application documents. It contains information you can use to your advantage as you prepare to start your job search. The following three tips will help you analyze and extract valuable information from a school’s website that you can use to increase your interview chances.

  1. Data – Most schools will include the previous year’s performance data on their website. As an applicant, you should look for the grade issued by the state, along with the current results of the state standardized testing. If it’s not listed on the website, you can find this information on your state’s Department of Education website. Select an area where the school did well (perhaps their reading scores increased) and an area of deficit (maybe their mathematics scores dropped) and incorporate that data into your cover letter. Be sure to compliment the school on what they have done well and then demonstrate how hiring YOU can help them overcome their current challenges and achieve success for next year. 
  2. School Improvement or Mission Statements – Every school will have a mission statement or school improvement plan on their website which drives next year’s performance goals.  Investigate these goals and incorporate them into your resume and cover letter. If possible include performance metrics in your documents to show your experiences or successes in these areas. A school will find great value in you as an applicant if you can demonstrate student performance growth in their areas of need.
  3. Networking – Often times it is difficult for teachers to network within a school unless they have the benefit of substitute teaching at that school. One alternative is to find the “Staff Directory” on the website and isolate other faculty members who can assist you. Look for the “Department Chairperson”, “Curriculum Leader” or “Team Lead” for the grade/subject you want to teach.  These team leads are the next best thing to meeting with the principal. They know their departmental needs, budgets and open faculty positions. Contact them via e-mail or phone and request to schedule a “job shadow” day or an after school meeting. Use this time to ask them questions about the school, any teacher questions you have and if they think there is anticipated growth in their departments. Leave a copy of your resume with them and express your interest in future openings. Be sure to follow up with a thank you note within 24 hours. If you’ve made a positive impression and a position opens up, the lead can approach the principal with your name and contact information. Remember, you will need to be fingerprint cleared to job shadow a teacher during the day. If you don’t have clearance, set up an after school meeting instead.

Once you have used the above tips and created your resume and cover letter, don’t forget to send it to WGU’s Career & Professional Development Center for review.  We’re happy to provide suggestions and feedback for making your application documents the best they can be.  Visit www.wgu.edu/careerservices to schedule an appointment with one of our Career & Professional Development Specialists.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

5 Tips on What to Do When You Don't Have Experience


  1. Research. Don’t send generic resumes. They’re boring and they probably don’t make you sound very interested in that specific job. Resumes and cover letters must be tailored to the job you’re applying to otherwise it’s like nailing your resume to a tree hoping someone finds it…and reads it! Pick only a few companies you really want to work for, and focus your energies on them. What is their mission? What is their branding and marketing strategy (it shows you’re paying attention to the details). Use their own website and the “About Us” link as well as Glassdoor.com to find out more about the company.
  2. Give it away. Volunteerism can be a great way to gain valuable work experience. If possible, try to find volunteer opportunities within your field but even if you can’t many employers will see volunteerism as a worth-while activity. It shows an altruistic spirit and an example of a positive work ethic. In addition to seeking out volunteer opportunities to help supplement your skills and experience, these opportunities can also be a place-holder on your resume if it shows a gap of a year or more. You would simply add the volunteer experience as though it were one of your regular jobs. Some applications include a section for job-related volunteer experience while other applications provide an “Additional Information” section where you can list your volunteer activities. You can also include the Volunteer Coordinator as one of your references. This person would be the same as your supervisor. Check out the section Volunteering on our website for more ideas. 
  3. Write a well-crafted cover letter for your resume. This is more conversational than a resume so it needs to be well-written: grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. The cover letter should be no more than 3 brief paragraphs. First paragraph explains HOW you found the job and that you’ve done some research. Second paragraph should state that you have the skills that match the posted job description. These should be in bullet points, easy to read, one-liners only, and no more than 4 points. The third paragraph is basically inviting the company to invite you to an interview closing the letter with a “thank you for your consideration” and your signature. 
  4. Follow the rules then break them. Follow the HR/Application Rules (complete the online application, submit your resume, cover letter, etc.). But then contact the department you’re applying for to introduce yourself. They may still say that you have to apply via their website. Let them know that you did but you want to express that you REALLY want to work for them and that you’re excited for this opportunity to hopefully interview. Don’t come across as desperate—just excited and assertive to compete for this position. Be bold (but not pushy), what do you have to lose?
  5. Make sure you send your resume and cover letter to the WGU Career & Professional Development Center for a critique and review the calendar of events for webinars and job clubs to obtain additional advice and tips. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

9 Online Job Application Blunders

Submitting online job applications can be a long and tedious process. However, it is a critical job search component and rushing through the application can lead to costly mistakes. Employers use online applications to gather critical data about prospective employees and to evaluate applicants based on experience, continuity of employment, educational background, and overall potential. An application is a legal document and when you complete an application, your signature and/or submission of the application certifies that the information you provided is accurate and true. Your job application creates a strong first impression so you’ll want to make sure to avoid these top job application blunders:
  1. Poor spelling and grammatical errors. Like your cover letter and resume, one mistake can send your application to the discard pile. 
  2. Incomplete information or unanswered questions. You want to make sure to follow instructions carefully and complete the entire application.  If a question does not apply, put “N/A” in the response section.
  3. Not applying for a specific position. Always make sure to select or list the job title to which you are applying. Avoid stating that you are applying to “Any” position or “Will Do Anything”.
  4. Incomplete work history or large unexplained gaps in work history. Include all positions held over date range requested. Double check your dates (most applications will want month and year for start date and end date) and make sure your application aligns with your resume and social media profiles.  Provide all data requested which can include company address, phone number, job title, supervisor’s name, salary, start date, end date, responsibilities, and reason for leaving. Address gaps in employment (if longer than 6 months) by including time spent as student, volunteering or other professional experiences. 
  5. Saying “Please See Resume”. You don’t want to skimp on the responsibilities section of the application. If you already have a strong resume, incorporate the information from your resume into your application. Make sure to highlight your skills and accomplishments for each position utilizing key words from the job description.
  6. Use of problematic words, such as "quit" or "fired". You want to be honest, however, try to include only neutral or positive information. Some “Reasons for Leaving” include: Returned to school, Company reorganized, Changed careers, Relocated, Business closed, Contract ended, General lay off due to economic downturn, and New job opportunity.
  7. Abbreviations of degree, school, and other application information. Although the abbreviations may seem standard or obvious to you, the person initially reviewing your application may not be familiar with the abbreviations and miss key information.
  8. Forgetting to include additional relevant information. Make sure to add certifications, licenses, or any additional relevant training. You may be asked to provide license/registration numbers and/or expiration dates. Also, if relevant to the position to which you will be applying, you’ll want to consider including awards and recognition, additional languages, technical/computer skills, volunteer experiences, memberships and associations, and publications.
  9. Not letting your references know that you are using them as reference. Keep in touch with your references to let them know when you have included them as a reference on your application and for what type of position. Professional references are the most preferred type of reference. Professional references are people who can talk about the quality of your work and can include supervisors, co-workers, former customers/clients, teachers, instructors, mentors, volunteer connections, etc. Professional references do not include family members.
Investing time now to gather standard job application information can save you time in the long run and prevent costly errors when filling out online applications in the future. For answers to additional job application or career questions you may have, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We look forward to assisting you in reaching your career goals!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of employer recruitment needs. Nearly all major corporations use some form of an applicant tracking system to handle job applications and to manage resume data. Applicant tracking systems are error-prone and if your resume isn't formatted a certain way or doesn't contain the right keywords and phrases, your resume can end up in a black hole, never to be seen by a human eye, despite your qualifications.

To increase the chances of your resume getting through an applicant tracking system,
consider the following tips:

Utilize Key Skills and Qualifications
  • An ATS runs on keywords. Start with the job description and make sure to incorporate key skills and qualifications directly from the job posting. 
  • Don’t stop with the job description. Check the Skills section of the LinkedIn profile builder for keyword skills that relate to your industry/profession. 
  • Research the industry and similar job descriptions from different companies to ensure you have a comprehensive set of key skills and qualifications included in your resume. 
  • Use unusual words at your own risk! ATS software is programmed with common words. If you choose to use unusual synonyms, they may not be caught by the ATS.
Focus on Formatting
  • A single column, Word document is best, as PDF’s are easily misinterpreted by an ATS.
  • Avoid tables and graphics. An ATS can’t read graphics and tables are typically misread.
  • Length does not matter to an ATS. A resume should be as long or as short as you need it to be without going over 2 pages. 
  • Avoid excessive creativity. ATS software is not creatively savvy. Consider having a couple versions of your resume – one for the ATS and one in a more creative, eye appealing format for humans.
Tap into the Power of Networking
  • Employee referrals from a well-respected employee are often given priority over the online-generated candidate pool. Look to your network to see if you know anyone within the company who can help get your resume in front of a recruiter or hiring manager. 
  • Schedule informational interviews at companies of interest with individuals in roles similar to those you in which you are interested.
  • Expand your network. Utilize social media like LinkedIn to connect with recruiters and hiring managers. Attend networking events and professional meetings, conferences, or conventions. Join professional associations. 
  • Networking is the best use of your time. Learn, engage, and follow up!
Contact WGU Career & Professional Development for a personalized resume review and career assistance. We're here to help!