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Resume, Cover Letter and Interview Tips

  • Attention to detail is important to all employers, so demonstrate yours by having a cover letter and resume free of spelling and grammatical errors. Spelling and grammatical mistakes could land your resume in the "no" pile very quickly.
  • Cover letter should be no more than one page – preferably bullet points or three to four short paragraphs.
  • Cover letter should reference skills or qualifications from the job posting or advertisement – connect the dots on how you match the needs of the position.
  • Include a sentence explaining why you want to work at that particular organization, and make it specific to that organization. Demonstrate that you know a little about them and what appeals to you about what you know.
  • Typically, someone reviewing your resume will spend the most time on the first page, will scan the second page, and may stop reading after that. To be safe, keep your resume to two pages or fewer.
  • The chronological work history is the most common format of a resume. Be sure to include dates worked at each organization, and highlight your primary responsibilities. Some candidates also include some significant successes that were achieved while in a position (for instance, a salesperson could include information on their sales per hour over target). Be sure to include any of your job responsibilities that relate to the position for which you’re applying.
  • If you are applying for your first job, include any volunteer work you have done in the past – just because it wasn’t paid employment doesn’t mean that you don’t have the skills an employer is looking for. Similarly, if you’ve worked as a babysitter, been a referee for team sports, a hall monitor at school or mowed the neighbourhood lawns, include this information.
  • Include a few lines to highlight any education you have, including technical training or certificates (for instance, SuperHost, Serving it Right, FOODSAFE, YMCA Camp Counsellor training, WHMIS, First Aid, etc).
  • Personalize your resume with a line that includes some of your interests or hobbies – this can create an opening for your interviewer to ask you some questions about yourself. For instance, do you like to read, travel or play sports?

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Interview tips:

Well done! You did a great job on your resume and you’ve been called in for an interview. Remember that there are likely several people interviewing for the great jobs with the great companies, so it’s important that you put your best foot forward at this in-person meeting. 

  • Be on time – it is a basic expectation and demonstrates respect for your interviewer. You will be expected to arrive at work on time, so don’t be late for the interview.
  • Dress to impress. You may know that employees wear a uniform, or that there is a casual dress code where you have applied to work, but interviewers always appreciate it when you go the extra mile. Put on a suit or dress pants, and wear a collared shirt. The interview is a formal process, and you should be respectful of that by dressing for the occasion. You get one chance for that critical first impression.
  • Shake your interviewer’s hand and look him/her in the eye. Interviewers have reported interpreting a limp handshake or failure to make eye contact as a lack of confidence, and sometimes as a lack of honesty. Practice your handshake and making eye contact with people when you’re talking with them so that you’re prepared for your interview.
  • Be prepared for behavioural interview questions – questions that will ask you for examples of your past behaviour in certain situations. You should be able to predict a number of the interview questions based on the job for which you have applied. For instance, if you are interviewing for a hotel front desk clerk position, you should expect questions about customer service, teamwork, flexibility, working under pressure, your ability to multi-task, your experience handling conflict situations and perhaps any experience you have handling cash. Before the interview, spend some time thinking about your experience in these situations so that examples come quickly to mind when you are actually in the interview. Remember that you may have had some experience in these situations outside of paid employment: you might have volunteer experience that required you to multitask, or have worked on projects at school that involved flexibility, working under pressure, and an interpersonal conflict, or have played team sports that required you to work with others towards a common goal. Be sure to maintain eye contact while answering interview questions.
  • Go to the interview prepared with questions of your own, either about the job or about the organization. Demonstrate that you have done some research and that you have spent time thinking about the role.
  • Asking about pay or benefits at your first interview is a bit tricky. This is obviously important and needs to be discussed but you do not want to leave the impression that this is all that you are interested in. If the company has more than one interview with candidates they are interested in then it’s best to leave this question for the second interview. If this is the only interview before a decision is made, you still may want to leave this discussion until after a job offer has been made. However, if you do raise this question during your interview, it should be the last, not first, question you ask.
  • Always thank the interviewer for his/her time. If the information isn’t volunteered, you may ask for details about the next steps in the interview process.

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