Blog Archives

Resources: Careers, cover letters, resumes, interviews, and CVs

On Wednesday, March 25, the GRS held a special two-hour monthly meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Lamson Tower Room. Terri Dautcher from the College of Business Administration discussed tips to consider as graduate students embark on a job search. Students who attended had the chance to ask any questions that they might have. Jane Weber, the Director of the Writing Center, also helped facilitate a peer resume review and discussion afterwards.

Below are some key points from the meeting:

General career guidance:

  • Research and academic fields are more competitive now than ever. Especially in light of consolidation/shrinkage coming in higher education.
  • Good candidates: look beyond your advisors and campus. Don’t hesitate to look at your mentors for advice, but recognize the bigger picture of your field beyond your experiences/school.
  • Pay attention to the culture and politics within your field.
  • Market yourself as a valuable asset. Encourage employers to invest in you as a human resource.
  • Always connect yourself with a potential employer’s goals/aims in letters and interviews. Show that you have done your research about the institution.

Impressing with your cover letter:

  • Acknowledge your student status, but build up your skills (explain what you bring to a potential employer)
  • If there are any red flags (ie. not enough years of experience as job advertisement requested or lower GPA): address these. Gently rebut their argument/concern. Example: I know that I am a new college graduate, but I have…..(these skills, experience)
  • Consider the use of bullet points in a cover letter: highlight experience
  • First section/paragraph of cover letter focuses on technical skills.
  • Second section/paragraph should focus on soft skills (particularly those skills that connect with the job, like teaching experience).
  • Soft skills are very important. Want to come across as “I can play nice in the sand box”.
  • Energy behind cover letter => I have a lot to offer and would like to come in (for an interview) and see if I’m a good fit for your company/institution.
  • Avoid overconfidence and arrogance in your letter. Don’t attempt to say that you are a perfect candidate, but rather that you think you are a good fit for the company.
  • Explain how you think you can help the employer meet their goals/achieve their aims. Connecting yourself with the institution is vital. Reviewers will often discard applications that fail to explain why they would be a good fit at that company.
  • Recommended reading: Daniel Goleman Working with Emotional Intelligence. Watch a Google talk of this work at

Acing that interview:

  • Come in prepared. Do your research on the company beforehand. Understand the general vibe/politics.
  • Go over example interview questions beforehand.
  • Consider doing a mock interview with someone else and videotaping yourself to see how you come across.
  • Note that many interviewers will attempt to gently (or not so gently) agitate you. They are doing this to see how you react to someone trying to “get under your skin” as a way to assess your ability to handle difficult or ambiguous situations and/or people. This may be done in the manner that you are questioned or through random/silly questions, such as “why are softballs fuzzy?” or “how do you make M&Ms?” that are seemingly unrelated to the position. Agitation/aggravation at the question shows a propensity to be annoyed (poor soft skills) while natural, laid-back reactions show an ability to handle a curveball that is sent your way.

Providing your credentials:

  • Build your CV along with a corporate resume simultaneously => CV helps you keep a list of every conference you attend and present at, workshops you participate in, civic engagement which may be helpful for future career development
  • You can use your CV as a baseline and then when preparing a resume for a specific type of job, copy relevant sections over.
  • Organize your CV and resume based on what is most relevant to your field or the position you are applying to.
  • Look for examples of portfolios, CVs, and resumes from professionals in your field. If applying to a specific institution/company, look for examples from personnel at that institution. See how they organize their documents, what do they emphasize.
  • Use the same header for all of your career documents (cover letter, resume, CV).
  • Name your files in a consistent and easy to read manner (ie. JaneSmith resume, JaneSmith cover letter).
  • Save and upload documents as a PDF. Make sure to read through the PDF to avoid errors, extra pages, etc.
  • Consider the placement of an executive summary at the top of a CV or resume that highlights experience.
  • Remember that the 1st 1/3rd of your resume/CV are most influential.
  • Create a professional portfolio online (with,,, or Mahara (through Plymouth)). Your portfolio should show who you are, what your experience/skills are, and examples of your work. Consider adding hidden/non-public pages to keep track of other career information, such as conferences you’ve attended, etc.