If you’re ready to finally go after your dream job, you should be aware that it’s going to require some honest reflection and serious effort. Indeed, working your way toward this goal will sometimes feel like a job unto itself. But all this effort is worth it, as your dream job will be one that excites you and provides more for your life than just a way to pay the bills.
This guide will show you how to set yourself up for success and move through the application and interview process. We’re here to help you get started with real-world examples, tools, and resources for landing your dream job.
Job Hunting 101: Learning to Locate the Right Opportunities
Some people know the exact job title they want and the company they want to work for, but your dream job might be more vague or undefined than that at this point. If you’re unsure of where to start, that’s okay. Below, we’ll go over how you can determine what it is that you want to do, where to look, and who to start interacting with.
1. Figure out your career goals
You can’t begin your search until you actually know what your dream job is. It might take some work to define what you’re looking for in a job, but simply starting with a list of likes and dislikes or pros and cons can get your ideas flowing. You can ask yourself questions like:
- How do I like to spend my time?
- What do I enjoy about life?
- What types of problems do I like to solve?
- What type of employer do I want to work for?
- Can I turn my personal passions or hobbies into a career?
- Is there anyone I know who has a job I’ve always wanted? How can I talk to them about it?
Landing your dream job might require you to learn some new skills, but you should also consider the skill set that you currently possess. You may already have developed communication skills such as writing or public speaking, administrative skills such as scheduling or coordinating, etc. Using your current skill set as a starting point will set you on the path toward discovering your dream job.
Look for commonalities between your personal preferences and skill set. One helpful exercise is to write out all these items on a large piece of paper and hang it up. You can then stand back, circle items that are similar, and literally connect the dots to help identity patterns. For example, if you notice that you enjoy helping others and have strong communication skills, you should consider jobs such as teaching or advising. You could also plug the top items on your list into a job search engine to see which careers would be a good fit for you.
Once you discover what your dream job is, put together a list of small goals with reasonable deadlines. If the job of your dreams requires special training or education, think of some ways you can get that process started. Work backwards from your final goal and identify all the steps it will take to get there from where you are today. After you complete this preliminary process of figuring out what you want and how to get it, you can begin to look at job boards and company career pages.
2. Research online job boards
According to Jobvite’s 2019 Recruiting Benchmark Report, nearly 50% of all job applications come from online job boards. The internet has opened up a worldwide hiring pool, and career sites like the ones listed below make it easy for job seekers and employers to connect. Here are a handful of the most popular websites offering job postings, career research information, and networking opportunities:
|Top Job Sites||Why They’re Great||Cost|
|With over 810 million members, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Their search tools make it especially easy for job seekers to find the companies and positions they’re looking for.||LinkedIn’s job boards are free to use. There’s also a premium “Career” feature that enables applicants to get in touch with hiring managers, compare applicants, and learn career advancement skills.|
|ZipRecruiter||ZipRecruiter’s messaging feature allows direct communication with prospective employers. A ZipRecruiter account isn’t necessary to access their job postings, but you do need an account to apply for jobs through the website.||Job seekers are able to create an account at ZipRecruiter for free and access all features related to their job boards. Premium options only exist for businesses posting their job openings through the platform.|
|Indeed||Indeed users can easily save job listings and keep track of applications and interviews. Indeed also offers advanced job search and industry research tools as well as a resume insights feature that reviews how well you match up with specific job listings.||This is a free platform for job seekers without any kind of subscription service options. Only employers posting jobs are required to pay service fees.|
|Glassdoor||In addition to their job board, Glassdoor offers employee reviews and salary information for individual companies. They can also show you questions that are frequently asked by certain companies in interviews.||Glassdoor offers free job seeker accounts with unlimited access to all of their tools, insights, and educational resources.|
|Monster||Monster offers job postings, salary tools, career advice, and resume help. You can also fill out a “My Ideal Job” profile, enabling Monster to make smarter recommendations during your search.||There are no subscription fees for Monster job seekers, but employers posting job openings will be charged a fee.|
3. Grow and maintain your professional network
A survey conducted by LinkedIn shows that almost 80% of jobs don’t get posted online. These positions end up being filled internally through networking or the promotion of current employees. This statistic highlights the fact that it does matter who you know and who knows you. Previous employers, coworkers, and college buddies are all people who can be part of your network. Connections from the past can provide career opportunities today, but it’s vital to make new connections and get involved with the people who already have your dream job.
Joining a professional association is a great way to connect with others in your field. But you might not meet the requirements for certain associations, and they usually charge membership fees as well. An alternative option is to join LinkedIn Groups, which allow you to virtually network with colleagues and discover new job opportunities. LinkedIn Groups may not offer all the benefits of true professional associations, but they’re free and easy to join.
Everyone with a LinkedIn account or social media page has an inbox, and this gives you a chance to reach out personally to the people doing what you dream to do. Put a list of contacts together and create a personalized message requesting time for a quick 10- to 15-minute call. Use that time to ask questions, connect, and create a point of contact for future opportunities. Avoid asking questions that can be answered by viewing their profile — you should dig deeper by discussing topics such as how they made a pivot in their career, why they like working at their current company, etc. You can even ask friends and family to introduce you to anyone they know who could give advice about your chosen field or connect you with the right people.
Here’s an example of how you could reach out for one of these networking calls: “Hi Christine, my supervisor, Phyllis Johnson, at XYZ Company met you at the NACE conference last year and suggested I connect with you to discuss the changes you recently implemented at ABC Company. She thought we would be able to collaborate on a future project for a local conference. I would love to chat further about how you made the pivot at your organization. Would you have ten to fifteen minutes next week for a call? Thank you.”
Once you rekindle those old connections and make a few new ones, it’s important to maintain those relationships. A network is only as good as your commitment to keeping those connections relevant, worthwhile, and valuable. Developing a system to reach out and make contact regularly or finding ways to bring value to your network will be key in making sure these connections continue to support your journey to your dream job.
Holidays or big events are always a good time to reach out and provide updates or check in with connections. Also, you should actively engage with your colleagues on social media — rather than just liking their posts, make more of an effort by acknowledging people’s new roles with a direct comment, sharing articles that might be of interest to others, and posting questions that drive engagement to your profile.
4. Learn how an applicant tracking system (ATS) works
Hiring managers have the daunting task of sifting through potentially hundreds of applications per job listing. This is why most recruiters have access to ATS software that helps them automate and streamline the hiring process. Overall, more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to narrow down candidates for open positions based on keywords, skills, and experience.
There are several ATS options for companies to choose from, but they all mostly work the same way. Applicants will be asked to answer questions as well as upload resumes and cover letters to the system. The ATS software can do things like rank applicants based on whether they match the provided job description through keywords, notify the company if there are any red flags, and identify whether they have the required experience. These features are helpful for companies but may seem impersonal to job seekers. Resumes of high-level applicants may be overlooked if they don’t contain enough keywords or meet the system’s algorithm requirements. Formatting issues can also cost candidates an opportunity (elements such as graphics, tables, text boxes, and columns often give ATS software trouble). In the upcoming sections, our guide will go over ways you can optimize your application in order to make sure you get noticed.
Companies also use assessments to determine if a candidate just looks good on paper or if they can actually do the work required of them. Assessing an applicant through a test project is one way for recruiters to get a snapshot of the candidate’s ability for technical jobs that require hard skills like software proficiency. Some hiring managers may have applicants answer a series of questions relevant to the job. Their answers will provide insight into how a candidate thinks about and approaches their work. These are quick and effective ways for companies to gauge the level at which someone is able to perform the required tasks.
5. Practice Good Self Care
Finding your dream job can be a long, frustrating process. For each interview that you land, there may be a dozen or more applications you submitted for other positions that were rejected — and even once you make it to the interview stage, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get hired. You must find ways to cope with all this frustration and rejection in order to maintain your mental health. For example, you could set boundaries such as only looking for jobs on certain days of the week. Another option is to make sure that you partake in a wide range of extracurricular activities outside of job hunting. Overall, the key is to not allow job hunting to become an all-consuming task in your life.
To avoid burnout, you can also try concentrating your efforts into a series of 10-minute challenges. These quick bursts of job-hunting activity could involve practicing your answers to interview questions, updating your profile on LinkedIn, or any other tasks that will help you reach your goal. If you decide to take this approach, we recommend completing three 10-minute challenges on at least three days per week.
Applying for Jobs: What You Need to Land an Interview
Once you find an open listing for your dream job, it’s time to gather network references and apply for the position. Below, we review factors to consider during the application process and how to stand out with an excellent resume and cover letter. We’ll provide resources and tools for optimizing your application as well as tips on how to present yourself on social media.
1. Check for a mutual connection before applying
If you know a friend or acquaintance who works for the company you’re interested in, then it’s a good idea to get in touch and ask for a referral. Even if you only know someone who knows someone, using those networking skills to ask for an introduction can make a huge difference. Many organizations offer a referral bonus system, so leveraging any connections you may have can benefit everyone involved.
When you reach out to a friend of a friend, you should mention who you have in common and be direct yet polite about your request. Here’s an example of what you could say: “I have been following your organization for a while and was excited to see an opening in the marketing department. I know this is not your area, but I was wondering if you could tell me about the overall culture of the organization? Also, if you think I should speak to someone else who works with the marketing team, would you be able to connect me with them?”
Applicants who are referred by current employees generally have a higher chance of securing an interview and getting hired. And according to job experts, employee referrals are a way for companies to save on time and resources. It’s a win for everyone involved and something you should double-check before the application process.
2. Create or update your resume
Your resume acts as your representation until you land the interview. It should concisely communicate your most recent and relevant experience, speak to your skills, and highlight your achievements. If you need some examples to help you get started, check out our collection of over 250 free resume examples, which covers a wide range of industries and experience levels. Here’s a list of what’s expected on your resume along with some tips for optimization:
- Heading: At the top of your resume, include contact information such as your name, phone number, email address, and mailing address. These simple elements let the hiring manager know who you are and how to follow up with you. You shouldn’t actually use the heading section of your document, though — headings are often unread by ATS software.
- Summary: The summary allows you to expand on who you are and what you do. This isn’t the place to go into too much detail, so keep it to a brief few sentences.
- Experience: Professional experience usually makes up the bulk of a resume. This is an opportunity to focus on what you’ve done and how you did it. You should go over the responsibilities and skills required of your previous work and provide examples of results you achieved and how, including metrics when applicable. For example, instead of using vague statements such as “provided excellent customer service”, you should write something like “assisted customers in-person with selecting customized outfits based on style and price point, resulting in 35% more sales”.
- Education: Employers want to know where you’ve gone to school and if you have any degrees or certifications, especially if they’re pertinent to the job you’re applying for. If you’re currently pursuing further education, be sure to mention that. Listing achievements, high GPAs, and honors are another way to highlight your education. Candidates with less experience should consider including relevant courses and projects to showcase their knowledge in the field. This is also an effective way to embed valuable keywords into your resume.
- Skills: Provide a list of skills, beginning with the skills that are most relevant to the role you’re applying for. Be sure to include hard skills like software proficiency and technical ability along with soft skills like leadership, communication, and positive character traits. If you can, communicate your skills in a way that’s tailored to the job you want by using some of the company’s language.
- Keywords: With most companies using some kind of application tracking system, it’s vital to pull keywords from the job description and work them into your resume. Think about how you can speak to the different requirements and responsibilities of the role through your own words and experience. Don’t overdo it, though. Hiring managers don’t want to see a copy-and-paste version of their job listing in your resume. You should only use keywords about three to five times within the document.
- Formatting: Your resume should look cohesive in design and be 100% error-free. One typo could be interpreted as carelessness and ruin your opportunity. It’s easy to miss or mix up numbers, so double-check your contact info and dates. Consistency is also important — for example, if you choose to make your category headings bold and a slightly larger font, this style should be used throughout the document. Get someone to read your resume, check for errors, and offer suggestions.
- Medical Surgical Nurse
- Digital Marketing Specialist
- Front-End Developer
123 Your Street, San Francisco, CA 12345
A Medical Surgical Nurse with three years of experience, specializing in wound care, EHR systems, acute care, and multi-disciplinary collaboration. A strong track record of developing relationships and trust with patients to identify optimal treatment plans. Adept at partnering with diverse medical teams to drive ideal clinical outcomes.
Medical Surgical Nurse, UCSF Medical Hospital, San Francisco, CA
July 2019 – Present
- Administer care to diverse patient populations in a 40-bed hospital with a 1:3 ratio, which includes evaluating patient data and symptoms to identify appropriate treatment methods
- Interface with patients to provide support for activities of daily living (ADLs), which includes providing resources and aid throughout treatment
- Maintain electronic health records (EHR) and updated patient medical files
Nursing Extern, St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco, CA
June 2018 – June 2019
- Coordinated with Registered Nurses (RNs) to manage cases and deliver care to patients in the OR, which included monitoring vital signs, blood pressure, and EKG readings
- Developed relationships with patients throughout the treatment process and delivered empathetic care in alignment with physical and emotional needs
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nursing
University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, September 2015 – May 2019
- Patient-centered Care
- Wound Care
- Surgical Care
- Electronic Health Records (EHR)
- Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
- HIPAA Regulations
- Medical Surgical Nurse – Board Certified (MEDSURG-BC™), Expected 2022
- Registered Nurse (RN) License, State of California, #12345678, June 2019
- Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification, June 2018
- Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) Certification, June 2018
123 Your Street, Boston, MA 12345
A dynamic Digital Marketing Specialist with five years of experience, specializing in paid search, SEO, lead generation, and product marketing. A proven track record of developing innovative strategies to grow web presence and organic traffic for client websites. Expertise in leveraging analytics to refine data-driven decision-making for digital initiatives.
Digital Marketing Specialist, New England Marketing Consultants, Boston, MA
May 2018 – Present
- Lead paid search initiatives and digital marketing campaigns, analyze customer trends and behavior, recommend UX enhancements, and define marketing strategies for client accounts generating $100K-$400K in annual revenue
- Improve lead generation and traffic for customer websites and social media accounts by 40%-70% by aligning marketing initiatives and brand voice across all channels
- Leverage Google Analytics to evaluate web performance metrics and create reports for the marketing team and senior leadership to refine paid search strategies
Digital Marketing Specialist, Amherst Realtors, Amherst, MA
May 2016 – May 2018
- Executed email marketing campaigns and digital initiatives to enhance lead generation and improve website traffic by 120% for a leading real estate company
- Analyzed SEO performance, conducted marketing research on competitor sites, and identified refinements to web copy and design
- Led an initiative to implement online lead-generation ads on LinkedIn, performed testing, and secured executive buy-in, resulting in a 50% increase in conversion rates
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Marketing
University of Boston, Boston, MA September 2012 – May 2016
- Digital Marketing
- Paid Search
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
- Google Analytics
123 Your Street, San Francisco, CA 12345
A results-driven Front-End Developer with five years of experience, specializing in UI design, web development, project management, and Java. A proven track record of collaborating cross-functionally with technical teams and stakeholders across all phases of the software development lifecycle. Adept at performing quality assurance testing for web applications.
Front-End Developer, Bay Area Web Design Inc., San Francisco, CA
May 2018 – Present
- Design user interfaces and websites for a startup technology company delivering web development services for client accounts valued at $100K-$500K across the insurance, banking, automotive, and financial industries
- Translate user requirements into scalable code, develop prototypes, conduct wireframing activities, and ensure alignment with client business specifications
- Perform testing on web pages, analyze user feedback, and coordinate with cross-functional teams to identify opportunities to enhance web page responsiveness
Front-End Developer, San Francisco Insurance Corp., San Francisco, CA
May 2016 – May 2018
- Developed prototypes, user interface design, and wireframes for the company website of a leading west coast insurance company, which included creating landing pages
- Led the integration of a customer service chat functionality to answer user questions and schedule consultations, resulting in a 15% increase in leads
- Partnered with web developers and software developers to create a mobile application for insurance customers, which included supporting back-end development and UI design
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Computer Science
University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA September 2012 – May 2016
- Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
- User Interface Design
- Front-End Development
- Certified Web Development Professional, Web Developer, 2019
- Certified Web Development Professional, Application Developer, 2018
- Java Development Certified Professional, 2016
3. Craft a cover letter that complements your resume
A cover letter is your chance to expand on your experience and accomplishments. It should be cohesive with your resume and go into greater detail on your experience, skills, and relevant education. This is the time to describe how, for example, you increased profits by 15% with your recurring ad campaigns. We also have over 90 free cover letter examples that you can study and learn from to create a unique one for yourself. Let’s go over all the basics your cover letter will need and ways to optimize i
- Heading: Similar to a resume, a cover letter should have a heading with your phone number, email, and mailing address included. Following letter format, below the header is where the date and addressee’s contact information will go.
- Salutation: In the salutation, you’ll greet the hiring manager by name as Mr. or Ms. (Last Name). Avoid using “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam”, as these terms are outdated. If you don’t have a name and can’t find one on the company website, you can use “Dear Hiring Manager”.
- Introduction: Open your letter with something interesting that will catch the hiring manager’s attention. You could use a few sentences to open with a past accomplishment and tie it into why you want the position. Also, mention the position you are applying for and how you heard about it. If you are being referred or have a contact at the company, state their name, title, and department if you have that information as well.
- Body: The majority of your letter consists of the body paragraphs. This is your time to elaborate on your education, experience, and skills. Be sure to pick examples that are relevant to the position and highlight how and why you qualify for the job. Provide a couple paragraphs of information, but don’t be too wordy. Try using a bulleted list to break up the text and create a focal point on elements you wish to highlight. You should also include why you are interested in the company and the position, and be sure to connect this information to your background.
- Conclusion: Close out your letter with a call to action, encouraging the hiring manager to schedule an interview with you at their earliest convenience.
- Keywords: Optimizing and embedding your cover letter with keywords can help you catch the hiring manager’s attention. Use the words naturally within your writing – don’t force it. Keywords should be used as a guide to keep your focus on how your unique experience fulfills the job requirements for that specific position.
- Formatting: The cover letter template or design that you use should complement your resume. It should have the same fonts and colors as your resume and look professional. And again, your cover letter should be error-free. Once you’re done writing, take a break and come back later with “fresh eyes” to catch mistakes. You should also get someone you trust to do a proofread for you and identify any spelling or grammatical mistakes. In terms of size, the cover letter should not exceed one page. Ideally, the content will take up about three-fourths of the page in length.
- Good Example
- Bad Example
Retail Manager | [email protected] | (123) 456-7890 | 123 Address St., Los Angeles, 12345
January 1, 2022
Dear Mr. Langston,
As a retail manager with over ten years of professional experience, I’ve developed an expertise in refining store operations and marketing efforts within the retail sales space. I managed 125+ SKUs and categories at Home Depot, generating $5M in annual sales. I hope to bring similar success to Staples as the new retail manager of your store.
I am drawn to Staple’s reputation for customer service and excellence. I believe that my background would be a strong asset to your organization based on the following career accomplishments:
- Led initiatives to develop and enhance floor plans and drove marketing initiatives for the introduction of new products, resulting in a $300K increase to annual sales revenue
- Managed, built, and recruited a cross-functional team of 60+ sales associates, department heads, custodians, and operations staff and led efforts to ensure operational excellence
- Collaborated with department leaders to analyze coverage gaps and drive process improvements, resulting in a 15% reduction in overhead costs
I would like to schedule an interview to tell you more about how my operations management experience can benefit your organization. Feel free to contact me at your convenience with any questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Retail Manager | [email protected] | (123) 456-7890 | 123 Address St., Portland, OR 12345
January 1, 2022
To whom it may concern,
With many years of management experience in retail, I believe that I should be considered a top candidate for the retail manager opening with your company. I’m a creative problem solver who can always find the right solution to a business issue. You may receive many applications during this process, but I can guarantee you won’t find a harder worker than myself.
A management position with Acme is an exciting opportunity that will help me advance my career forward. I’ve grown over the course of my time as a manager of a small grocery chain, and I’m certain that I’m the candidate you’re looking for based on my past responsibilities. Not only did I manage large amounts of staff across the store, I was also effective at delegating tasks and leading meetings. I analyzed sales reports across product SKUs and coordinated shipping and receiving functions. I received nothing but positive feedback on my managerial style from customers and staff, which I believe proves that I’m a great leader and the best candidate for this job.
I’m excited to learn more about what the future might hold for my employment with your company. I’m enthusiastic for the chance to prove myself and hope to hear back promptly.
4. Update your LinkedIn profile
When LinkedIn first came on the scene, it was like Facebook for professionals. Now, it’s a serious professional platform used by top companies for scouting and hiring talent. If you joined in the early days, it might be time for a profile update. With 72% of recruiters using LinkedIn for recruiting their candidates, it’s definitely worth the minimal effort to get your information up to date.
Social media pages like LinkedIn can be optimized just like a cover letter and resume. Intentionally setting up your profile for success will help you stand out, build your network, and possibly connect you to recruiters for opportunities. Here are a few ways to make the most of your LinkedIn profile:
- First impressions: A professional headshot is the standard for a LinkedIn profile picture. Putting a face to your name helps people connect with you online. Be sure to use a background photo, too — this is a creative way to add a little personality and make an impression. You can also indicate that you’re open to job offers if you don’t mind making this information public.
- Descriptions: Use the headline and about spaces to tell people who you are by sharing your professional journey. Go into detail on why you’re there and how you approach your field. These spaces provide a way for you to market yourself, share your story, and tell people why your skills matter.
- Connections: Take advantage of LinkedIn’s professional network. Find people who are already in your network to make some connections on the platform. Use the search feature to find people you would like to contact and work toward connecting with. Get to know potential future employers and coworkers through their profiles and see if you have any mutual connections. You can also search for alumni groups for any schools you’ve attended — this is a quick way to build up your network.
- Showcase: Highlight your knowledge and ability through LinkedIn’s education and skill sections. You will be able to add degrees, certifications, and a list of skills. There are also skills assessments you can take to earn badges and show your proficiency with software like the Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Suite. It’s one thing to state on your resume that you’re proficient in Microsoft Excel, but being able to show it will increase your likelihood of getting hired. You have the option to link to projects that you’ve completed as well — while you can only describe what you’ve done on your resume, this feature allows you to actually show prospective employers what you’re capable of producing.
- Services: One of LinkedIn’s newer features is the ability to add services. This is a great option for freelancers, contractors, and small businesses. If applicable, adding a services section to your profile can increase your search ranking and let recruiters know you’re open and available for new business.
- Value: Follow, comment, and interact with the posts of companies you admire and people you’re connected to. You can also share your professional thoughts through your own content. Posting long-form articles on subjects related to your field or your dream job is a great way to gauge and monitor the response you receive. Engagement on LinkedIn is how you get involved and put your name out there.
- Endorsements: LinkedIn’s endorsement feature allows you to give back to those in your network. Make your way through your connections list and give out endorsements to people who you feel deserve your backing. You’re likely to have the favor returned and receive your own endorsements or even recommendations. Recommendations on LinkedIn work as personal testimonials that highlight experiences people have had working with you. Reach out to your connections and request feedback from people you’d like to see on your profile.
5. Gather your professional references
Whether or not the job you’re applying for requests references, it’s smart to have some people lined up and ready to vouch for you. There are two kinds of references that companies may require:
- Personal: A personal reference is someone who hasn’t worked with you but knows you well enough to communicate your character, goals, and values. A neighbor you often help or someone you’ve volunteered with would be excellent options to use as a personal reference.
- Professional: A professional reference can be a former colleague or manager you interacted with on a regular basis who can speak to your work ethic, performance, and abilities.
The majority of companies will request professional references because they tend to be less biased and provide a helpful insight into how you are perceived as someone at work. You’ll need to give your potential references a call or email to ask them if they’re okay with you using them as a reference. This will also give you an opportunity to share more details about your career background and the job opportunity, which will make them more informed and effective as references. You should secure your contacts as soon as you can in the job hunting process so that they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. You may even need recommendation letters as a form of reference, so be sure to give your contacts enough notice for them to write up something great for you.
6. Give your social media accounts a scrub
Employers have realized that they can get a glimpse into the lives of their candidates through personal social media pages — 67% of recruiters have said that they research their candidates through social media sites. Take a little time to go through each of your pages and decide if you need to make them private or not. You can also hide or archive individual posts and pictures you’d rather not have your employer see. If there are old or one-off accounts you created floating around the internet, it might be a good idea to delete them if you’re no longer using them.
You can even take it a step further and optimize your social media pages. Curate your public profiles to match how you want to be perceived by prospective employers and colleagues in your field. Choose the words of your bio wisely and show that you can present yourself in a professional way. Follow and interact with the companies and people who either have your dream job already or work for the company you’re wanting to get hired by. Any social media platform can be used to build your network.
Acing the Interview: What to Do Before, During, and After
Scouring job boards, networking, and creating resumes is a lot of work. It seems like once you secure an interview the hard part is over, when in reality a complex and crucial component of landing that dream job has just begun. You may even have to go through multiple stages of interviews before the process is complete. In the final sections of this guide, we’ll go over some ways to prepare for an interview, what to do on the day of, and how you should follow up with the hiring team.
Prepping for your interview
Do your homework. If you’re applying for your dream job, you should know the description of the role inside and out. You need to be able to confidently speak to every aspect of what the job requires. Know the company’s mission and values and be ready to share why they matter to you. Research the history of the company so that you know when it was established and who the current leadership is. Read up on any recent events or announcements through their social media presence or through the news. Studying the company’s products, services, clients, etc. is all part of the preparation process. Try to learn about the specific department you would be working for and why this role exists. You may even want to look up the interviewer on the company website and LinkedIn to gain some insight about their background.
Practice your interview answers. You’ve likely interviewed for at least one other job before, so you have some understanding of what kinds of questions will be asked. Harvard Business Review gives some examples of the most commonly asked questions in a recent article (how do you handle pressure under a deadline, what are your expectations regarding salary, etc.) — think about any other questions that may come up, write down your answers, and then practice speaking them aloud. Reviewing the job description can also help you prepare for questions that may come up. For example, if the description said you must have experience working with a diverse student population, you should prepare to fully discuss how you have previously handled such situations in detail.
Utilize your relevant experience. Your resume will likely contain some if not all of your relevant experience to the job, but you should be prepared to elaborate even further. Have additional examples up your sleeve so that you can talk about successful projects, results, and creative solutions. Think about not only what you did, but why you did it. Interviewers may also ask how you overcome struggles or conflict, so prepare something you can share about conflict resolution or how you handled a stressful situation.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Be prepared with a set of questions to ask the interviewer once your interview comes to a close. This is a thoughtful gesture that shows your interest in the job and desire to learn more about it. You could ask questions about the role specifically or about the company and their practices. This is also a chance to further evaluate if the position and culture are the right fit for you. Be sure to ask when you can expect to hear back from the hiring manager for next steps.
Know where and when you’re meeting. Arriving early to an interview is one way to eliminate the stress of trying to make it on time. If you’re meeting in person, make sure you have the address, directions, and information on parking. It’s better to sit in your car for 10 extra minutes than to rush through traffic just to arrive sweaty, out of breath, and possibly late. If your interview is over the phone or a video call, set up the space you’ll be in and make sure your equipment is working properly. Confirm with your interviewer which video call software you’ll be using and ensure it’s downloaded and ready to go.
What to do the day of your interview
Dress to impress. Wearing your best business attire is the way to go for an interview, and it’s better to overdress than underdress. Jackets, button-downs, ties, slacks, skirts, and collared shirts are all great go-tos. If you’re meeting in person and are able to, pack an extra set of clothes and shoes just in case you spill anything on yourself, break a heel, or lose a button. If you’re interviewing over video chat, you still need to dress and look the part.
Bring copies of your resume. If you’re meeting in person, the hiring manager may ask for another copy of your resume. Even if they don’t ask, having a copy to leave with your interviewer is a nice way to show you came prepared and are leaving them with something. It’s also a handy reference for you to use as notes if you need help recalling some details during the interview. If you’re heading to a group or panel interview, make sure to bring enough copies for everyone.
Stay relaxed. Interviews can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re being interviewed by a group rather than just one hiring manager. In order to make the best impression possible, you don’t want to appear nervous, but you’ll also need to avoid seeming overconfident and presumptuous — to strike the right balance, you should maintain positive body language, be polite, and make sure to give equal attention to everyone who is interviewing you.
Watch for red flags. Just because you land your dream job interview doesn’t mean that particular company or team will be a good fit for you. Watch out for behavior or language that seems like a red flag. The job description should sound the same as the one you initially read. And if you’re interviewing in person, pay attention to how office staff interact with each other to get a sense of their culture in action. Other common red flags include being asked to invest your own money in the company, evasive answers about salary or benefits, not meeting your direct supervisor, or a lack of clarity as to why the position you are interviewing for is currently available.
Record your notes after the interview. Once you get out of your interview, take some time to write notes on what was discussed. How was the interaction? Did you learn anything you’d like to remember? What was the interviewer’s name? Did you receive any instructions on next steps? You’ll also be able to use this information for your follow-up thank you note.
Following up after the interview
After all the interviewing is done, you’ll need to wait again. The hiring process can feel like a big waiting game, but it’s important to stay patient. One way you can be proactive while you wait is by sending a thank you note the day after your interview. Keep it simple by thanking the hiring manager by name for their time and the chance to share your interest in the job. You could also share something you enjoyed about the interview. This is a thoughtful gesture that goes a long way toward making a good first impression and landing your dream job.
To show you how to write a good post-interview thank you note, we’ve included a good and a bad example below along with some analysis of why they do and don’t work.
- Good Example
- Bad Example
I wanted to reach out and thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I really enjoyed the conversation and was very impressed by some of the long-term projects your team is working on. It’s very refreshing to find an organization that shares my passion for user-centered design in app development.
I’m looking forward to learning more about the company and hearing about the next steps in the interview process. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any additional information. Thanks again for your time and consideration.
I greatly enjoyed interviewing with your company. This opportunity is important to me and I’m striving to put my best foot forward throughout this process. Having learned a great deal about the organization and the job, I wanted to let you know that I would accept an offer with a salary of $60K-$80K. This feels like appropriate compensation for someone with my years of experience.
I expect to hear back soon regarding your decision and any other additional steps there are in the hiring process. Thanks again for the interview and the opportunity.
The examples above demonstrate that tone is very important — in the bad example, you’ll notice that the interviewee comes off as presumptuous and rather rude by mentioning their salary expectations and putting pressure on the hiring manager to respond quickly. Instead, you should be much more positive and respectful. Remember to keep your note concise and to bring up a detail that was discussed during the interview to show that you were paying careful attention.