If you’re ready to pursue your dream job, be prepared for honest self-reflection and dedicated time and effort. Working toward this goal will sometimes feel like a job unto itself. But it is all worth it, as your dream job will be one that excites you and provides more 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’ll help you start 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. It’s okay if you’re unsure of where to start. We’ll review how to determine what you want to do, where to look, and who to start interacting with.


1. Figure out your career goals

You can’t begin your job search until you know what your dream job is. It might take some work to define what you’re looking for, but starting with a list of likes and dislikes or pros and cons can get your ideas flowing. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • How do I like to spend my time?
  • What activities do I enjoy engaging in, what things do I like learning about, and what kind of information do I seek out?
  • What types of problems do I like to solve?
  • What kinds of skills do I have? (communication, technical, managerial, administrative)
  • What is important to me in my work? (i.e., helping others, using my hands, influencing others)
  • What type of employer do I want to work for? (small private company, large corporation, non-profit, for-profit?)
  • 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?
  • What do I already know about the career field I am considering, and what do I need to learn?

Landing your dream job might require you to obtain new skills, but also consider the skill set that you currently possess. You may already have developed communication skills, such as writing or public speaking, or administrative skills like scheduling or coordinating. Using your current skill set will set you on the path toward discovering your dream job. Consider how you can leverage your skills and transfer them to a new role.

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. Then, stand back, circle items that are similar, and connect the dots to help identify patterns. For example, if you enjoy helping others by coaching and mentoring and have strong verbal communication skills, you might consider jobs in 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.

There are some great resources to help you re-imagine how to apply your skills and generate possibilities based on your most recent role. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is another way to explore careers while learning all you need to know about training, salary, and job outlook.

Once you identify your dream job, 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 to get that process started. Work backward 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

Of job seekers in the U.S., 79% utilized online sources, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Career sites like the ones listed below make it easy for job applicants and employers to connect. There are also niche job search sites great to research, identify, and incorporate into the process.

For example, candidates interested in tech should check out www.dice.com, or www.idealist.org if seeking work in the non-profit sector. 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
LinkedIn With a whopping 1 billion million members, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network. Its search tools make it especially easy for job seekers to find the companies and positions they’re looking for, as well as people within the roles they are seeking or companies they are interested in. Users can save job listings and access resume and interview assistance as well. LinkedIn’s job boards are free to use. No-cost membership provides access to plenty of helpful features. A premium “Career” feature 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 the job postings, but you do need an account to apply for jobs through the website. Job seekers create a free account at ZipRecruiter and access all features related to the 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. The site 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 the job board, Glassdoor offers employee reviews and salary information for individual companies. It 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 its 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

Job boards are a great resource, but there are others. About 30 to 50% of all hires come from employee referrals. This statistic highlights it does matter who you know and who knows you. Previous employers, coworkers, and college buddies can all be part of your network. Connections from the past can provide career opportunities today, but it’s vital to make new ones and get involved with the people who already have your dream job or work in your dream company.

Joining a professional association is a great way to connect with others in your field. However, 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, which lets you reach out to the people doing what you dream of doing. Make a list of contacts and craft a personalized message requesting a quick 10 to 15-minute call. Ask questions, connect, and create a point of contact for future opportunities.

Avoid asking questions that can be answered by viewing their profile. Dig deeper by discussing topics such as how they made a pivot in their career and why they like working at their current company. You can even ask friends and family to introduce you to anyone 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 could 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 10 to 15 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 make contact regularly or 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 provide updates or check in with connections. Also, actively engage with your colleagues on social media — rather than just liking their posts, acknowledge people’s new roles with a direct comment, share articles that might interest others, and post questions that drive engagement to your profile. Commenting thoughtfully on someone’s post and following companies of interest are also helpful.

4. Learn how an applicant tracking system 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 applicant tracking systems (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, 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 candidates 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, we will show you how to optimize your application to get noticed.

Companies also use assessments to determine if a candidate just looks good on paper or can actually do the work required. 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 software proficiency.

Some hiring managers may ask applicants 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 can perform the required tasks.

5. Practice good self-care

Finding your dream job can be a long, frustrating process. For each interview you land, there may be a dozen or more applications you submitted for other positions, leading to rejections. And even at the interview stage, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get hired. You must find ways to cope with all this frustration and rejection 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 partake in a wide range of extracurricular activities outside of job hunting. Overall, the key is not to allow job hunting to become an all-consuming task in your life.

To avoid burnout, you can also concentrate 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 help reach your goal. If you 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, 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, 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, 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 to 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. Check out our collection of over 250 free resume examples, covering a wide range of industries and experience levels. Here’s a list of what’s expected on your resume, along with some optimization tips:

  • Heading: At the top of your resume, include contact information such as your name, phone number, and email address. If you wish to include your city and state, you may, but a complete mailing address is no longer necessary. These simple elements let the hiring manager know who you are and how to follow up with you. Avoid using the heading section of your document, though — headings are often unread by ATS software. Your LinkedIn profile should also be included with your contact information.
  • Summary: This expands on who you are and what you do. Keep it to a brief few sentences. For example: sales manager with 10 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries. Skilled in developing new business, cultivating relationships, building successful sales teams, and catapulting sales using market research analysis and keen negotiation strategies.
  • Experience: This usually makes up the bulk of a resume. Focus on what you’ve done and how. Review the responsibilities and skills required of your previous work and provide examples of results you achieved and how, including metrics when applicable. Avoid vague statements and write specifics like “assisted customers in-person with selecting customized outfits based on style and price point, resulting in 35% more sales.” Use terminology that aligns with your career goal. If you need assistance with revising bullet points you can ask ChatGPT. However, remember to proofread and ensure the accuracy of statements.
  • Education: Employers want to know where you’ve gone to school and any degrees or certifications you hold, especially pertinent to the job. If you’re pursuing further education, mention that. Listing achievements, high GPAs, and honors is 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 those most relevant to the role you’re applying for. 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 tailored to the job you want by using some of the company’s language.
  • Keywords: With most companies using some kind of ATS, it’s vital to pull keywords from the job description and work them into your resume. Speak to the requirements and responsibilities of the role through your own words and experience. Don’t overdo it, though. Hiring managers don’t want a copy-and-paste version of their job listing in your resume. 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 information and dates. Consistency is also important — for example, if you 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

Alison Wu
(123) 456-7890
[email protected]
San Francisco, CA 12345
LinkedIn profile link


A medical surgical nurse with three years of experience specializing in wound care, electronic health records (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.

Professional Experience

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-to-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 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

Key Skills

  • ADLs
  • EHR
  • HIPAA regulations
  • Patient-centered care
  • Surgical care
  • Telemetry
  • Wound care


  • Medical Surgical Nurse – Board Certified (MEDSURG-BC), June 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

Paul Morrison
(123) 456-7890
[email protected]
Boston, MA 12345
LinkedIn profile link


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.

Professional Experience

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

Key Skills

  • Digital Marketing
  • Paid Search
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Google Analytics

Sakura Takahashi
(123) 456-7890
[email protected]
San Francisco, CA 12345
LinkedIn profile link


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.

Professional Experience

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

Key Skills

  • Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)
  • User Interface Design
  • Front-End Development
  • JavaScript
  • CSS


  • 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. Describe how, for example, you increased profits by 15% with your recurring ad campaigns. We also have over 90 free cover letter examples to learn from and create a unique one. Let’s review all the basics your cover letter will need and ways to optimize it.

  • Heading: Your cover letter should include your contact information and should match your resume in terms of format as well. Following the letter format, below the header is where the date and addressee’s contact information will go.
  • Salutation: Greet the hiring manager by name as Mr., Ms., or Mx. (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 about 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.
  • Body: The majority of your letter consists of the body paragraphs. Elaborate on your education, experience, and skills. Pick examples relevant to the position and highlight how and why you qualify for the job. Provide a couple of paragraphs of information, but don’t be too wordy. Use a bulleted list to break up the text and create a focal point on elements you wish to highlight. Also, include why you are interested in the company and the position, and 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 should complement your resume. It must have the same fonts and colors as your resume and be professional and error-free. Once you’re done writing, come back later with “fresh eyes” to catch mistakes. Also, get someone you trust to proofread and identify any spelling or grammatical mistakes. 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

Evan Carlson
Retail Manager | [email protected] | (123) 456-7890 | LinkedIn | Los Angeles, CA | 12345

April 2, 2024

Bob Langston
Hiring Manager
[email protected]

Dear Mr. Langston:

As a retail manager with over 10 years of professional experience, I’ve developed an expertise in refining store operations and marketing efforts within the retail sales space. I managed over 125 SKUs and categories at Home Depot, generating $5 million 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. 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 $300,000 increase to annual sales revenue
  • Managed, built, and recruited a cross-functional team of over 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 the opportunity to speak with you and share more about how my operations management experience can benefit Staples. Feel free to contact me at your convenience with any questions. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Bob Langston

Jason Filoni
Retail Manager | [email protected] | (123) 456-7890 | 123 Address St., Portland, OR 12345

January 1, 2024

Hiring Manager
Acme Markets
(987) 654-3210

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.

Best regards,

Jason Filoni

4. Update your LinkedIn profile

With 1 billion users, LinkedIn is a 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 87% of recruiters using LinkedIn for sourcing their candidates, it’s definitely worth the effort to get your information current.

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. Use a background photo, too — a creative way to add a little personality and make an impression. You can also indicate you’re open to job offers if you don’t mind making this information public.
  • Descriptions: Utilize the headline to grab attention and be found. Your headline defaults to your current job title, but edit this to reflect all the titles you are aiming for and also have a value statement. Your About section provides the opportunity to describe your career purpose, skills, and achievements in a summary. These spaces provide a way to market yourself, share your story, and tell people why your skills matter.
  • Connections: Take advantage of LinkedIn by finding people already in your network to make 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 to quickly build up your network. Joining Groups is another way to expand your network and build connections.
  • Showcase: Highlight your knowledge and ability through LinkedIn’s education and skill sections. You can add degrees, certifications, and a list of skills. With skills assessments, you can earn badges and show your proficiency with software like the Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Suite. This increases your likelihood of getting interviewed. You can link to projects you’ve completed as well — while you can only describe what you’ve done on your resume, this feature allows you to show prospective employers your capabilities.
  • 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 lets you give back to those in your network. Give endorsements to your connections who you feel deserve your backing. You’re likely to have the favor returned and receive your own endorsements or even recommendations, serving 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 ready to vouch for you. There are two kinds of references that companies may require:

  • Personal: This 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: This can be a former colleague or manager you interacted with on a regular basis who can speak to your work ethic, performance, and abilities.

Most companies will request professional references because they tend to be less biased and provide helpful insight into how you are perceived as someone at work. Contact your potential references to ask if you can use them in this context. This also lets you share more details about your career background and the job opportunity, making them more informed and effective as references. Secure your contacts as soon as you can in the job-hunting process so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. You may even need recommendation letters as a form of reference, so give your contacts enough notice to write up something great for you.

6. Scrub your social media accounts

Employers have realized they can get a glimpse into the lives of their candidates through personal social media pages — 70% of employers believe they should screen social media accounts of candidates. For most employers, this includes LinkedIn, which is a good thing, but also X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook for the most part.

Go through each of your accounts 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 those you’re no longer using.

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 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 want 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, but a complex and crucial component of landing that dream job has just begun. You may even go through multiple stages of interviews before the process is complete. In the final sections of this guide, we’ll go over how to prepare for an interview, what to do on the day of, and how to follow up with the hiring team.

Prepping for your interview

Do your homework. If you’re selected for an interview, learn the description of the role inside and out. Confidently speak to every aspect of what the job requires. Know the company’s mission and values and share why they matter to you. Research the company’s history and current leadership. Read up on any recent events or announcements through its social media presence or the news.

Studying the company’s products, services, clients, and such is all part of the preparation process. 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 its background. Resources such as Glassdoor may offer insights from employees.

Practice your interview answers. You’ve likely interviewed for another job before, so you understand what kinds of questions will be asked. Indeed gives some examples of the most commonly asked questions and sample answers in a recent article — think about any other questions that may come up, write down your answers, and practice speaking them aloud.

Reviewing the job description can also help you prepare for questions that may come up. For example, if the description says you must have experience working with a diverse student population, prepare to fully discuss in detail how you have previously handled such situations. Once again, you can lean into AI for some assistance by inputting the description into ChatGPT and asking for guidance on how to prepare for an interview.

Utilize your relevant experience. Your resume will likely contain some, if not all, of your relevant experience to the job, but be prepared to elaborate even further. Have additional examples ready to speak about successful projects, results, and creative solutions. Practice using the CAR technique — challenge, action, and result to tell your story. Think about what you did and why. Interviewers may also ask how you overcame struggles or handled a difficult situation. Prepare an example of conflict resolution or how you managed a stressful situation.

Prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Be ready 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 its practices. Evaluate if the position and culture are the right fit. Be sure to ask when you can expect to hear back from the hiring manager for the next steps.

Know where and when you’re meeting. Arriving early to an interview is one way to eliminate the stress of being punctual. If you’re meeting in person, ensure 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 by phone or a video call, set up the space you’ll be in and ensure your equipment is working properly. Confirm with your interviewer which video call software you’ll use and have it downloaded and ready. If your interview is over video, be mindful of the background space as well as noise.

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 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. If you’re heading to a group or panel interview, make sure to bring enough copies for everyone.

Stay relaxed. Interviews can be stressful, especially if you’re being interviewed by a group rather than just one hiring manager. It’s best not to appear nervous but to avoid seeming overconfident and presumptuous. To strike the right balance, maintain positive body language, be polite, and give equal attention to everyone interviewing you. If you take notes during the interview, especially in person, ask the interviewer before you begin. Don’t get overly focused on note-taking, as it will avert your attention and gaze downward.

Watch for signs that the job or company is not right for you. Landing the interview doesn’t mean a particular company or team will be a good fit. Watch out for behavior or language that seems like it will not be a good match for your skills, interests, and values. The job description should sound the same as the one you initially read. 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 instances that indicate the job may not be legitimate are:

  • You are asked to invest your own money in the company
  • You get evasive answers about salary or benefits
  • You don’t meet your direct supervisor
  • There is a lack of clarity about why the position you are interviewing for is currently available

Record your notes after the interview. After your interview, write notes on what was discussed if you hadn’t already. 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 the next steps? You can also use this information for your follow-up thank you note.

Following up after the interview

The hiring process can take weeks, sometimes even months, but it’s important to stay patient. One way to be proactive is by sending a thank you note the day after your interview. Keep it simple by thanking the hiring manager by name and for their time, as well as the chance to share your interest in the job. You could also share something you enjoyed about the interview. This thoughtful gesture 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

Hello Robert, 

I wanted to 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. 

Best regards, 

Elizabeth Rodriguez


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 would accept an offer with a salary of $60,000 to $80,000. 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. 


Elizabeth Rodriguez

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, be much more positive and respectful. Remember to keep your note concise and bring up a detail that was discussed during the interview to show that you were paying careful attention.

Frequently Asked Questions About Landing Your Dream Job

If I see a job I am interested in, how soon should I apply?-

Right away. Online job postings receive hundreds of resumes. It is helpful to be an early applicant. However, although time is of the essence, take a moment to customize your cover letter and resume before you click that “apply” button.

Besides job boards, how else can I find opportunities? -

LinkedIn is a great place to job search and network with others. Once you are connected to others, when they post, it will show in your newsfeed. It is not uncommon for people to share with their network when their organization has a job. Additionally, people announce opportunities within their LinkedIn groups to share within their network. Other social media platforms can be used for job search and building connections. In particular, certain industries may have a strong presence and share opportunities in these spaces.

I have applied to hundreds of jobs in the past few months and have not heard back from anyone. What else can I do? -

The job search can feel frustrating. Give yourself permission to take a break. Use that time to reassess what you are looking for in a job, what type of company you want to work for, and your job search strategy. If you have been employing the open job board, plug in a job or keyword, hit search, scan results, click apply, repeat. It is time to pause. Focus on building connections and doing research to identify not only the job function but the organization that aligns with your skills, interests, and values.

What actually happens to my resume when I apply online?-

Most companies use ATS. If you have completed a job application online, you likely recall being asked many questions about your education, skills, and experience. You may not realize certain questions are designed to “knock out” candidates. What does that mean exactly? If the recruiter has assigned a significant amount of weight to a certain amount of experience in the industry, for example, “Do you have at least three years of experience in sales?”

Often, there is a radio button for yes or no and not an opportunity to qualify an answer either. Once you click “no,” you are “knocked out,” meaning disqualified. This could be a key factor in why you are not getting contacted for an interview. It is important to remember that an application is a legal document, where you sign and check the box stating you have answered honestly.

If your application makes it through to actually be scanned, that typically happens next. It is scanned, often by software that reads your resume, looking for certain words and other information. The recruiter has placed various amounts of weight on specific criteria, the more matches your resume has, the higher your score. If you have a higher score, there is a better chance of the human recruiter reviewing the resume and then reaching out. That is why the resume content and format are so important.

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