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Landing a summer job: Beyond targeting the resume and dressing for success

Student Living by

With the beginning of the Winter semester comes the daunting task of searching and applying for summer opportunities. Yet landing the ideal job can feel like a catch 22: You need work experience to get a job, but without a past job or other opportunities, you can’t get work experience. Beyond the basics of drafting a CV and learning how to shake hands, The McGill Tribune has compiled a few niche tips and tricks for navigating the job hunt that can’t be found in the average ‘How to land a job for dummies’ guidebook.

The application

1. Keep both tailored and ‘master’ CVs

As relevant skills and experiences vary for each position you apply for, it’s important to tailor your CV to each job or internship. Starting with a ‘master CV’ can help you keep track of every aspect of your previous work experience—dates, organization names, and responsibilities. You can refer back to this document with each new application you submit.

2. Start your cover letter with an anecdote

The first paragraph of your cover letter is the most important; it must be clear, concise, and engaging in order to catch the reader’s attention. Start with the key details: State the position you’re seeking and general information regarding your university degree. Then, show the reader your general knowledge of the field in which you are applying to work, while expressing an aspect of your personality. A useful way to do so is to start out your letter with a relevant anecdote from your time in school or in similar positions. If, for example, you’ve ever overcome a challenge or had a troubling experience, describe the measures you took to fix the problem and what you learned from the issue. This will convey honesty and problem-solving skills, and a narrative arc will make your application stand out.

3. Stick to a uniform style

Your cover letter and CV should be in the same format and design style in order for employers to easily identify them as yours. Future employers will appreciate that your documents are easy to follow, and may see the organization of your application as a reflection of your work capabilities. Templates for CVs can easily be found online on websites such as Overleaf and VisualCV.

The interview

1. Use your resources to practice

For many people, no amount of preparation can result in a flawless interview. In order to deliver your points in the most effective and eloquent way possible, practice your public speaking and ensure you’re confident about what you will say in the interview. Make cue cards with responses to typical interview questions, and run through them in front of the mirror or with a friend. CaPS also offers a service called InterviewStream which allows students to practice over 7,000 interview questions and hone their responses. While your interview responses should sound candid—not rehearsed—practicing can give you confidence as you head through the office doors, and ensure you walk out with your head high.

2. Interview the interviewer

The typical interview ends with the prospective employer asking “Do you have any questions for us?” For many people, this  is a nerve-wracking request—but it doesn’t need to be. Ask your interviewers something about themselves and how they got involved in the organization. If you can, use that as a jumping-off point for more questions about their experience in the industry, and turn the interview into a back-and-forth conversation. Not only does this reaffirm your interest in the job, it lets the employer know you care about them as much as they care about you, and shows off your conversational skills.

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