Whether you’re graduating or changing your career trajectory, preparing a CV and interviewing are in your near future. The application and interview processes can be stressful, hectic, and downright scary. It is never too early to begin the preparation.
For the CV/resume:
– Have your name be prominent on the first page and have a footer (or header) with your name, page number, and total page count (in case your CV gets lost or misplaced).
– Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Formatting should be consistent throughout. The layout should be clean and easy to read with information readily identifiable.
– Experiences should be listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first).
– Use active words.
– Be able to elaborate and explain everything that you include on your CV. If you have forgotten the details, it is better to not include it.
For an example, view Nhi’s (academia) or Thanh’s (health professional) CV.
For the cover letter:
– Address it to a specific person. You should know who the person in charge of the hiring and/or admission committee is.
– Explain your interest and why you would be a good fit with concrete examples. Also explain why they (the job/program) would be a good fit for you.
– Always end the letter with confidence by stating, “I look forward to the opportunity to interview with you.” Never say you hope or wish.
For more details on how to write a cover letter, read Thanh’s example and tips.
– It is beter to overdress than underdress. Wear suits and black shoes. For females, do not wear heels higher than two inches. Wear light makeup and do not experiment with new eyeshadow colors.
– No cologne or perfume. You never know if someone is allergic to your scent or if it evokes bad memories in others (i.e. you’re smelling like someone’s ex).
– Cellphone off. No gum.
– Be early. If you are running late, let your interviewers know right away.
– Shake hands firmly. Maintain good posture and eye contact throughout the interview. Never slouch.
– Send a thank you card the very same day. Make sure each letter is unique and makes reference to a specific conversation point you had with that person. Generic letters lack sincerity and may annoy the interviewer. It is your last chance to make a (good) impression. Also, use this correspondence as an opportunity to revisit weak areas of your interview (if applicable).
– Thoroughly research the program/company and your potential future colleagues/professors. Get a good sense of their background and be familiar with them. Nothing irritates an interviewer more than an ignorant candidate.
– Always try to hold a conversation when possible. This allows your personality to shine. If you got an interview offer, this means they already know you have the credentials. What they want to see is your personality and how well you would fit in.
– When answering questions, make sure to state specific supporting examples. It is best to always have some stories of your conflicts/struggles (and more importantly how you handled and resolved them) in your back pocket.
– Always ask the interviewer at least 1 good, well-thought out question that is pertinent when prompted.
– End the interview by thanking interviewers for their time. Remember that the interview is not over until you are in your car/home. They can and will judge you at any time so always present your best self.
Top 5 Interview Questions:
1) Tell me about yourself.
– This is not the time to disclose personal details. Instead, discuss your education background, relevant experience, and professional goals.
2) What are your strengths and weaknesses?
– Always spin your weakness into strengths or list ways in which you are working to improve your weaknesses.
3) Where do you see yourself in ten years?
– Your answer should convey advancement in the field and align with the company’s/program’s goals.
4) Tell me about a time you had a conflict and how did you resolve it?
– Be concrete with your example. Avoid personal conflicts. You can relate to school or previous work experience. Conclude your story not only with how you resolved the conflict but also what you learned through that experience.
5) Do you have questions for me?
– Always have at least three questions prepared! Try not to ask yes/no questions.
Have confidence. The following adage is cliched, but so true: if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Just make sure you do your homework and prepare and practice so you can present your best self. It doesn’t hurt to have a mock interview with a friend and record your performance to see where you did well or poorly and improve accordingly. Best of luck to you!