Hello Lifehacker, I've been looking for a job but I've had no luck in finding one. Wherever I send out resumes, it seems like there's always someone with more experience or flexible schedule. I believe I have good knowledge in IT support both on hardware and software, but I have yet to finish my courses. It's been a while and I'm feeling hopeless. Can you give me some advice? Thanks, Hard At Work
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It's common to experience a dry spell when job hunting. It could be due to market conditions, an influx of high-quality applicants or just plain bad luck. But don't lose heart! Anyone can improve their chances of landing a job — you just need to identify the areas that require a bit of tweaking.
From your email, it sounds like you're not getting many callbacks, which suggests your resume and/or cover letters might need some work. Instead of treating these as a formality to get the ball rolling, you need to be more strategic with them. Remember; this is your first chance to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd. This is where the job interview technically begins, so give it the attention it deserves.
This model resume from professional career advisor Amanda Augustine is definitely worth a look: it highlights 19 key elements that can help your resume outshine others. Some noteworthy tips include avoiding unnecessary pronouns, quantifying your achievements with specific details and listing work history in reverse chronological order.
You should also take some time to secure a solid referees list — which means finding semi-relevant professionals who are willing to vouch for you. Your referees don’t necessarily have to be from within the same industry; rather, they should be able to speak to the quality of your work/character and highlight skills that carry across multiple sectors. As a general rule, try to concentrate on people who hold a senior position in their line of work and who you can actually trust to sing your praises. Three or four should be plenty.
You can find some additional tips in this resume writing guide which highlights six of the most common resume flaws and how to fix them. For even more advice, head to the resumes section of our website, which you can find here.
If you lack relevant work experience, you'll need to put extra effort into your cover letter to convince them you're worth considering. Naturally, you should customise the cover letter for every position you apply for rather than recycling the same generic statements.
Read the job listing carefully and tick off each skill that the employer is looking for. In your cover letter, address each of these specifically. Be sure to list the programming languages and IT technologies you're proficient in, as well as any relevant certifications you've earned. (For advice on certifications, click here, here and here.)
Once you get that elusive callback, the next hurdle is the actual interview. Our advice here is to be yourself and come prepared. You need to treat every question seriously because the answers are all being assessed. (For example, many interviewers begin by asking the applicant to tell a little about themselves and their hobbies. This is more than just breaking the ice — the interviewer may be checking your communication skills and how confidently you present yourself.)
One good strategy is to finely hone a few workplace anecdotes that showcase your strengths as an employee. It could be an occasion where you improved productivity, worked well with a particularly difficult person or took on extra responsibilities for the company. There are bound to be questions during the job interview that these stories will be a perfect fit for, which will cut down on improvisation and nervous rambling.
As with any test, knowing the type of questions that will be asked ahead of time can be a huge drawcard. This infographic outlines the logic and purpose behind 19 common interview questions, which can help you to formulate good answers. You can also find advice on answering particularly tricky interview questions here and here. For even more tips, head to our Interview and Job Search sections.
On a final note, you should be able to take solace in the fact that IT support has a relatively high turnover rate. As long as you continue to persevere, the odds will eventually fall in your favour.
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