How to market yourself for employment

  • Published
  • By Catherine McNally
  • Hilltop Times staff
This is the final segment in a two-part series on effective job search techniques, resume writing and interviewing. Please look for the first installment -- covering setting goals, conducting a job search and networking -- at

Once you've found a few potential job openings it's time to tackle the next portion of the effective job search process: Applying.

This step can be intimidating and stressful, but think of it as your chance to shine and stand out among all the other candidates. It is a chance to market yourself and, just like any consumer product we might buy in the grocery store, how you advertise yourself is everything.

Remember, if you stumble across a job posting and you're not sure you meet the qualifications or think you might be overqualified, it never hurts to still apply. The employer's response might just surprise you.

Resume writing

It's always important to first review your resume, make sure it's up to date and make sure it reflects the skills and priorities listed by the company and their job posting. It's also important to make sure that your resume is easy to read and is free of typos and mistakes.

"A resume is what opens doors for you and helps secure an interview," explained Kim Taylor, a community readiness consultant with the Airman and Family Readiness Center. "Unfortunately, most SClBresumes are not done correctly."

There are three common formats for a resume -- chronological, functional and combined. The chronological, which is the most popular format, lists your employment history first and sorts it by date. The functional lists skills first and the combined is a combination of the other two formats.

There are a lot of differing opinions on how long a resume should be. "Don't hesitate to go past the first page," Taylor said. "One and a half pages is the standard now. You'll never want to go onto a third page, though."

Any good resume should list the applicant's name and contact information first. This should include a name, address, e-mail and primary telephone. "Do not include a work phone number on your resume and be sure the e-mail address is professional," Taylor cautioned.

Typically most resumes will list an objective next. The objective acts as a focal point to which all other elements of the resume relate. When writing an objective, try to be as specific as possible and link the objective to the goals of the company you're submitting the application to.

When listing your professional experience, be sure each entry is listed in reverse chronological order -- with the most recent experience listed first. Each entry should also include your job title, the name of the company you worked for, the city and state where the company is located and the dates you were employed there. Typically employment history should go back no further than ten years unless that job is pertinent to the job posting, Taylor said.

Each entry should also include a summary of your accomplishments. It's best to try and quantify these accomplishments by using numbers or percentages, such as "Supervised 14 member staff," or "Produced 150 percent of quota for eight consecutive months."

To further expand on your employment history, a resume should include a summary of your qualifications. This summary should cover your most important qualities, abilities and achievements as well as your professional characteristics. All of these items should support the rest of your resume and should be targeted to meet the needs of the employer or specifically to the job posting you're applying for.

Afterward a good resume will include a section that details education, including degrees, licenses and certificates. Information to include here is the type of degree received, the major field of study, name of the institution and the date the degree, certificate or license was awarded.

After completing your resume make sure you review it and have others review it as well. Things to check for are:
  • Always use action verbs
  • Refrain from using "I" or "my"
  • Make sure the resume can be scanned
  • Proofread for typos or inconsistencies
  • Be sure to not include: Marital status, information about your children, spouse's job, age, race, religious and political affiliations, height and weight or salary information.
  • "Remember, a resume is a professional document and should only include professional information," Taylor cautioned. "Do not include salary on your resume. If it is requested by an employer you should attach a salary history page separate from the resume."

Along with a resume you should also submit a cover letter to a prospective employer. Cover letters act as a self-introduction and purpose statement. They should begin with a brief statement of why you feel you're qualified for the position and then should go into detail with evidence of your qualifications and what you know about the company.

Cover letters should end with an advance "thank you" to the person you're contacting and a description of how you plan to follow up. If you are applying for a position via an online form or e-mail, the cover letter should be separated from the resume with a few blank lines or placed in the e-mail body and the resume attached.


"A key component to any job search is the ability to sell one's self to a potential employer," Taylor said.

There are four main purposes of a job interview:
  • Allow the applicant to demonstrate why they are the best person for the job.
  • Give the applicant a chance to support and expand on their resume with specific accomplishments.
  • Allow the applicant to learn more about the job they are applying for.
  • Allow the applicant to learn more about the company or organization they're applying with.
The interview not only covers these items, but also how you present yourself to others in the company. This can include whether you arrive on time and how you treat other employees such as the parking attendant, receptionist or human resources representative.

"Realize that the interview starts before you even get into the building," Taylor added. "Realize that you're interviewing with the whole company."

The most important first step for any interview is to be prepared. This includes researching the company, making sure you're comfortable discussing your resume and any questions that might come up, as well as changing your voice mail to something more professional in case an interviewer calls and you can't answer.

When preparing for your interview you should also be aware that there are five different types: Screening, telephone, group, panel and display.

  • Screening -- A screening interview is usually done by telephone. The purpose of this kind of interview is to weed out unqualified candidates. Typically the caller will have a pre-established list of questions to assess whether or not you have the skills for the job.
  • Telephone -- This type of interview may be used over long distances. It's important to make sure your family knows that while you're job hunting to have the answering machine pick up rather than answer the phone. Make sure that you leave a professional message on your phone and identifying information so that the employer knows they've contacted the right person.

If on a cell phone or cordless phone, make sure your battery is fully charged. If you are experiencing poor reception or cannot hear the interviewer clearly, let them know and suggest that you call them back. It's also best to try and situate yourself in a part of the house where you won't be distracted and to have your resume, pen and paper in front of you.

  • Group -- The group interview gives the company an opportunity to screen candidates by observing how they behave and if they stand out among their peers. Interviewers will usually observe things like attire, manners, body language, communication skills, group interaction and participation.
  • Panel -- This type of interview involves candidates being interviewed by two or more individuals. When asked a question in this type of interview setting, be sure to direct your attention at the beginning and end of your response to the person who asked you the question while looking at each panel member in between.
  • Display -- A display interview will consist of the candidate demonstrating or showing past work or products. This is typically a more hands-on approach and is more common for career fields such as design, though it is becoming more common.

Preparation also includes dressing to impress. Be sure to wear an outfit that boosts your confidence and not one that makes you uncomfortable. It's best to try on the outfit a few days in advance, Taylor said. Be sure to clean and iron the outfit beforehand and groom your hair and nails as well. Skip the cologne or perfume.

Be sure that your outfit is appropriate for the job you're interviewing for. An interviewer for a retail position may have a more relaxed view on appearance than an interviewer for a financial advisor. It is possible to overdress.

"If you're interviewing for a blue collar position and you show up in a fancy suit, it could overwhelm that blue collar environment," Taylor warned.

When you finally meet the interviewer or interviewers, be sure to smile, shake hands firmly and ask their name. Typically the greeting is followed by small talk, Taylor said. Always refrain from complaining when engaging in small talk, even if the traffic was horrible on the way there, she added.

"If you're offered coffee or water, accept the offer," Taylor said. "This makes you appear more relaxed." Also be sure to not take a seat until the interviewer offers you a chair.

Typically after the greeting and small talk a good interviewer will offer an explanation of the interview process and an overview of the company. This is a good time to listen carefully and take notes, Taylor said.

All throughout the interview employers will also be analyzing your verbal skills, enthusiasm, appearance, honesty and confidence. They will also be keeping an eye out for negative characteristics such as whining, mumbling and job experiences or skills that don't match up with your resume.

More and more, interviewers are asking "stress" questions in order to elicit a reaction from the candidate. They are looking to see whether you can fight back or turn a negative question into a positive response.

"You always have to expect the unexpected in an interview," Taylor said.

Standard interview questions can include the following:

  • Tell me a little about yourself -- A good answer to this question should include your job objective, experience, job skills and/or education. Remember to refrain from talking about your personal life. "(This question) gives you an opportunity to market yourself," Taylor said.
  • What is your major weakness? -- An all too common question that can still take the most prepared applicant by surprise. A response should state an improvement area, why it is important to improve, show how you are improving and explain why your improvement helps.
  • What do you think is needed to be successful in this type of job? -- This question gauges whether you understand what the job would require of you and how you would meet the needs of the company. A response should mention your job skills and any transferable skills.
  • Do you prefer working alone or in a group? -- "Be careful how you answer," Taylor cautions. This can sometimes be a trick question. Before you answer, take into consideration the needs of the job -- will you work on projects with other people or is it more of an independent position? Sometimes answering "both" is the best response as long as it is true.
  • Other questions may include: What do you know about this organization? How would you describe a good supervisor? Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a difficult situation? When responding to these and other questions remember to stay positive and remember the needs of the company and the position you're applying to fill. Your answers should be brief, make use of examples, show thought, make connections and tell how you work.
  • Your questions -- Remember to ask any questions that you have before the end of the interview. "Don't get caught not having any questions at all to ask," Taylor said. These can include: Please describe a typical day at this organization. How will my performance be evaluated? Do you prefer your staff to work with close supervision or independently? When do you anticipate filling this vacancy?

As military members and spouses, some common questions can become more challenging. Sometimes employers will ask how long you plan to be in the area. Explain to them that a typical assignment can last up to four years or longer with a possible extension, Taylor said.

Military members and spouses can also draw upon their experiences to exhibit strengths. The military lifestyle builds positive strengths such as independence, emotional strength, reliability and responsibility and more, Taylor suggested.

Who gets the job is often based on a candidate's decision making skills, appearance, their knowledge of the company, achievements and experience, learning ability and motivation.

At the end of the interview, be sure to ask if there is any additional information you can provide, such as references or work samples. Be sure to inquire about the next step in the process and ask when you will be contacted regarding a selection. Also make sure to thank the interview for their time.

To follow up, send a "thank you" note to the interviewer and make a phone call after about a week or so. No matter how well you think the interview went, it's best to continue your job search until you are accepted for a job.


Though it is the last step in the effective job search process, retention can also be one of the most important. It refers to staying on the job and excelling at it.

"Staying on the job leads to greater opportunities and promotions," Taylor said.

Take advantage of any on-the-job training or educational opportunities you are offered. Not only do these boost your skills, they show that you're motivated to do the best work that you can.

As Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."