Jason Eckert explains how to get your foot in the door at your dream job.

What to do to land your dream job

So how do you apply for a job in today’s world?

Lesson number one: Don’t show up at the crack of dawn at the job site with your freshly typed resume in hand.

“Applying is really an online process now,” said Jason Eckert, director of the University of Dayton Career Services Office. “The odds of human contact are pretty low, even when the economy is good.”

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Eckert offered a primer of the process — everything from applying for the job to nailing that first phone interview and finally convincing your prospective employer you are the best person for the job. 

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Getting in the door

To get past the resume and application process, applicants need to stand out.

Tips:

  • Use key words. When you apply for a job online it is highly likely a computer program will sort through cover letters and resumes looking for key words, Eckert said. “The key words are almost always stated in the job description, so it isn’t as if you have to be psychic,” he said.
  • Be concise. The resume should be no more than two pages if you are a recent graduate, but can be longer if you have more work experience.
  • Use lots of bulleted phrases. If the computer software picks your resume for human review, it’s likely the first read-through will be only 30 seconds, so avoid detailed paragraphs.
  • Sharpen your online profile. Many employers use LinkedIn, the professional networking site, to gather information on job candidates, so pay special attention to the profile summary section and headline.
  • Network. Networking is absolutely key to meeting people who might either know of a job or be in a position to hire you. Attend career fairs and look for networking opportunities put together by groups like UpDayton.
  • Clean up your online presence. Know this: Company officials likely will look you up on social media. Remove inappropriate photos or hateful speech.

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Nailing the phone interview

Getting a job - the phone interview

Once the company identifies you as a promising applicant, Eckert said you will likely be screened through a phone or Skype interview. “It’s a really good sign, but not the finish line yet,” he said.

Tips:

  • Do your homework in advance by researching the company, the specific job opening and the culture and atmosphere at the firm. Check online resources, including the employer’s website. If possible, talk to someone who works there.
  • Be prepared to speak about the job requirements and show enthusiasm about the job.
  • Be able to answer the question: Why am I the most qualified person for this job?
  • Dress up for the phone interview. It will make you feel and sound more professional.
  • Be prepared to name your strengths and, if asked, one weakness. Don’t list a weakness that is disqualifying for the job, and do mention that you are working on improving your performance in that area.
  • Have several questions to ask the interviewer.

Reeling in the job

Nailing the interview and getting the job

Once you get an in-person sit-down with company officials, be fully prepared. “Everything about applying for a job is about passing through a funnel of selection,” Eckert said. “And the closer you get to the onsite interview, the more likely you are to be considered.”

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Tips:

  • Dress professionally and go easy on the cologne. “For the most part, you don’t go wrong wearing a suit,” Eckert said.
  • Get to the interview 15 minutes early. A trial run to make sure you have correctly estimated drive time is always a good idea.
  • “First impressions go a long way,” Eckert said. A firm — but not bone-crushing — handshake and making eye contact are essential.
  • Be enthusiastic and polite to everyone you meet at the company and remember names. You never know who will be asked to weigh in on your hiring.
  • Bring extra copies of your resume to offer to those who interview you. It shows you are prepared.
  • Have very specific answers about how you would handle the job and what skills make you best for it.
  • Try to limit your answers to a couple of minutes each.
  • Have questions, such as asking what your interviewer likes most about working at the company or what is the biggest challenge facing the company.
  • Wait until the end of the interview to ask what the job pays. If asked what you want to be paid, offer a salary range rather than naming a specific number. And if you do get a job offer, Eckert said he is “a big believer in always asking to negotiate salary.” Research on salaries for similar jobs in the area is often available at online sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed. “Asking the salary question is always the right question,” Eckert said, “but you have to ask positively and humbly.”

Eckert’s final piece of advice is old school but still relevant: Have some stationary at home.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of thanking people and of sending formal thank you notes after a job interview is complete,” he said.

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