There’s a position that is perfect for you! You are going to apply. But wait. Don’t just go through the motions of preparing a standard cover letter & resume and hoping for an interview. And if you get an interview, don’t just show up.

Think of applying for a job like going into a negotiation; because that’s what it is. What do you have to offer, what do you want; what do they have to offer, what do they want? You, and what you bring to the position; those are your bargaining chips.

Below are some tips to help you bring your best to that bargaining table, and to get to the table in the first place.

Preparing for an interview


Prepare to show you are interested, informed, qualified, and a prize candidate.

o Learn as much as possible about the organization before applying and refresh that knowledge before your interview.

  • Ask people who work there or who have in the past (recent past).
  • Study the organisation’s website and what is available on social media – look for things that signal who they are or who they want you to believe they are.
  • Make a list of what you think is important to them, and why.

o Think about why you want the position, in that particular organization.

  • List what you hope to achieve or gain from it, and why that’s important to you.
  • Compare the lists of what you and the organization want and the reasons why. See what you discover, and what stands out.

o Craft your cover letter and resume to show you’ve done your homework and that you’re a top candidate for the job.

  • Learn what is expected in a cover letter & resume. A technical writing course will often teach you how to write resumes, cover letters, reports and so forth. VERY worthwhile! It’s the first impression that gets you interviewed. The VIU Career Centre can also help.
  • Here are some tips that have helped me, both as a candidate myself and when I’ve selected candidates to interview:

o Cover letter:

  • Make sure the cover letter is clearly written for the job and organization in question. It shouldn’t look like a standard cover letter.
  • Address why you are interested in the position & organization. This is where you can show you know enough about them to know you want to explore working with them.
  • Show clearly but briefly how your experience and skills/knowledge meet the requirements of the position, as well as the ‘preferred’ qualities, if those are known.
  • Invite them to contact you so you can meet to discuss the position and your experience can meet their needs. You could also assure them that you have terrific references as well.

o Resume:

  • Put what’s most relevant to the hiring decision at the top. That could mean starting with a list of skills that you offer that match the position.
  • If your strongest relevant asset is your education, or it’s a requirement for the position, that could come next. Include any awards, high GPA, etc.).
  • Under work and/or volunteer experience, write a brief summary of your responsibilities in each position, particularly those relevant to the desired position.
  • You may want to include a list of personal interests or hobbies, especially if you think they may be relevant to the position.

The interview

o Prior to the interview, review all your research and notes, as well as your cover letter and resume.

  • Make sure you’re clear about how you see yourself, your skills and your experience fitting with the position and the organization.

o Check your attitude – you and the ‘interviewer’ are both exploring the fit.

  • The interview is an opportunity for both the interviewer AND YOU to determine whether you and the position are a good fit.
  • Going with the attitude that you are also interviewing THEM is incredibly helpful. You’re not going hat-in- hand for a job. You have something valuable to offer and you’re at the interview to explore whether the position and organization are a good fit for you and your experience/skills/knowledge.
  • Of course, don’t go to the other extreme either and come across as arrogant.

o Be organized and prepared for potential questions – theirs and yours.

  • It is usual for the interviewer(s) to take the lead, perhaps with prepared questions for you. Anticipate what they will want to know about you. Be prepared for those questions (see the VIU Career Centre for help).
  • Prepare your own questions. Interviewers often leave room at the end for you to ask questions. If not, ask if there is time for you to ask some questions.
  • When you answer or ask questions, it can be an opportunity to contextualize, showing you have done your research about their organization.

o Be yourself; your most professional self.

  • Dress and behave professionally.
  • But, don’t try to put on a persona that isn’t really you. You won’t be comfortable, and the interviewer will likely detect that you’re not being authentic.

A job competition is a negotiation. Who you are and what you bring to the position are your bargaining chips. Be clear about what you have to offer and how it fits with the position and the organization; present that in your early communications and throughout the selection process.