Career Counseling
Job Search Strategies
Resume Writing Techniques
Interview Techniques Practice

Career Counseling

The essence of career planning is finding a match between who you are and an environment that suits you. The first step is to assess your needs, interests, and talents. Career planning is not a one-time event as you graduate and enters the world of work, but a dynamic on-going process of career development as you learn and respond to change, within yourself and in the organizations with which you work.

Often the expedience of needing a job compels people to take whatever is easily available and most obvious. However, the opportunities for college graduates cover a wide range of fields and job functions. It is the rare person who is fortunate enough to match genuine interest, talents, and values to a satisfying vocation offering appropriate growth opportunities in their first job. Taking the time to build a foundation of knowledge about yourself and to expand your thinking about appropriate options can increase your chances of success enormously.

There are THREE primary factors to consider when exploring career self-assessment. These include interests, skills, and values. The following inventories and worksheets are available through the CDC to help you assess these primary factors in knowing yourself.
  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • How will I get there?

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Job Search Strategies
Here are a few tips to consider when preparing for your job search. With good preparation and forethought, your search can be an exciting and rewarding experience.

Know yourself-your unique skills, interests and values. Then, take the time to explore and research the types of jobs and industries that interest you and match your interests and abilities. Having a focus will help you conduct a more effective and efficient job search.

If you cannot demonstrate your skills and abilities to the employer, your qualifications will not matter. Your resume/CV and cover letter must be well written and organized.

Take full advantage of your interview by preparing in advance. Know how to respond to different questions and how to highlight your strengths and abilities.

When developing your job search strategy, do your homework on the best way to contact your target employers. Take advantage of all resources available to gather information: career fairs, Internet job search, corporate web sites, and business journals, CDC job advertisement databases, and job postings.
Different employers require different approaches. Some employers will spend the time and resources to recruit at on-campus - many won't. Some fields are noted for their reliance on networking while others may use particular publications to advertise their jobs. Using multiple strategies can often be the most effective way to land a job.

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Resume Writing Techniques
A resume is a brief summary of your qualifications, education, and experiences relevant to your job search objective. The purpose of a resume is to obtain an interview. Employers will spend less than 30 seconds reviewing your resume; therefore, the information must be conveyed in a clear, well-organized style. To get started on your resume, make a list of information about yourself-details of your experiences including pertinent coursework, paid and volunteer work, awards, clubs, research projects and special skills. The sections of a
resume are listed below.
  1. Tips for creating a successful resume

  • Do design your descriptions to focus on your accomplishments, using action verbs to clearly indicate the skills you've used. See Sample Action Verb list on page four.
  • Do try quantifying results in your descriptions, such as "Created marketing campaign that increased club membership by 25%."
  • Do keep your resume brief enough to fit on one page (or two pages if your experience is extensive). Academic CVs are often two pages or longer.
  • Do print your resume on good quality bond paper, either white or conservative tones. If printed on plain computer paper, copy onto good quality bond paper.
  • Do accompany your resume with a cover letter in most cases.
  • Do have others look over your resume for content and grammar. Career Counselors and Peer Counselors are available at the CDC to critique your resume during same day appointments.

  • Don't make your margins and font size too small: margins no smaller than one inch and font size no smaller than 10 point.
  • Don't include personal pronouns (e.g. I, me, we).
  • Don't include personal information, physical characteristics, or photographs on your resume. However, individuals from other countries may include these on their resumes.
  • Don't include the last line: "References available upon request" (see Sample Reference List).

Other Tips
  • It is more appropriate for freshmen and sophomores to include high school experiences. However, important high school experiences that have some relevance to your job objective may be appropriate for upper classmen.
  • For International Students it is sometimes a disadvantage to include your non-immigrant visa status or permanent address (if outside the U.S.) on your resume. Usually your visa status should be discussed later during the interview. If you have obtained permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, it might be to your advantage to list the information on your resume.

  • There is no single way to format your resume. The format you choose should present your strengths clearly.

Chronological Format
  • This format is most familiar to employers and most commonly used by Stanford students. This style of resume presents your experience and education in reverse chronological sequence, starting with the most recent. Date, job title, organization's name, location and a description of your activities are listed as part of the experience section. This format is simple, straightforward, and especially useful for anyone with a history of directly relevant experience.

Functional/Skills Format
This format focuses on areas of skill and can be effective in conveying your strengths to an employer, although many employers are not as familiar with this format as with the chronological or combination format. This style of resume draws attention to accomplishments and highlights your skills by function rather than your work experience and is more commonly used by people with very little formal work experience or are returning to the workplace after being away or otherwise involved.

Combination Format
This format is appropriate when you have relevant work experience for each of several skill areas and combines both the chronological and functional formats. This style allows you to group your experiences or key selling points together by functional areas (such as Research Experience and Teaching Experience), and then list those experiences in reverse chronological order within each section. It is also a familiar format to employers.
  1. Tips for creating an effective Cover letter
  • Collect your thoughts. Your ideas may not come out logically or sequentially, but write them down. Don't judge and evaluate, simply collect them.
  • Spend time on your letter. As the adage goes, "With part-time effort, you get part-time results."
  • Write a draft, let it cool off overnight, and then rewrite if necessary.
  • Use a strong close, e.g. "After you have had an opportunity to review this letter, I will call you"
  • Avoid weak endings such as "I look forward to your reply" or "Please call me at your earliest convenience."
  • Limit your letter to one page; a letter is an opportunity to sell, so say something about you, while also focusing on the needs of the employer. Write the way you talk. It should be well-worded, concise, and controlled in the use of the pronoun "I".
  • While a general cover letter can be used, best results come from personalizing each letter to fit the specific circumstances, position, or organization.
  • Ask for opinions, advice, and feedback from friends, a counselor, or someone in the profession Check spelling and grammar.
  • Avoid cluttered desktop publishing. Business letters should look conservative. If you want to be creative, do so in your choice of words. If should be aesthetically appealing with careful attention to spacing and format. Use letter-quality printer paper or high quality bond paper. Stick with white, ivory, or off-white.
  • Remember to sign it personally and include your telephone number and e-mail address.
  • Don't use someone else's letter and if you are using the same letter for several companies, remember to change the name in the body of your letter.
  • Devise a system to keep track of the follow-up steps you will take and the responses you receive. Most students have found that binders or file folders for organizing the job search and its correspondence are essential.
  • Follow-up, follow-up. People will call you, but you'll improve your odds dramatically if you follow up your letters with a phone call.
  • Don't mark letters "personal and confidential" unless there is a solid reason why a secretary or an administrative assistant can't open them. If your letter is persuasive enough, it will get through.
  1. 30 Second scan of resume
Your resume is designed to get you interviews and eventually a job, an internship, or into a graduate or professional School. It translates what you have done in the past into what you can accomplish in the future. Employers Typically skim resumes, spending an average time of only 15-45 seconds on each. The decision to consider you for an interview often begins or ends at this point. Your goals are to captivate the reader and answer the question, "Why should the employer want to interview me?" Think of your resume as a 30-second personal commercial.

Use the following checklist to ensure that your resume is in its optimal shape.

For a B.A. degree, one full page; for nonprofit (including education) and science, several years
experience, or Master's/Ph.D., one or more pages
Paper Quality
20-25% bond paper in white, off-white, or ivory
Letter Quality Font Style
Times New Roman, Garamond (avoid serif for scan able resumes), Arial, Helvetica
Font Size: 10 to 12 point for text; 12 to 18 point for name and headers
Presentation: Laser printed with watermark up and facing the right direction
Balanced Page - Spacing and Placement of Information
Employers read a resume top left to bottom right, so place most important information across top and
down left side. Sections, paragraphs, lines, and words should be evenly spaced. Arrange information
so that there is slightly more space between sections than within sections. Margins should be
approximately one inch. Be sure there is enough white space to make it easy for the reader to quickly
see what is significant
Name and Contact Information
Present address on left; permanent address on right. Include e-mail address
Headings and Subheadings
Arrange headings and subheadings consistently throughout the resume
Education - include name of institution, city and state, degree, major, minor, and graduation date
Experience - include name of company, city and state, position, and dates worked
Highlighted Main Points
Use bullets, Bold, CAPS, BOLD CAPS, and indentation to emphasize what is most pertinent
Experience Description
Begin with strong action verbs (see list on back)
Avoid "duties included" or "responsible for"
Describe your responsibilities and accomplishments rather than the work environment
Identify skills, communicate strengths, emphasize results
Use concrete examples or facts and figures to quantify achievements whenever possible
End with a Strength
Leadership, Community Service, Activities, Interests, Skills Summary (computer knowledge, language proficiency or other relevant skills)
Spelling, Punctuation, and Writing Style
Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

  1. A typical resume

Your Name
Current Address
Telephone number
Cell phone number (if applicable)
Email address
Web page address (if pertinent)
Permanent Address
and Telephone number
This section, while not required, is helpful as it tells the employer, at a glance, the type of position you are seeking. The objective can include the specific position you are seeking, skills you wish to use on the job, field or organization type by which you wish to be employed, or a combination of all of the above.

Sample Objectives
  • A position as an editorial assistant.
  • Electrical engineering internship.
  • To obtain a position in finance.
  • A program coordinator position in a community organization working with youth.
  • Seeking a position in museum administration requiring strong writing skills and a background in art history.
  • To apply decision and systems analysis to strategic planning in the telecommunications industry.

  • This section should include:
  • Name of the degree-granting institutions; List most recent first.
  • Degree received and major
  • Graduation date or projected graduation date, or dates of attendance if a degree was not completed
  • Overseas academic experience

  • Any minors, specialization or focus areas
  • Courses relevant to the position for which you are applying
  • Honors and GPA (if they are a strong selling point). Indicate GPA based on a 4.0 scale.
  • Senior research/honors thesis title and brief description
  • Freshmen and sophomores can include high school

  • This is a summary of experience and/or accomplishments. List most recent experience first. You should include:
  • Title of the position
  • Name of the organization and location (city and state)
  • Dates, including month and year
  • Descriptions of responsibilities beginning with action verbs (avoid phrases such as "duties included")
  • Believable, verifiable accomplishments
  • Paid jobs, internships, volunteer community service, extracurricular projects involving leadership or teamwork.

Special academic research or honors projects
  • You may choose to divide your experience into two or more sections. Possible section headers might include Research Experience, Teaching Experience, Leadership Experience, Volunteer Experience or Relevant Experience.
  • Additional Information
  • This section could include computer skills, languages, volunteer work, sports, and interests. If one of these areas is relevant to the job, however, you may choose to put it in the "Experience" section. You may also choose to use more specific section headers such as
  • Skills
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Honors and Awards

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Interview Techniques Practice

The interview is one of the most important phases of the job search process. Your resume and cover letter are simply tools to get you to the interviewing stage of the process. Keep in mind that employers don't tend to interview candidates they don't feel are qualified for the job. Therefore, once you have made it past the initial screening it's your opportunity to convince an employer, using your powers of persuasion and communication skills, that you are the right person for the job.

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Sample Interview Questions

  • Why did you choose to attend Stanford?
  • What are some of the greatest personal challenges you have faced during your lifetime?
  • What motivates you?

Skills and Personal Qualities
  • What skills or personal qualities do you possess that will help make you successful in today's job market?
  • Tell me about yourself (ask what type of information the employer is looking for, skills? personal background?).
  • What special skills do you possess that would make you stand out from other candidates?
  • Describe a frustrating or challenging experience you've encountered and tell me how you dealt with it.
  • Discuss some of your past leadership/teamwork roles and your accomplishments in them.

Why should our organization hire you?
  • Who was the most difficult person you have ever dealt with, and how did you handle the situation?
  • Can you think of a specific situation that reflects your ability to show initiative? Describe it.
  • What is your greatest weakness, what have you done to try to overcome it?

Career Goals and Objectives
  • What are your long range career goals and how are you preparing to achieve them?
  • Why are you interested in this industry/occupation?
  • Why do you want to work for our organization?
  • What do you see yourself doing in three to five years?

Extracurricular Activities and College Experiences
  • Please describe your most rewarding college experience.
  • If you could relive your college experience, what would you do differently?

Academic Programs
  • What factors influenced your choice of a major?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite courses?
  • What is your grade point average and how do you feel about this?
  • Are you satisfied with your academic accomplishments?
  • What courses gave you the most difficulty?
  • How has your coursework prepared you for this position?

Work Experiences
  • What did you enjoy most about your most recent job experience?
  • Please elaborate on your most relevant work experience.
  • What do you see as your major strengths as they apply to this position?

  • What else would you like us to know about you?
  • Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

Knowledge of Organization/Industry
  • Why did you select our organization with which to interview?
  • What attracts you to this industry?
  • What do you know about our organization?
  • Why do you think you'd like working for our organization?

Salary and Benefits
  • When comparing one company offer to another, what factors will be important to you besides starting salary?
  • What salary range are you expecting? (If possible, you may want to state that you are more interested in the content of the position at this point and would be happy to discuss salary when an offer is presented).

Unusual Questions
  • These questions seldom have right or wrong answers. Even though the questions may not seem to be job-related, employers may try to determine your confidence and creativity through your answers.
  • If you could be any fruit which would you choose and why?
  • Think about your favorite product. Now think up five better names for it.
  • Tell me a story.
  • How would the world be different if you had never been born?

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Questions to ask Employers

It is important to have prepared questions to ask of each employer; these questions will indicate your interest in the position and organization. Additional questions may occur to you during the course of the interview.

About the Organization
  • What is it about this organization that attracted you in the first place and has kept you there?
  • How would you describe your organization's style of management?
  • How will industry trends affect this organization within the next 3-5 years?
  • How does the organization define a successful individual?
  • What is the method of feedback/evaluation used by this organization?
  • What do you see as your organization's strengths and weaknesses?

About the Position
  • Can you describe recent projects on which a person in my position has worked?
  • What is the common career path for people entering the organization in this position?
  • How are people trained or brought up to speed with regard to their responsibilities?
  • What type of person tends to be successful in this position?
  • What type of person are you looking for?
  • How and when is performance evaluated?

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Reason for Rejection

Lack of Self-Knowledge. An interviewer cannot determine where you fit into the organization until you explain your career interests and applicable skills.
Lack of Company Knowledge. Most employers make information about themselves readily available, especially if they recruit on campus. Lack of Questions. When employers ask if you have any questions for them, a negative response indicates a lack of interest on your part.
Lack of Enthusiasm. Employers want to hire someone who is excited about the prospect of working with their organization.
Lack of Confidence. If you doubt your ability to do the job, an employer will also experience doubt.
Poor Communication Skills. The employer must be able to hear you, understand your words, and follow your train of thought. Otherwise, no matter how qualified you may be for a job opening, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

Unprofessional Application or Appearance. It is true that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. If your resume is sloppy or has typos, you are at an immediate disadvantage and may not even get an opportunity to interview. Additionally, if you present yourself at an interview inappropriately dressed, an employer may decide you wouldn't fit into their organization.


For information about internships please visit Career Development Center

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