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Improving Your Chances of Landing a Job

Improving Your Chances of Landing a Job

Advice for the Unemployed and Job Seeking

For those who have recently been laid off, downsized, or are just plain out of work, these helpful tips can improve your chances of standing out from the crowd.

From resume preparation, career fairs, waiting for callbacks, and selling yourself in the interview, entering the workforce can be intimidating.

Action Words

Resumes are not about telling a potential employer about previous work duties and responsibilities in a drudging way – they are about explaining accomplishments in a concise, energetic fashion. The best way to accomplish this is through the use of action words and high powered verbs. A resume that may have caught an employer’s attention five or ten years ago is likely to appear bland.
A list of appropriate action words divided by skill category can be found at Quintessential Careers. Start each bulleted statement with a proper action word to augment the impact of previous work experience. These action words can then be transferred to the interview setting. Be sure to also use these “action words” in the interview process!

For resume design advice, see Resume Design Tips: Setting up a Career with a Modern and Professional Design.

Computer Skills

Computer skills and career-specific skills are essential to compete in today’s job market. While they are often buried at the bottom of a resume, career candidates should improve their computer skills in order to have a better chance at receiving a higher competitive pay. According to a 2004 study completed by the Department of Labour’s Bureau of Labour Statistics, employees who use computers in their workplace earn nearly 17% more than those who do not.

Workers seeking job reentry should be able to complete the following computer-related tasks:

  • Easily communicate effort via email
  • Compose detailed word processing documents with tables, charts, and graphs
  • Use Microsoft Excel, or similar processing program, to provide budget information
  • Create modern PowerPoint presentations
  • Back up important data on an external hard drive or via internet backup service
  • Online or inter-office calendar systems
  • Every worker should have these basic skills. However, preferably, candidates should display advanced knowledge of computer programming, including:
  • Word templates (creating, editing, and using)
  • Software programming for scheduling, time sheets, deadline completion, and activity tracking
  • Managing flow of office supplies and materials

If these skills are not already in an individual’s repertoire, they should at least demonstrate an active ability to learn the required skills


Do not underestimate the value of a certificate. A certification records skill credentials that signal to employers significant achievement. Certifications are awarded by external groups, the most common of which are universities and technical centers. While some certifications are necessary for particular careers, others do not require any certifications at employment time. However, in the case of the latter, certifications can help a candidate stand out among competitors.
Career One Stop, a U.S. Department of Labor sponsored program, offers job seekers important information on training and education programs, as well as ways to pay for these essential skill boosters. In times of economic crisis, (re)entering education can be a great way to stand out in the workforce.


Here is one area where many individuals fail to sell themselves fully. A few steady rules will keep an interview on the right track.

Dress should be professional. If a full suit attire is not available, business casual is a minimum requirement. Business attire includes khakis (or other dress pant) and a clean, pressed dress shirt.
Jeans are never allowed. Even if jeans are acceptable in the company’s work environment, jeans should not be worn in the interview room. Wearing jeans can decrease your credibility, especially when the employer is interviewing multiple individuals in a short amount of time.

Build rapport with your interviewers! It will give them a pleasant interpretation of you and your abilities, especially in terms of interpersonal skills

Practice beforehand! Contact your local university career services office or grab a friend or mentor-have them (in full interview attire) mock interview you several days before your interview.
Focus your conversation around your resume’s action words and phrases, specifically pinpointing numbers, facts, data, and specific skills acquired in previous career experience.

By focusing on your resume, computer skills, certifications, and interviewing skills, you can significantly increase your chances of landing a job.

Gary Hill