Out of all the motivating factors that lead participants to enroll in our boot camp, career advancement stands out from the rest. According to a study by Indeed, 80 percent of companies surveyed have offered jobs to boot camp alumni, and 99.8 percent of those who did would do it again. Finding the job that is right for you takes hard work, but with many of today’s leading employers seeking applicants with boot camp experience, our participants can qualify for many in-demand industry roles after successfully completing the program.
In order to help participants, position themselves as employer competitive and stand out from the crowd, the Career Services team collects feedback from employers across industries to learn the traits and skills they value in job applicants. We’ve compiled all their best advice to give you the inside scoop on:
- Writing a resume
- Creating a cover letter
- Building a social media presence
- Developing a job search strategy
- Preparing for your interview
Navigating the technical job market for the first time can be a daunting experience—but you’re not alone! Whether you’re a prospective participant, current participant, or are seeking insight on how to be a strong candidate in your job search, our Career Services team has got you covered.
Writing a stand out resume
Only a small percentage of job applicants will receive an interview—and just one will actually receive the job offer. As one of the keys to success in any job search, your resume is the first chance to make an impression and set yourself apart from other applicants.
Depending on your skills and experience, as well as the job you’re applying for, the appearance of your resume and the information it includes will vary. Here are some tips to help you stand out and impress hiring managers, regardless of the format.
1. Tailor your resume for each job
While it’s easy to assume that your unique skill set and previous job experience are enough to set you apart from other candidates, it’s important to keep in mind that employers are looking for individuals who can meet specific business needs. As you apply to a variety of roles, read through each job description and tailor your resume to reflect the position. Take it from Career Director Kyle Martinowich, “There is no such thing as a ‘general’ resume to send to all positions you are interested in applying for.”
But that’s not all—many companies today use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter resumes for unique keywords and identify the strongest candidates for the position. So how do you make sure to include the right keywords that will get past the ATS and move you forward in the application and interview process? Corey Bott, Career Director, advises using language in your resume that is similar to that in the job description, adjusting the keywords for each job.
Lastly, tailor your resume to the culture of the company. Career Director Heather Hans recommends doing your own research on Glassdoor and other work sites to identify the soft skills and personality traits that the company values, then provide examples of how you fit into their culture.
2. Choose a good format
It might sound obvious, but hiring managers review resumes from the top down, meaning that the content at the top of your resume should be engaging enough to hold their interest through to the end.
Our first tip? “Skip using an address on the resume,” says Gwenn Hodge, Career Director. “Instead, include a great summary.” Sometimes referred to as an “elevator pitch”, your objective statement is a short overview that should give the hiring manager a clear idea of your professional strengths and interests, all while convincing them that you’re the best fit for the role.
After you’ve crafted a strong opening statement, it’s time to move on to the skills section of your resume. While it can be tempting to list every skill you have, prioritize including your strongest hard skills that align with the job description. For instance, most employers expect applicants to have proficiency in Microsoft Office and other standard applications; rather than taking up valuable space on the more obvious skills, concentrate on your top five or six technical strengths that will help you stand out.
If you list any of the technical skills you learned through a boot camp, your experience section should highlight how you’ve applied those skills to projects and real-world scenarios, in addition to any relevant professional experience. But it’s important to keep in mind that more does not equal better—Career Material Advisor Cassie Burns explains, “Recruiters are busy, don’t make them search for the information they need to make a decision about your qualifications, especially when it comes to previous work experience.”
Round out your resume by listing your education, including your boot camp, beginning with your latest achievement and working backward.
Our final takeaway? Make sure each section of your resume is relevant to the job and company you’re applying for, and resist the temptation to include irrelevant information. Unless your experience is extremely relevant to a particular job description, your resume should be no longer than a single page.
3. Showcase your skills
What do you think the most important section of your resume is? According to an article from Business Insider, employers are most concerned about an applicant’s skills. It might surprise you at first, but where candidates lack professional experience, they can make up for it with necessary skills for the job, especially if they recently completed a boot camp.
“Showcase experience gained through the boot camp…like projects [and] technical skills,” recommends Deanna Parkton, Career Director. “Use the summary section to target your experience and skills to the job you are applying for.”
While technical skills are crucial to landing a tech job, don’t forget to highlight your soft skills as well. “Highlight your accomplishments and find ways to show your soft skills. It is not enough to tell me that you are a critical thinker. Illustrate that point in your bullets,” stresses Career Director Rebecca Klasson.
4. Create achievement-based job bullets
Showcasing your relevant experience is about more than listing your day-to-day responsibilities on the job—according to Senior Career Material Advisor Kenya Ledford, “Employers want to see what [you do] with the role beyond the task.” Her solution? Give a one- to two-sentence description of each role with three to five bullet points highlighting significant achievements and recognition.
To help you get started, try to answer the following questions for each job bullet listed:
- What did I do?
- How did I do it?
- Why did I do it? / What results did I achieve? / What recognition did I receive?
Esmeralda Garcia, Senior Regional Director of Global Career Coaching, emphasizes the importance of quantifying your accomplishments; frame the outcomes of your work by measurable results. For example: Developed the architecture and design of the company website using HTML5 and integrating video, sound, animation and text, increasing website traffic and sales by 20 percent.
As you build out your previous work experience, remember to use active verbs that help build a clear narrative about your history. “Make sure every bullet starts with a verb in the correct tense,” says Robin Pajot, Career Director. For roles you no longer hold, use past tense; and use present tense when referring to any positions you currently work in.
Once you’ve mastered the art of constructing a stand out resume, you’re more likely to make it past the Applicant Tracking Systems, through the pre-interview gatekeepers and into the interview stage—bringing you one step closer to your dream career.
Creating a solid cover letter
Esmeralda Garcia also emphasizes the importance of including a cover letter every time you send your resume to a prospective employer. You might be asking yourself, Why is a cover letter so important if I’m already tailoring my resume to the company? Don’t they have enough information about me?
While your resume should be a standalone representation of your abilities, a cover letter allows you to provide even more detail about your skills and experience, giving you the opportunity to introduce yourself and indicate why you would be a perfect fit for the position. Which brings us to another important point: don’t reiterate the information included in your resume. Take this advice from Career Material Advisor Victoria Nahley and tell employers something they won’t learn from your one-pager.
Here are some extra Career Services-backed tips to help you create a powerful cover letter that will get you noticed:
1. Start with a strong introduction
Think of your cover letter introduction as your first impression on a prospective employer: you’ve got to hook them in right from the start and keep their attention as you convince them that you are the right fit for the job. Address your letter to the specific person who will be reading it, then lead in with a strong sentence summarizing your most relevant experience, using language that complements the job description and gives the employer a reason to continue reading.
Also keep in mind that hiring managers usually skim cover letters, meaning choose the words you use wisely. Bott recommends avoiding paragraphs longer than about 5-6 sentences.
2. Elaborate on your experience
Once you’ve introduced yourself, follow it up with one to two paragraphs that elaborate on your academic and professional experience. Include information like career attributes, interests and achievements, identifying three to five reasons why you are a good candidate for the position throughout the narrative—and don’t be afraid to call attention to your unique accomplishments. Career Director Rebecca Klasson advises, “Make sure your narrative explains why you are a great fit for their organization, not just why you want to work there. Tell a story that illustrates your points.”
Finally, close your cover letter with a plan of action that reiterates your desire to speak with the hiring official, along with your email and phone number. As you write, keep in mind that hiring managers usually skim cover letters; avoid paragraphs longer than 5-6 sentences, and use words that match up with the outline of the role in question.
3. Show that you’ve done research
To better understand a company’s needs, culture, goals and values, Career Director Christy Rosen suggests reviewing the organization’s website for their mission statement and using that information to demonstrate how your values align with theirs. Consider what you know about the organization already and why you want to work there.
But don’t stop there! Gwenn Hodge also recommends tapping into your social, academic and professional networks through sites like LinkedIn to get information you wouldn’t find on the company website or job description. This “insider information” will help you stand out, and show that you’ve put additional time and thought into your application.
Building a social media presence
Your digital presence determines how others perceive you as a job seeker. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 84 percent of organizations leverage social media for recruiting, and 9 percent plan to use it in the future. Simply put, without a social media presence, you may be missing out on employment opportunities.
Here are some tips to use social media effectively during your job search.
1. Manage your online presence
Today, the vast majority of recruiters rely on LinkedIn to source and learn more about candidates. If you plan to leverage social media in your job search, take some time to ensure that each of your accounts is professional and appropriate for review by potential employers.
How can you showcase your best professional self? Include a professional photo that establishes legitimacy and a personal connection, and consider making any non-professional accounts private. Avoid including any logos, pets, graphics, or group photos, and try searching yourself on Google to see what is visible to the public before deleting any old content that may leave a negative impression.
2. Use LinkedIn to your advantage
Just like we mentioned above, LinkedIn is a popular spot for recruiters to seek out tech talent, and it’s also a great resource for determining the best contacts at companies you’re interested in. Making sure you have a well-crafted profile should be a top priority during your job search; include a professional profile picture, keyword-rich summary, professional experience and a strong headline. “Use a combination of your target job title, industry keywords and a value proposition to stand out and be noticed,” advises Marilyn Day, Career Director.
Day also recommends approaching your LinkedIn page like you would a body of water: it constantly moves, developing and evolving with your career. Stay on top of ongoing trends that could impact your job search and regularly update your profile and credentials to reflect your current status.
3. Engage in industry conversations
You never know which relationships could lead to consideration for job opportunities. Use social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to build a network of tech influencers and industry professionals. Find and follow people who work in your local area, and join in on conversations to become known in new circles and even join your alumni group to stay engaged.