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Job Hunting 101 - What to Expect

March 1, 2011
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New grads in speech-language pathology and audiology have skills and knowledge that are increasingly in demand. The need for services from SLPs and audiologists continues to grow at each end of the age continuum. Greater recognition of the value of early intervention has raised service levels for preschool and school-aged children. The huge population of Baby Boomers about to enter their retirement years increases the number of people who may require services as a result of dementia, hearing loss, or strokes.

Good professional skills should be complemented by good ‘soft skills’ – e.g., good interpersonal skills, the ability to set priorities and to manage conflict. Assess your total ‘package’ of clinical and soft skills, select suitable jobs, and tailor your resume and cover letters so that employers can readily see that you meet their needs. Be sure to research companies before you apply to them for jobs. Contact people who know about the company, or who may have worked there themselves. Read the company’s website if it has one.

In your cover letter, make yourself stand out by expressing why you’re interested in the job, how you possess the skills required in that job, and how you will be a worthy addition to the company or clinic. Your resume should include your contact info, qualifications and experience, special achievements, professional association memberships, and certifications. It should be well-organized, uncluttered, and error-free. If you are considering a career in academia, you should prepare a curriculum vitae (CV), while those looking for work elsewhere will usually be asked to send a resume. Resumes are only a couple of pages long. CVs are longer, and include things such as publications, awards, presentations, committee memberships, research projects, and successful grant applications.

Remember that employers cannot ask questions about your race, age, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital or handicap status, gender, or national origin, in accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. So, remove information from your resume or CV that would provide them with that information, directly or indirectly.

If you apply in person, dress well, because you might run into your future boss in the reception area! Faxing and emailing resumes are also common practices, as is pasting your resume into an employer’s online job application page. Use a common file format, such as .pdf, when sending a digital resume or CV, unless the employer specifies another file format. Arrive 15 minutes early for interviews, be well-groomed, be polite to everyone, and dress professionally. Bring extra copies of your resume. Turn off personal electronic devices such as cell phones, during your interview.

Interviewers may ask about your skills and what you would do in certain situations (e.g., dealing with a difficult co-worker), what your goals are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and why the position interests you. Show enthusiasm for the role and ask for more information about the job if necessary. The interview is the employer’s opportunity to evaluate your suitability, but it’s also your opportunity to learn about the company and your role in particular. The more you ask, the more informed you’ll be in deciding if the job is really what you want at this point in your career and personal life.

If the interview goes well, you will be asked for references. Your CFY mentor, co-workers, supervisors, and professors are all good possibilities. You may have brought a separate sheet of paper listing your references with you to the interview. However, you may realize that you’d like to use different references than the ones you listed on your reference sheet. Simply tell the interviewer that you’d be pleased to provide references, e.g., via phone or email, by the next day. Be sure to ask your references for their permission to use them as references and tell them about the job you’ve applied for.

Within a day or two of the interview, send a thank you note (written or emailed) to the interviewer(s) for taking the time to meet you. If the job still interests you, re-express your interest in the job, or perhaps clarify an answer you didn’t answer well during the interview. If you know in advance what kind of salary is offered for the job in that geographical region, then you will be prepared for salary negotiation. Weigh the salary offered against the benefits offered: sometimes flexibility in the benefit package (continuing education costs, child care, vacation time, 401K, health insurance, etc.) can offset a lower salary.

Finding the right job can take time, but it’s well worth the effort.