What can you to improve your career while in school

If you are still in school while reading this, remember this golden rule: It is never too early to start preparing for the job market. More students are graduating now than ever before, which means competition for great jobs to launch rewarding careers is more competitive than ever. 

Even if you are just starting at your university, there are a few things you can do to improve your career while still in school.

Extracurricular Activities

ExtracurricularMany ambitious students will try to load up on societies, fraternities, and other extracurricular activities to help add meat to their resume before graduation.

This is not without reason – 70% of businesses believe that having a track record of activities helps candidates stand out from a crowd. This does come with a caveat: if you get too many activities on your resume, employers may see it more as filler than substance.

Quality Over Quantity

When you are choosing how to spend your time with activities, keep in mind what employers are looking for when checking your extracurriculars. 

First, your activities should show you to be passionate and dedicated with what you do. This is important – if you have too many activities that all last a short amount of time, it gives more of an impression that you prefer to jump around (and may do the same in the job market). If you have a few activities that you stick with for the long haul, it makes a much stronger statement that you like to get involved with what you are doing, and can make long-term contributions.

Next, having more leadership positions makes a much stronger statement. Leadership positions in these organizations helps tell potential employers that you have initiative to take charge, organize and execute projects, and get involved. Non-leadership positions do not say much about what exactly you were doing, other than the activity is something you were interested in.


Perhaps the biggest impact of your extracurriculars is the people you meet while getting involved. This is especially true for business fraternities, but can apply to any organization – friends and contacts you build while in school can potentially be a big help later when you search for a job.
college business meeting

Pictured – Future Business Partners

This is not to say that you should join these organizations just for the sake of networking, but taking part in activities with people who share common interests are more likely to last beyond graduation, and into the job market. 

The Final Word

Having lots of extracurricular activities on your resume probably will not make or break your application or interview. The major advantage is having something to add “color” to your resume and help you stand out from the field of thousands of other students graduating and applying for entry level positions with a similar educational background. Your extracurriculars should show that you have a little bit extra drive or leadership experience. Better yet, show interest in a skill that the hiring manager finds useful (or at least interesting). The final word is that the right activities could give you an edge over a candidate without it.

Pick Classes That Build Skills

“Relevant coursework” does not rank very high on the list of what employers want. In fact, you might be better off by leaving the “relevant coursework” section off of your resume entirely, unless you need to fill space. Paradoxically, the classes you choose will have a huge impact on how many calls for interviews you get on the job hunt, and are one of the most important things you can do to improve your career while in school.

This is because the biggest concern of any hiring manager is whether or not they think you can do the job. Fresh graduates usually need a lot of training on basic workplace skill sets. If you can add the right skills to your resume, you will get a massive advantage over other candidates.

Golden Coursework

Learn to writeEmployers say the biggest problem they have with fresh graduates is lack of communication skills and professionalism. Regardless of your major or field, it will help your job prospects to put that fear to rest to any manager reading your resume. Take a class on business communication (and take it seriously), and apply what you learn when crafting your CV and cover letters. 

Beyond communication, there are usually a few courses in every major teach specific skills. These can be the most valuable classes you take, even if they feel worthless at the time. If you learn something in a class that you can list with your “skills and competencies”, it will be worth 5 times as much as a course under “relevant coursework”.

Find Your Dream Job Posting

There are two things you should be looking at every time you pick your courses. First, see how much closer it brings you towards graduation. A very close second is job postings for the job you want after you graduate. This second point is ignored all too often by students, only to deeply regret after graduation.

Every job posting lists the company, job title, responsibilities, and required skills. When you search through postings to find a job that you would really love to grab, you can use this information to choose your coursework to help build the exact competencies potential employers are looking for. If you can cater your academic record to match what your potential employer is looking for, you stand a much stronger chance of landing an interview.
StockTrak has a job search tool build just for this: you can search over 500,000 jobs and internships to find the one you want the most, then build your academic record to match.


We have written at length the exact value of paid versus unpaid internships, but the cold, hard truth is that internship experience is the #1 thing employers look for in fresh graduates. There is no true classroom replacement for work experience, and a good internship can both give your resume a big boost, or even secure a job offer outright. 

Why Internships Matter

Internships matter because it is the only real way for your potential employer to see how you work in the “real world”. Your internships can show you proactive you are with the job hunt, and the references can be invaluable. Most importantly, great internships can lead directly to a job offer, letting you skip the job hunt entirely. An internship is a fantastic way to build work experience, network with people in the field, and gain valuable references for later.

So Why Not Just Skip Everything Else?

There are many upsides to getting as many internships as possible while still in school, but the process is not quite that simple. Getting an internship is almost exactly the same as getting a job, so do not expect landing one will come naturally. Internships are also in very limited supply – it can be a major challenge to land one, let alone the internship of your dreams. Since internships are being pursued almost exclusively by students (or recent graduates), all of the other suggestions for what you can do while still in school apply double for internships – whatever you can do to set yourself apart from your peers will help.

Start looking for internships today

Good internships launch great careers

Apply for internships early and often – the StockTrak job search tool also includes tens of thousands of internships looking for candidates for next term, so start searching now

Get Certifications

Getting professional certifications is one of the most overlooked ways to start boosting your resume while you are still in school. 

If you want to work in the securities or brokerage industry, almost every position requires at least some certification. Usually the first is the Series 7, so one of the big frustrations for finance companies is that they need to spend the first couple of months for every new recruit on preparation for passing the certification exams. 

Many brokerages skip the middle man and just require Series 7 certification as one of the core job requirements, even for “entry level” positions. Since you need to be sponsored by a company to sit for the exam, this puts up a big roadblock to fresh graduates.

The Certification Secret

The Series 7 course is a great way to improve your career while in schoolThe secret to jumping over this hurdle is that you can actually get pre-certified for the Series 7 while you are still in school from the Securities Training Corporation. This is the same course that over 80% of Wall Street require fresh hires to complete before they can start work, and passing this means you are ready to take the certification exam without any additional instruction. 

You can take the Series 7 pre-certification course today and add “Series 7 Pre-Certified” to your resume. This is a great way to get noticed both for the job market after graduation, but internships as well. Click here to start!

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Of Job Seekers

Experienced workers have a job search lasting about 43 days, and fresh graduates can expect a longer wait. Your search will be much harder if you make one of the following very common mistakes. Avoiding all 5 will not promise an interview, but hitting any might mean you are missing out.

Errors In Your Application

crumpled resumeWhen you are applying for a job, you should be triple-checking everything you want to send to your potential employer. Every job posting gets over 250 applications, and every hiring manager is looking for the fastest, easiest way to chop down that pile into something manageable. If you have typos in your resume, or misspell the manager’s name in your introduction or cover letter, chances are you will never get a call back.

Even earnest job applicants fall into this trap. If you are applying to many jobs, and making tweaks to your resume for each one (as we recommend), it is easy for a typo or two to slip in the cracks. 

How To Avoid It

Your secret weapon is checklists. Surgeons use checklists to make sure they never skip steps, and you should too. You may want to customize the checklist for your own job search, but you can find a good template below.
  1. Does my resume and cover letter include everything I want it to?
  2. I have at least 2 keywords in my resume.
  3. I have at least 3 keywords in my cover letter.
  4. My resume has no spelling errors.
  5. I have the correct company name, job title, and hiring manager name (if applicable) in my cover letter.
  6. My cover letter is free of grammar errors
  7. My cover letter has no spelling errors
  8. I have included the correct attachments on the email I’m sending to the hiring manager

Applying for jobs you are not qualified for

tossed application

Another way to get rejected, and blocked from applying again

This mistake will come up more often the longer your job search drags out. As your savings start to run low, you may try to stretch your qualifications and apply for more jobs outside of your element – this can cripple your chances of getting an interview (and an offer).

The problem arises from what are called “Blacklists”. These are lists of applicants that a hiring manager was hit with such a bad impression that they basically strike the applicant from consideration at any other posts in their company.

If you are on a blacklist, that means that the hiring manager felt that you wasted their time, and so your name is removed from consideration from all jobs at that company. The most common reason to be blacklisted is applying for jobs that you are not qualified for. If the hiring manager thinks you are stretching your qualifications to the limit, or not meeting their baseline application requirements, you are risking the blacklist for that company, so not only will you not get a call back for this post, but probably any others too.

How To Avoid It

This is a tricky one to avoid. Hiring managers usually put far more “essential requirements” for a job than are really needed. You can usually safely apply to a job where you meet 50% of the required qualifications because of that. The real trick is finding out which of the qualifications you can ignore, and the ones that can get you blacklisted if you ignore.

Required education (bachelor’s degree, associates degree, MBA) are usually strict requirements. If you do not meet the education requirement, you better have quite a lot of experience to make up for it.

Certifications can be trickier. If a position requires a certification that you do not have, read about that certification before applying. If it is something that requires sponsorship from your employer, then you can usually apply so long as you express your intention on obtaining it as soon as you start. Having a pre-certification, like our Series 7 Course, is also a great way to get your foot in the door. 

Being able to use specific software or have a specific skill is more lenient. These are usually more of a “wish list”, so having a couple of these will help, but you can confidently apply even if you just have one or two (if you have none, that is a red flag). Always use your head – if you are applying for a Graphic Designer position but you do not have the required proficiency in Photoshop, that can be just as bad as missing the Education requirement.  

Cutting your job search short

confident business student

Just got his first call back

If you have been searching for a position for more than a couple weeks, there is no bigger relief than a call back or an invitation to an interview. Searching for positions to apply for, writing new cover letters, and constantly tweaking your resume can be an exhausting process, and getting that call back seems like a light at the end of the tunnel.

The only problem is when you decide to put new applications on hold while you wait to see how your interview goes. Before you know it, 2 weeks have passed, you finally send an email to ask how the interview went only to find out they went with another applicant. Now you are 3 weeks behind on your job search, with nothing to show for it.

How To Avoid It

To avoid this one, first you should understand the “Hiring Funnel“, as John Sullivan puts it. You were one of the 200 or so people who applied for this job, and the hiring manager picked out probably around 20-25 for a first-round interview. If you are one of these, you have passed the 90% mark, but you still only have about a 10% chance of getting the job.

If you are called back for a second round interview, then you know it is serious, but the hiring manager probably called another 4 or 5 people, so you are still only looking at a 20-30% chance of getting this job. Even if you hit the final interview stage, you are still competing with 2 or 3 other people. Until you actually have a job offer in-hand, probability says that you likely will not get this be their first pick, but there will probably be between 2 and 4 weeks between when you first get a call for an interview and when the final decision is made. 

If you are called back for a second or third round interview, you can safely put your search for new jobs to apply for on hold for a couple days to make sure you are fully prepared. The most important thing to remember is that your job search “isn’t over until its over”.

Applying for too many jobs

Exhausted job seekerThis pitfall is the opposite of the previous – you are so concerned with getting an interview that you tried to cast a very wide net and make sure you always have applications sent out. This is a common problem because it is also a productive habit. Maybe you set a goal for yourself to find and apply for one new job every day, or spend 8 hours searching for a job every week.

The problem does not usually come up until a couple weeks of trying to meet your “quota”. As you move farther into your job search, the grind of constantly finding and applying to jobs will begin to wear on you, and quickly. This means you are much more likely to start cutting corners (not properly optimizing your resume for keywords and the job you’re applying for), make mistakes (more typos, less likely to follow your checklists), and apply for jobs for which you are not fully qualified.

How to avoid it

This might be the hardest one to avoid, if you are a dedicated job seeker. Setting goals for yourself is one of the most important ways to stay motivated and keep your job search running. It is equally important, though, to recognize when the grind is getting to you, and take a break.
If you have been at your job search for more than two weeks, ask yourself the following questions before you start to apply for a new job:
  1. Am I applying to this just to say I’ve applied today?
  2. If I saw this posting last week, would I have skipped it?
  3. If I got this job, would I probably quit within the first year?
If you answer “yes” to any of these, it may be a good idea to skip this posting and take a break from applications for a day or two, and come back with fresh eyes later.

Starting Too Late

out of timeAs we said in the intro, the job search process will last around 43 days for experienced workers, longer for fresh graduates. This application time is going to be stressful – probably a lot more stressful than any job you secure, so you should count your job search time as work. 

A very common problem with graduating students or people who are looking to leave their current position is that they do not start their job search before graduating/quitting. This is done for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common are wanting a “clean break” (some space between school and work, or between jobs) and underestimating the competition in the job market.

If you start your job search too late, the total time you will spend unemployed will go up, but you also increase the chances of making any of the mistakes above. If you get call backs for interviews right away, you will probably underestimate the competition and think that your break was justified. If you don’t get calls for interviews right away, you may begin to panic and apply for too many too quickly, without giving yourself adequate time to customize your application for each job you apply to. Either way, you will always wish you started the job search sooner.

How To Avoid It

A question we get all the time is “when should I start looking for a job”? The answer is always right now. Even if you will not graduate for another 3 years, start looking for jobs right away. You may not start applying, but you will get to know the job market, and the skills that employers are looking for in the jobs that you want. This will give you an opportunity to cater your educational path towards the skills employers want.

If you are graduating within the next year, searching for jobs now can help you find what certifications you can start working towards right away to get you a leg up over the competition. 
If you are graduating at the end of this semester, you should be searching and applying for jobs or internships as soon as possible. Companies generally hire entry level positions in cycles, so try to get any interviews you can lined up before you graduate.

Applying while you are still in school, getting ready to graduate, is also a great way to show initiative to potential employers.

The Truth About Internships

The internship season is upon us. It might be better to say that it never ended.

Some estimates put the total number of internships in the United States a bit over 1.5 million positions per year, and with new spots opening with every school term, students with an eye for work experience are usually keeping tabs for interesting posts opening in their area.

In fact, internships have become such a standard part of the college experience that your university might require it for your major, or assume that most students will partake on their own initiative.

What should you, the intrepid business student, be looking for when you start applying for internships?

The Value of the Internship

The most valuable benefit of an internship is, of course, getting some work experience under your belt, which is why so many students are keen to have one or two added to their resume before they graduate.

Internships are also seen as a great way to get recruited and have a job waiting after you graduate – making a great impression on a company you want to work for during your internship can help skip the line when they start hiring fresh graduates. Getting an internship after you graduate is also a tried and true method of getting your foot in the door.

We digress – these are the benefits you have heard about from every angle by now. What you might not know is how much the circumstances surrounding your internship will play out for your job prospects after you graduate.

Paid Versus Unpaid

Everyone would prefer an unpaid internship, of course, but you might be surprised at how big a difference it comes to whether you are paid for your work. The conventional wisdom over the last few years has been that the experience of the internship is the most valuable part of the experience, but paid internships offer a lot more than a bit of extra cash.

You get what you’re paid for

Paid internships are always better than unpaidEvery year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveys internship participants about their experiences. For students who undertook paid internships, all the common knowledge of internships applied: students graduated with job offers nearly twice the rate of students with no internships (63% vs 35%), earned far more in their first jobs ($51,200 vs $37,000), and generally benefited in every way that was expected.

Students who went with unpaid internships had a very different story. On the whole, they were barely better off in terms of job offers than their peers with no internship at all (37% vs 35%), and worse, they started at even lower salary points ($35,700 vs $37,000).

Why The Discrepancy?

fetching coffee

Should not be a major part of your internship experience

There are a few factors at play when it comes to unpaid internships. The first is that companies who tend towards hiring lots of unpaid interns are generally more strapped for cash than those who pay for student labor. This means when it comes to hiring, they are less likely to have many openings to offer even the best interns.

Another factor at play is that when a company hires an unpaid intern, they are making a much smaller investment in that student, so there is less incentive to make that intern be fully productive. This translates to less training, less important tasks assigned, and (most importantly) less incentive to keep them around after the internship expires.

This means that the job experience you get with an unpaid internship is likely much less valuable than a paid internship.

Are unpaid internships worth it?

Not worth the effortLower starting wages, barely better chances of getting a job, less interesting work while on the internship, why would students offer to work for free at all?

At the end of the day, the solution is not quite as simple. Taking an unpaid internship in finance is not the same as taking an unpaid internship in social services, for example. If you intent to enter a field where you simply do not see many (if any) paid internships advertised, the field itself may require unpaid internships as a proving ground. This is especially the case in industries like fashion and writing.

The truth of the matter is, though, that even in these industries where unpaid internships are the norm, you will probably struggle to find work after graduating because the industries themselves are so competitive.

Internships are only valuable if you gain work experience that will help you later in your career. If you cannot find a spot at a company that you want to work with, you may be better off sticking with the classroom and try to build up your resume through certifications or other training programs.

How To Land A Great Internship

Dress to impressWhen you apply for an internship, all of the standard rules for job seekers apply. Have a great resume. Write a killer cover letter. Be ready to crush your competition with a great interview.

There are some extra tips and tricks to keep in mind though. Companies generally hire interns in cycles, but the recruitment process to fill each internship starts an average to 6 to 8 months ahead. If you want to get an internship before you graduate, you need to start right now (click here to go to our internship search page).

Internships are also extremely competitive, moreso now than ever. Companies expect to hire fewer interns in 2016 than they did in 2015, so your pool of competition is getting fiercer. Be ready to apply early and often, and be ready for rejection (as with any job hunt).

What if I miss out?

If you try and fail to land an internship, it is not the end of the world. Per the most recent survey data, you have some things to take solace in:

  • You’re probably going to earn more after you graduate than someone who took an average unpaid internship out of desperation to have “something”.
  • Just because you get an internship doesn’t mean you have a secured job. After 1 year, workers who had no internship had more secure jobs than people who took an internship, but were hired by a different company after graduation
  • After 5 years, workers who had no internship at all had the most secure jobs (64.2% were still with the first employer they worked with after graduation)

Ace Your Interviews – Tips and Tricks

What separates a “good” job interview from a “great” one?

There are many factors that will work for or against you when you head in for an interview for a great job. Some factors you don’t have much control over, but most job interview “bombs” are very easy to avoid, if you know what you are looking for.

The Basics

Dress to impressTry to look at the interview process from the perspective of the hiring manager. Like we have said before, the average new corporate job posting gets over 250 applications – in order to whittle down that massive stack down to a final hiring decision, it is much easier to eliminate candidates for fairly trivial reasons than it is to try to find the redeeming qualities.

  • Show up to the interview on time. If you arrive too early, the interviewer will not be prepared to meet you, and may not have had a chance to fully look over your resume and come up with questions meant to better get to know you. Arrive late and you can mess up the scheduling for the rest of the day.

  • Be showered – a strong odor will leave an impression, but not a good one.

  • Dress appropriately. This can be harder to judge in advance, so err on the side of formality. Showing up for a job interview at a bar in a full suit can be just as bad as interviewing for a corporate banking position in a t-shirt and flip-flops. Doing some research on the company’s corporate culture can go far for this, since it helps if you already “look” the part of the person they want to hire.

  • Have a hair cut/shave. This does not mean no beards or big hair – just that you should rock the best look you have for the interview. Try to look the part they want to hire, not shock your interviewer. They should be impressed by our resume and responses, not at the first impression.

  • Know what you are there for. You will probably send out dozens of resumes, but before you get to the interview you should do some intensive research on the company, its background and corporate culture, and anything you can learn about the specific role or team you aim to join. The more at home you seem talking about the role, the better.

  • Take Notes. Bring a notepad and pen to the interview, write down key parts of the job position, and write down questions you have to ask. Taking notes makes you look more engaged in the interview, and having your questions handy means you are less likely to forget anything.

No – The Interview Stop Word

You’ve done it – your cover letter rose to the top of the pile, and you were called in for an interview. Everything seemed to be going great – you have all the skills and knowledge they were looking for, and the interviewer laid out all the responsibilities of the position. There are some parts of the role that you have not done before, so you make it clear you wouldn’t be comfortable doing that just yet, or you feel that it is not your strong suit so you would prefer to orient yourself towards other aspects of the role. 

Everything else went great, but you were shocked to get an email back the next day that they are going with another candidate. 

What Went Wrong?

Always try to think about an interview from the perspective of the manager who wants to fill a position. The manager has specific needs and wants for the candidate, but the most important condition is that whoever they hire needs to be able to fill the gap in the team. If you give the impression that you cannot (or do not want to) do the job they need, they will probably move on. This is even true if you are the most qualified candidate for the position. Most corporations would rather spend extra time training a candidate who is excited for a role than hire someone who does not want to do part of it.

How To Do Better

No, the interview stopwordWhen you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer’s primary concern is whether or not you can do that job. If they get the impression that there is something you cannot, or will not, do, chances are they will move on to another candidate. This does not mean you should overstate your qualifications or say you can do something you can’t. Instead, if there is a part of the position you feel under-qualified to fill, mention that you would need some extra training for that aspect.

When given the choice between an under-qualified candidate who is willing to learn and a fully-qualified candidate who does not seem like they want to do the job, managers prefer the first.

If you feel that there are aspects of the job that you truly would prefer not to do, you might not be a great fit for the position.

Ask Questions

Your interview is just wrapping up – the interviewer seems impressed by your resume, the position seems like a great fit for your skills, and everything seems clear for both you and your interviewer. Since you do not have any further questions, you shake hands and head for the door, confident that everything went well.

Unfortunately, they decide to go with another candidate.

What Went Wrong?

Candidates who ask just one, or none at all, can appear disinterested or incurious about the post. With great candidates, between 1/4 and 1/3 of the interview length should be dedicated to questions you ask the interviewer. If you are really “hitting it off”, this number can go up, but if you stop short, it is probably a red flag.

How To Do Better

Asking questions at your interview serves two main purposes:

Sets yourself apart from other candidates

Ace your interview by asking more questionsThe questions you ask are something unique to you, meaning this is where the interviewer leaves their prepared script. Asking questions makes the interviewer stop and think of a response, meaning it is one more hook that will help you stick in their mind later – interviewers are more likely to remember specific details about candidates who ask questions. The types of questions you ask will also set you apart from everyone else they spoke with that day. This extra edge is often what separates you from the rest of the pack.

This can also be a two-way street – you should have questions prepared for the interview, but beware of using “best questions to ask at an interview” lists. If the questions you ask seem a little too pre-baked or rehersed, the interviewer can get the impression you’re asking it just to have something to ask. This can suggest a lack of curiosity or disinterest. Using one or two “boilerplate” interviewee questions can work well to cover bases your interviewer has not, but make sure you come up with your own unique to the position.

Show Off

By asking certain questions, you can also highlight your strengths. If you have a set of skills or interests that have not yet been explored in the interview, having some questions prepared can set you up to talk about them. Do you enjoy writing? Ask about how much writing the position requires, and segue into how much you enjoy it. Asking the right questions is a great way to highlight any other skill or competency you think you have relevant to the job, but has not yet come up as part of the interview. Try to have a couple questions reserved just to talk about parts of the job you are most excited about to make a good impression.

Be Prepared For Common Interview Questions

You sat for your interview, but were blindsided by most of the questions the interviewer asked. “Can you tell me about yourself” left you rambling about your latest hobbies (of which he or she takes no interest).  When asked “How does this position compare with others you have applied for”, you were left stammering about how you already blew your first two interviews. 

You left the interview sure there was no call-back coming, and an email you received the next day confirmed your suspicions.

What Went Wrong?

Your interviewer will probably ask some of the same basic questions asked millions of times before at nearly every job interview. Candidates who have a thoughtful, concise answer will always look more polished than those grasping at straws.

There are two ways these questions can go badly – giving the wrong answer, and giving a rehearsed answer.

A “wrong” answer is one that sets off a red flag for the interviewer. If when describing yourself, you do not list any qualities they are looking for to fill the position, this can be a red flag. A “rehearsed” answer can be just as bad – the interviewer does not want to feel like you are trivializing the question and not putting any serious thought into your response.

How To Do Better

This one is very easy to prepare for, but most candidates overlook it.

Prepare for common interview questionsJust as you are reading this for tips on how to make a great impression during your interview, your interviewer is probably reading up on ways to filter candidates by asking the right questions on their end. This gives you an advantage, since you can easily look up common interview questions, and even some of the best ways to answer them. On the other hand, if you have prepared answers you can list off without a second thought, it can also come off as dishonest.

For example, one of the most common interview questions is to list your strengths and weaknesses. What interviewers want to hear is that your strengths are something that will specifically help with the role you are interviewing for, and your weaknesses are something you are aware of, are working to improve, and will not impact your performance at this role. This means that for every interview you sit for, the way you answer this question should be a bit different, but keeping with the same theme.

It also helps to practice interview questions with a friend, taking turns as both the interviewer and interviewee. 

Using Keywords In Your Job Search – Make Or Break Your Application

Keywords – the Achilles Heel of every student’s resume. Knowing how to craft a killer resume and cover letter that grabs employers attention (and keeps it) will only help once you get your resume in the hands of a recruiter. Unfortunately, today anyone can apply to just about any job anywhere, so that great new opening you have your eye on may already have dozens, or even hundreds, of other applicants.

How can you get your resume read, let alone rise to the top of the pile?

Enter keywords – your new job search best friend. This will help you float through the resume database (the “black hole” of the application process) and make sure your resume gets read by the right people, right away.

The Resume Database

paper stacksWhen you apply for a job, you already know you are not the only one. In fact, on average, companies receive around 250 resumes for each job posting, and only 2% of applicants ever get a call back. For the average hiring manager, they realistically are not able to read 250 resumes in detail and make a detailed “pros” and “cons” for each candidate.

In fact, the sad truth is that your resume probably will never be read by human eyes at all.

Machine Sorting Candidates

machine sortingBig companies looking to fill a position need to be able to sift through hundreds of applications for every job. Since they are typically listing dozens of jobs at any given time, that means they need to be able to sort through thousands of resumes every day. Even extremely dedicated HR managers who have every intention to give every applicant a fair shot would not be able to handle the sheer volume of resumes and cover letters coming across his or her desk.

To cope with this, systems called “Applicant Tracking Software” (ATS) have been developed. This system does two things:
  1. Takes all resumes and enters them into a database
  2. Allows the hiring managers to search, sort, and filter all applicants to narrow down the search

This means that the hiring manager is machine sorting through all the resumes to try to find candidates that push the right buttons. If your resume does not have what they are looking for, chances are that nobody will ever read it.

The Six Second Resume

the 6 second resumeEven if you get past the ATS, a study from TheLadders.com recently found that recruiters only spend about 6 seconds scanning a resume before deciding to move them forward to reject. This means that chances are, your resume will not be given its full time in the limelight even if it reaches human eyes. 

By focusing in on the keywords that the hiring manager is looking for, you can make those six seconds count. Draw their eyes to what they are looking for to maximize your chances at a call back.

Keywords – Search Engine Optimization

If you want to make sure that your resume pops to the top of the research results, you will need to make sure that it is easy for the searching machine to read. The easiest way to do this is to simply make sure your resume will have the words and phrases that recruiters are searching for! You are advertising yourself with your resume, so make every word count.

Think Like Google

Google Google is built on search engine optimization. Try searching for “Brown Shoes” and “Black Shoes“. Which websites are the highest in the search results? What is special about these pages that makes the search engine in Google think it is the best result for that search?

You want to be that #1 result when the recruiter is searching their database – think of the terms that the recruiter is most likely to be looking for, and make sure your resume features those words or phrases well.

Think Like LinkedIn

Linkedin - the professional social networkLinkedIn is the premier professional social network, and it includes a great resource to help pick keywords for your resume. Check the “Skills and Endorsements” section – these are all keywords that you can build in your resume. The more endorsements you can get, the stronger that keyword probably applies to you. Play your strengths and pick keywords you can back up.

Choosing Keywords

Once you know how to think like Google and hone in on specific words, and think like LinkedIn to figure out which best apply to you, the next step is identifying which keywords each potential employer is probably searching for. 

Take a look at this sample job posting found using the StockTrak Browse Jobs Tool:

Entry Level Sales, Marketing, Entrepreneurship
Mutual of OmahaBraintree, MA

Requirements: ‎‎-‎ Health and Life Insurance License or the ability to obtain one prior to your ‎start date- Obtain Series 6 and 63 or 7 and 66 within one year‎-‎ Reliable transportation-‎ Bachelors or Associates degree preferred, or experience in the industry- Appropriate legal documentation to work in the US. ‎Attributes: ‎‎-‎ Confident-‎ Self-motivated-‎ Goal-oriented-‎ Outgoing-‎ Adaptable A national financial services and insurance company, Mutual of Omaha has been in the business ‎for more than 100 years. With affiliates, the company manages assets in excess of $32 billion. ‎Our advisors are responsible for providing insurance, investment ‎products and advice to our ‎clients. ‎Whether you are just starting in the industry or want to further develop an existing practice, the ‎New England Division Office is dedicated to helping you toward many years of success.

There is a lot going on in this very short job posting, but you can very easily pick out some keywords to make sure you have featured in your resume and cover letter:

Entry Level Sales, Marketing, Entrepreneurship
Mutual of OmahaBraintree, MA

Requirements: ‎‎-‎ Health and Life Insurance License or the ability to obtain one prior to your ‎start date- Obtain Series 6 and 63 or 7 and 66 within one year‎-‎ Reliable transportation-‎ Bachelors or Associates degree preferred, or experience in the industry- Appropriate legal documentation to work in the US‎. Attributes: ‎‎-‎ Confident‎-‎ Self-motivated-‎ Goal-oriented-‎ Outgoing-‎ Adaptable. A national financial services and insurance company, Mutual of Omaha has been in the business ‎for more than 100 years. With affiliates, the company manages assets in excess of $32 billion. ‎Our advisors are responsible for providing insurance, investment ‎products and advice to our ‎clients. ‎Whether you are just starting in the industry or want to further develop an existing practice, the ‎New England Division Office is dedicated to helping you toward many years of success.

We have two tiers of keywords highlighted:
Orange words are ones that are easy to spot, but not very likely that the hiring manager will be searching for. These are the “Low hanging fruit”.
Green words are the important ones – key job requirements that the hiring manager is going to look for specifically. These are the “High value keywords”.

High Value Keywords

The Series 7 course is a great addition to your resumeThe “High Value” keywords are the core job requirements that the hiring manager is almost certainly going to filter for. In this case, the recruiter outlined several:
  • Health Insurance License
  • Life Insurance License
  • Series 6
  • Series 63
  • Series 7
  • Series 66
You will want to make sure your resume contains 2 or 3 of these at the minimum, in prominent positions that are easy to spot at a glance.

Low Hanging Fruit

these are easy keywords to addThe “Low Hanging Fruit” keywords are the ones that the recruiter specifically outlines in the job posting, but they are less likely to be specifically searching for. These keywords come in to play during your Six Seconds the first hiring manager is filtering your resume. If you have some of the buzz words they have in mind for their ideal candidate, you are more likely to get a call back.

The trick with low hanging fruit is not to over-do it. Pepper in one or two of these keywords, but if you hit on all of them (or too many too quickly), your resume can come off as disingenuous .

Customizing Your Resume

You probably already have a killer resume you’ve written. Your biggest mistake now is using the same one to apply for every job.

Once you have your keywords in mind, it is time to start customizing your resume for the job you are applying for. If you are a student just graduating from school, this can be tricky. Always keep in mind that you should only apply for jobs you are qualified for. If you are qualified, fitting in the keywords should not be a stretch.

Your Objective Statement

Your objective statement, the short sentence or paragraph at the top of your resume, is a great place to pepper in one or two of the “low hanging fruit” keywords. This helps set the tone for the rest of the page.

Qualifications Area

Your qualifications area is the best place to drop in any high-value keywords that apply to you. For example, if you are still in school, some of these phrases could apply:
  • Passed STC Series 7 Prep Course
  • On track for Life Insurance License
  • Completed Health Insurance License coursework

Avoid Fluff

Fuzz is something to avoid in a professional resumeA common pitfall of recent graduates starting their job search is a habit of adding in “puff pieces” or resume padding – these are words or phrases that make your resume look “fuller”, but do not add any relevant information for the recruiter. This tends to be an unfortunate side effect of padding to reach word limits on term papers and other academic writing projects, but it has no place in your job application.

Remember: the recruiter will only look at your resume for about six seconds. If your resume cannot be easily digested, the recruiter will most likely miss anything that was not at the forefront. Make sure they see what they are looking for as soon as they look at the page.


Jobs from Indeed


Jobs from Indeed

StockTrak New Features For Fall 2016

Everything you ever wanted to teach your next investments or finance classes

StockTrak Set To Launch A Completely Redesigned Trading Platform

The StockTrak Team has been working very hard to offer you the best stock market simulation and virtual trading application.

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The Research Center has been rebuilt from the ground up to make it faster and easier to do all investment research in one place.

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Refinancing Student Loans For Better Interest Rates

STOCK-TRAK’S Get Rich Slowly Tip:

Refinance Your Student Loan and Start Saving Your Cash!

A penny saved is a penny earned

If you want to get become wealthy, most successful people will agree it is easier to get rich slowly than to get rich quickly.  When most recent college graduates think about improving their personal wealth they tend to focus on making a higher salary and/or earning bonuses and commissions.  Sure that all helps, but for many people it is easier to reduce expenses than to get a pay raise.

One way to get rich slowly is to manage the interest rates on your loans.  People refinance the mortgages on their houses, but did you know you can also refinance your student loans?

Student LoanIf you have a student loan of at least $5,000 and are currently employed earning more than $24,000 a year, then you should take 5 minutes and see if you qualify to reduce the interest rate on your student loan.

The average student loan in in 2016 is $37,172.  If you had this amount of debt and could reduce your interest rate by 25 you would save $743 or $62 a month! Students with $100,000 can save $2000 a year or $167 a month.

If you have a student loan and a job, then this is a no brainer!


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