Have heard the expression “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” It’s true. Networking is a vital part of the job or internship search.

Who is in your network?

  • Macalester Alumni — The CDC will help connect you to alumni by major, location, occupation or organization name.
  • Family and friends
  • Professors
  • Coworkers and supervisors
  • Social media connections

How to coordinate an Informational Interview

Informational interviews help you gather background on your field of interest and gain additional contacts. It sets the foundation for your contact to watch for opportunities for you. You should not ask for a job in an informational interview.

  • Email or call to see if your contact is able to meet.
  • Treat your meeting like a “real” interview.
  • Come with questions. You need to drive the direction of the meeting.
  • Dress appropriately and be flexible in adjusting your schedule to meet theirs.
  • A five-minute conversation is better than no conversation–that five minutes might be more useful than an hour searching online for positions.

Typical informational interview questions:

  • How did you get into the field?
  • What are the qualities of people that are successful in this field?
  • What specific experiences/education does this position/field require?
  • Are there typical entry level positions/titles that I should be looking for?
  • Are there industry associations/LinkedIn groups that would be helpful for me to join?

Thank them for their time and ask, “The information you have provided has been very helpful. Can you recommend other people or organizations that might be helpful for me to contact?”

Always send a thank you note. Email if you don’t have time, but a handwritten card is always a nice touch.

Researching an Organization or Industry

Once you have an interest in an organization or industry, it is important that you learn as much about it as you can.  Several tools can help you:

  • Connect with Alumni — Do we have alums working at this organization?
  • Websites — Start with the company’s website, but also look at social media outlets. Company sites on Facebook and LinkedIn can provide a great deal of information.
  • Recent news or media reports.
  • Examine your own personal network to learn about any possible connections to the organization.

Finding Opportunities

While large online job boards like or CareerBuilder can be effective, there are many other resources available:

  • Industry-specific associations. Many organizations post on these sites as they are focused on a targeted audience.
  • Social media sites like LinkedIn with groups like Macalester Career Connection on LinkedIn.
  • Search agents. Many sites allow you to enter your criteria and will automatically send positions to your inbox
  • Metasearch engines. Sites like Indeed compile positions found on search job boards, in newspapers, and on association and company career websites. They can be an efficient tool to see an extensive number of opportunities on one site.

Resume and Cover Letter

Download Resume Guidelines

A resume is a one- or two-page summary, highlighting your skills, education, and experience. Its goal is to help you obtain an interview.

  • Style AND substance. You will need both for a successful resume.
  • Consistency is critical.
    Saint or St., periods or no periods, margin size, even date dash size and spacing: It all matters.
  • Differentiate. Use varied font styles for organization/school names and titles to make the resume easier to navigate.
  • Pass the 10 second test. Can the person reviewing your resume get a sense of where you have been and what you have done in 10 seconds? If not, change the format or content to ensure it does.
  • Some experience might be more relevant than others. Your paid positions might not be the best ones. Don’t minimize your volunteer or student organization experience.
  • Above the fold. Try this exercise: Fold your resume in half. Look at the items listed above the fold. Are they your most relevant skills/experience? If not, re-order to make it more compelling to the reader.
  • Action verbs. Use descriptive language to describe what you have done. Use “Analyzed,” “Created,” and “Implemented” instead of “Looked at,” “Made,” and “Completed.”
  • Add GPA if 3.0 or higher. If an organization doesn’t see your GPA listed, they will assume it is under 3.0.
  • One or two pages? If you are looking in the financial services or consulting field, stick to one page, but for most other fields the length of your resume should be dictated by the content of your experiences. Make sure you edit accordingly so it is no longer than in needs to be.

A cover letter is no longer than one page and is meant to be a quick snapshot of your experience and skills. While it may not always be written in three paragraphs, there are three key focus areas that need to be covered:

  • Introduction. Introduce yourself and explain why you are writing. Indicate what position you are applying for and state how you learned of the opening (2-3 sentences).
  • Why Me? Use this section to make a case for why you’re the best person for the position. Mention two or three related qualifications, achievements, or accomplishments that you think would be of greatest importance to the employer. Be specific and use examples (4-5 sentences, or up to 2 paragraphs).
  • Closing. Reiterate your interest in the organization/position. Close by making a specific request for an interview, including how best to reach you. Be positive and enthusiastic. Thank the reader for his/her time and consideration (2-3 sentences).
  • Cover letters are very difficult to write given space constraints which don’t allow a natural flow in language. Once you have worked through a draft, you can then customize it depending on the variety of positions for which you are applying.

Download Interview Guide

Prepare for an interview. You need to be able to articulate why you are interested in the position and why you are a good fit.

A common style of interview, the behavioral interview, seeks specific examples of how you have demonstrated a certain skill (analytical, communication, initiative, teamwork, or attention to detail, for example).

An effective framework to structure your answer to a behavioral question is called the STAR technique–break your answer into the following categories:

  • Situation/Task – What was the problem/project?
  • Action — What did you do?
  • Result – What happened?

Ask questions! Make sure you have several questions for your interviewer that will help you determine if the position is a good fit for you–not having any questions can put an awkward ending to an otherwise great interview.

Determine timing of the selection process–it is important for your sanity to be sure you are on the same page (you’re thinking two days and the employer is thinking two weeks).  Remember that time runs much slower for the applicant than the organization, and it is very common for the initial timeline to slip.

After the Interview

  • Thank you note. Most people don’t, so set yourself apart by grabbing a stamp and sending it off.
  • Follow up. If you have not heard back, contact the organization to get an update. Remember though, there is a difference between persistence and pestering.

After You are Hired

  • Close the loop. Turn down other organizations in a timely and professional manner.  It is a small world, especially in certain fields.  If you are in the interview process with another organization, try to match up the timing to avoid accepting one position while waiting on the decision for another.
  • Build your reputation each day–show up on time, be flexible to work extra hours when you can, do things that are not on your “job description.” Make yourself irreplaceable.
  • Keep building your network, both from within and outside your organization. It will benefit you in your current role and future one