Do's and Don'ts for Job Seekers

Helpful hints for professionals at any level. Our team came up with this list to share with grad students in the education sector, but the advice applies to everyone!  Download Word Version Here




  • Make sure to be thoughtful and detail-oriented.  Hiring managers will judge you based on your written materials, especially in our era of online applications.  Represent yourself intelligently to get a better chance at making the first cut. 
  • Vigorously edit for grammar and spelling 
  • Customize your resume and cover letter to the job for which you're applying (and make sure to remove job-specific language if recycling an old cover letter!)
  • Organize previous position info so it's easy to understand job chronology 
  • Keep your resume and cover letter concise and readable. Unnecessarily detailed resumes and never-ending cover letters can be tiresome and overwhelming to someone who has dozens of applications to get through.
  • Use courteous, positive and professional language
  • Share specific examples to illustrate how you meet the job qualifications. Hiring managers and recruiters look primarily for substance and relevance in a cover letter and can see right through the fluff!


  • Submit your written materials without presenting a draft to a trusted editor. The most seasoned writer will still overlook simple mistakes and typos, so a second set of eyes is invaluable.
  • Include reference letters, personal statements, scans of notes and drawings from your students, diplomas, pictures of you with President Clinton, or any other type of extraneous document IF you were only asked to submit a resume and cover letter.
  • Attempt to wow your reader with details of your wacky interests and zany personality. It's important to be unique, but do so by outlining your specific qualifications, experiences and professional goals. Cover letters are not the same as college entrance essays. 
  • Use arrogant, negative, presumptuous or defensive language  
  • Put a photo on your resume (unless you're applying to be a model)
  • No quirky fonts please! 



  • Do be prepared and do your research!  Make sure to read through the organization’s web site and/or any brochures.  Read through staff bios and get a sense of the culture of the organization from pictures and videos on the web site.
  • Ask around to former colleagues or peers who may know something about the organization.  If you know someone who used to work there, even better.  They would be able to give you an inside scoop of what is going on internally, for better or for worse.
  • Prepare with questions you think may be asked of you during the interview.  Most hiring managers want to get a sense of the kind of work you have done and what results you yielded. 
  • Practice with a friend to answer commonly asked interview questions.
  • Be prepared for some non-traditional questions to see if you can think on your feet.  (i.e. If you were a kind of vegetable, what would you be and why?)
  • Keep your answers concise and to the point.  Don’t go off on too many tangents as you may lose the interest of the interviewer and come across as unfocused. 
  • Ask questions about the interviewer’s background.  Everyone likes to talk about their own experiences and how they got to their current position.
  • Be genuine and passionate about the mission of an organization.  If you truly believe in the organization’s mission, this will come across during your conversations.
  • Be honest and most importantly, be yourself. 


  • Be late to an interview or meeting of any kind.  Even if it is just an initial phone screen, you want to make a good first impression.
  • Be afraid to ask questions.  It can be a red flag to a hiring manager or recruiter if no questions are asked. 
  • Do not exaggerate your experiences or skill in a particular area.  A good hiring manager or recruiter will be able to pick up on inconsistencies.  The world is a much smaller place with all the on-line sources and your background can be investigated easily. 
  • By the same token, be careful not to be too modest about your accomplishments.  There is an important balance between being appropriately proud of your abilities and experiences and being over-confident to the point where it is inauthentic.

** Remember, interviewing is a two-way street.  The organization is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them.  Being asked to spend too much time on a sample work-related project could be a red flag for you.