Job search and application strategies
When deciding whether or not to apply to a job, consider the opportunity as a whole. This includes how it will build your transferable skills, connect you to professionals in the field, give you experience with an employer or industry, build your network and provide financial stability. Check out this section for guidance and effective strategies that can help you job search successfully.
Our career counsellors can help support your career decision-making. Book an appointment on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Appointments > Careers.
Our job search workshops and Q&As will provide you with the guidance, tools and strategies to make your job search more effective. Check out OSCARplus for the following online sessions.
- Accommodations and Disclosure in the Workplace
- Career Fair Prep
- Job Search Strategies
- LinkedIn Lab
- Preparing for Interviews
- Resume Lab
- Summer Job Search
- Transition to Work
It’s natural to feel a lot of pressure when writing a resume and cover letter. In just a few pages, you need to persuade the hiring manager to consider you for the next stage in the process — an interview. Don’t worry, our resume critiques and cover letter feedback can help you prepare a successful application so you can progress in the selection process.
Get objective feedback
One of the keys to writing an effective resume or cover letter is to get a second opinion and check that everything reads smoothly and makes sense to others.
- Resume and cover letter critiques: Get objective feedback on your application materials from a trained peer. This will help you create a polished and concise resume that will resonate with employers. Book a resume critique on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Appointments > Careers.
Preparing a successful application
Before you start writing, do your research. Review the full job description so you know what skills, experiences or qualifications to highlight in your application. Research the organization or department so you can discuss how your values and interests are a match.
As you prepare your resume and cover letter, consider the elements of a successful application:
- Honesty: Building trust with an employer starts with the resume. Be honest and straightforward.
- Formatting: Many employers use software to scan applications. Use a simple resume format and a descriptive file name. Save as a .TXT .RTF .DOCX or .DOC file.
- Accomplishments: Use effective statements to describe your accomplishments. Use active verbs and confident language to describe your contributions and the outcomes.
- Consistency: Stick to your style choices on capitalization, punctuation, number form, grammar and more.
Your online presence matters in your job search. LinkedIn is an effective tool that can help you connect with professionals, search for jobs, conduct job market research and more.
Get support as you create your profile
Learn about the elements of an effective profile and get interactive support at our LinkedIn labs. Check OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events for dates and registration.
Making connections on LinkedIn
- Follow companies and groups: Stay up-to-date on current events, industry trends and job opportunities in your industry.
- Engage with your peers: Endorse others for their skills, make recommendations and like posts and updates.
- Share your accomplishments: Feel free to publish posts and articles to share your projects.
- Join our LinkedIn group: Connect with our career experts and your peers.
Getting an interview is exciting, but it’s not the end of the application process. In order to be successful, you need to do the work to get prepared and develop your interview skills.
- Do your homework: Research the organization and position details, and learn about industry trends.
- Practice, practice, practice: Reflect on your experiences and practice explaining how your skills relate to the position responsibilities.
Interview dos and don’ts
- Do: Ask for more information about the position responsibilities if the job description was unclear.
- Do: Ask what happens next in the application process.
- Do: Send a short and personalized thank-you email within 24 hours after the interview.
- Don’t: Ask about wage, salary or benefits in the interview. You can discuss these details if you get an offer.
- Don’t: Ask about information that’s already stated in the job description or listing.
Build confidence with Big Interview
Big Interview is a comprehensive interview practice tool that will help you build confidence and develop your interviewing skills. Choose from a large database of interview questions to create your own practice sets that fit with the opportunity, occupation or interview type you’re preparing for. Take advantage of Big Interview to prepare for work interviews, professional school interviews, clubs, volunteer opportunities and more.
Networking may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. To put it simply, networking is connecting with people who share your professional interests. Informational interviews, coffee chats, LinkedIn connections and meetings are all different types of networking.
Through networking, people can offer advice, share their experiences and connect you with other people who might be able to help you meet your career goals.
Getting ready to network
- Know your career story: How have you shaped your career plan? Be ready to discuss your experiences and interests.
- Do your research: Learn a bit about the person’s industry or positions so you can discuss more than just the basics.
- Be honest: Share your goals and discuss how connecting with others can help you.
- Give back: Return the favour by emailing an article, liking a LinkedIn update, etc.
Alumni and Partners Advisor Network
Through the Alumni and Partners Advisor Network, you have access to experienced alumni and McMaster community members who can offer advice to help you in your job search. Get started by setting up an informational interview or career conversation.
Negotiations usually begin at the official time of the job offer. However, sometimes salary expectations are asked for in a cover letter or interview. Before you start negotiating with the employer, gather information, plan your approach, consider different alternatives and viewpoints and prepare your strategy. Be flexible and realistic, and show your value. Consider the entire compensation package as a whole, not just the salary or wage.
Compensation includes more than your pay cheque; it may also include health and dental benefits, vacation and sick time, retirement savings plans and stock options, to name a few. When preparing to negotiate some things to consider include your previous experiences and skills and the geographical location and size of the company.
Job postings and fairs
Once you’re prepared, we can help you connect with opportunities that suit your interests. Check out this section to learn how you can explore and apply for different on- and off-campus work opportunities.
We post jobs on OSCARplus daily
Did you know that our careers and employment team connects directly with employers who want to hire McMaster students? Throughout the year, we post thousands of opportunities on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Employment > Job Postings. You can even apply for jobs through OSCARplus. New jobs are posted all the time, so it’s a good idea to check often.
McMaster Work Program
The McMaster Work Program (sometimes called “work/study”) gives students who demonstrate financial need opportunities to work on campus during the fall/winter terms and over the summer. To find out if you’re eligible and learn how to apply, visit the Registrar’s website.
McMaster Students Union (MSU)
If you’re hoping to gain experience and increase your on-campus involvement as you complete your degree, you might want to consider a position with the MSU. Check the MSU website for paid and volunteer, full-time and part-time positions.
McMaster Athletics and Recreation
The largest student employer on campus, Athletics and Recreation offers part-time paid and volunteer positions during the fall/winter school year and full-time seasonal employment during spring/summer in a number of areas. Visit the website to learn more and apply.
Job fairs are a great way to meet employers and learn about positions in different industries. We host several job fairs and events to support your job search and connect you with interesting organizations and opportunities.
- Fall Career Fair: This campus career fair takes place every year in September.
- Community Engagement and Volunteer Fair: Learn how to get involved in the community and gain experience at this fair, which happens every September.
- Volunteer and Part-Time Job Fair: We host this fair twice a year, usually in May and November.
- Connect to Careers Job Fair: This community job fair takes place every year in March.
We host company recruitment sessions to help connect you with employers who want to hire McMaster students and alumni. Sessions take place throughout the year, so visit OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Events often to view upcoming events and register.
Final-Year Recruitment Program
We’re here to support you as you prepare to graduate and enter the workforce. Throughout the year, we offer programs designed for you to explore your options, learn about different industries, network with experienced professionals, connect with companies and get hired.
Transition to work
So, you got a job. Congratulations! You may be wondering how to navigate what’s next, including workplace etiquette, professionalism, rights and responsibilities and more. Keep reading to find out.
The first few days, weeks or even months at a job are a learning opportunity — not just about your job, but about how the company operates. Observe and ask questions if you’re unsure about anything.
Maintain professional relationships with your supervisor and coworkers. Consider asking about…
- Workplace culture and norms: These can vary from company to company.
- Staff introductions: Are they self-directed or arranged by the employer?
- Email etiquette and communication: Ask your supervisor what their preferences are.
- Communication processes: These include sick days, appointments, vacation date, late messages and so-on.
- Supervisor interactions: How often do you need to check in?
- Breaks and lunches: Find out if there is a set time.
- Project management, priorities and time management: Find out what’s expected from you.
- Training and evaluation: Ask about the different processes.
It’s important to know about your rights and responsibilities as a worker in Canada. Review these resources to learn more.
If you need an accommodation or if you’re unsure if you should disclose something to your employer, Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) can help. These services are for students and alumni who identify as a member of an equity-seeking group or have barriers to employment.
- Accessible Involvement and Volunteering (PDF)
- Accommodations and Disclosure in the Workplace (PDF)
- What Is an Accommodation? (PDF)
- When to Ask for Accommodation (PDF)
The CAPS team provides individualized support to assist with all aspects of career development including exploration, preparation and the building of skills and confidence. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or book an appointment on OSCARplus > Student Success Centre > Appointments > Careers.