By: Lisa Meyer and Kati Sweaney
Have you been eyeing the NACAC Career Center lately? Maybe you’ve found that perfect next step — but what’s the best way to present yourself when applying? Here are four ways you can leverage what you already know about college admission to become a standout job applicant.
Focus on Outcomes
The most compelling admission claims are backed up by data. If you tell families your college offers internship opportunities, they’ll glaze over — but if you tell them 75 percent of students complete an internship before graduation, people sit up and listen.
Your résumé and cover letter should use outcomes in the same way. Instead of making broad statements about your achievements, quantify them.
- INSTEAD OF: Managed one of the university’s most important territories
- TRY: Entrusted with management of a previously underperforming territory and increased yield by 30 percent over a two-year period
What about accomplishments that aren’t easily quantified? You can still present qualitative outcomes by sharing illustrative details.
- INSTEAD OF: Experienced presenter with excellent communication skills
- TRY: Regularly selected as keynote speaker for high-profile campus events; praised by the vice president as the staff’s strongest public speaker
If you’re not currently job-hunting, you can proactively collect your outcomes data now. Record your yield rates, application increases, and other statistics annually and keep them for future use.
Know Your Audience
Hoping to show maturity and professionalism in your application? Look at it from the hiring manager’s point of view. Fellow admission professionals already understand your basic job functions, like interviewing, traveling, and evaluating applications. If you spend too much time detailing those, they may question your readiness for a more advanced role.
Try emulating the best student applications you’ve read. If a baseball player says, “Raised $500 dollars for new uniforms, worked with parents to coordinate a car pool for away games, and awarded Most Improved Player,” you get a great picture of what they would add to your campus. But if the same student simply lists practices, workouts, and field position, you’re likely to be less impressed.
If you did something particularly innovative with one of the fundamentals, definitely share it. Otherwise, don’t worry that your résumé is incomplete without a list of all your job functions — trust your audience.
- INSTEAD OF: Visited more than 50 high schools across the country annually
- TRY: Doubled the number of high school visits in assigned territory, leading to a 50 percent increase in applications from independent schools
Fill in the Blanks
Life happens, and it may lead to gaps in your résumé. Just like a student with a withdrawal in their course history, gaps are not a problem in and of themselves — but leaving them unexplained can be.
If you don’t explain résumé gaps up front, hiring managers may assume you don’t want them to know what happened. Your cover letter should provide answers to any questions your résumé raises. If you stopped working briefly or you left a position after a year or less, proactively explain it in your cover letter.
Hiring managers want to understand your story (just like admission counselors want to understand students’ stories) and if they know you took a pause to get your master’s or moved suddenly to help a family member, they won’t assume the worst.
The bottom line: the best job applications, like the best admission applications, are written with holistic review in mind. Look over your résumé and cover letter with the same eye you use to evaluate students — are you telling a cohesive, compelling story? Armed with your admission expertise, you can stand out from other applicants.
Lisa Meyer and Kati Sweaney are employed by the global search firm WittKieffer, a NACAC member. Meyer serves as a consultant and has more than 30 years of experience in higher education administration. Sweaney is a strategic sourcing specialist with more than 10 years of experience cultivating talent in higher education.