Shelby L. Graves, MPH, CHES
My Favorite Job Hunting Resources (& Tips)
There are hundreds of resources, tools, and tips out there to support you in your public health job hunt. I’ve pulled together some of my favorite ones to help narrow your focus.
Image © Ico Maker
I’ve reviewed countless resources while pulling together guidance for myself and for past clients. My regular content no longer revolves around job hunting, but I didn’t want these resources to go to waste.
Let's be honest — the modern job market has some pretty absurd expectations and far too many hoops to jump through just to land an interview. Having the right resources upfront can save you a lot of time and stress in the long run.
This post organizes the most recent resources, tools, and tips I’ve vetted and found helpful for job hunting in public health. I’ve also sprinkled in some of my personal tips to accompany these resources. You can use this post as a starting point for finding:
Public health career accounts to follow
Free guidance for shaping up your resume and cover letters
Vetted advice on interview prep and follow up
Free tools to help organize your job hunt
Psst. Free spreadsheet downloads are linked below.
Public Health Career Content
Today’s public health Instagram community is a game-changer for job hunting. I can’t imagine what a difference this community would have made during my early years in the public health job market.
Take advantage of the current Instagram community to connect with fellow public health students and professionals. You can learn so much about the day-to-day in the field and make connections that last for years. A little support goes a long way!
Be sure to follow accounts that are centered on public health career content. There are quite a few offering sound guidance and helpful services to get you on the right track for your search. I've included a few examples below.
Check out public health career content from:
Public Health Connect (Opportunities specific to Canada)
Free Resources for Sprucing Up Your Resume
You’ve likely noticed that there are HUNDREDS of resume articles out there — often offering contradictory advice. I previously shared my personal recommendations for what to include within your public health resume in my post “Key Elements of Public Health Resumes.” But I also have a go-to list of hands-on guidance for crafting powerful resumes.
Take a look at the free resume resources below. Remember that this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it's a great place to start.
Resume action verbs. This helpful list of resume action verbs will make your resume stand out. There are many lists like this out there, so I encourage you to bookmark at least one or two to pull from when brushing up your resume.
Resume summary statements. This article walks you through the basics of crafting a resume summary statement (with examples).
Modern resumes. What should resumes look like today? Read the basics and review examples here.
P.S. Throw out that old school one-page rule if you have enough experience to justify additional pages. You can also throw that rule out if you're applying to an academic or traditional government role using a CV.
Resume job descriptions. Unsure of where to start when writing up your job descriptions? Start here.
Pro tip: Always save a copy of your current job description. You can pull from this when updating your "master CV" or basic resume.
Quantify your resume. This article shows you how to strengthen your job descriptions by quantifying your experience and accomplishments.
Tailoring your resume. Use this article to learn how to better tailor your resume.
I've also included my personal method for writing tailored job descriptions in the section below.
ATS-friendly resumes. This article includes steps for getting your resume through applicant tracking systems (ATS).
ATS match scores. This site lets you run your resume and any job description through an ATS. This gives you an estimated match score, which can help you identify where your resume needs additional tailoring.
Note: The site will give you a limited number of free scans within a certain timeframe. You can sign up for an account or use a guest email. I always used the free version with a spare email address.
My Personal Tailoring Process
You should always tailor your resume to the job description. This includes your resume summary, skills list, and job descriptions. Remember, it's quality over quantity. Here are the specific steps I use to tailor job descriptions:
Thoroughly review the application description. I always start by downloading or copying and pasting the job description into a Word document. I read through and highlight each key responsibility (including key phrases or words) within the job description. I also save this copy to a "job applications" folder.
List away. Before comparing the description to my current resume, I go through the highlighted key phrases and skills. As I read through, I list out examples of how I’ve completed this work in the past. This will come in hand for rephrasing or reworking my resume and for future interview prep.
Compare and contrast. I go through my current resume and flag all the key phrases and words already present in green. Then I go back and highlight the rest in yellow. That’s how I know which areas need to be rephrased or reworked to fit the job description.
Rework and rephrase. Now it’s time to make sure each remaining responsibility/skill is represented in my own resume. I do this by working in the same key phrases and key words from the description. This requires more than just copying and pasting the description into your own resume. You are using the job description as the base and building from there. See my example below.
Get an estimated match score. Once I’ve tailored my resume to the job description, I use the free Jobscan site to compare my resume to the description. This site will give you a match score to let you know what an ATS sees when scanning your resume on their end. I tell people to aim for 80% or higher. If you consistently get 50% and below, check to see if your resume's format is throwing off the scan.
Reworking and Rephrasing Example
You've already reviewed the job description and compared it to your experience. You realize you have performed each of the responsibilities listed in the bullet below (and more). You've just used different language and key phrases to describe this work. Now it's time to rework and rephrase the description.
The job description says:
“Coordinates meeting schedules, meeting agendas, background information, and presentations for ABCD's Healthy Communities workgroup meetings”
Your basic (untailored) resume description currently says:
"Plans, promotes, and facilitates XCHD's Local Health Improvement Coalition monthly workgroup meetings, averaging 30–45 attendees from 15 + agencies"
The next steps:
You need to rework your existing resume description using the key phrases and words from the job description in a way that accurately represents the work you’ve done. You can do this by adding specific outcomes, titles, subject matter areas, partnerships, etc. to build on the job description phrasing.
The tailored resume says:
“Coordinates meeting schedules, meeting agendas, venue space and catering, background information, and presentations for XCHD’s Local Health Improvement Coalition monthly workgroup meetings, averaging 30–45 attendees from 15+ agencies”
Let's see how it looks when we break it down:
You can see how this process goes beyond simply copying and pasting the job description into an empty resume. This hits each of the key phrases from the job description and quantifies the relevant work you did for that particular responsibility. Using this process will give you a much higher ATS match score.
Free Resources for Writing Cover Letters
I’ve shared my personal guidance for cover letters in my previous post “So You Don’t Want to Write a Cover Letter?." I’ve also included free resources below to use while brushing up your cover letters.
My three favorite free cover letter resources:
How to Write a Cover Letter. Confused by cover letters? Get back to the basics here.
5 Steps to Writing a Cover Letter. Check out these quick steps for writing a cover letter. They are short and simple.
Best Cover Letter Tips. Want more? This Muse guide goes beyond the basics.
Resources for Interview Prep
You’ve made it through the screening process and it’s time to prepare for the interview. You will find just as many conflicting pieces of advice when reviewing interview guidance as you will when reviewing resume tips. This can really throw you off your game if you’re unsure of where to start or who to trust.
My two favorite interview resources include:
Career Contessa Interview Guide. This is my favorite free comprehensive guide out there. I recommended downloading their interview workbook as well.
Big Interview. This is a really awesome job interview platform with tips, practice videos, and more. Anyone with an active APHA membership should be able to create an account for free. The “tell me about yourself” and “bad interview advice” resources are especially helpful.
My favorite resources for specific interview topics:
Muse Guide to the “Tell me about yourself” Question. Use the formula they list here. It WORKS! Write it out. Practice it. Get to the point where it feels conversational.
How to Use the STAR Interview Response Method. This is a great overview of the STAR interview method (with specific examples). Practicing the STAR method will help you to stay focused when answering interview questions. Shout out to my fellow ramblers out there.
Muse Guide to Answering the 31 Most Common Interview Questions. This guide will help you think outside the box when answering common interview questions.
Muse Guide to Virtual Interviews. If you need tips for set up, lighting, tech, etc., then this is the guide to use. Lights! Camera! Action!
Here are two of my favorite interview “thank you” templates:
Thank You Interview Templates. You can’t go wrong with a template. Just personalize it and press send!
Tips for Follow Up ad Thank You Emails. This resource provides details on how to follow back up, when it's appropriate (or inappropriate) to address things you wanted to say, and how to ask for next steps via email.
My Personal Tips for Interview Prep
My personal interview tips are aligned with the key resources I included above. After you've done your homework on the agency and role, you can start practicing for your interview. I've included my top three interview prep tips and my favorite interview questions below.
Remember that YOU are also interviewing THEM. Why should you choose THEM? It's helpful to write down reminders of the value you bring to the particular role prior to the interview.
Example: What are my top skills? What problems do I/can I solve? What is my "evidence" of this (i.e., concrete examples)?
Keep the interview conversational. You aren't taking an exam, you're both providing information to and receiving information from the panel. You're having a conversation about your experience and why you're considering bringing your skills to their team.
Brainstorm plenty of thoughtful questions prior to the interview. You don't want to ask ALL of them, but you do want to have a solid lineup to pull from. Many of the questions I would ask in an interview are the same, regardless of the agency. I've included examples below.
My favorite general questions include:
Can you tell me more about what a typical day in the life of a (POSITION TITLE) looks like?
What qualities do you think are MOST important for someone to EXCEL in this role?
What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the first year for someone new coming into this role?
How do you plan to measure success in the first 6 months in this role?
What are the next steps in the interview and hiring process?
Can you share a little more about the training and onboarding process for this role?
My favorite questions for government public health agencies include:
Ask a very SPECIFIC question about the work being done that CANNOT be answered with Google, within the job description, or on their website. You want to show that you understand the role and are thinking critically about the work.
How has your (TEAM / DIVISION) worked together throughout COVID and what resources have been made available to team members during this time?
How is your agency working to address health equity and racial justice? What specific actions are you taking?
Ask a professional development or collaboration question.
What do you personally like most about working in this (DIVISION/UNIT/TEAM)?
Tools to Organize Your Job Hunt
In addition to checking out the tools and tips from the awesome public health career content creators in our community, you can find free downloads for organizing your job hunt on my website. You never need to share your email address or personal information when accessing my downloads.
Bonus content alert: I’ve added a free job hunting spreadsheet download for organizing your applications, reference details, and previous work experience to my site. Feel free to tailor these sheets to your needs.
You've Got This!
Job hunting doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Between the amazing people in the public health Instagram community, free resources available online, and affordable services offered by our fellow public health pros — you don’t have to do it all on your own.
I’m no longer offering services, but I am rooting you on. I’ve also kept my content available for public access. This includes my previous career content on Instagram, my Public Health Career FAQs, and my blog. If you’re unsure of where to start, take a look at my Content Guides on IG.
Learning from my free content? You can can support new content by buying me an iced coffee on Ko-fi. Thanks for reading!