9 Tips for Landing Your Dream Job


It’s graduation season, which means a new crop of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young adults will walk across auditorium stages across the country (funny hat and all) and enter the workforce. If reading that sentence made you break out in a cold sweat, you’re probably a member of this new class, and we’re here for you.

Landing your first ever “real job” doesn’t have to be panic-inducing, but it does require you to do your homework—in most cases, no one is going to just hand you an employment contract if you say “please.” mental_floss spoke with Don Raskin, a marketing executive with over 25 years experience and the author of The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job, via email to find out what young candidates can do—and should not do—to stand out from the pack and get their foot in the door.


The unfortunate truth is that many, many qualified candidates will apply for the job you’ve got your eye on. So to stand out from the pack, Raskin says, you need to do something that clearly demonstrates your dedication and preparation. “The biggest issue I see that is problematic is having candidates show up to an interview with their resume thinking that is enough to win the job,” he says. “Did you bring a portfolio or did you come prepared to speak about a class relevant to the position you are interviewing for? I recently interviewed an entry-level candidate for an account job on our fast food account. She started the interview by telling me that she took a train 45 minutes to visit the restaurant in order to discuss her observations in our meeting. That was a wow for me.”


Raskin says that the most important part of any resume is the “experience” section—even for recent college grads who might not have a ton under their belt. “I am always looking for entry-level candidates who have very strong internships that are specific to the job they are interviewing for,” he says. “That tells me they have planned out their path to landing their first job properly, and those are the candidates I want to hire.”

What should you do if you didn’t intern during college (maybe you had a job or spent your summers volunteering)? “If you don’t have relevant internship experience, you want to emphasize in whatever work experience you do have that you are a responsible, hard-working candidate,” Raskin advises.


The general rule of thumb is that your cover letter should never be more than one page in length. But before you start fiddling with margins and font size, Raskin recommends keeping your letter even shorter: “I like cover letters that are no more than three paragraphs in length,” he says.

According to Raskin, the biggest cover letter mistake he sees is oversell. “Often, candidates throw everything they can into the cover letter in the hope that something will stick … When I get a cover letter, I want to see a brief opening paragraph about why they are applying for the job. Then, in the second paragraph, I want to read about work or school-related experience that is relevant to the position. Finally, in the closing paragraph, I want to see an indicated action.” By this he means a plan for following up. “The candidate should not leave it up to the person they are sending their cover letter to for next steps,” he says. “If you end with ‘and I will email you in one week to see if you feel, as I do, that I am a great fit for this position,’ you are more likely to get a reply.”


So you’ve got a resume and cover letter that highlight your relevant achievements—now, how do you get the hiring manager to look at them? You write a killer email cover note.

The temptation is to copy the first paragraph of your cover letter into the body of an email, attach your materials, and hit “send.” Resist it! Raskin says there should not be much overlap between your cover note and cover letter. “Remember, you are telling your story,” he says. “What you want to do is unveil the story in a way that captures the interviewer’s attention. In the email cover note, keep it brief but say something that will get the interviewer to open the attached cover letter and read it. If you say ‘and I worked for XYZ company in a capacity that matches the job you are recruiting for’ I am going to open and read your cover letter.”


If you follow the above advice, and if your experience truly does match the job description of the position you’re applying for, Raskin says you’re likely to be called in for an interview. When you come in for your interview, remember that it begins the moment you walk through the door—not the moment you shake hands with your interviewer. “You are interviewing for a job, and sociability is part of any work environment,” Raskin says. So “talk to the point of entry person, but know when to stop as that person has work to do as well. Smile at others in the company who walk by.”

Raskin says it’s not unusual for hiring managers to ask receptionists for their first impression of the candidate, so turn off your phone, put your book or magazine away, and make polite, engaged small talk. Then use the few moments you have to wait before your interviewer greets you to silently go over your talking points.


According to Raskin, the best way to combat interview nerves is to “Prepare. Practice. Close.” “It is the same way you feel when you go into a big test and you know in your heart of hearts you didn’t study enough,” he says. “Compare that with how you feel when you do study well—you can hardly wait to get into the room and take the test. If you prepared yourself and know all about the company and the people you will meet with, you should do well.”

Raskin says that usually the first thing the interviewer will do is ask you to give a rundown of your background and experience. Since you know this ahead of time, there’s really no reason to flub it. “Practice the presentation of your resume material three times, making sure you make eye contact and are not looking down at your resume during your presentation. By the third time you do this, you will be ready,” Raskin says.


Another common place young candidates fall short is the end of the interview. After you’ve asked your thoughtful, well-researched questions of the interviewer, you might say something like, “That’s all I have!” and let the interview peter its way to an unmemorable end. “You need to close the interview by asking if the interviewer believes you are a good fit for the job and when you will hear back from the company,” Raskin says. “That will give you a solid indication of how well you did in the interview.”


In his book, Raskin says the golden window (or, really, the only appropriate window) to send your interviewer or interviewers a thank-you email is within 24 hours and no longer than 48 hours. But don’t be too hasty: “I have gotten emails so soon after an interview that I wonder if the candidate wrote them in the elevator on the way down to the lobby. Personally, I don’t like this,” he writes in Getting Your Dream Job.

Take the time to personalize your thank-you note, and think of it as your final chance to sell yourself. “Your thank-you email should quickly highlight one or two main points about your background meaningful to the position. Be sure to reference some type of personal interaction you had with the interviewer,” Raskin writes. A good option is to send a link to an article you discussed in the interview, or answer a question you promised you would think about.


Let’s say you did all of the above and still didn’t land the job. Even more frustratingly, you got a standard rejection note that simply said, “We have decided to go with another candidate.” Raskin says that if this happens, you should definitely follow up by asking for feedback—that’s the only way you’re going to know how you can improve in future interviews: “The best way to phrase this is, ‘Thank you for letting me know that I didn’t get the position. Can you let me know what one or two things I can do better during the interview process that will help me land a job?’ It opens the door for the interviewer to give you some feedback without hurting your feelings.”

To learn more about Don Raskin and The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job visit or Barnes and Noble.

All images courtesy of iStock.

Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
job secrets
9 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Body Doubles
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Hugh Jackman and his Real Steel body double, Taris Tyler
Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

When you see the back of an actor’s head in a movie, it may not be the actor you think it is. In addition to stunt performers, most movies employ body doubles (or photo doubles) with a passing resemblance to the principal actors. While some body doubles are brought on set for specific skills—like helping an actor pass as a professional athlete—the job can often involve just being a body, whether that means being nude on camera, having photogenic hands, or appearing in place of actors who can’t be on set for some reason. Here are nine secrets of the job:


Body double Danielle Sepulveres has played the hands of other actors in plenty of roles in her career, on TV and in beauty commercials featuring close-up shots of her holding moisturizer or makeup. She’s drizzled dressing on salad in place of Brooke Shields. She regularly slides files across tables, makes lists, and pours wine in the place of actresses on The Good Wife. (She has also played Jill Flint's butt on the show.) “I knew only glimpses of my hands might make it into a shot, or part of my shoulder along with a wisp of hair,” she wrote of one of her jobs in Good Housekeeping in 2016. But she overheard the director complaining that her wrists looked “vastly different” than those of the principal actress in the movie, 2015’s Mania Days. “Luckily, I didn't get fired in spite of my wrists, but I wouldn't have been surprised had it happened.”


Yes, body doubles are often brought in if an actor doesn’t want to bare it all on camera. But they are hired for other reasons, too. For one thing, union rules mandate the actors get 12 hours off between when they leave set for the day and their next call time, so if the shoots are running long, the crew might employ someone else to stand in. Other times, it's a matter of particular talents. Most actors may be able to sing, dance, and cry on camera, but few also have the athletic skills to allow them to pass as a sports legend. In Battle of the Sexes (2017), Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King, one of the best tennis players of all time. To realistically represent King’s skills on the court, the movie makers brought in tennis doubles to play in place of Stone and her co-star, Steve Carell. Stone’s double was chosen for her playing style, which resembled King’s, and worked with King on-set to perfect her imitation. The effort was, according to The Wall Street Journal, a huge success. “Not only is the tennis believable, it’s a meticulous representation of the type of tennis played in that era: serve and volley, chipping and charging to the net, touch volleys and soft hands.”


When you are tasked with choosing a celebrity doppelgänger, you’ve got to keep egos in mind. “The choice reflects on the principal actor,” DeeDee Ricketts, the casting director for Titanic, told Vanity Fair in 2016. “We have to take into consideration that they can’t be too thin, or more beautiful, or too heavy, or too old, or else the principal actor will think, That’s how they see me?” Actors often get to give input on who will be their double, and sometimes have final approval rights written into their contracts. When she was being considered for the job of Janet Leigh's body double in Psycho's iconic shower scene, model and Playboy covergirl Marli Renfro had to strip down for both Alfred Hitchcock and Leigh herself so that they could make sure her body looked enough like Leigh's, as Renfro recently revealed at a Brooklyn screening of the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene. In the case of nude scenes, actors might even have final approval on what physical moves their doubles are allowed to make.


If you’re working as an actor’s double, by definition, you’re not going to have scenes with them, and so some body doubles never meet the stars they’re pretending to be. Danish actor Elvira Friis, who worked as a body double for Charlotte Gainsbourg (and her character’s younger self, played by Stacy Martin) during the racier scenes of Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (2013), never met the actor. “The closest I got to Charlotte Gainsbourg was that I was wearing her dress,” Friis told The Wall Street Journal.


But how much time an actor spends with their doppelgänger really depends on the role. Some actors spend plenty of time with their doubles on set helping them get into the role. In What Happened to Monday (2017), Noomi Rapace plays the roles of seven identical sisters, making body doubles a necessity on set. Rapace helped direct her doubles during filming, “as they needed to know how the star would play the scene for each character so that it would sync up when she performed the part herself,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Game of Thrones star Lena Headey (who plays Cersei) worked closely with her double Rebecca Van Cleave for a nude scene in the show’s fifth season finale. Headey walked Van Cleave through her character’s thinking and movements for each shot. Then, Headey did the same performance herself, wearing a beige dress that could later be edited out. In the final product, Headey’s facial expressions were merged with Van Cleave’s nude body.


Because body doubles are often only seen from the back or side, they may not look quite as much like their acting counterpart as you’d think. Brett Baker, who worked as Leonardo DiCaprio’s body double for Titanic, is several inches shorter than DiCaprio and seven years older. From the front, you wouldn’t peg him as a Jack Dawson lookalike. But with the same clothes and haircut, shot from above and behind, he passed easily as DiCaprio. Once Leo’s closeups were done, according to Vanity Fair, Baker was often brought in to stand opposite Kate Winslet as she played through her half of the scene. In some cases, he didn’t make it into the final shot at all, but still had to be on set for those 14-hour days.


With the help of technology, filmmakers can put their leading actor’s face on a body double’s torso, so they don’t have to limit their body doubles to just back-of-the-head or partial shots. This allows them to seamlessly meld both the main actor and the body double’s performances in post-production. That can allow directors to get exactly the scene they want in shows like Orphan Black, which features Tatiana Maslany playing multiple roles, or in cases where actors don't want to get totally naked on-camera. In rare cases, it can also be used to bring actors back from the dead. When Paul Walker died in a car crash midway through filming Furious 7 (2015), the filmmakers used his brothers and another actor as body doubles, superimposing computer-generated images of Walker’s face on their performances. Around 260 shots featuring Walker’s doubles appeared in the final cut.


When Matt Damon was filming The Martian (2015), he wanted to lose 30 to 40 pounds to portray astronaut Mark Watney after he had been surviving on meager rations for years. But the filming schedule made that impossible, so a body double had to be brought in for some shots. “I was going to lose a bunch of weight in the third act of the movie, then put the weight back on,” Damon told Maclean’s. However, as the schedule shook out, they filmed the NASA interiors in Hungary, then immediately went to Jordan, which doubled as the Red Planet for the film’s purposes, and shot all the exterior shots from the beginning, middle, and end of the movie, with no time for Damon to lose a significant amount of weight. The skinny body double isn’t on screen for long. “It was, like, two shots,” Damon describes. (Still, fans noticed.)


When it comes to nude scenes, sometimes body doubles are hired but never used. Veteran body double Laura Grady was cast as Robin Wright’s lookalike for State of Play (2009), but didn’t shoot a single scene. “I just sat in my trailer, ready to go, and then at the end, [Wright] decided to do her own scenes,” Grady told Vulture in 2014. “That happens sometimes. Sometimes they just get a body double because they think they might need one, and then all of a sudden the actress is comfortable and she’s like, ‘No, I’ll just do it.’ Or they change a scene and they don’t make it as risqué.” Don’t worry, though—the double still gets paid.

Visual Capitalist
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Looking for a Job? Here's the Largest Employer in Each State
Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

Whether you love or hate Walmart stores, they're a vital component of America’s economy. The big box store is the top employer in nearly half of America’s 50 states, according to a new map spotted by Thrillist.

Created by Visual Capitalist, a Canadian media and news firm, the graphic below breaks down the nation’s largest private employers, state by state. Based on data collected by the website, it excludes state governments and military bases but includes public universities, hospitals, and airports, in addition to other businesses.

Walmart reigned supreme across the South and Midwest, with presences in states ranging from Alabama to Wyoming. Together, the map’s data suggests, Walmart hires over 1.5 million Americans, including nearly 172,000 employees in Florida alone.

Health care was also big business, with hospital services making up the brunt of the local economy in states including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, and Minnesota. In Washington state, the airplane manufacturer Boeing dominated the local market, while MGM Resorts International employed 55,200 people in Nevada. And in both Maine and New Jersey, regional grocery chains like Hannaford Supermarkets and Wakefern Food Corporation helped locals pay the bills.

Check out the full map below.

A map of the top employers in each state, created by Visual Capitalist
Visual Capitalist

[h/t Thrillist]


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