Been kicking around a rather mild form of writer’s block, but I’m back with more job search advice! Today’s topic: what to actually do to apply for a job in the most effective way.
- Update your resume. Make sure all of your recent / relevant positions are included and the start and end dates are correct, then use online tools such as my toolbox (and there are tons of other websites with great advice!) to make your resume as appealing as you can.
- Make a list. It won’t look like you’re organized or know what you’re doing if you apply to the same role several times. The recruiter will notice this and may think you are desperate (you never want that to come across, even if you may be in dire need of a new job.) Keep a detailed list of each position you applied for, the link to the job description (so you know what the recruiter’s talking about when they call you), as well as an updated status if you know for sure you were rejected, had a phone screen, or went in for an interview. It only takes a few extra seconds and could make you look much more professional.
- Read the ad carefully. Do you meet the skills and/or experience requirements? If not, by only a little or by a long shot? If you’re nowhere near what the ad asks for, you’re wasting your time applying (and most likely the sourcer/recruiter’s too.) Also, does the ad specify how to apply? Are there application instructions? Do you need to email someone your resume instead of clicking on the big red “Apply” button? Do you only need a resume and no cover letter? Paying attention to these details will demonstrate your attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, and ultimately give you a leg up.
- Tailor your resume and cover letter to each position. For your resume, this does not mean only add new bullet points with phrases from the ad to each position, if you do that you will end up with a 3-page resume. Instead, take out the bullet points that don’t relate to the ad (or take out whole positions — just leave the title, start and end date, and one bullet point summarizing what you did), and summarize less important points. For the cover letter, do something similar. You can probably keep your first and last line, but change the info in your cover letter to show you have the skills this specific company is looking for (not all of the others you applied to as well.)
- Beware of typos. Are you applying Facebook but your cover letter and resume say you want to work at Google? Small details like that aren’t going to help you position yourself as a top-notch candidate.
- Follow up. Didn’t hear back? Give it 4 work days and email/call/LinkedIn InMail. If there isn’t any contact info listed anywhere, then unfortunately they just don’t want you to reach out. In that case, I would assume you were not selected for interviews and move on. *Ideally, you should still have been applying to other positions while you waited anyway, and it will be an even more pleasant surprise if you hear back 2 – 6 weeks later!
- Research. Once you’ve applied, be prepared to get a call from someone at the company. They may ask you why you’re interested in working for them so take a few minutes to look at their website, their values, their culture… those will often showcase the unique traits that make a company more desirable to work for. Also, do take a close look at the job description. If you can sell your desire to work for the company as well as your interest/passion for the position you will be all the better off for it!
- Look inwards. You should eventually be invited to interview for a position, and you will have some more wonderful preparation to do. Take 20 – 30 minutes to research commonly asked interview questions (achievement you’re most proud of, strenghts & weaknesses, what you could improve on…) and come up with thoughtful and honest, but also flattering, answers.
- Try, try again. Very few people get hired for the very first position they apply for, so set aside 15+ minutes to apply to 1 or more positions each day. As your applications add up, you should start receiving more and more phone calls and going in for interviews. Don’t despair if you don’t hear back from the first few though, keep applying! Sometimes it takes a little while for recruiters to go through all of the candidates who applied in (especially considering most work on 10+ reqs at a time!) and you may simply not be the best fit for every position you apply for.
In short, be ready to sell yourself as soon as you are called in response to an application, and don’t despair or take it personally if you don’t hear back.
*** Like this article? Check out my Job Search Toolbox for more great tips! ***