Applying for -- and finding -- a job in today's employment market involves far more than just filling out a job application. In fact, the process starts well before you reach that step. Put the word out that you're looking for work, actively network with people in your area and develop an impressive resume. Ensure your social media and professional online profiles are current. Make looking for the right position your full-time job. When you find a job that appeals to you, take a comprehensive, accurate and timely approach to the application process.
When you find an attractive job, carefully review the job description and the stated qualifications for prospective candidates. Don't stop there: Read up on the company and check out its website to learn more about its products, operations and philosophy. If you have any contacts at the company, talk to them about the corporate culture and whether they like working there. If there's an opportunity to visit or tour the facilities, take advantage of it. Compare the results of your research and your skills and abilities against the job requirements to make sure you are truly qualified for the position.
Connect the Dots
Your application, resume and cover letter should highlight the experience you have that corresponds most directly to the main requirements of the job. You need to sell the recruiter on your qualifications. Focus on skills and accomplishments, rather than just listing past duties. Use the keywords in the job description when discussing your experience to prevent your application or resume from being immediately discarded. And don't overstate your experience: If the job calls for 5 years of senior management experience in a corporate environment and your management experience is limited to a summer jobs managing fast food employees, don't claim to meet that requirement.
Like school math problems, gourmet recipes or a build-it-yourself chair, failing to follow the instructions on how to apply for a job exactly can result in a less than desirable outcome. At a minimum, mistakes on your application might signal a carelessness unlikely to impress a prospective employer. More likely -- and far more seriously -- an incomplete application will keep you from being considered for the job. Complete every item on the application accurately, even if you don't think it's important or relevant. And yes, spelling and legibility do count.
You won't even get to worry about your appearance making the right impression in an interview, if your resume and cover letter don't make a solid professional impression first. Prospective employers often decide in the first six seconds of looking at your resume, whether you'll make the cut for further consideration, according to a 2012 study by career experts The Ladders. Your resume should be clear and concise, highlighting your most significant and relevant experience, while your cover letter should grab the reader's attention by making a direct link between the job's requirements and your abilities to meet them, according to Randall Hansen of Quintessential Careers.
You're not done with the application process once you've submitted the application. Keep yourself in the recruiter's mind by personally following up within a week to ensure he received your application and answer any questions he has. However, if the instructions specifically direct applicants not to call or email the hiring official, respect that admonition.
- Quintessential Careers: A Job-Seeker's Guide to Successfully Completing Job Applications
- CareerOneStop: Ways to Apply
- Forbes: How to Apply for a Job Online
- Money-Zine: How to Apply for a Job
- Forbes: How To Make Them Respond When You Apply For A Job Online
- Careerealism: 5 Things You Must Do Before Applying For A Job
- The Ladders: Keeping an Eye On Recruiter Behavior
- Photo Credit i_frontier/iStock/Getty Images
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