If you’re reading this, odds are you’re actively searching for your next job opportunity. Discovering a new listing at your favorite company can be exciting! You might have already found a job you’re interested in and can picture yourself there, happy and fulfilled, doing what you love in a supportive environment. But making this dream into a reality will take a bit more thought, finesse, and yes, hard work.
The application process is a crucial step to landing your dream job. It can, however, devolve into a repetitive and time-consuming grind with its fair share of disappointments. To avoid the worst-case scenario, remain focused on your objectives and stay confidant, curious and organized. Here are eight tips to help you get your job applications in order and get noticed:
1. Get Organized
When researching and applying to multiple job openings there can be a lot of details to stay on top of. This can feel like a daunting task, but with a few helpful tools, you can keep it all straight. As simple as it sounds, a spreadsheet is a great place to keep yourself on track. Here are some ideas on what to include:
A list of your favorite companies and links to their career pages.
A list of the opportunities you’re interested in applying to, and the organization that's hiring. Include deadlines, contact information, application instructions, and important details for following up.
Track jobs you’ve already applied to, the date you applied, and all related communications.
Keeping track of multiple openings and applications can get confusing. Using a tool like a spreadsheet will anchor you throughout the process. It’s also something you can keep handy for future networking and job searches. It’s much easier to reconnect with someone than to make a new connection.
2. Make it count
Only apply to jobs you're actually interested in. Seriously. Life is too short to be stuck in a job you don't like. Think about what really matters to you. Be selective and apply for roles at companies you'd love to be a part of. You'll be more authentic, naturally enthusiastic, and invested in the outcome - and it’ll show in your application and interviews.
3. Use your time wisely
Make sure you read the job description and application guidelines carefully. It’s important to understand what’s expected of you and to follow the instructions step by step.
Many application processes ask for more than a cover letter and resume. It’s common to see additional requirements like completing an application form, questionnaires, or setting up a profile within the company’s platform. It can be tempting to use quick-apply tools, but we urge you to avoid this trap. Some companies are very stringent about the way they accept applications. Also, if you don’t follow the directions, your application will most likely be filtered out and not even considered.
All of the details are important, so take note of the requirements and organize your materials accordingly. This is one of the easiest ways to increase your chances of making it through the first round.
4. Remember the basics
This isn’t new advice, but it is important. When you’re getting ready to apply to jobs, make sure you have brushed up your resume and formatted it so that it’s easy to tailor for different applications. Draft some content that you can easily build upon when writing cover letters for specific roles. And lastly, remember to use a professional email address. This doesn’t have to be a work email, but it shouldn’t be your old one from high school that was inspired by a nickname or some other obscure reference or interest.
5. Get specific
Once you have your standard resume and cover letter ready, the next step is to tailor them for each opportunity you apply for. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for candidates with relevant or transferable experience, so highlight past skills and experiences that relate to the specific job you’re going after.
Software also plays a role. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that search for specific keywords. When it comes to your resume, it’s advantageous to describe your experiences using some of the same key terms in the job description and application questions. Be honest, but be strategic with how you communicate your experience. You don’t want algorithms to filter you out of the applicant pool before you’ve even had the chance to get your foot in the door.
The same advice applies to your cover letter. Make it specific and talk about why you want to work for their company in that specific role. While this is time-consuming, it's well worth it. This effort helps you stand out from the crowd.
6. Prepare relevant work examples
Some applications require you to submit examples of your work such as a portfolio, writing samples, or a presentation deck. Gather examples you’re proud of that exemplify the kind of work you enjoy doing. These don’t need to come from past job experiences. Relevant materials that you’ve created in your free time, in school, or through volunteer work will also do the trick. Your work examples should speak for themselves or be accompanied by a well-drafted explanation to provide context. You might not get to present your work directly, so you want to make it as easy as possible for others to follow along. Make sure you provide these mate a format you can deliver easily - this will make the application process go smoother.
7. Get help when you need it
If you’re not sure whether your resume and cover letter convey your value and capture your personality, ask for help. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes makes all the difference. Did your college have a career center? That’s a great place to go for free (or at least inexpensive) advice. You can also ask a friend or colleague. If you’re looking for more formal feedback - consider working with a career coach or recruiter.
8. Be Proactive
After you’ve applied, follow up periodically and don’t be afraid to ask for updates. You shouldn’t expect companies to do all the outreach. When done mindfully, following up can work to your advantage. Be polite and respectful, and reach out at reasonable intervals (hint: daily is too frequent, weekly or every other week is ok). By keeping in touch, you’re demonstrating a deeper level of interest and staying top of mind.
Applying for jobs is a necessary part of getting the right position, but landing your dream job doesn’t happen overnight. This process can be a stress-inducing waiting game, but don’t get discouraged! While the search takes effort and dedication, it also helps you gain clarity on the type of work that’s right for you by seeing what’s out there. Staying organized in the application process will mitigate your stress and help you stand out as an applicant. Be proactive and remember that you deserve to find what you’re looking for. It’s out there.