Applying for jobs may be an intimidating endeavor, especially if you’re a new graduate looking for work out in the “real world” for the first time. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to make the process less stressful and feel more confident in both your applications to jobs you’re interested in and your chances of landing a satisfying position. Take a look at the job application tips we’ve come up with below to help you land at the top of a potential employer’s pile of applicants and get in the door for an interview.
Your resume is a summary of your professional and academic experiences up to the point of the job you’re looking for now. It’s a way to show an employer how you communicate your skills and how you market yourself, and gives that employer a picture of the kind of things he or she could expect from you on the job. It is crucial then to make sure this document is as professional and complete as you can make it, as some jobs will only require this one sheet of paper from you before they make a decision on whether to bring you in for an interview.
Your resume should be thorough but succinct. Most recent graduates shouldn’t turn one in that is more than one page long unless an employer asks for additional lists of experience. Spend some time making a list of action verbs that describe what you’ve done in prior jobs, even if those consist of part-time work to pay for school or unpaid internships. Consider the resume a pre-interview. What do you want the employer to know about you? What can you bring to the job? Once you’re done and have completed the requisite proofreading, have someone take a look at your resume with a critical eye, whether that’s your roommate, a career center counselor, or a former professor. It’s easy to skip over a spelling error after you’ve been staring at a document for hours on end, and such a minor mistake may send the message to a potential employer that you lack an attention to detail.
Before you even apply for a job, make sure you read the job description carefully. An incomplete application will surely land you in the rejections pile, so follow instructions as given. If a job description tells you to email your materials, don’t assume that mailing them in will lead to a better impression. It’ll only show your potential employer or hiring manager that you can’t follow directions. The same goes with cover letters or writing samples. Market yourself appropriately, but don’t try to oversell. Don’t send 10 samples if the description asks for five; you’ll appear indecisive rather than ambitious. Don’t leave anything blank if you’re expected to fill out an application in addition to your resume and cover letter unless it states on the application that leaving non-applicable fields blank is acceptable. Be complete and be neat. And, most importantly, proofread. Make a list of required materials to check off if you’re applying for a particularly involved position with a more complicated application process. The materials you send serve as a first impression, so make it count.
Whether a potential employer asks for just a resume or a more involved application complete with writing samples and a cover letter, tweak each packet you send out or email so that they are customized to each job you’re applying for. This may mean deleting experiences that are irrelevant to one job but important to another, or sending samples that fit one job better than another. Do your research and include a sentence or two in your cover letter that relates your experiences to the company or organization you’re looking to work for. Consider what the employer is looking for in an ideal employee by scanning the job’s ad, and highlight the skills and experiences that would meet those expectations. Your efforts will speak volumes to a potential employer who may sift through dozens of applicants at a time.
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