Apply for the Job
The more attention you pay to contacting an employer,
applying for the job, and following up on your application,
the greater your chances of getting an interview.
These days, employers can be very choosy about whom they hire, because of
- fewer available positions
- many more job seekers for each position
To have a good chance of being hired, you must clearly "stand out" in the employer's mind as compared to other applicants. This includes any and all kinds of communication you have with the employer
- in writing (on paper or on the computer)
- on the phone (in direct conversation or when leaving or answering phone messages)
- face-to-face (including what you say, how you look, and how you act during the interview or other direct contact)
In starting your getting-hired effort, it's quite acceptable (and highly desirable) to simply phone or even visit the company's employment office and ask, in so many words, if they have any jobs open in your particular area.
If a job is available, you'll almost always be asked to submit a formal application. This can include:
- a cover letter and attached resume
- a standardized paper application form
- a computer-based application that you fill out online
It's very important to realize that--up until your actual interview--the only information the employer has about you is what appears on your application. In other words, “you” are nothing more than what the employer sees on the paper or the computer screen.
When the employer looks quickly over your application (along with many others that are coming in at the same time), his or her impression of you will strongly depend on how much care and effort you have put into filling it out.
Below are some things employers notice about an application (in addition to the actual facts about your work experience and skills):
- For any paper applications: are they clean, neat, legible, and without any stains or smudges?
- Are the questions and answers in the right place (in other words, did you follow the instructions about what information should be provided where)?
- Is everything spelled correctly? Are there any grammar mistakes?
- Does all the information make sense and is it logical?
For example, if on your application you write something like “I worked at Acme, Inc. for five years from 1990-92,” this would suggest you don't care very much about getting dates or other important details correct. This in turn could make the employer think that the same sloppy attitude would carry over into your performance on the job.
In addition to working on your application very carefully, you should ask someone who is very good at filling out official forms and paperwork to closely review it for neatness, accuracy, and overall appearance. For computer-based applications, you should ask this person to sit with you at the computer and help check things over thoroughly before you click the "Submit" button!
You can save a lot of time and effort in filling out both paper- and computer-based applications if you first prepare a detailed data sheet with all your important information, including
- previous employment (length of employment, position, duties, etc.)
Refer to this sheet every time you fill out an application (so you don't have to reinvent the wheel!), and progressively add to the sheet any further information that is asked for in other applications that you fill out.
Some other recommendations:
- Whenever possible, ask for two copies of the application (so you can make and review a first draft)
- Use a black ballpoint pen (not pencil)
- Carefully proofread the final version
- If possible, make and keep a photocopy for your own records
Exercise: Who do you know who could give you good advice about filling out job applications and help you carefully review them?
In addition to a carefully written and correctly filled-out application, many employers will require an accompanying copy of your personal resume. Click on All About Resumes for information and specific recommendations on preparing a stand-out resume.