When a recruiter or hiring manager looks at your job application, the goal is not to make them play a game of trying to figure out who you really are. You should make it easy for them. Your application should be so crystal clear about who you are and why you’re the right fit that a brief glance will immediately land you in the “contact” pile instead of the “reject” pile.
To help you make sure every job application you submit this year and beyond is in tip top shape, here’s our ultimate cheat sheet of five job application essentials to tick off for every single job you apply to.
Tip #1: Put in that extra effort when creating your Cover Letter
Chances are that you’re not the only one applying for that job, and the truth is that a cover letter can make the difference between two equally qualified candidates. Even if a cover letter is marked as optional in the company’s application, always include one.
Quick Tips to Consider:
- Do your best to find the decision maker’s name (hiring manager, recruiter, etc.) and use it in the greeting. If it’s not available, use “To the Hiring Manager,” and always use a colon after the salutation. If it’s an email message, you can use a comma.
- Keep your cover letter short. Think three or four paragraphs.
- In the first paragraph, explain why you’re writing (How did you find out about the job? Are you answering an ad? Were you referred by someone who told you the company was expanding? Did a current employee network with you?).
- In the middle paragraphs, tell the reader why you’re a good candidate while showing them that you’ve researched the company. This is a good place to share a story (think problem, idea, solution, and outcome) that highlights how you can be an advantageous player there. This is also a good place to share your passions and why the job is the perfect fit for you. You can use bullet points or paragraph form when sharing your accomplishments, qualifications, and personal interest in the role.
- Finally, finish your letter by indicating that you’ll follow up in the future and sign off with “Sincerely,” followed by your full name.
- Include your cover letter as an email attachment or use it as the actual text of your email message if you’re contacting a decision maker directly.
- If you’re very interested in a role and haven’t heard in a few days, consider mailing a hard copy of your cover letter to the hiring manager. Attach a handwritten note to the signed cover letter that simply says, “I’m very interested; second submission.” If you’re afraid this strategy is aggressive — don’t be. Recruiters call this “double hitting” and say it works incredibly well for landing interviews.
Tip #2: Create a personalized Addition to the Job Application to stand out
If you’re applying to a job that regularly requires the production of industry-specific deliverables, consider including that in your application. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic design project, attach a few of your very best portfolio samples that are relevant to the work you know the company needs.
If you’re applying as an analyst to a real estate firm, attach a spreadsheet with complex data that you created for an economic class or, better yet, one that you created from scratch to analyze the value of homes in the company’s market. If you’re applying as a journalist, attach copies of your published work, or one of your best mock news pieces from the classroom.
Tip #3: Steer clear of repeating the same Resume for every Job Position
At first in my young career, I made the mistake of sending the same resume to every single company that had a role I was interested in. More recently, I decided that it was necessary to create three different resumes, with one for each vertical I was interested in. Now I have sent a different resume for every single company I’ve applied to in the last five years.
Quick Tips to Consider:
- Think of your resume as a marketing document.
- Don’t give the same weight of detail to every single job. Emphasize experiences that are the most relevant to the position you aspire to fill.
- Highlight the parts of your previous jobs and internships that involved projects you know will be a part of the job you’re applying for.
- Don’t be afraid to leave out or briefly summarize volunteer, job, and internship experiences that aren’t relevant.
- Quantify your results with numbers to show how you made an impact in hard numbers
- Incorporate keywords. Just like search engine optimization helps articles get found by Google, keywords help you get found by recruiters’ software.
- Format your resume so that it’s easy to read on paper and as a .PDF. Even if you send your resume via email, many employees still print them out for ease of reading.
- Make good use of bullets, bold text, and white space. Create a crisp, clean look that’s professional and impactful.
- Include a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile or a website with your portfolio.
Tip #4: Do Your Own Research
Many interviews and job application questions are designed to help companies understand how successfully you could approach common scenarios that come up on the team you’re applying to.
Familiarize yourself with the company, the department, and the specific team you’re applying to. A good place to start is the company’s PR page, which can usually be found from the homepage of the company’s website. Use Google News to see if there are any recent news articles about the company.
If you’re at the application stage, display the knowledge you’ve learned in your answers to questions and in the success stories you choose to share. If you’re interviewing, find a way to show the interview team that you’ve taken your time to research the company, but don’t act like you know everything about it.
Tip #5: Make an effort to stand out and let the firm know why you are different
Other ways to stand out with your application and before or after the interview include the following:
- Ask thought-provoking questions during the job interview that display your knowledge of the vertical.
- Reference a recent news piece featuring the company, department, or industry.
- Acknowledge obvious gaps in your resume that you highly anticipate the person seeing, and persuasively explain how you’re a good candidate.
- Provide hardcopies of your resume and the most impressive pieces of your portfolio to every interviewer.
- Leave off on a good note. Genuinely thank them for the opportunity and let them know you’re enthusiastic about the role.
- Appear confident. Practice your interviews with family members and friends.
Remember that your job application is just one slice of the larger pie. Credentials are important, but motivation is underrated. In other words, you want to pull every lever possible to display to the company that you have the drive to think creatively, work collaboratively, and continue learning while you’re there.
When considering your next career move, plan proactively and create Portfolios that include your best work. Consider looking into finding a mentor with Architect-US, and improving your Portfolios with our Portfolio Plans and Career Advice Program. We provide coaching and personalized mentorship, so you can have a professional and experienced take on your next steps in your career, as well as a great team to confide in.