Finding a new job can be an overwhelming prospect, especially given the current state of the economy and the rate of joblessness. It’s a likely bet that whatever jobs you apply for will have a lot of other applicants competing with you for that position—which makes your own approach all the more critical. It’s important that you make a splash and an impression, and present yourself as the best possible candidate for the job.
Searching for Positions
The World Wide Web offers a wide array of resources to help you find jobs you can apply for. In addition to the hundreds of job applications on this site, you can look at the classified job listings in your city’s newspaper for a solid start, but you should also consider looking at sites like these listed below to find jobs that are open for application:
- Craigslist—You may be accustomed to Craigslist as a venue for listing goods for sale by owners, but Craigslist also includes a comprehensive listing of job, categorized by type of position and industry in which you can work.
- Monster.com—This site was formed for the specific purpose of connecting prospective employees with employers who need workers, and the website also gives you a lot of resources and career tools to use in your job search. You can search the site for jobs by position title, keywords or skills, industries and categories, geography and location, or for individual companies.
- Jobs.com—Like the Monster site, this website allows you to look for jobs by location, by job industry, or by position titles. You can also create a profile and a resume with a user login which enables employers to find and contact you.
- Careerbuilder.com—When you open a personal account (for free) and make a profile for yourself on this site, you can apply directly for the listed job openings simply by clicking a link on the site. You can choose various notifications by email when employers post new positions that match your own skills.
Job Application Forms
Most employers have a particular form for job application, which they ask prospective employees to complete as a way of signaling their interest in the job, and displaying their own qualifications. Most application forms ask for basic information about your history of employment, your training and education, your phone number and email, your references from previous jobs, and other related information. If you ask for the application form in person, or if you turn it in personally, make sure that you dress in a tidy and professional manner that will make a positive impression. Your application itself should also leave a good impression, with neat printing and complete information.
A wide number of employers also post application forms online and we provide links to these throughout our resource pages. You can type into the interactive form and submit it directly from your home computer. If a job for which you’re applying is close enough, you should also consider going in personally after you apply, and asking for the manager so you can introduce yourself in person. It might help for the manager to be able to connect your face with the name on the application form, and might give you a leg up on other applicants.
Job applicants today have a whole new area of resource with the social networking options available online. With all sorts of different professional networking sites, including Ecademy, LinkedIn, Ziggs, and numerous other sites, you might be able to turn up references or leads to jobs, and build up your personal and professional relationships.
Another aspect of social networking which you should consider when you’re job hunting is what information is currently available to the public on your own social media outlets (including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, blogs, and any other publicly viewable sites) and make sure there isn’t any content that might make the wrong impression if a potential employer saw it. You no doubt use these media thinking of your social contacts as the audience, but anybody can see them—and these days every wise manager will do a Google search on applicants before even calling for interviews.
Creating a Resume
We cover this topic in detail both here and here. Some jobs will expect a resume from you rather than an application form (or in addition to that form). If you don’t already have a resume prepared, use any of the templates available online for free or accessible within word processing programs like Microsoft Office Word. You can choose the format from the many available, but be sure to complete all the informational areas, including job history, skill sets and experience, education, your contact info, and your references from professional contacts. If you have other relevant information, like special trainings, writing or publication, or other skills or accomplishments, you can add those as well. Once again, be extra sure that you don’t have any spelling mistakes or glaring errors.
Whenever you submit a resume and application, a cover letter is an appropriate item to add to your submission. For most applicants, writing a cover letter is the toughest part of the process of applying. The challenge lies in the fact that this letter isn’t just a matter of presenting information; it is also a sample of your written communication skills, and your chance to make a personal impression above and beyond the skills listed on your application and resume. Given its multiple purposes, the cover letter is something you should take time and thought in writing it.
Use a basic template for business letters, including the correct contact information and a greeting that is as specific as you can make it. You make a better impression when you use the actual name of a manager (or correct position title, at least) rather than a generic greeting like the classic (and off-putting) variation of “to whom it may concern.” When you use a more specific opening, it lets the employer know that you have taken the time to find out specifics about the company where you’re applying.
The letter’s actual content should deal with what you bring to the table in terms of experience or skills, and why the company will be better off hiring you than anyone else. Keep in mind also that you shouldn’t dwell on reasons why you need or want the job, except where that adds “value” to you as a prospect; after all, the hiring manager is more concerned about the company’s welfare than about your personal hopes.
Additionally, a letter that grabs hold of the reader, gets their attention, and makes you stand apart from the other hopefuls applying will help you make a splash. Make absolutely sure there aren’t any mistakes in punctuation, spelling, or grammar in your letter.
Letters of Reference
For some jobs, you just need to list some people (and their contact information) so the hiring manager can call those people and ask questions about you. For other jobs, they might request actual letters written by your professional references. When you choose your references, think about who is best able to talk (positively!) about your communication skills, technology knowledge, customer service quality, or whatever other job skills you have practiced at past jobs, and which are most closely related to the job you’re applying for now. With that thought in mind, you might choose different people as references for different job applications, if the jobs themselves require different skill sets.
Also make sure that your references are people who will speak positively about you. Don’t just ask for a recommendation letter; ask first if they would be able to write one about you that’s positive. It’s actually fairly common for people to make the mistake of skipping this question, and sometimes they end up with impersonal “form” type letters, or letters that are only lukewarm in their praise.
Preparing for Next Steps
If you take time and care in addressing each of the steps above, some of your applications are likely to end up with interview invitations. The first step is making a good impression on paper, which opens the door to getting the opportunity to make an impression in person, with the interview itself.