If you Google “how to apply for a job” I’m almost certain that you will receive countless articles filled with suggestions ranging from how to write a resume, what to say/wear/do during an interview to how to negotiate a salary. And while all of those things are important, I felt led to write this particular blog from an employer’s viewpoint to give insight on things that your application, resume, and interview style say about you as a job candidate.
Follow the Instructions. Nowadays, most job applications are electronic; however, if the job you are applying for requires completion of a paper application, please read the application in its entirety before you start. If at all possible, you might want to have several blank applications if you make a mistake or need to start over. Incomplete applications are a hallmark of carelessness and end up in my “no” pile.
Answer the Questions. If there is space to describe your work experience, describe it. Do not simply write “please see resume”. How you answer questions speaks volumes about your written communication style. Are you thorough? Are your sentences/phrases grammatically correct and free of spelling errors? Are you cutting and pasting from your resume verbatim? There is no need to overuse “I” or “my” when you respond to questions, we know that you are referring to yourself and your experience.
Follow Up. A fair amount of follow-up is appropriate. A phone call to make sure that your application is complete and that everything has been received is acceptable and shows that you have interest in your status as a potential candidate for an interview. Many times, you may not speak directly with the manager who will interview you, but even if you only speak with an administrative employee, a phone call is a great way to introduce yourself and show yourself polite and professional.
Neatness Counts. I’m no FBI agent, but I can tell a lot about someone just based on how neatly their paperwork is put together. The resume formatting possibilities are endless. Clean, familiar, readable fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri) are easy to read and professional. Please avoid “cute” fonts such as Comic Sans, Kristen ITC, and anything that is considered “script” or cursive; they distract from the text. Try not to stray too far from 11 or 12 point font and keep your resume within one or two pages. Carefully consider what to chop if you need to abbreviate your resume.
Unnecessary creases/wrinkles, smears, and scribble are sloppy and lead me to believe that if I hire you, I’m likely to find you on an unauthorized break with your feet propped on your desk, playing Candy Crush on your phone while you are still on the clock. Better safe than sorry; type everything if you can.
Include an Objective. This is a gray area but I actually like a well-written, brief objective. To me, it acts as a synopsis of your entire resume and brings certain skills/experience to the forefront. If you have multiple resumes, be careful that your resume matches the job that you are applying for. I once received a resume for a nutritionist position that included the following objective: “ to work for CitiBank”. You guessed it: “no” pile.
Provide References. Please, please, PLEASE do not type “references available upon request” anywhere on your resume. Why? Because employers hate it! Well, let me rephrase: I hate it. Please, don’t do it. I review job applications as my schedule allows and many times I do not have hours to spend pouring over applications and then backtrack to contact an applicant to request additional information. Play it safe and include your references along with your application as a supporting document. As a plus, it helps when you include your reference’s job title and/or their credentials along with his or her professional (work) contact information. Always remember to ask your references for permission first before you include them on your resume.
Be Punctual. Time is a precious commodity for managers. Punctuality shows respect for their time. Things happen, tires go flat and cars can breakdown, but do everything in your power to plan for the unexpected. If your interview is at a location that you have never been to, map it out and drive there a few days before your interview if you are concerned about getting lost. Give yourself plenty of time to get up and get dressed the day of your interview so that you will not be rushed and flustered when you arrive.
Give a Firm Handshake. You’re not smashing metacarpals like The Hulk, but don’t give a handshake like a wet fish (my dad’s words, not mine). A nice, firm handshake says that you are confident and professional.
Practice Your Body Language. Eye contact, facial expression, and posture speak volumes about you. I understand that there are cultural variations specific to what eye contact (or lack thereof) means however, no eye contact could be perceived as nervousness or dishonesty. Too much eye contact is well, just awkward and a bit creepy. Find a happy medium and if direct eye contact with a stranger makes you uncomfortable, look at the bridge of the other person’s nose. Avoid slouching; sitting up straight and smiling appropriately communicates interest and active engagement.
Read the Job Description. I can tell when you have not read the job description. Learn the jargon of your field, I listen for certain keywords when I’m hiring. Many of these keywords are tied in with the job description; whether it’s specific programs, job tasks, outcome measures, etc.—find them and tie them in with your materials…but….
Do Not Lie! Be honest. Do not make up anything on your application. Be honest about your skills, your employment dates, gaps between jobs, reasons for leaving, etc.. A lie is a lie whether it’s on paper or in person so be upfront with anything that you believe needs further explanation.
Ask Questions. At the end of an interview, I like to invite the candidate to ask me questions. When you ask relevant, genuine questions, it shows that you have given thought to what it would be like if you were the chosen candidate. It tells me that you are interested in the position and are actively engaged in the interview process. Interviewing is a two-way street. Take time to find out if the person who is interviewing you would be a good fit for you by asking appropriate questions about training for new hires or day-to-day activities and processes which may not be specified in the job description.
Send a Thank You Note. A handwritten note goes a long way. Extend a professional, well-written note of thanks to express your appreciation of your interviewer’s time.
I hope these tips are helpful, please comment below with any other advice that you have found useful when applying for jobs.