If you're in the market for a new (or first) job, chances are you've become pretty familiar with job boards. Idealist, Indeed, LinkedIn Jobs are all open in your browser on the daily. And then it happens...you find the dream job. You HAVE to have this job. Before you go all crazy and apply on the spot, there are three things you must first do.
1. Check the posting date
Recruiters encourage applicants to submit their materials as early as possible. Some companies begin scheduling phone interviews as early as the first week that a position has been posted.
If a job was posted more than 30 days ago, there's probably a good likelihood that your application won't be reviewed. Some jobs have closing dates, and I would say you're safe submitting before the deadline. But if you want the best chance of to be considered for an interview, get your application in early!
This requires you to check job sites daily. You can also set alerts for keywords on many job boards, which will spur an automatic email to you when a job relevant to your interests is posted.
2. Print out the job description (JD)
I know we're all trying to reduce waste, but in this circumstance you really need to work with a hard copy. When you're viewing things on screen it's easy to miss key information. When you have a hard copy, you can take notes and have it on hand when you're preparing your application materials.
The most important reason to keep this handy is that you will refer to it often as you apply, and hopefully, interview. Everything you've done professionally is much less important (or at least relevant) than what the company is looking for. Use the JD as your guidepost through the process.
3. Highlight keywords + connect them to your skills
When reading through the JD, highlight every word, sentence, and phrase that 1) excites you, 2) is a requirement, or 3) you can tie your experience to. Bonus points if the keywords meet all 3 points!
This will help you break down the position and start thinking strategically about how you can explain why you're the best fit for the job. It will also help you understand if you really are qualified or if it's just a dreamy job. Not saying you shouldn't apply if you're not 100% qualified, but why waste precious energy on something you're fairly certain you aren't going to get?
TIP: Use the keywords in your cover letter and highlight those areas of your resume that match up with these words/topic areas, while ditching those that don't.
4. Research the company's people
You'll certainly want to know as much as you can about the hiring company and the specific project, if the position is linked to one. But to start out it's smart to see who they've already hired. LinkedIn is a great place to do this.
First search by the company. Then click on "employees on LinkedIn." You'll see a whole list of folks who have that company listed on their profile as a current or previous employer. You can narrow your search even further by clicking on "Search - Advanced" if you want to enter a keyword, such as a title.
Don't be afraid to click on someone's profile who interests you. Yes, if your settings are the default they will be able to see that you looked at their profile. Isn't that the point though? To get their attention? Best case scenario you'll find that you have shared connections. Then you can ask for an introduction from this mutual friend!
Why is this important?
You're going to be up against a lot of competition. Whether you know it or not, it's clear to a hiring manager right away whether you understand the position's requirements and if you have the skills to even warrant an interview.
I strongly encourage job seekers to tweak their resumes for each job they are applying and of course, write a brand new cover letter targeted for the specific position. But before getting to this point, you have to be able to articulate the intersection of what they're looking for and what you have to offer.
What's the first thing you usually do when you find a job you're interested in?