A More Strategic Approach to Applying for Jobs

In a field of qualified candidates, how you apply says something about you.

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It’s too easy today to apply for jobs in bulk or apply and move on to the next application. But companies don’t want to see you applying for any job. They want you genuinely interested in their job.

That means how you apply matters.

Why is how you apply important? Because in a market full of qualified candidates, how you apply says something about you. It says you’re strategic in your selection of jobs and you’re thinking about the types of companies where you’ll be a good fit.

[See Ignore These 10 Outdated Pieces of Job-Search Advice.]

So here’s a more strategic way to apply for jobs:

With respect

Just like you want to be respected as the candidate, you need to also respect the role of each participant on the side of the hiring company. Avoid over-communicating. One strong follow-up lets them know your interest. More and you’re asking them to handle extra and likely unnecessary emails or phone calls. Respect their time.

With smarts

Are you the tortoise or the hare? If you take the time to create a job search strategy, you’ll be more successful, and you’ll get a boost of confidence knowing your daily activity is not being driven by impulse.

With specifics

Be sure to include specifics in your cover letter including the job title, job identification number (if available), and department or hiring manager. And be clear about how you match up with the job description.

[See Don't Let Fear Control Your Career.]

With an introduction

If you’re a perfect fit for the job, there’s still a chance you won’t get a call. With internal candidates and referred candidates, the interview schedule might be filled without considering blind resume submissions. So be sure to network your way in via LinkedIn, your local network, or whatever works for you. There’s real power in your resume arriving at a company with a thumbs-up.

With relevance

Are you a good fit for the job? Would you read your resume as the hiring manager? You’re relevant if you have the skills, experience, certifications, and industry knowledge a job requires. It also helps if you establish social credibility so your resume is not the first they’ve heard of you.

[See 5 Job-Search Habits to Break.]

With brevity

Your cover letter does not need to fill the page. If you can introduce yourself in 250 words, do it. If you need more, fine. But use only necessary words so the reader doesn’t have to work so hard. Provide short, crisp answers in a phone screen and be ready to offer more detail if requested. Offer a really long answer and you will lose your audience.

With confidence

I’ve heard hiring managers and HR managers say they can smell desperation. And while you may feel nervous, worried, or desperate, don’t let it come across in your communications. Whether in your cover letter, phone screen, or emails, do not beg for the job. And do not over-pursue a single job.

If you think this will take more time than before, you’re right. So apply for fewer jobs where you’re an excellent fit—rather than a lot of jobs where you’re an OK fit—and make it obvious why they should call you first.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.

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