Do you have the required qualifications? Employers are asking for the equivalent of the sun, moon, and stars in their preferred qualifications, but it's the mandatory requirements you need to review most closely. Unfortunately, if the job requires a bachelor's degree, and you do not have one, it is extremely unlikely the applicant tracking system will pass along your resume. Similarly, if the job mandates five years of experience and you are a new college graduate, it is probably a waste of time to apply.
Why are you the best person for the job? This is a different question then "are you minimally qualified?" Can you name several accomplishments in your work history that align you with the position? Do you know why you would be uniquely qualified for the position? Can you compose several stories detailing why you would be ideal for this job? If not, spend some time focusing on descriptions that are better suited to your qualifications.
Can you support your candidacy via your application materials? Copy and paste the job description into a file and highlight everything that you can support in your resume. Note every skill the job seeks and jot down something about your background that makes you a good fit. Brainstorm accomplishments most relevant to the position. If you can't think of anything to say or can't easily write about why you are a good fit, it's probably not a good position for you.
Does the job provide the experience you need to propel your career? There is nothing wrong with a lateral move where your title doesn't change, but be sure to evaluate what you'll be doing in the new job. Decide if those skills will help you make your next move. If you're going to spend your time and energy applying and possibly submitting to a lengthy interview evaluation process, think about how the position fits your career goals before you move ahead.
Is the salary in line with your needs? You may not know exactly how much the position pays, but it is up to you to do some research. Use Glassdoor.com and Salary.com to help research likely salaries for the positions that interest you. Talk to people about salary ranges in their organizations and learn what companies fall in the typical salary ranges, plus which organizations pay more or less than average.
Are you willing to relocate? If you know a position requires living in a particular city, and you are not willing to relocate there, you are barking up the wrong tree if you apply. Yes, more companies allow telecommuting, and maybe you are the perfect candidate who may convince the organization to re-assess their staffing needs, but do not count on this flexibility if the job description says, "Must report to the Antarctica office."
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.