You’re starting your job search, and you’re well on your way. (If you don’t already have your resume perfected and job listings coming into your inbox, back up and read Part 1 and Part 2 in this three-part series on finding a new job fast.)
Hopefully, you’ve already found a few job listings that have got you excited. Now, the time has come to actually apply to those jobs and—hopefully!—get one of them.
Avant career expert Vishal, who spent more than 15 years in corporate recruiting, says when you see a job you’re interested in, it’s best to take action right away. “Do not wait to apply to a job when you see a viable opportunity,” she says. “As soon as recruiters push job openings live, they’re very conscientious about reviewing incoming resumes.” Applying within the first 48 hours is critical to getting your application seen, she adds.
Follow our step-by-step guide below on how you can go from one of hundreds of applicants to the one person who gets the job.
Get to know the company
OK, so you’ve seen a job you’re interested in applying for; now what? You need to get a little more information on the company. Salemi says the last thing you want to do is blindly apply to jobs without doing your homework first: “You need to know what’s going on in the company. Are they expanding? Downsizing? Getting acquired? Where do they stand within the industry relative to their peers?”
First, do a quick Google News search on the company name to see how and if the business is making headlines.
Then check out Avant’s company profiles and employee reviews, powered by kununu. The profiles and reviews (posted by current and former employees) give you some insider information that can help make you a better candidate. You can find out what the culture is like and what the company is prioritizing right now. This is information you may be able to use in your cover letter and definitely in your interview to show your enthusiasm for the job and the seriousness of your candidacy.
Write a quickie cover letter
Some people will tell you the cover letter is dead, and you can skip this step if you want. But if you do, you could be wasting another opportunity to use keywords that will get your resume through the applicant tracking system software and another chance to demonstrate to a recruiter why you’re the perfect candidate.
We know what you’re thinking: Writing a cover letter is such a pain.
Here’s the secret, though: You really only need five to seven sentences to make your point: First, state what you’re applying for; second, say what you like about the company; third, say how your experiences match what they’re looking for, and lastly, show your enthusiasm. For more details, check out the article “5 simple steps to writing a successful cover letter.”
And one thing to remember as you’re putting your experiences down on paper: You should still apply even if you’re not 100% qualified.
“It’s OK to not be 100% qualified—that’s the key to career growth,” Salemi says. “It’s normal not to be 100% there, and the key is convincing employers you have the skills, intellect, resources and ability to get there.”
Tweak your resume for this job
Your resume has been optimized and finalized, right? Well, not totally.
Right before you apply to any specific job, identify the main keywords and responsibilities noted in the job ad and see if they appear in your resume—remember, typically the most important ones will be mentioned early in the posting.
If your resume doesn’t include these words and phrases, it should. Sprinkle them in, but only where applicable and only in context. Don’t try to keyword-stuff your resume or it will be unreadable to the human who will hopefully be reading this eventually.
Hit the apply button
OK, now that you’ve got your materials together, you’re ready to do this thing.
As long as you’re signed in to your account and have uploaded your resume to Avant, all you have to do is hit the “apply” button and viola! Your application is sent to the company you’re applying to. (If you don’t have an account, you can easily create one in a matter of seconds, and it will make the application process easier next time.)
If you’re not signed in to your account, you can still submit an application by clicking on “apply,” entering your email and following the application instructions that follow.
Focus on the other fish in the sea
When you’ve applied to your dream job, it’s only natural to want to start working there right away. And the good news, Salemi says, is that companies do want to move forward quickly.
“Even though it feels like the process may drag, companies want to make a hire today, believe me,” she says. “But there could be internal processes and procedures slowing the process down. Patience is key.”
In a perfect scenario, she says, “you apply today, get a call tomorrow, schedule a phone interview for the end of the week. You pass with flying colors and the recruiter tries scheduling you on a few interviewers’ calendars by the end of the following week or even into the next. You are brought back for another round to interview with them, but let’s say a director is out of town, so it’s two weeks from that point. Then, by the end of that week, the company’s finance department gives their green light for the salary and you’re given the offer.”
In the case that it doesn’t work out as perfectly as Salemi describes—usually filling a job takes several weeks—keep in mind that finding the perfect job is a lot like finding “the one:” It can take some time. Also, as anyone who’s found a soul mate can attest, you have to go on any number of bad dates before you can get to the altar. So don’t get too focused on a single opportunity at this stage in the process. This is a little bit like online dating—you haven’t even met the person yet, and while he or she may seem charming so far, this might not actually be the match it appears to be. In other words, at this stage, it’s totally acceptable to be applying to many jobs.
This will also keep you busy while you wait anxiously for the call for an interview.
Be ready for your moment in the spotlight
When you do score an interview with a company, you’ll want to go back to that research you did in step one, as you’ll want to refer to some of the information in your interviews to show you’ve done your homework. Review the job ad again, too, to make sure you’re clear on what the hiring manager is seeking. And also review answers to common interview questions, figure out your key selling points, investigate the interviewers and, may we suggest, practicing with a buddy? Here’s the full list of prep steps to help you ace this.
If your first interview is a phone screen or a video interview, you’ll want to be prepared for the unique styles of those setups. (Click through the links for tips on each.)
When you get to the in-person stage, you’ll want to get that handshake right, as it’s a major first impression.
For any stage of the interview, you can assume the hiring manager or recruiter will be asking you quite a few questions to get a more in-depth understanding of whether you have the experience for the role and whether you’ll be a fit, and then they’ll open the floor to answer any questions you might have about the job or company. You’ll want to have a few of those prepared, too.
Send the right kind of thank-you note
Your mother was right: A thank-you note is important. It can help you seal the deal after an interview and improve your chances of getting a job offer—even if you already think you have it in the bag. You can use our thank-you letter template to craft the perfect note to your potential employer.
“Email thank-you notes to all of the interviewers individually, and within 24 hours of the interview,” Salemi advises.
Get the biggest paycheck you can
Eventually, you’re going to reach the last stage of this process—getting the offer. It’s a momentous and exciting occasion. But don’t get ahead of yourself: Your job-search journey doesn’t end when you get the offer. In fact, you still have a bit of work to do.
For starters, when you get the offer, don’t say yes right away. Salemi says you always want to negotiate your salary first. “Employers expect you to negotiate,” she says. “They are more surprised when you don’t than when you do.”
There’s typically more money on the table, so why not try to put a little more cash in your pocket? See the below video for Salemi’s tips on how to handle the conversation:
For more negotiation tips and strategies, you can watch our Facebook live video in which Salemi answers more salary-related questions.
Once you’re happy with the offer, go ahead and accept—and please let us know! We want to be the second (after your new employer) to congratulate you! Tweet us or send us a note on Facebook.
And remember that we’re still here for you even after you’ve got the job. Keep reading our career advice for tips on getting ahead, growing your skill set and dealing with bosses and co-workers.