Maximizing Your Candidacy Through the Job Application
By Dori Jamison, Director of FT MBA Career Coaching
Care and consideration is critical when filling out a job application. The job application is the formal document employers use to maintain a record of your skills, qualifications, and employment history which is verified and signed by the applicant. It is important for your applications to be complete and accurate. This article will highlight tips and best practices as you engage in the job application process.
Before completing the application:
Before completing any job application, you will want to make sure that your social media presence is current and branded to attract employers of interest. More and more, companies and candidates are including links to their social media profiles on their resumes and job applications. This is also a good time to make sure your social media content does not contain information or images that will deter hiring managers or recruiters from wanting to move forward with your application.
It is important to research each company before completing the job application. This will help you create a cover letter and resume that is specific to the skills and qualifications required by the position. Personalize your cover letter by addressing it by name to the recruiter or hiring manager. Talk about how your accomplishments align with the skills required for the job. Make sure your resume uses key words that are specific to the industry and function of the role.
Part of the research includes informational interviewing. It is wise to do informational interviews with at least one or two people at the company before submitting an application. Conducting informational interviews allows you to learn more about the culture, role and department before applying; it also provides you with the option of mentioning these conversations in your cover letter to demonstrate your hands-on research. Speaking with employees whom you can list as referrals in the application itself (with their permission) may also give your application a boost. Given this recommendation, one may correctly conclude that a job seeker will be better off actively networking with alumni and hiring managers at a target company even BEFORE relevant jobs are posted.
It is also important to determine when the application deadlines are and set a goal of completing the application well in advance of the deadline. There is nothing worse than waiting until the last minute to find out there are technology issues. You also don’t want to rush so you can make sure your application is truly representing what you are trying to convey.
Most applications require references. It is a best practice to decide whom you would like to include as references on your job application and get their permission prior to completing the application. This will ensure there is no delay in getting the application completed in a timely manner. References should be people with whom you worked or volunteered and can attest to your work ethic, skills and abilities.
Filling out the job application:
The following tips are most useful to think about and apply when completing your application:
- It makes sense to apply soon after an application is posted, for several reasons:
- You don’t know how the long the posting will be open.
- Even if a deadline is listed, companies often consider applications “on a rolling basis” so that if they find a number of strong candidates early in the process, you may have to meet a higher bar to be considered for an interview after that point.
- Most online applications require you to complete a profile on the company’s career portal. You should create one profile that is complete and accurate This master profile will house all of your applications that you submit for that specific company. Multiple profiles are confusing and can cause problems as you apply to jobs.
- Make sure all fields are completed. You should not write “n/a” or “See resume” in any field of the application.
- Do not give specific salary requirements. Instead you can write “Open” or “Negotiable”.
- It is critical to make sure all information is truthful and accurate. Do not embellish or get creative with information.
- Spend time to double-check your application. Make sure grammar and spelling is error free. Have someone review your application for grammar, especially if English is not your native language. Also, it is a good practice to step away from the application and go back to it after some time to look at it with a rested set of eyes.
- Only click the submit button when you are sure that your application is finalized and ready to go. Most online applications will allow you to “save” it and come back to it at a later time.
Tips for international students:
In addition to the above tips, international students should consider the following best practices:
- Your visa status or nationality should not be included on your resume unless you are a dual US citizen or permanent resident but your work experience is mostly international.
- Always be factual about your visa status.
- When answering the application question “Are you legally authorized to work in the US?” you may answer “yes” since you will be working on CPT or OPT.
- If asked “Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for an employment visa?” you should respond “yes”. If given the opportunity to explain, you can include that you have legal authorization to work in the U.S. for 12 months on OPT (STEM students will have up to 36 months available) and that OPT does not require any financial commitment or obligation from the employer.
After submitting the job application:
It is a good idea to maintain a spreadsheet of applications submitted and the date when you have submitted them. Allow 1-2 weeks from the date of submission to follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager if you have this information.
In closing, although some of these tips may seem small, basic, or very detailed, it is important to spend the time and leverage these best practices to maximize the opportunity to get the call for an interview.