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What You Should Do Before You Apply for a Job

January 19th, 2010

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What can you do to make sure that your application doesn't get pushed to the bottom of the pile or, even worse, in the wastebasket? For starters, you can put your best foot forward, and not submit generic documents that only convey basic information. If you want to give yourself the best chance of being called back, there are a few things you should do before you apply.

Write a Cover Letter. When it comes to submitting a cover letter, you will often see the word "optional" written by it. But just because it is not required does not mean you shouldn't go the extra mile and write one. A cover letter is your chance to engage employers and convince them to look at your resume. It is also a way to let them hear your voice, tell them what you are looking for, and convey to them why you deserve the opportunity to work for their company. It is important that you take advantage of every opportunity to market yourself to an employer and let them know how you can benefit them.

Tailor your resume. You need to be able to effectively communicate through your resume what you can offer a company and show that you specifically meet their requirements for the job. How do you do this? By tailoring your resume to the job description. This doesn't mean lying about your qualifications, but rather highlighting the qualifications you have that they need. Carefully read through the job description and take note of each of the qualities they are seeking in a candidate. Then reflect on your own resume and what experiences you need to include, leave out, or emphasize. Tailoring your resume does not mean rewriting it, but rewording and rearranging it.

Get recommendations. It only matters so much what you say about yourself. After all, you are trying to convince them to give you a job. A potential employer needs to see what other people can say about you, which is why it is important to have good recommendations. A recommendation letter needs to be from someone who holds a legitimate title and has worked closely with you, such as a professor, boss, or internship supervisor. Future employers are going to trust your former employers to provide an honest account of your work performance. A positive recommendation from a professor or internship supervisor who has helped you learn, seen your work, and watched you grow, can also say more about you than you ever could about yourself.

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