The business of finding yourself a place in business can be a daunting prospect, and particularly with the current economic climate and jobless rate. It’s a fair assumption to suppose that any position for which you apply is going to draw a substantial number of applicants against whom you’ll be competing–which makes your presentation and impressions at every step all the more important!
Searching for Positions
The internet has provided a wealth of resources when it comes to finding potential positions for which to apply. In addition to online classified listings from your local newspaper, consider checking sites like the following to see what positions are currently available:
Craigslist.org–You may be familiar with Craigslist as a site for advertising goods for sale, but it also hosts an extensive section of job postings, organized by industry and type of work.
Monster.com–Created specifically as a career center to connect employers with prospective employees, this site also offers a number of career tools and resources for the job-seeker. You can search for positions by job title, skills or keywords, categories and industries, specific companies, or geographic location.
Jobs.com–You can search for positions by geographic location, industry, or job title, and with a user login you can post a resume to draw the eyes of employers.
CareerBuilder.com–Creating a personal profile on this site enables you to apply for positions directly from the site, post a resume, and elect to receive email notifications when new employers post positions suited to your skills.
Job Application Forms
Many companies provide a specific job application form for job seekers to complete in order to petition for a position. The application form itself generally contains straightforward requests for information regarding your past employment history, education, contact information, professional references, and so forth. If you are picking up an application and submitting it in person, dress neatly and professionally, bring a black pen with you, and have the necessary information (contact numbers, addresses, and so forth) with you to assist you in completing the applications. Print neatly and make sure your application presents as appealing an appearance as you yourself do.
Many companies now post interactive forms online, which you can complete at the keyboard and submit electronically. If the job’s location allows, consider following up an online submission by stopping in yourself and asking to introduce yourself to the manager or Human Resources representative who will be hiring. Connecting a face (and a smile, and a confident handshake) with the name on the resume will help you to stand out among the applicants.
A cover letter is an appropriate addition to almost any resume submission, and to some job application forms as well. Many people find the cover letter the most challenging piece of the application process, because this written piece constitutes more than the simple presentation of information of which the application and resume are comprised. The cover letter serves several purposes, and therefore should be approached with thoughtful deliberation.
The format should be straightforward, using a business letter format with appropriate contact information and a specific greeting. Whenever possible, use the specific name of the manager or supervisor who will be conducting the hiring process, rather than a generic opening such as “To Whom it May Concern.” Specific contact information shows that you have done your research, and reads more appealingly to the recipient.
The content of the letter should address some of the skills or experience you bring to the job–in short, an explanation of why the company would benefit from hiring you. (Don’t make the mistake of explaining why you want or need the job; it is the company’s welfare, not yours, about which the manager or hiring committee is concerned.) Do your best to write a letter that grabs the reader’s attention and sets you apart from other applicants, and make sure there are absolutely no errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation, or usage within the letter itself.
Creating a Resume
Some positions require a resume instead of (or in addition to) an application form. Free resume templates are available online (and in many word processing programs) in a number of formats, any of which will be acceptable to use. Whatever format you choose, be sure to include all the relevant information such as education, previous employment and experience, skill sets, professional references, and contact information. You may have additional information relevant to the job for which you are applying, such as publications or specialized trainings. Make doubly sure that there are no errors of spelling, punctuation, or usage in the resume itself, and try to keep the document under two pages. Sometimes it’s appropriate to craft a separate resume for individual jobs, tailoring each to the specifics of the job for which you are applying.
Letters of Reference
Whether you are requesting letters of recommendation or simply listing references as part of your application, consider carefully which people are best positioned to speak to your job skills, interactive skills, technology skills, customer service skills, or whatever aspects of your previous professional experience are most directly applicable to the job for which you are applying. You may want to provide different references with different applications, depending on the nature of the jobs.
You should also take care that the people whose contact information you supply are people who will provide positive references. Rather than simply asking for a letter of recommendation, ask each person if they feel able to write a supportive reference for you. It is a fairly common mistake for applicants to request letters without first taking this step, resulting in lukewarm or impersonal letters by the professional contacts from which the applicant had expected a more favorable show of support.
Social networking has taken on a whole new meaning in this age of internet connectivity, and there are a number of social media outlets (such as LinkedIn, Ecademy, Ziggs, and others) which are specifically designed as professional networks, and which may serve to turn up job leads and references as well as interpersonal relationships.
On the subject of social networking, it’s also important to look over your existing social media (accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and others) to make sure there aren’t materials there which could be problematic in connection with your job search. Although you may have posted photos, opinions, or personal information on these sites with the target audience of your informal social circle in mind, remember that this information is still publicly available, and most employers now conduct internet searches on top candidates before making a hiring decision.
Preparing for Next Steps
Provided you have taken care with these steps, at least some of your applications should result in an invitation for interview. You have presented yourself well on paper, and the next steps will involve preparing for the interview itself. Having received a call from the prospective employer, you are already well on your way!