How to Apply for a Job

In this article, we're going to explain the right way to go about applying for a job.  In fact, we've outlined an eight step process that starts with figuring out what kind of job is right for you, and ends with writing thank you letters after the interview.

Applying for a Job

Some people might agree that taking a methodical approach to applying for a job sounds like a good idea, while others might be wondering why we're dedicating an entire article to this topic.  After all, how difficult can it be to apply for a job?

The best explanation is simply this:  People that have never applied for a job before should understand all of the possible steps involved.  Even seasoned workers have trouble finding a job, and a refresher like this can also be helpful.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to use a structured technique when applying for a job is this:

The chance of being successful is greatly enhanced by taking a holistic approach to a job search.

Being the successful candidate is all about beating the odds.  That means when applying for a job, it's desirable to have as many factors working in your favor as possible.  That's what this eight step process is all about.

Eight Simple Steps

It doesn't matter if someone's looking for an entry level job, full time, or part-time work, the same eight steps are part of the process:

  1. Select a Job / Career
  2. Research Companies and Job Openings
  3. Practice Job Networking
  4. Circulate the Resume
  5. Prepare a Resume and Cover Letter
  6. Prepare for a Job Interview
  7. Practice Filling Out Job Applications
  8. Send Thank You Letters

Is it necessary to follow all of these steps to find a job?  No, but just keep in mind that skipping a step could reduce the chance of finding one.

Selecting a Job or Career

Everyone thinking about switching careers should keep one thing in mind: the grass isn't always greener on the other side.  That means when thinking about changing jobs or professions, it should be for the right reasons.

The real challenge here is to remove some of the emotion from this career altering decision.  A good way to accomplish this is through a job evaluation matrix.

Job Evaluation Matrix

This technique is oftentimes used at work or in school, and here's how it works.  First, write down all of the factors that are important in a new job.  This includes items such as commuting time, work hours, time for friends and family, and benefits such as vacation.  This list should include a mix of both lifestyle and career features.

The next step is to assign a weight to each attribute.  For example, if work hours are important, then assign it a higher weight.  After going through the process of identifying each attribute and assigning a weight to each, the final step is to start comparing different jobs and see how they measure up against the "ideal" career.  To save time, we've already put together a Job Evaluation Matrix that can be downloaded and used to help everyone get started with this part of the process.

Research Companies and Job Openings

Now that there is a more objective view of the ideal job, it's time to start the search.  At this point, the objective is to see what's available, and evaluate the types of jobs that are a good fit with your career goals.  For example, someone might want to consider relocating their home to be closer to work, or finding a job that is closer to an existing home if commuting attributes are important.

It's also time to start practicing networking skills.  We have some information on how to improve these skills, and where to practice this important part of any job search in our article:  Job Search Networking.

Networking is critically important, consider this:  Research has shown that over 60% of job searchers found their new jobs via networking.  This step is specifically included early in the process because it's never too early to start networking.

Prepare a Resume and Cover Letter

One of the biggest mistakes people make when applying for a job is sending out an ineffective resume.  In fact, until people really understand their career objectives, it's impossible to predict which resume format will be the most effective.

Fortunately, this website has numerous resume samples and templates that can be downloaded for free.  The best place to start is with our resume writing guide, which will help determine the most effective resume format, one that's a good fit with both someone's career objectives and work history.

Writing Cover Letters

A cover letter also needs to be prepared before applying for a job.  Cover letters are often overlooked, and are arguably more important than the resume itself.  Once again, this site has cover letter samples to download and use as a reference.  The most important aspect of writing an effective cover letter is to follow a prescribed format.  This is explained in our article:  How to Write a Cover Letter.

Practice Job Networking / Circulate the Resume

This heading is not a typo.  It's critically important to practice networking when it comes to finding a job.  This should be done once the resume is ready to circulate.  Our article on resume posting service provides information on the techniques and costs for circulating a resume to prospective clients, recruiters, and companies.  While our article on electronic resumes explains how to prepare, and convert, a resume into a format that can be distributed and scanned into electronic databases.

Preparing for a Job Interview

Most job interviews today involve more than just a casual conversation with the hiring manager to see if someone is qualified for the job or a good fit with the company's corporate culture.  Every detail is important, including how to dress for an interview.

The use of behavioral interviews and the STAR technique's use in responding to questions are becoming more commonplace.  The best way to prepare for this type of interview is to practice the technique.  Our article on Behavioral Interview Technique explains how to answer these questions in an effective manner.

We also have an interview question database and more traditional interview questions.  Remember, preparation is the key to success.  Anyone that believes they can "wing it," may be sadly disappointed when they're not offered a job.

Filling Out Job Applications

Whenever a potential candidate is asked to come in for a job interview, they will be asked to complete a job application either before or after the meeting.  As was the case with the interview, applying for a job takes some preparation.  Candidates need to be aware of both how to fill out an application as well as some of the background materials needed to complete the form.

It's always helpful to be prepared whenever competing for a job and that includes filling out an application the right way.  We have resources that explain how to fill out a job application, as well as examples of these forms, so everyone knows exactly what to expect.

Sending Thank You Letters

Applying for a job doesn't end with the interview.  The ideal job candidate will also follow up with thank you letters to those individuals they met at the prospective company.  Once again, the best way to increase the chance of being offered a job is to follow a prescribed format for the thank you letters.

We outline a format that everyone can follow, as well as offer several examples in our article:  Writing an Interview Thank you Letter.  In that article, we explain the three most important elements of a thank you letter, and demonstrate how to use those elements in the examples provided.

About the Author - How to Apply for a Job - (Last Reviewed on March 16, 2016)