Monday, July 8, 2013

Job Seach + Application Tips

Now that I have a job, I feel completely qualified to give out advice on job searching and job applications!  As am an only a year out of college myself, this guide is really meant for recent grads looking for entry level positions, but there is also a lot of valuable information that can be applied to any job search. I really wanted to make this because I know how hard the job search process can be, even with the help of your college's/university's career resources, and many of these things I learned the long and hard way through trial and error. I also can't stress the effect that the bad economy has had on the job market. I remember graduating and thinking, "I don't even really have to apply for anything because employers will come to me even in this economy because I just graduated from a top university!" Well, I received a rude awakening after 6 months and I still hadn't found a job! A lot of the people I've talked to in hiring positions say that most job openings get at least 200 applications in the first 2 weeks! Hopefully, though, this will help some of you out there!

Know Your Industry. The first step to any job search is to know what industry you want to go into. Unfortunately, I'm not much help in this department because when I gradated, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. For those of you who fall in this category, take a look at my post on networking for tips on deciding on a career. Once you know your industry, you'll be able to know where to look to find a relevant position.

Having a targeted job market will definitely make your job search easier, such as focusing on a particular company's HR site, or an industry specific job board. It is also best to stay away from general job boards like Career Builder, Monster, and Craigslist due to the volume of applications, and the question of reputable postings. I know a lot of people who have found jobs on Indeed and Idealist, however, I never had such luck, so I suggest using these sparingly also.

Have A Clear, Easy To Read Resume. There is no one correct template for how a resume should look, but it should include your name (preferably in all caps and bold), contact info, education, skills, and experience. Your experience can be divided into different categories (work, volunteer, leadership), but should always clearly state the major/significant tasks of the position/activity, and the dates of employment/involvement. A helpful hint that I learned through networking is to always quantify as much as you can in your resume. So, instead of saying "edited notes", say "edited 20 note pages per week". This way, employers can get a better sense of how much experience you have at a particular task, and it makes your resume read more professionally and makes you sound more important! Also, I'm sure it goes without saying that all documents submitted in an application should be thoroughly proofread.

Always Submit A Cover Letter. I can't stress this point enough. From my own networking, I've talked to a lot of people in hiring positions who say that they don't even look at applications that don't include cover letters, they just throw them out immediately! Most jobs require a cover letter as part of the application, but some don't. For applications that don't require one, submit it anyway!

A cover letter should be no more than 1 page, single-spaced, should be in business letter format, and should be addressed to the hiring officer if possible. The main purpose of a cover letter is to convey why you are interested in applying to the position. When I was applying to the job I have now, I mentioned that I had had a wonderful experience at Penn as an undergrad, and wanted to have a deeper part to play in the Penn community. I also mentioned that because of my part-time temp work there, I was interested in a career in higher education. In my case, all of this was true, but even if you are not completely interested in a particular position other than for the money, you should still bring out some kind of relevant (and relatively true!) reason for applying. Employers would rather hire someone who seems genuinely interested in working in a particular organization or position, than someone who just wants a job, because of all that's at stake (the quality of the person's work, the organization's image/reputation, loyalty to the employer, etc).  

Your cover letter should also convey how your past experience is relevant to the tasks of the job you're applying to without restating your resume. To do this, you should focus on the "Job Description" section of the job announcement and write how your experience is similar, or related to this section. If there are things in the job description that you have never done, it is best to add a sentence that says that you are eager to learn new skills required for the position.

Contact The Hiring Manager. This is another little trick I've learned through networking! Most jobs make you apply through a general HR site, but, when possible, find out who the hiring manager is and get their contact info. Usually this only involves calling around. Once this is done, send your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager directly (usually via email), in addition to sending your application through the conventional channels. This way, you ensure that the person in charge of reviewing the applications gets yours, which isn't always the case when your application is going through HR. This also shows that you are serious about the job, and are willing to go the extra mile to get it!

I'm probably going to get a lot of heat for saying this, but when inquiring about hiring managers, it's best to ask someone in a higher position, if possible, and avoid HR and front desk people, who, in my experience at least, tend to be rude and unwilling to help (of course, they have to deal with a lot of crap from everyone all day, but I still don't think it's an excuse!).

When I started doing this, I saw an increase in the number of interviews I got, including the job I have now. Of course, I can't say for sure if this is really why they asked me for an interview, but I can say that this really improved my chances like never before!

Always Follow The Directions Of The Application. If the job announcement or application says don't call, then don't call. If it says submit extra documents, then submit the extra documents. If you don't follow the directions of the application, it shows employers that you probably won't follow directions on the job either!

Always Follow Up. Always follow up with the status of your application at least two weeks after you submit it, either via phone or email. This shows that you are seriously interested in the position. However, if they give you round-about answers, or don't respond, don't keep wasting your time with that position, instead start applying to other ones!

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