Job application checklist for the recent grad

Posted by Amanda Augustine

June 18, 2013 @ 08:49 AM

Follow these best practices to ensure your job application bypasses the job-search black hole.

TheLadders Scout Job ApplicationsNow that you’ve clarified your job goals, crafted the perfect resume and cleaned up your online presence, let’s talk about submitting effective job applications. 

There’s nothing worse than submitting an application and never hearing back. Below are ten tips to help you avoid that job-search black hole.

Make Sure You’re a Match

Read the responsibilities and requirements sections of the job description carefully – what skill sets, education level and years of experience do they require? While the employer likely doesn’t expect you to have every single desired skill, they will expect you to meet all the core “must-have” requirements. Only apply to jobs where you possess these must-haves.

Apply Within 72 Hours

A recent study by TheLadders found that your chances of getting a call back plummet 72 hours after the job is published online, even if you were considered a good fit for the job. If you find a job that you’re truly interested in and a fit for, buckle down and get that application out as soon as possible!

Tailor Your Application

Before your resume is reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager, it first has to get past an electronic gatekeeper called Applicant Tracking Software (called ATS for short). Before you submit your application, review the job description for key terms and requirements and make sure they are incorporated into your resume (assuming you possess those skills).

Customize Your Cover Letter

A good cover letter fits on one page and is broken down into three main sections: an introductory paragraph that explains why you’re interested in the job, a middle section that explains your qualifications and a closing paragraph that ends with a call to action. I recommend using a t-format for your cover letter to quickly show the reader how you meet the core requirements for the role. If the application doesn’t allow you to use columns, try bullets instead.

Remember, It’s Not About You

When you’re a job seeker, your mission is to show organizations how you can provide value to them. A hiring manager doesn’t care that you’re applying for your dream job with your dream company. Rather, they want to know why you’re interested in and passionate about working there. Focus on the skills and passions that are required to do the job.

Cross Your T’s and Dot Your I’s

If 54 percent of recruiters have reacted negatively to spelling and grammatical errors found in candidates’ tweets and Facebook posts, imagine how they’ll react to mistakes in your application! Beyond proper etiquette, poor punctuation and capitalization can confuse the ATS software and scramble your application in the system. Chances are, the recruiter will ditch your application rather than taking the time to manually re-enter the information properly.

Work the System to Your Advantage

You’re ten times more likely to get a call back if your application includes an employee referral. If you’re being referred by an employee, make sure the ATS knows it; the software is smart enough to care. Choose to upload your resume instead of cutting and pasting it if this option exists in the application process. This feature often parses information and saves it in the optimal format, ensuring the cleanest presentation.

Use a Professional Subject Line and Email Address

If you’re emailing an application, use effective subject lines that reference the position you’re applying for, rather than “hello” or “intro”. Use an email address that incorporates the name you use professionally on your resume and cover letter. Cutesy, offensive, flirtatious or sexual addresses send hiring managers the wrong message.

Be Prepared for the Call

Record a professional voicemail message for the number listed on your resume. If your resume is strong enough to convince the recruiter or hiring manager to reach for the telephone, be sure the greeting on the other end of the line represents you in the best light – this includes recorded messages and whoever might answer the phone in your place.

Read the Fine Print for Follow-ups

Read the job description carefully. If an application deadline is listed, then follow up one week after that date. If you can’t find a deadline, send your follow-up note one week after your initial application. Remember, if the job listing states “no calls,” do not call to follow up. The employer will assume you can’t follow directions.

Click on the following link for more tips to improve your job applications.

TheLadders Job Search Expert Ask Amanda AugustineAmanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, Job Application, New to the Workforce