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Success tips for job applications: Part I

Date posted:  7/12/16 09:00:00 AM Job resume

With a competitive job market, finding the perfect fit may be more difficult than you initially suspected. Whether you are a recent college graduate looking for your first gig or a professional with plenty of experience under your belt who wants to change it up, landing a new job can be difficult.

From writing an interesting cover letter and crafting the perfect résumé to asking your final questions at an interview, there are plenty of factors that must be carefully considered. Follow these tips to increase your chances of matching up with the perfect profession:

Build an unbeatable résumé
While a résumé won't necessarily land you the job, it will help you get an interview, which may ultimately lead to you getting hired. Start with a strong foundation by investing time and energy into the development of your résumé, suggested Forbes contributor Kerry Hannon.

Keep in mind simplicity is key. According to a LinkedIn post from Ambra Benjamin, no hiring manager spends more than 25 seconds reading over a résumé, so the content should be succinct, but informative. Include numbers, percentages and statistics that quickly show the reader that you are successful at what you do. For example: Increased organic traffic by 45% year-over-year.

You also want to make your résumé stand out. While it shouldn't tell your entire life story, including information that makes you unique and demonstrates skills or strong character may work to your advantage.

Before you send your résumé to employers, ensure it is free of errors. Double and triple check it multiple times. Also consider having another person read it over to make sure there isn't a typo or misspelled word anywhere. These simple mistakes may cost you an interview and the job.

The Muse interviewed Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google and he indicated many individuals lie on their résumé, which can wind up hurting applicants a great deal. 

"People lie about their degrees (three credits shy of a college degree is not a degree), GPAs (I've seen hundreds of people "accidentally" round their GPAs up)… and where they went to school (sorry, but employers don't view a degree granted online for "life experience" as the same as UCLA or Seton Hall)," noted Bock, according to The Muse. "People lie about how long they were at companies, how big their teams were, and their sales results, always goofing in their favor."

When a hiring manager reaches out to check on the various accomplishments listed on your résumé and finds out you were fibbing, it will likely cost you the job.

Write a quality cover letter
The next factor that you'll need to prepare is your cover letter. This is your opportunity to stand out from the other applicants, noted Forbes contributor Seth Porges. You may sell  yourself short if you use the same cover letter for every application.

Unfortunately, cover letters are typically very similar and boring pieces that reiterate whatever skills or accomplishments were stated in the résumé. Give yourself the advantage by spending some time crafting a unique cover letter for each position you apply for.

Showcase your curiosity and personality when writing your cover letter. Even consider popping in a few interesting facts or anecdotes about your industry or experience.

You will also want to keep this piece short. Lengthy explanations of your biggest struggle and how you overcame will not entice the reader. Keep your cover letter to three paragraphs. You want to leave the reader wanting to know more about you and the skills you can offer the business.

If you do not know who the hiring manager is or who will be reading your cover letter, do not open with "Dear Sir or Madam" or "To Whom it May Concern." It's all right to jump right into the meat of your story. Including a generic opening phrase makes it feel old and overused.

When you send your résumé to a hiring manager, make sure it is in portable document file (PDF). This is critical because not all computers or mobile devices can open or read .docx or .pages files, so formatting it to a universally used file will ensure your cover letter can be viewed as intended.

Include additional documents
Depending on the job you are applying for, you may need to also include additional files or links to demonstrate your skills. Whether that is in the form of test results, certification records, writing samples or letters of recommendation, make sure you have everything you need to apply for the position, which can increase your chances of gaining the attention of hiring managers.

When you include these additional files, make sure you first save them as PDFs so everyone will be able to open and read them quickly and easily. Also, choose a consistent file naming format so each item you submit is easy to find by your name and the type of item it is.

Determine how you plan to apply
Every job is different. Some companies require a formal application through an online portal while others simply require an email to the head of HR. Find out what the application process is for the company you would like to work for and plan accordingly.

If you email a résumé, make sure you are sending an email from a professional address. Cute and funny email addresses will not do you any favors when you're searching for a new job. Keep it straightforward and most importantly, professional.

When indicating that you will be attaching documents, make sure you do so. If you do not attach the documents, you will either waste the time of the hiring manager if they decide to reach out to ask for the files, or your application will simply not be considered.

Applying for a new job can be intimidating and stressful. However, with preparation, you can feel confident applying for your dream jobs with your résumé and cover letter.