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How to Apply
1. Decide what kind of job you want. In order to streamline the job application process, examine what your needs and desires are for employment. You can narrow down your options by taking a few things into consideration:
- Consider the career field. Whether you are transitioning from another field or are looking to make a lateral move, it is important to find work that is both challenging and rewarding for you. Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important and knowing what you do want to do.
- Consider the skills required for a particular position. Feeling like your skills are being well utilized and acknowledged is key to feeling satisfaction at a job. Having an idea about which of your skills will be tapped, and which you will be able to develop, is key to deciding on a worthwhile job.
- Consider your salary and benefit requirements. Be honest and realistic about your bottom line. If you need health coverage and require a certain amount of income per month, it is best to hone in on jobs that fulfill those requirements.
2. Do your research. Before you begin sending out resumes and cover letters en masse, look into the companies you are applying for.
- Get a sense of the company’s personality and values by reading its mission statement. This information can come in handy when writing your cover letter and in an interview situation.
- Read up on new products or services the company is providing. This information is often located in the company’s “news” section. This section can also be a source of information on community activities the company is involved in.
- Review the jobs or careers section of the company website for insight into job openings. You may find more options for employment in other departments or locations.
3. Write a resume. Even if the job you want doesn’t require the submission of a traditional resume, having an up-to-date resume is highly recommended. Resumes not only outline your education and work history, but they can also point to specific projects you’ve worked on or awards you’ve won. Information to include on your resume should entail:
- Your current contact information, including your full name, phone number, mailing address, and email address.
- Your educational background. List the colleges you have attended (beginning with your most recent), the year you attended, and any degrees or certificates earned. You may opt to include your course of study.
- Your work history for the past few years. The unofficial rule is one resume page per ten years of experience. Be aware that large gaps in employment, or multiple jobs within a short amount of time, will be something you may be asked about in an interview. Be sure to include dates of employment, the company name, your title, and a brief description of your activities.
- Your relevant skills. This is your opportunity to list all the skills you have acquired through the years. Knowledge of office equipment, familiarity with computer operating systems, software programs (such as Microsoft Office Suite or Adobe Creative Suite), typing speed, database experience, and other relevant information should be included in your resume.
4. Contact the employer to ask about the application process. You will likely have your call routed to the hiring or human resources manager. If they have openings, they may ask you to either come in to fill out an application or that you send them your resume and cover letter by mail or e-mail. Be sure to note this contact's name, and address all future communication to this person, by name.
5. Write a cover letter, if necessary. Make sure it is specific to both the company and the job. If possible, address the contact letter to a specific contact person. This demonstrates that you took the time to research the information and are not simply mass-emailing every employer you can find. Consider discussing the following topics in your cover letter:
- How the company’s personality and mission align with your own values.
- How your background makes you a valuable asset to the role and to the company.
- What it is you hope to gain from working in this role.
- What unique talents would you bring to this position?
- What specifically interests you about this position.
6. Get a second (or third) opinion. Ask friends or family members to review your resume and cover letter for typos. They may be able to point out things that are missing, or items that could be rephrased.
If possible, get advice from someone working in the field you are applying for. Speaking to recruiters or hiring managers may be beneficial as well, as they are familiar with the qualities and qualifications employers are looking for.
7. Locate references. Though you may not have to provide a list of references right away, it is wise to tap people early to ask whether they would consider being a professional reference for you.
It is recommended that you secure at least three references. At least two of these references should be people whom you have worked with and who can speak to your job performance.
Be sure you have your references' updated contact information, including mailing and email addresses, phone number, current title, and current company.
8. Apply. Once you have fine-tuned your resume and cover letter, it is time to begin the application process. Applications are typically submitted in one of three ways:
- In person. Bring a packet containing all your materials to the prospective employer's workplace. It is recommended that you ask ahead of time for the best time to deliver your materials. When you arrive, ask to speak to the hiring manager and try to hand your materials to them personally. This allows the hiring manager to put a face to the name. It is recommended that you dress professionally and present yourself well.
- Online. Online applications vary--some may ask you to fill in fields, while others may require that you attach PDFs of your cover letter and resume. Some companies request that you email your materials to their Human Resources department. It is important to follow directions--if they ask that you send your resume in the body of the email, do not send an attachment!
- By mail. If requested, be sure to include the name of the hiring or HR manager on all of the correspondence. Ensure that you have the proper postage for the weight of your application packet.
9. Follow up. Checking on the status of your application shows your interest in the position and ensures that your application materials have made it to the appropriate person. Calling right away can seem demanding and off-putting. Follow these suggestions for reaching out:
- Pay attention to job "close date." Most jobs posted online will have a posted closing date. Calling the hiring manager before this date can make you seem overly eager and desperate.
- If there is no close date, a good rule of thumb is to make contact one week after application submission.
- When you do call or email the hiring or HR manager, try to make the tone of you communication friendly. Avoid demanding comments like, "I haven't been contacted yet." Instead, ask questions such as "Have any decisions been made yet?" or "Can you tell me a little more about the hiring time frame?" Asking if you might contact them again in one week if no word has been given is a polite way to be proactive.