It’s always a relief to hit the “submit” button after you’ve done your best to make a great impression through an online job application. But is the application the best it can be? Are there errors you may have missed that will cause hiring managers to overlook you? Although applying in itself is a huge accomplishment, there are still crucial steps you need to take to move forward in the journey to landing your next job.
UCPath Center’s Senior Recruiter Tom Abt has seen enough applications to know what will make yours stand out.
From preparing your resume — to submitting your application and moving through the interview process — Tom has invaluable insight to help ensure you’re making the best possible first impression.
1. Write a Stand-Out Cover Letter and Resume
Before you hit “apply” — ask yourself — have you written a compelling cover letter? According to Abt, “the cover letter is your first impression, so you better make it clear and concise. Include quantifiable data on projects you’ve successfully taken to the finish line. Most importantly, don’t forget to tell this person why you think you’re the perfect person for this specific opportunity.”
Including a cover letter in your application is necessary, and the best opportunity to tell your prospective employers exactly why you are the perfect candidate for the job. It might be time-consuming, but you should always make sure you’re speaking directly to the company that you’re applying to. Explain what unique value you bring to the open position and your future co-workers. It’s also important to always tailor your resume to the specific job.
Avoid any type of shortcut. For example, not all companies use scanners to pre-screen and pick out resumes stuffed with keywords. The job you’re applying for may be read by an experienced recruiter who will be able to tell the difference between a well-crafted resume or an attempt to trick a computer program.
“We actually read each resume, so a resume overfilled with keywords will simply look messy to us. It’s just one of the many resume mistakes I see on a daily basis.”
Learn all about the company and position you’re applying for, and then learn some more. This is a great opportunity for you to get to know the company you might potentially be employed by and can show your dedication to securing the job.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people I get on the phone, only to realize within the first two minutes that they haven’t even looked at our website,” Abt continues. “We know you’re busy and might not be able to recite the year we were founded — or how many people work here — but you should have a general notion of what we do and why we do it.”
A great way to get to know the company is to speak to someone who is already employed there. Ask for an informational interview to learn more. Another idea is to visit the company’s LinkedIn page and find someone in the department of the position for which you’re applying — then send them a message. Even with their busy schedules, UCPath Center employees are always willing to carve out time from their hectic schedules to help prospective employees.
Want to work for UC? Here’s how to land a job at the University of California.
3. Prepare For Your Interview
You’ve done the research—now you need to prepare for the opportunity to meet in person with a recruiter or hiring manager. Consider first checking off the simplest task on your interview preparation list – the interview attire.
“While things aren’t as formal as they used to be — it’s best to err on the side of caution,” Abt advises. “If you don’t know exactly what to wear, find out what the employees typically wear and take it up one notch. It’s never a bad thing to dress more formally than your interviewer, but it could be seen as a negative if you’re dressed less formally.”
The next item on the list should be to role-play an interview with someone you know. Research different interview questions and take the time to talk through each one. It can even be helpful to write down bullet points for questions you consider the most challenging.
“Know that you are often up against many other applicants, so always think about what will put you over the top when it comes to leaving an indelible impression on the recruiter. Let your competitive juices flow,” Abt advises.
4. Don’t Neglect the Follow-up
Once you’ve made a great impression in your interview, don’t forget to continue impressing your potential new employer with a thank you note. Send an email to your interviewer and thank them for their time. Include a unique note about something discussed in your interview and most importantly, give them a final reminder of why you are a perfect fit for the job!
Want to take what you’ve learned from this article and apply it to land a position at the University of California—one of the top research institutions in the country? Do so by checking out the many openings at the UCPath Center.