How to Ace the Job Application Process
Before landing an interview, here's how to turn in a top-notch job application.
Today's complex job application process can take several more steps than attaching a resume to an email and hitting send. Many large companies ask applicants to complete a lengthy online application; it can be difficult to find the name of a hiring manager or a direct way to get your foot in the door; and even before the big interview, there's usually a human resources screener to pass first.
Before you prep for the big job interview, perfect these job application steps:
Know your keywords — and use them.
Many companies use software programs to vet applicants – they're searching for resumes containing keywords that match the job description. "A computer scans applications for keywords, and people who haven't listed those skills are weeded out — human eyes may never even see your application," says Kathryn Aho, an advisor in Full Sail's Career Development department. "Don't use the synonym of the word. If they're asking for something and you know it, put it there. The more you match, the better."
Create bespoke resumes.
It's tempting to add the same resume to each job application and hit "Submit," but a customized version boosts your odds of hearing back. Creating individualized resumes is easier than it sounds — you just have to stay organized. "If you have a document that covers all the different aspects of your experience and skills, then, as you're building the resume, it's not like starting from scratch," says Doree Rice, Full Sail's Director of Career Development. "You can also create several different versions of your resume geared to different aspects of your industry, and then it's just a little bit of tweaking for each employer."
Craft a great cover letter.
Many online job applications leave the form to enter a cover letter as optional, but it's a good idea to exercise that option: "A cover letter is a wonderful opportunity to show your personality, qualifications, and desire for the job," says Carol Catto, a research specialist in Full Sail's Career Development department. Make that cover letter stand out, says Aho: "Tailor the letter as much as possible. Maybe you've loved the company since you were a child. Or one of their recent projects really spoke to you. Don't use general material that you use for every job."
Find other ways to get your foot in the door.
Sometimes a company's online job application tool can make you feel like you're sending your resume into the abyss. That said, there are other ways to get your foot in the door. "Head to LinkedIn and do a cross-search for the company and Full Sail," says Aho. "You can see if there are any Full Sail grads that currently work there. That's your way in: Pick someone's brain and ask them if they have any tips for getting an interview. We have so many stories of grads that reached out to other grads, and those grads were able to put in a good word."
Clean up your social media profiles.
Human resources reps and hiring managers are absolutely searching for you online. "I tell my students to work on their digital hygiene," Catto says. "Ask friends to take down unattractive photos. If you went on a rant online, take it down. Always keep your social media presence professional." If you're worried, you can also make your profiles private while you're job searching.
Get ready for the HR screener call.
If a human resources rep emails you to set up a phone call to go over the position, treat the call like it's a real job interview. "Typically, they're trying to get a grasp on your personality and your basic qualifications, but you should always prepare for more," says Aho. "Practice answering common interview questions such as, ‘Tell me about yourself' and ‘Why do you want this position?'"
Answer the phone!
If you've applied for a job, stay on top of your email and keep your phone on — you don't want to miss an opportunity," urges Catto. "This is no time to be screening your calls. You may never get that callback. So please, answer your phone."