by Karen Ferguson
The job search is a process with no one answer, no single system of applying and getting a job. Each company, each organization, each employer has their own process, and even then the system isn't necessarily followed to the letter.
The processes are generally pretty similar, of course. But it's a process in which people are involved, and people tend to do things their own way when they have the chance.
It's the heart of the matter, the fact that people are a part of the hiring process every step of the way. If there were some magical form to be filled out and a computer program assessed your answers to determine your suitability for a job, all might be so much easier. Except that you'd still want to understand the expectations and biases built into the computer's programming.
So maybe we wouldn't be much further ahead. We'd still be grappling with trying to satisfy personal preferences and biases (conscious or unconscious) concerning things like the wording of your cover letter and the personality it projects, to the organizations you have worked for.
Try to put yourself in the employer's shoes, and be honest with yourself as you assess your cover letter and resume. Would you stop and read through your resume and then the cover letter? That is, is it quickly apparent that you have the qualifications for the job?
Try to put yourself in the employer's shoes
If you were a small business owner, would you be willing to pay $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 (the number isn't important here, but the question has more resonance the larger that number gets) for your services? What would you be looking for when you agree to spend that kind of money? And will you know that's what you're buying when you hire?
These are the kinds of questions that might help guide how you approach your job application. You're selling your skills and abilities to people, in every situation into which you throw your resume and a cover letter. Try to put yourself in the employers shoes.
If this line of questionning creates some misgivings, you're either applying for the wrong job, one that you know you're very unlikely to be hired for, or you need to work on your sales pitch. You need to be clear in your mind, with irrefutable detail, why you're the person for the job. And don't shy away from making your pitch up front.
Your resume gets you the interview - you do the rest
In the end, though, you most often do not know the process into which you are submitting your application. Some companies have large HR departments and somewhat defined hiring processes, and the smaller the organization, the less you can assume. For example, the first person who looks at your application is crucial to your making the first cut. Is it an HR person? A computer? A clerical support person? Will they/it understand how your experience fits the job by looking at your resume for 15-30 seconds?
In situations where hundreds of people apply for the job, the first task of a screening process might be establishing a reason(s) to not consider an application, to apply some tactic to narrow down the pool of seemingly qualified candidates. Here is where it is crucial that your qualifications and skills are apparent and easily assessed, and that there are no typos, grammatical, or similar errors on your resume and cover letter. Yes, you can be summarily dismissed as a potential candidate because you inverted an "e" and an "i".
It is this and other possible contexts you need to consider when sending your application off into the ether. Who might see it? How will they view your resume? Your cover letter? What will they be looking to see on the first run through possible candidates? Are you making a pitch that will make an impression? - Karen Ferguson
There is plenty of advice and guidance out there -- and here on the internet -- to help with your job search. Use it! Here are a few more articles to get you started and keep you going.
Job search no-no's: A checklist of things candidates shouldn't be doing (Workopolis)
The real reason no-one is going to give you a chance (Workopolis)
Resumes and cover letters
Hot tips on resume writing - the basics (Workopolis), and Hot resume tips II - your skills and experience.
Five simple ways to get better results from your resume (Workopolis)
The new style that makes writing cover letters easy (Workopolis)
The interview and beyond
Ten must-ask job interview questions (from the perspective of the interviewer), by Harvey Schachter, January 3, 2011, from The Globe and Mail's Report on Business.