How to Apply for a Job

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If the starting salary for your target position was one million dollars, how would you apply for the job? This question informs the in-depth strategy for applying to a job presented in this post. It also surfaces another question: Are you ready to do the work?

In my coaching work, I’ve helped many clients change their approach from applying to hundreds of jobs to carefully targeting a few positions and crafting a strong application. This strategy increases the number of hours you spend per application, but it also significantly increases your odds of getting the job. Here is the 4 step process we use, including how each step helps to boost your confidence:

1. Learn as much about the opportunity as possible.
2. Make a connection with the company.
3. Determine the key factors for success in the job.
4. Prepare an application tailored to the key factors for success.

1. Learn as much about the company as possible.
Using the company website, white papers, blogs, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, newspaper articles, social media accounts, informational interviews, etc., create a research project for yourself. In fact, your temporary job title should be ‘Challenge Researcher’. Your goal is to find the following information: What challenges does the organization want to solve? What opportunities do they want to take advantage of? What are their values, points of view, major projects, major clients, major accomplishments, financial performance, etc.? What has made the company successful? What do you like the most about the organization and what do you like the least about the organization? What do you think it takes to be successful in this organization? Who works there and  what are their career paths? What else would you like to learn about the organization?

This information will help you in three ways: 1) to decide whether or not you want to work there; 2) to determine key questions you need to ask about the organization and 3) to help you build a very strong, targeted application.

Confidence Boost: You can build your confidence to apply for a job at this stage. Having a thorough understanding of the organization will increase your confidence when you reach out and speak to employees. You will also distinguish yourself from other candidates.

2. Make a connection with the company.
After your research, the next step is to make a connection with the company. For example, you could set up a meeting with an employee who already works there. The goal of your meeting is to ask questions to learn more about the company. The questions need to be specific and reflect your understanding of their work. To make a connection, choose from the following options, or find your own:

-Use a warm lead: Ask a trusted contact to introduce you to someone at the company.
-Make a ‘cold call’: Find a way to connect with someone in the organization. Be respectful, creative and persistent in your approach. Emails: Keep them extremely short – 2-4 sentences. If you want to see the email template I use, leave a comment below. Calls: Call their office (early in the morning or late in the evening) to set up a time to talk.

Confidence Boost: Remember, there is a company out there that needs your help. Take bold initiative to find that company  and to make sure they are the one you can and, more importantly, want to help. One day, they will be thankful you did!

3. Determine the key factors for success in the job.
Based on your research in Step 1) and 2), determine the 5-8 most important elements for success in the job and at the company. These can include parts of the job description. Limiting yourself only to the job description, however, is a mistake. You need to dig deeper to find what the organization really wants. Go back to your research and make a list of factors that include experiences, knowledge, competencies, personal attributes, etc.

Confidence Boost: Base your decision of your 8 factors on the great research you have done in the previous stages. If you do your research, you should be able to identify 80-90% of what the role needs, which will already set you apart from other candidates.

4. Prepare an application tailored to the factors for success.
Customize each one of your application materials to be tailored to the 8 factors above. Your CV, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, online application, powerpoint presentation, interview preparation, etc. should be focused on these 8 factors. For example, if one of your 8 factors is Planning & Coordination, your materials should reflect how thoroughly prepared you are to fulfill this criteria. You can prepare STARs (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to give 2-3 examples of your experience with the 8 factors for success in the past.

For more information on created tailored materials, read the following article on the the T-Format cover letter.

Confidence Boost: Once you compare your finalized application materials to the success criteria for the job, you will feel the confidence boost linked with knowing that you can be successful in this job. Remember that you do not need to meet all of the criteria to apply. However, you do need to demonstrate relevant experience for each one of the success factors. Take your time to carefully craft your materials according to this principle. If you get stuck with one of the success factors, ask a trusted friend or career coach for help.

Taken together, these 4 steps are more likely to get you the job you want. Are you willing to put in the necessary work?

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