5 Actually Useful Tips for Applying to Jobs
Applying for jobs is beyond stressful. But it's a necessary component of our lives, so we have to shape up and get it done. If you're on a job hunt like I am, you're probably getting frustrated with the inconsistency of job postings: some use easy apply features while others don't, some demand a cover letter and some don't, some make you enter the same info on your resume even though you just submitted your resume, and others barely list any information about the role on the application (but they'll be damned if they don't mention that they have a pool table).
If you're struggling with the job application process, I get you. Here's a few tips to make it easier so you aren't spending 2 hours filling out an application because you can't find the necessary information and files you need.
1.) Organize Your Portfolio and Make Copies
Seems like an obvious statement in theory, right? Keeping an organized portfolio on the web or on your computer is a lot more difficult in practice. There are very few free portfolio websites, and making your own incurs domain costs and requires coding knowledge that you don't have and don't have the time to learn.
For a simple online portfolio, use Google Drive to create a folder for your portfolio and upload your deliverables there. You can get a view-only share link to provide in job applications for both the folder and for individual files. For applications that require you to upload files, you can save an HTML file of the link to your computer for uploading. The best part is that Google Drive is completely free. If you have a lot of stuff in your portfolio, you can even create folders within a folder to organize further.
Keep a .zip file of your portfolio saved somewhere on your computer or a flash drive. These are perfect for sending through email, and you can easily add/remove files as you need to. This declutters your email attachments on any job application, which makes you look more professional.
2.) Get Creative With Your Search
Most people search for exact positions when they use an online job board like Indeed or LinkedIn. This is great if you're looking for something specific that only has one name. However, some searches, like "copywriter" or "editor," will yield a smorgasbord of random jobs that might not be a fit, forcing you search through dozens of pages to find something you actually want.
Instead of general queries, search for keywords. "Copywriter" will give you every copywriting job under the sun - "marketing copywriter remote" will narrow your search to exactly what you want.
Additionally, use common search engine functions in your search. Google offers certain commands to help users narrow their search. While functionality of these commands varies between sites, most sites let you use two standard commands: quotation marks around a word or phrase to ensure that specific word/phrase is absolutely included in every result, and a minus sign before a word/phrase to ensure a word/phrase absolutely doesn't appear in any result. For example, if you want full-time, remote marketing copywriter jobs, instead of writing,
marketing copywriter remote
"marketing" copywriter "remote" -freelance -part-time
instead. This will cut out any results with the word "freelance" and "part-time" and will guarantee that each result has "marketing" and "remote" in it. This can help weed out incorrectly categorized postings (anyone else get annoyed seeing part-time jobs popping up in the full-time category?).
3.) Keep Track of Your Jobs
Whether you apply for 10 jobs or 100, you need to keep track of the jobs you apply for. If you don't, you can end up receiving a call about a position you don't even remember applying for and come across as completely unprepared - a terrible precedent to set on your first interaction with a potential employer.
Create a list of every job you applied for. This can be as simple or complex as you like. The three basic components I recommend are the job title, a hyperlink on the title to the job posting, and the company name. If you're Iggy Azeala levels of fancy, you can add current status; the document(s) you submitted; and small notes about type of employment, salary, etc.
Use email to your advantage - most companies send a confirmation email if you submit an application, which you can use as a makeshift checklist. If you see a confirmation email, get the info from it that you need, add it to your list, and then save the confirmation email to a folder.
When you are asked in for an interview, you can then reference this list, find the job posting and company name, and start researching. If you get one of those recruiters who puts you on the spot by calling you up for a brief impromtu talk, you'll be saved by your list as you hold them off talking about the work experience you memorized for this exact scenario.
Don't lie, I know you memorized it.
4.) Lessen Your Application-Filling Woes
You know those jobs that ask you to submit a resume file and then ask for literally the exact same information on the next page? Yeah, they suck. While this is no doubt annoying, you can make this easier by having a plain text file (.txt, not .docx) with your resume information on-hand.
You won't need this file for the small info snippets, like your contact info and position titles. Instead, use this for job descriptions and longer answers to questions. Any time you answer a question, save your response in this file to use it again for future applications. Most job applications require similar questions, so you only need to make small tweaks instead of rewriting the same answers. All the copying and pasting will save you countless minutes.
Additionally, take advantage of autofill and autocomplete features on browsers. Look up how to input saved names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. on your browser and let it do the work for you. Take advantage of sites that let you fill out your information with your LinkedIn or Indeed profile as well - just make sure to review your data in case the importer put the info in the wrong place or switched up descriptions.
Finally, if you suck at making resumes (like me), download a PDF version of your resume on a job board. Despite the lack of customization and control over certain aspects, these resumes have clean formatting and do well in ATS and autocomplete importers. Will their designs make you stand out? Probably not, but your experience and cover letter should do that for you anyway.
5.) Use the Job Posting in Your Cover Letter
Personally, I abhor writing cover letters, but I understand their usefulness. Sometimes, they convey information that your experience just can't on its own. To make writing cover letters easier, use the information in the job posting to write an outline.
Most job postings provide a list of requirements they want (usually generic stuff like "be a team player!" or "don't hate working as much as the rest of the world does!"). Respond to those requirements directly in the cover letter. This shows employers that you not only read the job posting all the way through but also have the exact qualifications they are looking for.
If they say, "3 years of experience as a journalist," write, "I worked at Big Fat News for 3 years as a staff writer on their Big Fat Breaking News team." If they say, "Adaptable to a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines," write, "I wrote breaking news articles in under 24 hours for immediate publication." If they say, "$12/hour salary" on a full-time job, apply to a different company.
Congrats, you're now a job-applying expert!
Go forth and use your knowledge to apply for jobs that won't get back to you for three weeks only to tell you that they went with someone more qualified!