How to Apply for a Job in 6 Easy and Effective Steps

Updated July 5, 2023

A woman sits in an armchair holding a laptop computer.

Your job application package is the very first way you present yourself to a potential new employer, and so it is very important that you do it correctly.

In this article, we'll define the job application process and define the six easy and effective steps to take to apply for a job you want.

What is a job application?

A job application is a formal document that sums up your factual education and experience for your potential employer. It contains confidential candidate information for both recruiters and hiring personnel to review.

You may find that when you go online to submit your resume to a company, you're also asked to fill out a digital application. Other times, companies will ask you to come in and fill out an application by hand, often during the interview or onboarding process. Unlike your resume, your job application is a legally-defendable document. It's important that the information included is thorough and accurate.

Often, recruiters will include a digital job application as part of a job application package where you are asked to submit additional items like your resume, references and cover letter.

Related: What Happens To My Resume After I Click Apply? Plus Tips for Success

How to apply for a job

Here's how you can apply for a job that helps you achieve your career goals:

  1. Search for jobs in your field

  2. Research hiring companies

  3. Ready your resume for submission

  4. Decide if a cover letter is right for you

  5. Submit your resume and online application

  6. Application follow-up

1. Search for jobs in your field

Research by the Pew Research Center suggests that almost 80% of applicants in 2015 used the internet as a primary means of locating jobs. That number has likely grown in the five years since that study was published. Either way, it's clear that the most common way to search for jobs in your field is to do an internet search. Websites like Indeed make it easier to connect with employers who are looking for your skills and experience.

Related: Job Search: 6 Ways To Find Your Next Job

2. Research hiring companies

If you started with a job search rather than a company search, make sure to research every company that you are considering applying to. A strong starting point is to go online to the company's "about" page. You should also perform a search query on the company name to look for any news, current events or reviews about the company.

Once you've exhausted your internet search, move on to connecting with people who work at the companies you are applying to. By networking with people who work at companies you are considering working for, you get a better feel for overall company culture.

Consider using Indeed's company search tool to research your next company.

3. Ready your resume for submission

Readying your resume for the application process means making sure it's up-to-date and optimized for the job you are applying to. First, keeping it up-to-date means adding your most recent education, experience and skills. In a chronological resume, most recent education and experience should be listed first in each section.

You can optimize your resume for the job you are applying to by reviewing the job description and using relevant keywords that apply to your skillset through your resume.

4. Decide if a cover letter is right for you

In modern job applications, a cover letter is not always expected. Decide if you need to submit a cover letter. Sometimes you can tell because it will say so on the application. However, if you do opt to include a cover letter, make sure that it accents your resume and tells an interesting story about you.

Related: Q&A: Should You Include a Cover Letter in 2022?

5. Submit resume and online application

After preparing your resume and cover letter, you may need to go online and fill out an application where you can attach your external documents. Avoid copying and pasting directly from your resume into the online application because that can lead to formatting issues. Instead, answer each question thoughtfully and shape your answer to the needs of the company.

Related: 10 Resume Writing Tips To Help You Land a Position

6. Application follow-up

Hiring managers may need time to sort through resumes and applications. While you may be tempted to follow up soon after applying, wait about two weeks before reaching out to check the status of your application. This gives hiring managers adequate time to sort through candidates and makes you look more professional. You can submit an application follow-up letter in the form of an email to the hiring manager if you have that information. If not, you can call the company and ask to speak to the hiring manager for the position.

Related: How to Follow Up on a Job Application

Tips for applicants

Before you apply for a job, follow these tips to better prepare yourself for the application:

  • Review social media. First, review your social media. Make sure your privacy settings are set how you want them and that anything visible to the public is appropriately professional.

  • Locate hiring managers online. Using business social media sites and professional networks, you can connect with hiring managers at the companies you are interested in. This will allow you to connect with managers, personalize your communications and stand out as a candidate.

  • Connect with employees. Connect with other employees at the company to learn what it's like to work there, what kinds of things they look for in an employee and the overall culture of the business.

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