With an unemployment rate of 9.6% as of August, competition levels are high for those precious few jobs. Luckily, with some good advice and a little luck, you can be on the road to professional fulfillment – or at least financial stability. With these tips, you can be sure to hit the high score and land your perfect job. (Rebounding from a stint of unemployment can be a frustrating thing to do. These tips should soften the blow. Check out How Unemployment Affects You (Even If You're Working))
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+1: You apply for a job with a cover letter.
Since most of us apply for jobs online, it can be tempting to leave out the cover letter and simply send a short message in the body of the email. However, hiring managers still want to see your cover letter – it may be a bit awkward to write, but it helps narrow down appropriate candidates as well as assess your professional writing skills.
-5: You don't include any message with your resume.
Whether because they are technologically unsure or simply trying to send as many resumes in as possible, far too many people not only exclude the cover letter, they also neglect to write anything in the body of the email. All the recruiter sees is an email with an attachment – no message, and often not even a subject line. The image this presents is either "I'm too busy" or "I don't care enough about this job," and neither is going to land you the gig. (Find out what to avoid when writing a cover letter; read 7 Cover Letter Blunders.)
+1: Your application is complete and sent in on time.
Congratulations! Your resume and cover letter are up-to-date, well-formatted and tailored to that particular job. Your application contains no spelling errors or missing information. Now you can just sit back and wait. Or can you?
+5: You follow up on your application.
Following up – appropriately - will help keep your name fresh in the hiring manager's mind, and demonstrates that you care about that particular job – not just about working anywhere. You may be applying to many places at once, but make sure you take the time to learn a little about the company and the position before calling in to follow up. Having a solid grasp on what the company does, who their target market is, and what the position entails will all help to set you apart as a candidate who knows who is diligent and ready to start working.
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-100: You follow up inappropriately.
Appropriately is the key thing to keep in mind when following up. Calling everyday and explaining tearfully that you can't buy a new iPhone until you start working isn't going to win you any points. It will likely land you in unemployment jail, do not pass Go or collect $200.
+10: Your resume lists specific evidence that demonstrates your prowess and talent.
When it comes to resumes, it's a numbers game. How did what you have done translate into real world results and, ultimately, make the company money? That could mean you exceeded sales goals, brought in new clients, or set up new procedures which led to measurably increased productivity. Whatever it is you do, make sure you can back up how well you do it with solid evidence. (For more on how to write a resume, read 6 Resume Must-Haves.)
-10: You lied or divulged proprietary information.
No employer wants to hire someone who will spill their trade secrets to other companies, so why would a hiring manager take a chance when you might do it again? Never include private statistics or dollar figures that your previous employer hasn't divulged publicly and which they wouldn't want to divulge publicly. Similarly, if there are inconsistencies in your resumes – or outright lies – don't expect a call back.
The Bottom Line
These are just a few easy tips that will help you gain points and complete your task of scoring a new job. Whenever you are unsure, try and look at yourself from your prospective employer's perspective, and make sure you are presenting yourself as a model employee and person.
For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: Poverty Rates Increase - And So Do Millionaires.