Have you ever lost out on the job of your dreams and knew then and there that if you had prepared better, you would have gotten the job?
I can relate to that feeling. Don’t beat yourself up! It happens to the best of us. This is why I have written this article to guide you on how to apply for a job and get it.
How to Apply for a Job and Get it
Many people think the most important part of getting a job is applying, but that’s not very accurate. Many other factors will determine whether you will get that job or not. And this guide will put you through.
Why should you read this guide? You should read it because it is coming from someone who has been actively applying for jobs both locally and internationally for more than 3 years.
I have also been at the receiving end of job applications when I hired people for writing jobs and when I worked as an editor for two publishing companies. I will share some of the methods I’ve learned over the years that will get you the job of your dreams, the mindset you should have, how to prepare for an interview, what to do after, and some mistakes you should avoid.
- Common mistakes people make when applying for jobs
- What you should know before applying for a job
- How to Apply for a Job
- Application Red Flags
- How to prepare for an interview
- During the Interview
- Interview Red Flags
- What to do if you get the Job
- What to do if you don’t get the Job
First, let’s look at some mistakes people make when they apply for jobs.
Common mistakes people make when applying for jobs
- Lack of email etiquette: When I worked as an editor, one of the things I noticed more frequently was that many people did not know how to use email. Many people do not know that email letters should follow a format (a letter format), should be formal, and should contain a subject, intro, body, conclusion, and a sign-off. When I go through the emails of people submitting their book proposals, some just send a paragraph or two and attach their documents. There was no “Please find attached” or Dear Sir/ma, etc. Some even send only their document.
I was actually surprised that many people don’t know these basic emailing rules. You might not be getting replies or a glance at your email because you lack email etiquette. Imagine applying for a job and not adding a subject. I can assure you only 2 out of 100 hiring managers will open your email. People are busy enough; imagine them wondering what your email is about because you did not put a subject. If this is you, read Hubspot’s post on email etiquette to know how to send a proper and formal email.
- Your application is full of grammar errors: I laugh in multiple languages. I bet you nobody is giving you an interview; talk more of a job offer. Except you are applying for a role that doesn’t require any grammatical expertise (still not excusable), or you are applying for a role in another language that is not English. Before sending out that job application, use Grammarly to check your spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentences, etc.
- You didn’t read the job description: I think this is one of the funniest mistakes anyone can ever make. How can you apply for a job that you don’t thoroughly understand what it entails? Why not carefully read the application first? Some recruiters even put coded words and statements in the middle of the job description; then, they write that they want to see the word in the application to weed out people who do not take the time to read it. If they don’t see these things in your application, it doesn’t matter how qualified you are, they will ignore your application. Also, there’s no way you can properly apply for a job without understanding the job description.
- Your resume is not tailored to the job: Most recruiters no longer check resumes themselves, especially because they receive hundreds to thousands of resumes per job. This is why they use a tool called ATS. This tool checks to make sure the keywords in the job description match with your resume. This is why sometimes you might be on the right track, but you may end up being weeded out by the ATS tool because your resume does not have the necessary keywords or keyphrases in the job description. I also recommend you use this resume ATS checker tool to check if your resume aligns with the job role you are applying for.
- You have irrelevant information in your resume: Here are some irrelevant information your resume should not have:
- Your personal house address: Your state and country are okay but also not compulsory. However, your house address is a no-no. It is tacky and dangerous for your safety because you never know how many people will see your resume.
- Job roles and experiences that don’t match with the role you are applying for: If you are applying for the role of a writer, your job experience as an editor and blogger might look great alongside your writer experience in your resume, but you should definitely not add your job experience as a receptionist, admin, social media manager, account assistant, etc., especially if they have nothing to do with the job description. Even if they do, you can add it in your cover letter but not your resume because—ATS.
- Discriminating factors: Your age, gender, religion, marital status, photograph, race, etc., are highly irrelevant information in your resume. Not only that, they can also be used as reasons for you to be rejected. It is better to keep this information to yourself until the interview (If you are asked) or until you get the job and have to sign a contract or fill out an employee form.
- Your phone number: Another information that can be risky to add. Instead, add your email. It is more formal, and you can decide who you respond to. This is because resumes sometimes end up in the hands of strangers. You can never tell how far your document will go. It is better to remain safe.
- Your CGPA: First, recruiters don’t care about this half the time. I have never been asked for my CGPA since I started working. Secondly, if your CGPA is not very great, it can cause your application to get rejected. Just be on the safer side and keep it out.
- References: Leave it out, and I hope you are not still including “Available on Request” in your resume. It is irrelevant. Get an interview first!
- Reduce the length of words: Make your summary short and precise. Also, ensure whatever information you will include in your resume is not too lengthy. Recruiters would probably scan through or use an ATS tool. Ensure it is short and conveys the appropriate message. Also, allow white spaces in between sentences. Make sure they are not all scrunched up. This will make it appear neat and easy to read.
- Anything unimpressive about you: I know you are an honest person, but listen, your resume is supposed to show the impressive things about you. That’s really what recruiters care about. They want to know that you are capable and worthy of the job they are offering. They don’t want to know that you didn’t finish school, had a career break for 2 years, didn’t go to high school, or whether the school you went to is an Ivy League or not. Leave that for the interview session if they do ask. But if not, leave it out.
- You didn’t research the company: Researching the company is a great way to know more about the company so you can write a more convincing application. If the company notice you researched them, they will also feel excited to work with you, knowing you are genuinely interested in their job and not just in getting a job. I have learned never to apply for a job without looking for their website and checking them on Google first. If I don’t find them there, I will check LinkedIn or other social networks. It is also a great way to know if you won’t be wasting your time speaking with a fraudster.
- Using the same cover letter for all applications: It’s okay to have a generic cover letter you fine-tune for particular job roles. However, you must ensure you edit this cover letter thoroughly to reflect the job description of the specific job you are applying for because no two jobs look the same. I once made the mistake of using a generic cover letter for a company, then I forgot to edit the name of the company (LOL). It was after I sent in the application that I realised I had used “Dear Company Y” to apply for Company XX. I was so mad at myself, but it was too late.
Instead of wasting your time on jobs that don’t want you, work on those that do.
- You applied for a job not available in your country: This used to be me until I realised it was a waste of time. If it is stated that they only want people from specific countries or time zones, don’t bother applying because no matter how excellent your cover letter and resume are, they won’t hire you. I used to be mad about this before, but I learned that most of the time it’s because of company tax regulations in some countries, payment issues, and time zone differences. While it might not be viable for you, it is for them. Instead of wasting your time on jobs that don’t want you, work on those that do.
- You didn’t fill out all the questions on the application form: There is no long talk about it. You are definitely going to be ignored. Even people who fill out all the questions don’t get the job. Talk more of an empty form.
- Not being patient: This happened to me a lot in the early days of my career. I always felt all job applications were time-bound, and I needed to be as fast as possible, or someone else would submit their application before me and get picked. Well, I was wrong. I would not pay attention to the application or patiently fill it. Then I’d submit and get rejected. I had to learn to patiently read the job description repeatedly and fill out forms more thoroughly. Also, not being patient can extend to after submitting applications. If you are the type who sends 100 follow-up messages to hiring managers, they might find this irritating and ghost you. Instead, wait patiently to hear from them, especially if they included an application closing date. And if they don’t reach out after a month, move on with dignity.
What you should know before applying for a job
- Learn about the company, the role, and what they want you to do for them.
- Some recruiters might never get to check your application, and that’s okay. Move to the next job.
- Some recruiters will never send a rejection letter. They assume that you’d know you weren’t picked if they don’t reach out to you.
- It’s okay not to be 100% qualified for a job. Still, apply anyway and capitalise on your strengths in relation to the role.
- There is no one way to write a cover letter. Some cover letters should be written in the tone of the job description, and you know not all job descriptions sound formal and serious. All cover letters should be short and precise, but some should be lengthier and should contain enough information to convince the recruiter you are a great fit for the job.
- Your cover letter should be confident and assertive. Tell them what you have previously done elsewhere and how you can implement it for their company with respect to the job description.
- Your LinkedIn profile sometimes matters. Some recruiters are more interested in seeing your optimised LinkedIn profile. Work on your LinkedIn and post as often as you can.
- Have a portfolio of work. This might not apply to all jobs, but it definitely applies to most jobs. Most recruiters want to be assured that you have done a similar job before and you are well fit for the job. Your portfolio is a great way to show this.
- Ensure your resume, cover letter, samples, and information you will be sending to the company all align with the job description.
- Ensure to save the job posting or take a screenshot of it. I usually do this in preparation for the job interview. In case I get called for an interview, I can always check the job description to prepare myself for questions.
How to Apply for a Job
You come across a job role you are excited about. You know you will do a great job if you get it, but you have tried getting similar roles previously to no avail. Now, you are scared of applying for this one, or you decided to apply maybe you would get it, but you are not so sure you will get it so you didn’t really put in your best.
Have you ever felt like this? You are not alone. Here are some statistics. 17% of job searchers stated they were too nervous about applying for a job, 15% couldn’t answer application questions, 11% feared being underqualified, and 10% felt like they were not prepared for the job.
That’s not all, it has also been found that most women don’t apply for jobs unless they are 100% qualified for it, while men go for it anyway.
- Get rid of the fears: I have noticed that being afraid of rejection or of the recruiter not opening your application, or being afraid you won’t get the job, just like the last applications, can affect the way you apply for the new job and how you respond to the application questions.
Now, I know it’s not easy to constantly get rejections, ghosted, failed interviews, failed tests, etc. These circumstances can really take a toll on the mind. However, if you want to do better on the next job application, you need to apply without your fears. Just focus on the job and the requirements instead of comparing it to your previous experience. This is a new experience, and if you do well, you could actually get the job.
- Have a level of interest in the role: I know you need the money, but can you try to focus on whether this is a job you are really interested in? Be honest with yourself. Let me inform you. If you are not necessarily passionate about a job, it will show in the way you apply, in the way you speak during interviews, and in the way you work if you get the job.
Am I talking from experience? Definitely. This USC blog post also agrees that passion is an important drive in the workplace.
When I honestly love a job, especially if I see a travel writing job application, I write with all my heart, and I always get the job 80% of the time. Passion! It can’t be faked.
Passion will drive you to learn about the company and write precisely what the employer needs to hear. Yes! They know you need a job so you can pay your rent, buy some clothes, and feed your family. However, they are hiring your services because they also need money from their customers, and they need someone who can get that money from them so they can pay your money.
Interesting right? Yes, you need the money, but they also need your services. Most recruiters can tell passion by the way you apply for a job. Passion will also show in your experience, etc. Even if you don’t have substantial experience, have you volunteered? Have you interned? Can you give a picture of how you carry out your job? Do you have samples? If these things are not there, how will they trust your passion?
- Read the job description multiple times: You have seen a job you would love to do. Don’t just go straight to the application. Read the job description. There are instructions and information in there that will determine if your application will be considered. The job description is so important that you will even need it to prepare for an interview, as I mentioned above. Read it thoroughly.
- Create a specialised resume and cover letter for the job: Now, I won’t say I do this every time. However, if it’s your dream job and it’s important to you to get it, create a resume and cover letter tailored to the job. You can use ChatGPT as a guide to know what to write and what is required in your industry, but never, I repeat, never use ChatGPT to write your cover letter or resume.
If you do so, the employer will know, and they will discard your application.
- Use keywords in the job description to write your resume and cover letter: Another tip that has helped me get the jobs I applied for is using the words in the job description to write my cover letter. If you would like to put in more work, you can also include the keywords in your resume.
Job Description and Cover Letter Sample
Here is an example of a job I applied for and the cover letter that got me an interview. Check it out and see how I added the keywords in the job description to the cover letter. (The name of the company has been changed for privacy).
Givenchy is hiring! We’re a rapidly growing, exciting Digital Marketing Agency, and we’re looking for a passionate and enthusiastic Copy and Blog Writing Specialist to join our family.
Givenchy Specialists are responsible for creating copy and blogs for our clients across a wide sector of businesses. You will need to be able to research blog topics, create content for blogs, and write engaging sales copy.
- Creating content on behalf of our clients
- Writing blogs for client websites
- Writing engaging content for client websites
- Editing and improving existing content on client websites
What we’re looking for:
- Track record of high-performance content creation
- Understanding of SEO for content writing
- Experienced writer with excellent English
- Fantastic time management
- Self-starter who is able to thrive in a fast-paced and fully remote environment
- Awesome communication skills
- Able to start work on short notice
- Candidates with previous digital marketing agency experience strongly preferred
This is a freelance position, and hours may vary.
We welcome everyone into our family:
We celebrate diversity and believe it makes our team stronger. We fully take advantage of the flexibility we have to hire from around the world and from any background. We give our team a work environment free from prejudice, discrimination and intimidation so they can do their best work and live happy lives. Inclusivity and equality are important to us, and we don’t tolerate behaviours that don’t follow these values.
Please click “Apply Now” / “Apply for Job” and upload your CV/resume along with a cover letter that tells us in 300 words why you think you’re the best candidate for this role.
Cover Letter Sample
Dear Givenchy, I am applying for the position of blog and copywriter in your digital marketing agency. After carefully reading the job description, I am confident I am a great fit for this role.
I am a skilled blog copywriter with experience writing blog posts, landing pages, service pages, email copies, etc., for digital marketing agencies and businesses.
I will work with you to accurately interpret clients’ content briefs and needs and craft quality content that suits your target audience. I possess excellent writing and editing skills, and I have experience improving already written content.
With over 15 of my written articles ranking on the first page of Google for their respective keywords (and a record of ranking on Google SERP in 5 days) in the last one year, I am confident of my SEO writing ability and Google ranking skills.
I ensure the final content is original, engaging, persuasive, and plagiarism-free. With my ability to meet deadlines, manage time effectively, and thrive in a fast-paced and fully remote environment. I possess effective communication skills, and I am available to start work on short notice.
My writing is engaging, informative, and compelling, and I produce quality content under tight deadlines. I am knowledgeable and experienced in using Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs, Grammarly, Semrush, Ahrefs, and diverse Content Management Systems like WordPress, Hubspot, etc.
With my writing, research, and marketing skills, and my knowledge of SEO, copywriting, and digital marketing best practices and industry trends, I will be a great addition to your organisation as a Blog copywriter.
Here is a link to my web content writing portfolio:
Let me know if you have any questions for me. Thank you for the opportunity.
I look forward to learning more about this role and working with you.
Analysis of Cover Letter and Job Description
You can see that I added the requirements the client listed in the job description and incorporated them in my cover letter by showcasing how I had previously done it. I also went over and beyond by describing some other experiences a web and blog writer should have, even though they didn’t ask for it. This shows I truly have the experience I claimed.
I also listed out the tools I had used, which every blog and web writer should know. The point is to show the recruiter you are well-experienced at the same time, passionate about the role.
Also, always note that not all but most recruiters will tell you how they want you to apply. Like this one – Please click “Apply Now” / “Apply for Job” and upload your CV/resume along with a cover letter that tells us in 300 words why you think you’re the best candidate for this role.
If you don’t take your time to read thoroughly, you might end up not seeing that your cover letter should be 300 words. Lastly, I added a portfolio of my writing samples to show my experience and expertise further.
Companies could ask you to submit a test sample with your application. Some may ask you to fill out a form (you also need to be careful with a form application because if you mistakenly submit when you are not done, you might not be able to edit your response).
After submitting all the necessary information asked, then get ready for an interview if the employer reaches out. Also, ensure the social media page link you submitted is well-optimized for the job role you are seeking.
Application Red Flags
- They ask you for a long unpaid test sample of over 200-500 words.
- They ask you for an unpaid sample and then tell you that even if you don’t get picked, they will still use your sample
- The same company keeps hiring for the same role every time.
- A job description can tell the character of the employer or the nature of the job. When you notice the tone of the description is rude, condescending, demanding, shouty, etc, just know that there is a possibility working with them will be a similar experience.
- The application process is too long, and they say you have to do at least 3 tests, 4 interviews, etc.
- The pay is lower than the average pay for that job position.
- The job description is too short, and you are unsure what they want or how to write the cover letter.
How to prepare for an interview
A survey by Everest College showed that 92% of job searchers will get a fair chance at one part of the interview process. If you get invited for an interview by the recruiter, then congratulations. However, that is just the beginning, and passing may not necessarily mean you will get the job. Especially if the recruiter still has more application processes to go.
To get to the next stage of the application process after the interview, you need to do great at it.
And you can do this with adequate preparation.
- When you get the email inviting you for the interview, reply to the mail. Let them know you have received it and will be available for the interview. If you are asked to schedule a meeting for when you will be available, do it immediately. Choose a day and time suitable for you from the available dates. Message them again that you have scheduled the date and you can’t wait to meet them.
- Read the job description thoroughly. Familiarise yourself with the duties and responsibilities, research any words, roles, or responsibilities you are not familiar with, check online for interview questions and probable answers relating to the role, and take notes.
- Learn about the company. Check for their website page, social media pages, etc. Most interviewers find candidates more trustworthy when they see you know about them. It makes them see your interest in not just the job but the company you will be working in.
- Prepare for the interview by setting your alarm to remind you about the day. Confirm whether it is virtual or in-person. Most interviews these days are virtual, though.
If it is virtual, your Google Calendar should tell you 30 minutes before. So, you can prepare. Be seated in front of your phone or laptop, well-dressed and groomed 10 minutes to the time.
If it is in person, leave home early so you won’t be late for the interview. Get there seated and ready at least 30 minutes before the interview starts. You can use this time to review some of the notes you have written earlier.
During the Interview
- Once the interview starts, don’t fidget or show any sort of anxiety. It might show you as someone not trustworthy. Look your interviewer or interviewers in the eyes confidently and smile. I have once been hired because my employer loved my smile. They felt I was a genuine person, and they connected well with me. Smile!
- Be confident. As I earlier mentioned, show confidence and don’t cower. This makes the interviewer see that you really know what you are doing.
- Answer questions intelligently. Don’t stutter or stammer. It’s okay to make mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Correct it, and keep speaking.
- Listen carefully before you answer.
- Don’t keep going on and on. Listen, and also allow the interviewer to speak.
- When asked about weaknesses, don’t start talking about your “weaknesses” rather let them know about a minor weakness related to the job and how you are working on it. Ensure to explain how you dealt with it in the past, too.
- Ensure you remember all the information in the documents you gave to them in case they ask questions related to it.
- Don’t speak ill of those you worked with in the past. They will assume you would do the same when you leave their job.
- Take notes if you can. This will help you remember important details, it will also make you seem highly interested in the role.
- Ask intentional questions when they ask. Ask what is most important to know about the role if you were hired. Ask them for their employee irks. Ask them other questions you are curious about. It could be a fun question. I once asked an interviewer what the alias of their company name meant because it sounded funny. I wanted to know how they came about the name. This made them laugh, and they were genuinely interested in sharing it with me. It also showed that I had researched their company, and I did get that job.
Interview Red Flags
- The interview process is unnecessarily long
- They are late to the interview, and they don’t apologise
- They speak ill of their employees or past employees
- They are rude to you or their employees—em’ red flag!
What to do after an interview
After an interview, send a thank you follow-up message. Let them know you enjoyed the interview and you are open to answering any more questions they may have.
What to not do after an interview
Do not send a message more than once. It’s okay if you don’t get a reply after the follow-up.
Also, do not do this more than once. Wait till you hear from them. If you did an interview, they should definitely follow up. Of course, some companies eventually don’t follow up after an interview; that is a red flag. But usually, they should reply to you within 1 day to 2 weeks.
What to do if you get the Job
‘If after the interview processes, you finally get the job, send an appreciation email. Decide if it’s what you want, learn about the role, and prepare to get started. You can also reach out to other company members to help you get started. However, some companies have a process where they put you through all you need to know about the role when you get started, whether it’s a full-time or freelance role.
What to do if you don’t get the Job
If you don’t get the job, I know it can get really sad, given that you have spent so much time on the application process, but hey, it’s fine.
Because most recruiters no longer talk about why they didn’t give you the job, you might find yourself beating yourself up about it. Don’t!
Don’t give space to thoughts that make you feel like a failure; pick yourself up and start job searching again. You can take a break if you like, but if you really need a job, ensure you are applying to at least 10 companies per day. You never know which one you’d get. Do not let the previous job rejection affect your attitude to this new job application. Go with a clear and new mindset, and try again.
Applying for jobs and getting them is a continuous process that takes time to master. Sometimes, you may give your very best and still not get hired. However, if you do make use of these tips, they will definitely go a long way in helping you get that dream job.
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