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 that you’re 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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