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The Top 6 Do's and Don'ts of Applying to Jobs

There's certainly a lot you should be doing during the job search, but there's also plenty you shouldn't. Here's the top do's and don't for applying to jobs.

There’s a lot that can go right in the job search if you can land an interview at a company you’re really interested in—but there’s also a lot that can go wrong if you don’t pay attention to the important details. Want to know what you definitely should and should not do when it comes to applying to jobs? Then you’ve come to the right place, and we’ve got the top six do’s and don’ts of the job search.

1. Don't keep your cover letter the same

When you’re applying to jobs, it’s important to tailor your cover letter to each specific position to which you are applying. While it is more time-consuming to create a custom cover letter for each job, it is well worth it. If you use a generic cover letter, it’ll be pretty obvious, and will signal that you aren’t willing to put in the extra effort. And if you aren’t willing to put in effort when you’re simply applying to a job, chances are you won’t be a hard worker at the company—and that’s definitely not the type of person employers are seeking. Do your best to avoid the phrase, “Dear Sir or Madame” in your cover letter; it’s very impersonal. Do your research to find out to whom you should address the letter. Sometimes it’ll be in the job listing itself, but other times you’ll need to do a little digging. The fact that you took time to find the name will resonate with the employer. 

Related: 6 Things to Omit From Your First Cover Letter

2. Do take breaks

No one should be expected to apply to jobs for five hours straight. If you do this, you’ll just get tired and zoned out, and won’t do your best work. According to various articles I’ve read on the subject, it's recommended to take a break after about 45 minutes of working. Get up, stretch, walk around, and get rejuvenated. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and ready to continue. And you don't have to apply to every single job you find of interest in one day. It doesn't hurt to apply to a small batch, wait a few days to see if you hear anything from the first round, and then go in to apply for some more. If you do this, just be sure to keep track of where you applied, who you've heard from, and where you want to apply next.

3. Don't apply to jobs “just because”

It can be easy to catch the bug and want to apply to any and every job that’s out there—after all, the market isn’t stellar. However, make sure you apply to places where you could really see yourself working, not just to any place you find along the way. Use your energy for jobs you truly want. In fact, apply to the jobs you're most interested in first. And save the ones that are a lesser fit for later in the process. If you get to a point where you're not having any luck and not hearing back from your top-tier options, start applying to your backups. 

4. Do take your time

If you’re doing them right, applications take time. Make sure you aren’t hasty; check your spelling and punctuation. Make sure everything you tell them about yourself is accurate and that you haven't unintentionally fabricated anything. Be thoughtful in each of your answers to any questions on the application. Some may seem simple and straightforward, but don’t take anything for granted or brush anything off—you don't know for sure what the company is looking for, so if they ask a question on their application form, there must be a reason for it.

Related: Adulting 101: Tackling the Job Search After College

5. Don't allow yourself to get distracted

When you’re completing job applications, find a quiet place where you won’t get interrupted, whether that’s your room, the library, a coffee shop, or somewhere else. You want to be thinking only about your job application and nothing else, and it’s too easy to let your mind wander when friends or family are around. Also, when you’re using your computer, it’s tempting to start browsing the internet. There are some good options that block access of sites that distract you—social media, online shopping, etc.—for an elected period of time. 

6. Do follow up

If it’s been a few days and you haven’t heard anything back regarding your application, don’t be afraid to follow up. This is something that many people don’t do, but it’s an extremely important part of the process. Making contact shows your persistence and your interest in the position and will set you apart from the rest of the pack, which is, after all, exactly what you want. So if it's been a few days and you really want that job, send a professional email to check in.

Related: Job Search Advice for the Coronavirus Crisis

The job search and application process is in itself a job. It requires time and dedication to get it right so when you do eventually hear back from a company or two about an interview, you know you’ve already started off on the right foot. Use these do’s and don’ts to guide you in the process. And good luck in finding a great job where you can shine! 

For more job search advice, check out the blogs and articles in our Internships and Careers section.

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About Kristen Fackler

Kristen Fackler

Kristen Fackler graduated from Elon University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in English and Spanish. While at Elon, Kristen had the opportunity to complete a lot of writing and editing, two areas she's always been passionate about. At the Writing Center, Kristen worked as a consultant with peers and community members to improve their writing skills. She also worked as an editor of Visions, an environmental magazine published by Elon faculty and students. She spent a semester in Seville, Spain, where she kept a blog in Spanish and was published in más+menos*, a bilingual magazine completed by students and faculty members of the CIEE Study Center. Kristen has also written for Examiner and Suite101. She enjoys writing as much as possible.


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