Don’t press “submit” on that job application. Not yet.
You’re not done.
Even though you’re itching to find a new gig, cool your jets. The market is saturated so you need to be sharp. A recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, found roughly 2.4 million employees are dashing for the exit every month.
A “jolt” for your boss, maybe. For you, it’s a chance to start fresh.
***If you DO plan to quit, also make sure you read these four critical tips to do it the right way.***
Before you send off the resume/cover letter combo, run all your documents through this seven-question checklist.
Why? You need to make sure your writing is relevant, meaningful and frankly worth reading from beginning to end.
Then, use this step-by-step guide to confirm your application was received.
1. Why am I writing this?
With a job application, the purpose is to prove you’re ideal for the position. Everything you write should drive at that idea. That’s why you need to make sure you directly address the needs of the company based on application details.
Note: don’t tell the company how the job will make YOU better. Explain how you can help to make the COMPANY better.
2. Am I being specific?
With a cover letter, your smartest approach is to tell a personal story, use vivid detail and be memorable. Here’s how to do that.
It’s not good enough to say “I worked hard to prove I could handle the workload.” You need to be even MORE exact and write: “Every day, I would come to work an hour early, stay an hour late and prove to my team of seven — several more than 20 years my senior — that I could handle the big account with American Express.”
It’s all in the details.
3. Am I being brief?
There is power in brevity. The fewer words you need to make your point, the stronger the message.
Always ask: do I really need this word? This sentence? This paragraph? Be critical, and never fall in love with a particular line. If it needs to go, then cut it out. (See: Five Easy Steps to Editing Your Own Work)
Note: no employer will ever say, “Gee, I wish this person’s cover letter was longer.” Say what you need to say and end it.
4. Am I being useful?
Are you demonstrating WHY you’re a potential asset to the firm? What does the company need, and why are you the most advantageous choice? Again, back up those claims with specific details from your prior experience.
If you fail to address why you’re useful, you fail the job application. Simple as that.
5. Does the piece “move” or “drag”?
Does your cover letter or essay have decent pace or does it plod along? Do you have giant paragraphs that require extreme focus to read from start to finish? No one likes those. Opt for shorter, punchier sections that quicken the pace. (Sharper writing is one of the 9 profound lessons I learned by starting a blog.)
See any big paragraphs in this blog post? Gotta keep things movin’.
Also, ask people you trust to review your work. They will tell you if it reads too slowly.
6. Is this something I enjoy reading?
If YOU have trouble getting through your own work, imagine what the hiring manager thinks. Again, have someone proof your writing for style, grammar and entertainment value.
Note: with a cover letter, it helps to print it out, walk away, wait a few hours and then read it with fresh eyes on actual paper. You will catch more mistakes that way and read it more objectively.
7. Am I demonstrating value?
The central question hiring managers coast to coast ask as they review a job application. “Do I find this resume/cover letter valuable?”
Let’s go back through the checklist.
If your application is…
- Focused and on-message
- A Quick Read
… then yes. You have demonstrated value, greatly increased your odds of getting a call back and landing a new job.
Remember this list the next time you’re about to press “submit.”
Because once the application’s gone… it’s gone.