You hear about an interesting job opportunity. You think this could be the right spot for you.
You’ve got your resume and cover letter and think you’re ready to apply. However, before you do, answer these three questions.

1.    Is your resume and cover letter customized to the specific job? Given the sheer number of people applying for jobs and the limited number of people (recruiters, human resources staff) searching for qualified candidates, many organizations are using software programs that screen applications and resumes. Therefore, to help ensure you pass this first level of screening, be sure to include key words that match the job description – the more, the better. Avoid using a generic form of your resume and cover letter. Read the job posting carefully and then select the key words that match your experience and qualifications. These key words should appear in your resume and cover letter.

2.    Are you a cultural fit for the organization? Employers are increasingly looking at soft skills such as active listening, communication, collaboration, and comfort with change. This is where self-reflection and self-awareness are vitally important. Knowing what you like in terms of your manner of working and the work environment you prefer will help you decide if the company could be the right fit for you. For example, start-up companies are all the rage these days. However, they have very particular characteristics such as the speed at which employees are expected to deliver results. There are also frequent changes because of evolving nature of the sector they’re in and, as a result, the organization’s culture reflects that paradigm. This type of environment is not for everyone, which is why knowing what you need from your manager and colleagues is necessary to deciding whether you should apply for the position in the first place.

3.    Do you have any direct or indirect connections to the company? By most accounts, networking is the most effective way to find open positions and to get your name and resume in front of the “right people.” Online resources such as LinkedIn, company web sites, job search sites are all very helpful. However, managers know that hiring decisions are risky endeavors. There’s a lot at stake when a manager is trying to fill a position. Therefore, if a candidate has been referred by someone they trust, this is a huge advantage over the competition. One caution, however, this connection or referral is no guarantee that you will get the job or even an interview. Yet, in a highly competitive situation such as finding a job, it is wise to leverage the network you have carefully built over the years.

Chris is Principal of Medici Consulting Services, Inc., a branding, marketing and communications consulting business. He has more than 25 years of professional experience, encompassing a diverse range of sectors and markets including government, health care, law, financial services, and energy.

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