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Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Apply to Jobs More Efficiently?

Key strategies to use to expedite the process

Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Apply to Jobs More Efficiently?
Photo courtesy of Jess Bailey

This article is part of InHerSight's Finding a Job series. Discover our most popular and relevant resources for finding a job fast—at a company that cares as much about your career as you do.

This article is part of InHerSight's Working During Coronavirus series. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, find helpful advice here on working remotely, job hunting remotely, dealing with anxiety and stress, and staying safe at work if you have to be on-site.

This article is part of InHerSight's Ask a Recruiter series. We ask recruiters from companies big and small to answer questions about job hunting, company culture, and more.

What’s your elevator pitch?

We are Dana Hundley and Jenna Richardson, the cofounders of Career Cooperative, an Oakland, California–based boutique consulting firm that empowers clients to face career transitions, professional growth, and recruiting with confidence through 1:1 career coaching, resume and toolkit writing, and community programming. We consult with companies to attract diverse talent through impactful recruiting and interview strategies and support employees through career development. We started working together at a recruiting agency, and through our combined 15-plus years in full-cycle recruiting and career development, we’ve worked with hundreds of candidates and companies and learned a lot in the process. When you have a focus, understand your value, master the magic of your story, and build a supportive and diverse community, the realm of possibilities is endless.

Many people are desperate to land jobs right now, but naturally, submitting resumes and cover letters takes time—it can almost be a part-time job. What are some strategies job seekers can use to expedite the application process?

Get organized and, to the best of your ability, plan ahead. We coach our clients to spend time on the frontend to create an easily editable toolkit of job search documents to work from when actively applying so you aren’t starting from scratch every time you see a job that’s exciting. Creating a filing and saving system, preferably in the Cloud, is also incredibly helpful so you have easy access to your toolkit. 

Keep track of where you are applying and what information you’re sharing, so you aren’t duplicating efforts with your application content. Actively paying attention to the industries, companies, and types of roles you are applying for will also help you to be more strategic about where you are looking for roles, so you don’t spend hours scouring job boards. You can get smarter about what job boards and resources have the roles you want to apply to, and save searches with keywords, industries, and companies so alerts come straight to your inbox. 

To stay focused, reserve time on your calendar each week to job search, finess your toolkit, and apply. You’ll have to figure out what type of scheduling systems work for you— are you more of a morning person or are you more focused up against a deadline for sleep? It may make sense for some to schedule an hour in the mornings to find the jobs, so you have the day to tailor your toolkit and can apply later in the evening. Play with different variations and find a schedule that keeps you motivated and accountable. One of our recent clients was very motivated by reaching goals, so we gave specific target numbers for weekly job applications and turnaround time from finding a job to filling out an application. This worked great for her— you’ll have to experiment and find what works for you!

Read more: Need a Job ASAP? 10 Things to Do Right Now

What makes a good toolkit?

There are some key components to a good toolkit: a resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter (more on cover letters below...), and a portfolio depending on your skills and experience. We also work with clients to create what we call a "brag sheet," which is a running list of accomplishments that are tied to business purposes and outcomes. This becomes content that you can easily reference in the application or interview process.

Read more: How to Make the Business Case for the Work You Do

A good toolkit is “recruiter ready,” meaning the key documents are edited and ready to put in front of a broad group of decision-makers. In the current economic climate, there are more applications being considered per role, so you want to make sure you put your best foot forward by not having typos, grammatical errors, etc. in your documents. 

Even in the current job market, where volume matters and you will likely be applying to more than you would pre-COVID to get to a role, we recommend customizing your job search documents to the role you are applying to. In fact, it becomes even more important to differentiate yourself with tailored documents that speak to why you are a good fit when you are also combating a higher volume of candidates applying to the same role. Customizing your resume can help it rise to the top in an ATS and shows the recruiter/hiring manager you’re not just throwing spaghetti at the wall, but you’re actually interested in the role and company. 

It goes without saying that customizing your toolkit for every application can be a full-time role in itself. A good toolkit is built out to encompass the breadth of your experience and value, and best anticipates the skills that will be the most important for the roles and industries you are applying to. In building these documents out, especially your resume, the hope is that after a review of the job description you can efficiently tailor your resume because you have most of the content ready to go. 

Your toolkit is always a work in progress; as you are gaining experience, you are adding to it. As you are applying, you will come across roles and specific application questions you couldn't have anticipated and you will have to create additional content for. Keep it all organized so it’s easily accessible if similar prompts come up again. Also, the more you apply, the more efficient you will become in tailoring your toolkit. 

What, if any, aspects of the toolkit are different now than they were before COVID or in recent years?

Applications are changing, in terms of what companies are asking for upfront. We’ve seen a shift from organizations asking for formal cover letters to asking specific questions for the opportunity. 

And again, in the current economic climate, customized, fine-tuned job search documents are increasingly important to set yourself apart from the high volume of candidates applying for roles. Details matter; edit your documents with care and take the time to find points of connection between your experience and the roles you are applying to. 

Everyone loves to hate the cover letter. How necessary do you think it is in this job market? Are there alternatives?

While cover letters aren’t always required in applications anymore, candidates should be prepared to provide some type of written content. Whether it is through a traditional cover letter, introduction email, or essay questions on an application, you will likely be asked to describe your experience as it relates to the role. That said, the traditional, formal, and quite frankly boring cover letter of yesteryear (the type that just translated your resume into prose) is not serving you in this market. Your cover letter doesn’t have to be long, and should be intentional when it comes to how you use the space. Don’t be afraid to list a few bullet points that outline your key achievements that make you the best match for the company or role, and do your best to create connections between what the company needs and the value you can provide in the role. Building out your toolkit to include something like a brag sheet can help you get a head start so you’re not having to think about key accomplishments under an application deadline Find more information on our approach to cover letters here

Are there other ways job seekers can make their materials stand out at such a competitive time?

Yes! In addition to customizing your materials to speak to your value for the specific role or company you are applying to, seek out referrals where you can so you can bypass the big pile of applications and get your application in front of the right eyes. Utilize the tools at your disposal, for example LinkedIn. Opt in to LinkedIn features for job seekers and engage in the tool to make it work for you. 

Also, don’t let the creation and customization of your toolkit hinder you from actually applying to the role. There are a lot of candidates who overthink customization or qualifications and let weeks pass by before pressing “apply.” Your toolkit is important and deserves due diligence, and you need to balance that with making sure you apply to roles in a timely manner so you will actually be considered. If creating and using your toolkit feels like a barrier to apply, unpack why so you can move through that barrier and get your documents in front of hiring decision-makers.

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