Okay, so you’ve found a job ad that sounds just right for you. Good title, great location, for a firm you’d love to work for. In the heat of the moment you’ll probably want to fire off your resume right away. But wait. There are several things you should do before applying that can greatly increase your chances of success.

    Read the job requirements carefully

    Do you meet at least most of them? Employers say that as many as 75% of the applications they receive for jobs are from unqualified candidates. This doesn’t mean that you have to have 100% of the credentials asked listed. There is a phenomenon known as credential creep where employers ask for more and more qualifications jobs. Sometimes these exceed what is actually necessary to do the job – or even what may exist. So don’t worry if you fall short in a few areas. Just make sure that you can clearly demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to contribute and succeed at the job – and demonstrate how in your resume.

    Find out if you know anyone who works there

    Obviously, you’re probably already aware if your good friend or cousin works for the company you’re applying to. But what about your good friend’s cousin? Or the friend of a friend you met at the New Year’s party. Having an inside connection, even if it’s not one who knows you well enough to recommend you for the job, can still be a great advantage.

    They may be able to tell you who the hiring manager is and what they are like. They might know the history of the role or department you’re applying for. They’ll almost certainly be able to fill you in on the company culture.

    So use Facebook, LinkedIn, and word of mouth to see if you know anyone who works there, has worked there, or who knows someone who has worked there that you could potentially tap for information.

    Research the company

    Employers frequently tell us that the biggest mistake that candidates make is having little or no knowledge of their company, products or service. You need to tailor your application to the needs of specific industry, so it helps to know as much about them as possible. They also want you to research the company before you come into the interview, and you never know when that first phone screening call could some. So it’s best to do your homework before even applying.

    Read the company website, Google them for news articles or magazine features, check out their social media presence. You can likely find out the employer’s mission and values, how their industry is trending and their position in it, as well as details about their brand, culture, and marketing.

    Do your online clean up

    If your application is successful, and we’re hoping it is, most employers are going to Google you, and they’re going to look you up on social media. Make sure all of the personal and professional information available about you online closely matches with what you’ve said in your resume. Employers view discrepancies as red flags.

    And of course it should go without saying that you should scan any public photos of posts about you for anything inappropriate. (Excessive drinking or drug use, foul language, angry rants, poor grammar and spelling, etc.) We once received an application to work here at Workopolis from a candidate whose own Facebook profile picture was a full body shot of him wearing only a sock (not on his foot.) Now that’s just foolish any time, but especially when you’re applying for jobs.

    Have someone else read your resume

    Everyone makes typos or wording mistakes in their writing. They can be very hard to spot when a document is fresh in your mind. You will be too familiar with what you meant to say, and your mind will autocorrect errors for you. So the most effective way to proofread something is to put it aside and edit it with fresh eyes several days later. However when you’re applying for jobs, you don’t always have the luxury of that kind of time. Have someone else read your resume for you before you send it out. They’ll see it for what is really on the page and can objectively tell you if it communicates your strengths well and if there are any glaring errors you may have missed.

    Do your salary research

    Even before an in-person job interview, many companies will do an initial phone screening interview. Only the candidates who pass this test will make it to the next round. It is fairly common to ask about salary expectations at this point. Employers want to know if you’re at least in the same ballpark so that they don’t waste too much time on a candidate that they might like but can’t afford. So make sure that you know in advance the going salary rates for the kind of job you’re applying for in your town, and where your experience level and accomplishments position you in that range.

    Statistics Canada publishes salary data that is broken down by job title and by location, which is handy because wages can vary widely by region.

Demonstrating that you can do the job, knowing as much as possible about the company, having a professional online presence and a spotless resume, and knowing your true value on the job market can help ensure that A) your phone will ring and B) you’re ready to ace the call when it does.

One caveat though. Do all of these things quickly. Early applications do have an advantage over those that come in days later. Which is why Mondays are the best day of the week to apply for a job.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter