Don't apply to another job until you've asked yourself these questions.
Let's face it — the job search can be a frustrating process. And job applications? Don't get me started! Before you spend another minute filling out yet another tedious online application, ask yourself the following questions to make sure it's worth your time.
What questions should I ask myself before I submit my job application?
Does the role fit into my long-term career plans?
Whenever possible, be strategic with the job positions you apply for. Each job should be a stepping stone towards your ideal career. When evaluating a position, consider if it will help you build the right skills for your dream job. Even if you're searching for part-time work to help pay the bills, look for opportunities that would allow you to work in your target industry or expose you to a field you want to pursue in the future.
If you're already established in your career and seeking full-time work, consider if the job plays to your strengths or will help you fill any skill gaps that are holding you back from getting ahead. While no job is perfect, do you find the majority of the job description to be enticing? Don't apply to a job you know will leave you feeling bored, unmotivated, or just plain frustrated.
Do I meet the requirements? Am I over- or under-qualified for the role?
Remember, “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Before you apply to a job, carefully review the job description. Then read it over one more time.
Some job postings will include a ridiculously long wish list of qualifications that the company would like the ideal candidate to possess, and your job is to identify which of those qualifications are on the hiring manager's list of must-have requirements. In other words, what are the deal breakers? If an MBA and six years of management experience are required and you don't have these, then the job application is a waste of your time and theirs.
Pay special attention to the number of years that are required for the role. If they're looking for someone with 3-5 years of experience and you just graduated with little to no relevant internship experience, this job is not a good fit. The same goes if you have 10 or more years of relevant experience.
The required years of experience indicate the level of responsibility the position holds and the pay range the company is willing to offer. If you're over-qualified for the job, you can expect the pay to be less than what you're accustomed to making. In addition, the organization may assume you'll get bored in the position and jump ship as soon as a better opportunity comes around.
However, don't underestimate your years of experience either. Professionals, especially women, tend to avoid applying for jobs that don't match their years of experience requirement perfectly because they believe they are “not qualified.” Odds are, you're more qualified than you think, especially since not every person is 100 percent qualified for any position.
If it feels like too much of a stretch, then skip it. But if you think you could do the job and have most of the requirements, then go for it.
What do I know about the company culture?
You can possess all the qualifications for a role, but if you don't mesh well with the organization's culture, then you ultimately won't be successful. Consider the work environments of the companies where you've thrived in the past to get a sense of what types of companies you should target during your current job search.
Take steps to investigate the company culture of a prospective employer to make sure the job application is worth your time.
Is the commute reasonable?
If you took this position, how would you get to work? Would you need to relocate for the role (and if so, are you and your family willing and able to make such a move)? Would you be able to take public transportation or would you have to drive? How much would your commute cost you per year? How long would it take you to get to the office? Does the company have a reputation of offering flexible work schedules or telecommuting options?
While you may love the job opportunity, you have to be realistic.
First, local candidates usually get preference over those who apply from out-of-state because employers are worried about relocation costs and getting burned by an impulsive candidate who turns into a costly flight risk.
Second, the length and the cost of your commute must be taken into account. Both of these factors have an impact on your quality of life. Make sure the commute is feasible before you apply.
Are there educational or advancement opportunities in this position that fit my career goals?
Will this new role help you advance to the next stage of your career and provide ample learning opportunities, as well as opportunities for growth? Or will this role leave you stagnant?
Unless this is a job you need to take to be financially stable, you should be looking for jobs that will help move you forward in your career. If the role allows you to work towards a promotion, learn new skills, and supports your professional growth, then it's a job to consider.
Do I know anyone who works at the company?
Studies have shown you're 10 times more likely to land the job when your application is accompanied by an employee referral. Before applying for the position, go through your network to see if you know anyone who currently works or previously worked at the organization.
Oftentimes the online application will specifically ask you if you know someone at the company. I guarantee those candidates get some preferential treatment. Also, if you reach out to your connection, they may be able to pass a copy of your resume along to the hiring manager, helping you bypass some of the initial applicant screening processes.
As an added bonus, this person may be able to provide you with insights into the company culture and the organization's hiring practices to help you evaluate the position and customize your resume and cover letter accordingly.
Have I customized my resume and cover letter?
Even a professionally written resume may require a few tweaks for a particular position. Take a look at the job description one more time. How does it define the role and its responsibilities? What specific language does it use to state the core requirements? If you possess those qualifications, make sure they are obvious to the reader.
You can also copy and paste the job description into a free word and phrase frequency tool like Online-Utility.org's Text Analyzer to identify the most frequently used keywords and see how your resume measures up.
Does my online presence support my career story?
According to a study by Jobvite, 93 percent of employers will search for your social profiles before inviting you in for an in-person interview or setting up a virtual interview.
Make sure your online presence is consistent with your resume so that the candidate the interviewer meets in person and reads about on paper matches what's online. Click on the following links for tips on how to monitor your online brand and to download TopResume's free personal branding checklist.
What questions should I ask myself before accepting a new job?
You've applied for the job and are in the hiring process. What do you consider now?
Do the benefits suit my needs?
While salary is always important to consider before accepting the job offer, make sure you're also taking a hard look at your benefits. Do a quick cost analysis, breaking down the salary, health insurance, paid time off, sick policy, and retirement plan.
Also, does the company offer access to wellness programs or gym memberships? Do they have snacks in the office — or even a cafeteria? With the pandemic, how are they handling work-from-home benefits and vacation days? If you need to go in, is there hazard pay? What does their maternity (and paternity) leave look like, and do they have child care stipends? Will they help with your college debt?
Most importantly, how does this company compare to your current or past positions? Typically, there's wiggle room, so polish your negotiating skills before signing the contract.
What is their stance on work-life balance?
Before making a decision, also consider whether or not a strong work-life balance is encouraged: What do the hours look like? What are the expectations for the role? Will you be slaving away or will you be able to have a life?
If you have connections to the company, ask them about their expectations with boundaries. They can provide insight to whether or not the role will require you to work long hours and always be logged in. If you don't have those connections, try websites like Glassdoor to see employee reviews, as well as review their social media pages for more clues.
Is there enthusiasm and passion in the workplace?
Do the employees there love the company? What is the workplace culture like?
During your interview, make sure to ask questions about the culture of the company so you can ensure that it is the right fit for you. Ask about the company's values and their mission statement. If your interview is in person, make sure to look around the office; does it seem like a friendly, welcoming place to work where you will enjoy your time?
If your interview is virtual, ask questions about the workplace and use their social media profiles and employee reviews from sites like Glassdoor or Blind to access the environment.
Is the company stable and growing?
Another key aspect to think about — especially if you want to work at a startup — is the company's growth. Does the company have a strong financial future? Are they continuously growing in both size and revenue? Depending on those answers, you need to make an informed decision on whether the company is on the up-and-up — or just barely making it.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about before applying for (and accepting) a job. Take your time and good luck!
A successful job application starts with a great resume. And our resume writers are the ones who can help.
This article was updated in October 2020 by Danielle Elmers.
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