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How To Properly Respond To Advertised Job Openings

By Gerald Walsh ©

Applying for jobs is time consuming. Like every step in the job search process, you have to give it sufficient time to ensure you present yourself favourably, but not so much that it becomes burdensome.

Here are seven tips that will make responding to advertised job openings more efficient.

Tip #1: Think about whether the job already has been filled.

If a job is posted January 15th and the closing date for applications is January 22nd, you can pretty much assume the company already has someone in mind – usually an internal candidate – for the job.

These hiring managers are simply trying to justify to their superiors that they’ve considered other candidates when in fact they’ve already made their mind up. Applying in situations like this is probably a waste of your time.

Tip #2: Use keywords intelligently.

Some larger organizations use automated applicant tracking systems to filter applications based on selected criteria. That’s why you should think carefully about how you incorporate keywords – that appear in the job posting – into your cover letter and resume.

For example, a candidate applying for a Communications Advisor position might use the following keywords: writing, social media, communications, public relations, employee communications, media relations, and marketing.

Even if your resume is reviewed by a real person reading it, using keywords and phrases will increase your chance of being selected for an interview.

Tip #3: Sending your resume as an email attachment.

When sending your cover letter and resume as an email attachment, you should save your documents as PDFs to protect the format. They will then arrive in the same format as you sent them.

You should also label your documents so they make sense to the recipient. Use:

Cover Letter – Your Name

Resume – Your Name

It’s always a good habit to send a copy of your email submission to yourself for your own records. To do so, simply bcc yourself.

Tip #4: Be smart when completing online applications.

Some online applications require you to fill out every field. This can sometimes pose a problem.

For example, if the online form asks your salary history – which is best discussed later in the interview process – you should insert $1 or $10, or any number to show you’re not about to reveal your salary history until you’ve learned more about the job you are applying for.

The same applies for references. Just insert “Relevant references provided at a later date.”

A last piece of advice: Do all your writing first in a Word doc (or similar program) where it is easier to pick up typos and other mistakes. Once satisfied, cut and paste it into the form. This will help ensure your written comments are clear, concise, and error free.

Tip #5: Use your personal connections even when applying online.

When applying to an advertised posting, where you know no one at the company, ask your personal connections if they know anyone at the company and would they be willing to give you a warm introduction.

You can be sure that if a senior manager asks the HR department to “keep an eye open” for a resume from you, your submission will be given more attention than if nothing was said.

Likewise, if you do happen to have a good contact at the company, you might consider contacting that person directly with a cover letter and resume and bypass the online process.

Tip #6: Wait a few days before applying.

Why? What usually happens is that a large number of people respond the first day a job is posted. On the receiving end (where I am) it is natural to conclude that most, if not all, these applicants have put no time into preparing their application and to determine if they are the right fit. As a result, the seriousness of their application tends to be lessened.

Tip #7: Make sure you are a good fit.

This may seem obvious but the more specific your skills and background match the listed requirements, the greater the chance you have of being selected for an interview. If you believe you are a close fit, obtain as much information about the company as possible before responding; then customize your cover letter to show how you closely match the company’s needs. If you do this well, you will stand out from other applicants.

To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.