Improve Your Job Application Success With These 6 Hacks

By Nilza Santana-Castillo & Rachel Fuld Cohen

tips for job application success

The average job search takes 5 months, or, more broadly, one month for every $10k you want to earn. It’s the ultimate demonstration of the old adage “time is money.” If you want to shorten the amount of time you spend searching for a job, you need to change your strategy – starting with the application phase. In our work as career professionals at Lambda School, we notice job hunters tend to make the same mistakes that keep them from finding employment, so today we’ll be sharing application strategies that will help you avoid those mistakes and land an interview faster.

How to optimize your job applications

Make sure you are finding and applying to the job descriptions that match your goals and qualifications by:

Applying for roles if you have at least half of the listed qualifications.

Most job descriptions are the employer’s wish list, written to attract their ideal candidate.  However, employers are aware that the likelihood of a perfect candidate coming upon that specific job post for that specific region is very slim, so they are generally willing to consider candidates who meet most of the qualifications. If you have 50-80% of qualifications listed on the job posting, APPLY! Don’t eliminate yourself from consideration – put yourself out there and let the employer decide.

Avoiding basing your applications on job title alone

Job titles vary greatly within and between companies. A job with a Software Engineer title can require full-stack or solely front-end skills. A Data Analyst title can require advanced machine learning skills. Always look beyond the job title and focus on the technical requirements of a job. This strategy will take some time upfront, but will pay off dividends when you avoid applying to roles that are not a proper fit for your skills or interests.

Applying to roles posted within the past 2 weeks.

When looking through job boards, it’s timing that matters most – the timing of the post, how long it has been up, and the time you should spend applying to increase your chances of getting an interview. When searching job boards, make sure you are filtering for the “most recent” results. Many of the most common job sites (like Monster and Indeed) are web crawlers that scrape open web pages to index on its own site. With this in mind, when you look at the date of a job posted on a board you might not be seeing the date for which the job was actually posted. Additionally, some job boards keep postings live even when they are no-longer active. Spend the majority of your energy applying to jobs that have been posted in the last week – and don’t even bother applying to postings older than three weeks, as it’s likely the hiring manager has already begun the interview process. 

Smart application tips

Make sure your application will be considered by:

Avoiding one-click applies.

While we know it’s tempting to use the “apply now” buttons on job sites to submit your resume automatically, we don’t recommend it. Manually filling out applications takes time and burnout is real. However, when a role has a one-click apply option you can assume it will get a huge number of applicants. This makes it even more important to tailor your materials, fill out all of the “optional” application details, write a cover letter, and spend time on LinkedIn connecting with professionals at the company. Which brings us to our next point, instead of one click applies try...

Directly applying on a company’s website.

If a role appears on LinkedIn or a job board, there’s a good chance it is also listed on the company’s website. Applying directly on the website allows you to submit further materials not included in one-click applications. The additional content boxes that are “optional” on applications showcase more of your skills and personality, so fill them out to give yourself an edge against candidates who skipped them. In general, you should always maintain a running list of your top-choice companies, and create a habit of checking their websites weekly for open roles. 

Eliminating grammatical errors.

It’s common to see “detail orientated” as a desired skill on a job description. Submitting materials or applications with errors is a quick and avoidable way to show you’re not qualified. Always have someone look over your materials before submission. Then, read it over two more times. Pro-tip: If you’ll be submitting materials through boxes on an application form, avoid writing content directly into the box. Instead, develop the content in a word processor that checks for errors, and then paste it into the boxes.

The average worker will hold 10-12 jobs in their career. Times that number by how many applications you’ll have to complete and you realize that is a whole lot of job searching. If you can streamline your process now, you’ll save yourself a lot of time in the future when you’re looking for that next step in your career. For now, keep applying, and keep talking about your job search with your support system. The process of looking for a job can be lonely and isolating – the more people you share it with, the more support you’ll have, and the better chance you’ll have of your story making its way to someone who can help you find the right fit. 

Rachel Cohen is a Lambda School career coach with a passion for helping people transition to technical, interesting, and well-paying roles. She has been coaching technical students for 5+ years, with previous experience in career counseling and technical recruiting. Learn more by connecting with Rachel on LinkedIn.

Nilza Marie Santana-Castillo is Lambda’s Careers Initiatives and Curriculum Specialist. She is passionate about career development and has 6+ years of experience in student support services. In 2017 she became a National Career Development Association-certified Career Services Provider. Connect with Nilza on LinkedIn.


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