1. Put Yourself First
A lot of people don’t separate “This is what my parents think success looks like” or “This is what my friends think is a sexy job” from what it is they really want. Take the time to think about your values and strengths and what matters to you. It will reduce your anxiety and increase your future job satisfaction.
2. Don’t Be Too Picky
Applying for jobs is a lot like applying for college, where you have your stretches (the schools you really want to go to) and a couple of safeties. Most people apply only to their stretch jobs — even though not everyone can land a position there. Make sure you’re looking at a wide swath of options — your dream jobs as well as ones that seem like a sure bet.
3. Tidy Up Online
Go through the first three to five pages of your photos on social media and remove anything that could be deemed unprofessional. You’d be surprised by how much can be seen on Facebook, either because your account is public, which we don’t recommend, or because friends of friends can see it. The chance of someone in your industry knowing someone who knows you is actually quite high, and hiring managers do poke around. Also, people have different opinions on what’s acceptable politically. Sharing your beliefs is of course fine, but perhaps keep the post about “the asshole, idiot, morons from the other side” to yourself.
4. Update Your Email
If your email is [email protected] or [email protected], it’s time to upgrade! It sounds terrible, but we’ve heard from so many hiring managers that when they see a Yahoo or AOL email address, they’re not sure how tech savvy you are. Gmail is a safe bet.
5. Stalk if You Have To
Figure out if you have a connection with anyone in the company by using LinkedIn or doing a bit of Twitter stalking. It’s worth it if you find someone who could help answer questions and get your résumé to the top of the pile.
6. Stick to the 2⁄3 Rule
Some people think that when a job lists 10 qualification requirements, they have to meet all 10 (typically, women are less likely to apply than men are when they don’t meet all the reqs). Instead, ask yourself, “Do I meet at least two-thirds of the things on this list?” For example, if a company posts that a candidate should have a computer science degree and you don’t, but you do have everything else on the list in spades, go for it. Just be thoughtful: If a job requires seven years of experience and you only have one, that’s probably not good enough.
7. Tailor Your Résumé
Look at the job description and make sure you’re mirroring it in some way. If a company is really large, the odds of your application being screened by a robot before a human are high, so keywords are important. Put your résumé through a word-cloud tool like WordClouds.com and see what jumps out. Compare those to the words in the job posting. You might be surprised to find that they don’t match up.
8. Treat Skype Like It’s in Person
For Skype or FaceTime interviews, dress like you would if you were meeting someone face-to-face. It will improve how you feel, but it’s also smart in case the call takes an unexpected turn. We were once interviewing somebody on Skype for a fairly important position. He was wearing a tie and a nice shirt. It was very professional; then partway through the interview, there was a series of knocks on his door, to the point where he had to get up and answer it. He wasn’t wearing pants! (Moral of the story: Wear pants.)
9. Ask for a Timeline
The end of an interview is the best time to ask about next steps. Say, “OK, great. What’s your timing on this? I just want to make sure I know what to expect, so I can be responsive to you.” If they say, “Oh, we have a bunch of people coming in next week and won’t know until the week afterward,” then you know when you should check in.
10. Say Thanks ASAP
Send a thank-you email the same day as your interview. Be sure it’s personalized — we forward them around within the company, so we know when they’re a form letter. You only need one or two lines to make it unique. Some people appreciate a handwritten note but only do that in addition to an email. Unless you can get the letter delivered that same day, you could risk their making a decision before getting your note.
11. Follow Up With Caution
There’s a healthy balance between not giving up and being obnoxious. Since you asked for a timeline up front, give them a couple of days past that, then say, “I know you are finishing up interviews. I just want to check in on the status.” Then wait again (i.e., no following up the next day, like, “I haven’t heard back! What’s the plan?”). And don’t send back-to-back emails to multiple people in a short time span.