Here's a common scenario that a job seeker faces today: You spend hours searching through thousands of job postings and finally you find what you're looking for – an opening that matches your qualifications perfectly. So what do you do? Send in your resume? Well, not exactly. If that's all it took, a lot more people would be getting job offers and starting out at new jobs.
In today's turbulent job market, you can't get a job just by applying for it. You have to do more. You have to apply not once, but twice in a process known as the Application Two-Step:
- Step 1 is The Test
- Step 2 is The Answer
Perform the first step, and you will be considered an applicant; perform the second, and you will be noticed. Perform both steps, and you're likely to move to the head of the applicant line.
Step 1: The Test
A job posting is a test. Its purpose is to determine whether or not you paid attention in kindergarten class. What was the first lesson you were taught there? How to follow directions. So a job posting is basically a test of whether you can submit your application according to the employer's instructions. It might tell you to:
- Cut and paste your resume into an online application form
- Cut and paste your resume into a regular, old e-mail message
- Send your resume as an attachment to an e-mail message
- Send your resume to the employer by old fashioned postal mail
Whatever the method that's specified, the key to being considered a bona fide applicant is to do exactly as instructed, no matter what. Step 1 is pass / fail – either you follow the employer's directions and are worthy of consideration, or you don't and are a "graffiti applicant" who gets tossed into the reject pile.
Step 2: The Answer
If Step 1 enables you to pass the test, Step 2 provides the answer that will help you ace it. As soon as you've positioned yourself as a bona fide applicant, it's time to reposition your resume to make sure you get priority attention.
Companies are getting inundated with resumes these days, so it's very hard for any single person - even someone extremely qualified - to get noticed. To overcome that disadvantage, you need to make your resume stand out. How do you do that? Through networking.
There are plenty of solid networking resources at your disposal, such as alumni groups and social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Use every available resource to find one (or both) of two kinds of contacts:
- Employees of the organization whom you know
- Employees whom you don't know, but with whom you share a common interest (such as the same professional affiliation or alma mater)
Once you've made a connection, ask them to pass your resume along to the appropriate person in their HR Department. If that happens – and you'd be surprised how many people are happy to help out – your resume will go from being just one of hundreds to a preferred position at the top of the pile. At that point, the odds are far, far greater that it (and you) will get the consideration you deserve.
Applying for a job online, then, isn't as simple as it might at first seem. The process actually covers both an assessment of your capabilities as a prospective employee, and finding a way to make sure your application gets noticed by recruiters. And what's the secret to successfully accomplishing both tasks? Just practice the Application Two-Step.