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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Your 5-Minute Checklist for Submitting a Perfect Job Application

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A few years ago, I was submitting my materials for a marketing position I was particularly excited about. I’d researched the agency, tailored my resume, and written an attention-grabbing cover letter. So, I finally took a deep breath, pressed “send,” and was prepared to spend the next few weeks compulsively checking my inbox.

Then I saw it: Instead of putting my name as “Kat” at the bottom of the email, I’d made a major typo and signed my name as “Kart.” I had been so preoccupied checking all of the content, I had forgotten to give the basics one last glance and polish.

I was humiliated and instantly fired off a, “Whoops, sorry for my oversight!” email. But, needless to say, I didn’t get that job (it probably didn’t help that I touted my “attention to detail” in my resume).

Ever since then? I’ve taken extra care to double (alright, triple) check everything—even the seemingly simple nuts and bolts—before ever sending in my application.

I’ve managed to refine this system into a five-point checklist—which means you can spend an entire minute on each item, and the whole process will only take you five minutes! And, trust me, it’s worth the little bit of extra time to reassure the hiring manager that you can spell your own name. Here’s what I look over each and every time.

1. Spelling

Based on that horror story, it probably doesn’t surprise you that proper spelling is the very first thing I confirm. In addition to verifying that I’ve spelled my own name right (honestly, that faux pas still gives me nightmares), I ensure that I’ve spelled the company and the name of whomever I’m addressing my letter to correctly.

If I needed to type my information into some sort of application interface that doesn’t have a built-in spell checker, I’ll also take the extra time to paste my text into a word processor to see if my eyes skipped over any other misspelled words that need to be fixed.

Of course, you can’t rely on spell check to be completely accurate. But, it doesn’t hurt as a second set of eyes after you’ve looked over your document numerous times yourself!

2. Grammar

While I have all of that text pasted into the word processor, it’s also worth a glance to see if any of those pesky green lines pop up to indicate grammar mistakes or extra spaces.

No, maybe you aren’t applying for a role as a writer or editor (if you are, this is something you definitely need to keep a close eye on!). However, ensuring that your materials are error-free demonstrates that you’re thorough and committed to turning in polished work.

3. Facts

As you already know, you should make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter for each and every job you apply for. However, let’s face it—you likely still start with a previously written version and then make changes from there.

This is convenient. But, it also means you run the risk of leaving the entirely wrong company or hiring manager name in your document. Or, if you haven’t updated that resume template since you moved, changed your name, or got a new phone number, the basic information you include in your header could be completely incorrect.

Give the basics a quick but thorough once-over. It’ll only take a minute, and will save you tons of embarrassment.

4. Instructions

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a standardized set of instructions for submitting applications everywhere? Unfortunately, that’s not the way things work—every single employer is different.

Some want resumes saved as PDFs and others want Word docs. Some want you to fill out an online application, while others require that you send an email.

It can be tricky, but failing to follow those simple instructions is a surefire way to get your resume tossed in the trash. So, double-check them to ensure you’re following them to a tee.

Tip: If you’re submitting your materials as Word docs and used track changes for the above steps, ensure that’s turned off before you send your documents in!

5. Attachments

“My resume is attached for your consideration.”

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence—as long as your resume is, indeed, attached. Save yourself from having to send an immediate follow-up email and look to make sure that you’ve included all necessary files.

While you’re at it, also confirm that any links you meant to include are there, correct, and working properly. There’s nothing worse than pointing a hiring manager to your portfolio, only to have her redirected to a website that doesn’t exist.

There’s a lot to pay attention to when submitting an application, and it’s far too easy to get so wrapped up in the content that you forget to double-check the basics.

But, once you’ve quantified your bullet points and drafted that cover letter, take the extra five minutes (that’s really all it takes!) to give everything one final once over. Take it from me, it’s more than worth it.

Is there anything else you always make sure to look over on your job applications? Let me know with a friendly, “Hey, Kart!” on Twitter.