How to Apply for a Job “Best” Rather than “Fast”

Untitled-1A new job posting goes up. We feel the need to apply, right now!

There’s often a balance of both excitement and panic when I talk to a client living this scenario. They’re eager to apply to what seems like a really great opportunity, while at the same time, they realize their resume is not where they’d like it to be. More often than not: all they hear is the clock ticking.

And on the surface, this seems like is a legitimate concern. From the moment the job posting goes up, recruiters and hiring managers are receiving resumes in their inbox; they’re starting to review and build their list of potential interview candidates.

However, it’s really hard to know what sense of urgency really is and what the hiring timeline will ultimately look like; the fact is that “hiring immediately” may mean a decision won’t be made for weeks, even months.

So instead of rushing to get that application in as soon as possible, it is a far better strategy to position yourself to make the best possible first impression, and retain your greatest odds of standing out among a pile of applicants in the process. Here are few tips to help you do just that…

1. In the HR World: There Is No “First-come, First-serve”

Sometimes recruiters allow two weeks for applicants to submit their resumes; sometimes it is 6 months. And the resume that comes in on the last day of that window gets the same level of consideration of one that came in on the first day.

So never apply in the interest of submitting a quick application. Instead, wait a couple days so that you can get your resume in shape, including customizing the resume to reflect exactly what that employer is looking for.

2. Take the Time to Craft an Attention-Grabbing Email Subject

Recruiters get hundreds of email with the same subject line, either simply the job title – “Graphic Designer Job”, or some variation of “I am very interested…” I always opened the ones that stood out a little bit more and made me feel confident that there was something interesting and relevant inside – a sneak peak of who the candidate was. For instance:

“Sam Smith – Award-Winning Graphic Designer”

Take your time. Use the job description and company culture as a guide. Then craft an impactful email subject line.

3. Include a Short Version of Your Cover Letter in Your Email

Cover letters don’t always get read – that’s a fact – which means the recruiter potentially misses pertinent information. It’s fine to cut and paste your existing cover letter into the body of the email, but I suggest including a brief introduction letter – three to four sentences – introducing yourself and setting the stage for the documents you’ve attached:

Dear <First and Last Name of Hiring Manager> –

My name is Sam Smith and I am an award-winning graphic designer. I’m actively in the process of relocating to New York City from Santa Fe, and am available immediately for new opportunities, ideally in the start-up space.

Most of my experience has been with small design firms such as yours, working on both interactive and print projects. My resume and full cover letter are attached, and you can view my portfolio at:

I look forward to our conversation!

Sam Smith

This brief introduction both generates interest in you as a candidate (which means those attachments may actually get opened) and respects the recruiter’s time, which they appreciate very much.

4. Avoid Inappropriate Attention-Grabbing Tactics

Typing your name in all caps? Inserting animated GIFs. Embedding video. All this does is  come off as trying way too hard, when what you are really going for qualified, confident and professional.

5. Don’t Pass Up the Position Because it was Posted Weeks Ago

Candidates don’t always work out, offers aren’t always accepted, and positions often go on hold. Yes, the posting may be out of date, and while it shouldn’t be the basket into which you place all your eggs, it’s worth a shot in putting in your application.

Every position will be different – from the timeline, the requirements, the recruiting process, and even the sense of urgency, and it’s important to understand that and keep your expectations flexible.

And remember, as the cliche goes: job searching is a marathon, not a sprint. To make it through that marathon, and you need to have the right tools and level of preparation in place. And that includes replacing the “I need to apply right now!” mindset with “I’m going to do this right!”


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studios!




DanaAbout the AuthorDana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses, through career transition coaching and business consulting for creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design and other industries execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities, and her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay,, GlassDoor and Follow Dana on Twitter!



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