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There are very few things that a job seeker can control in the job search, but choosing to apply for a job is one of them.

The positions you choose to apply for should be calculated and focused. Applying for every job on a company’s career site gets you a label: “serial applier.” You do not want to be a serial applicant. It is a quick way to enter the deepest, darkest, blackest location of the application black hole.


You really want to be discerning about the roles you apply for. To do that, here are a few tips and tricks to try to make sure you are really applying for the jobs that can get you closer to career success.

1. Know What You Want

Before any big life change (and changing jobs is a big life change), it’s key to know what you want. Because you cannot find what you want unless you know what you want. This is going to include a deep understanding of your professional goals and personal needs. You should try to document these things and keep them close by. Look at them before you apply for a job and re-read the job description to be sure there are no red flags in the marketing-speak of the position listing. Do not apply for a job that will not help you meet your professional goals nor force you to sacrifice your personal needs.

2. Get Feedback On Your Accomplishments

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When I am applying to jobs, I like to write really tailored disruptive cover letters that tell a few stories that are aligned with the job description and explain why I feel connected to the company. These stories also highlight my strengths and accomplishments.

The best stories come from people I’ve worked with. I like to gather feedback from people who I reported to as well as people who reported to me. I like to talk with teammates to see what they thought about our work together and I ask them to share with me what I did well and where I could have improved. And now, I have already answered the “strengths and weaknesses” questions in the interview because I have stories from others to back up what I am saying. You can also use this feedback to see where you may or may not shine against the job description.

3. Know What You Can Deliver

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You know what you want to achieve in your career and what other people think you rock at. Now, you should figure out what you can really deliver to a new company. I always focus on accomplishments and achievements. They're measurable and quick and easy to communicate.

To demonstrate your value to employers in the hiring process, quantify your work experience on your resume. This way, they'll clearly see how you could make or save them money (and you'll successfully justify the cost of hiring you to do the job). And when you know your value and what you can deliver, and the stories that back them up, it makes the application and interview process a much more focused and engaging experience because people love stories! At the end of the day, it's all about storytelling.

4. Network With Companies That Fit

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You should be focusing your job search on specific companies that align with your values. You should not be looking at companies that are not family-friendly if you are a mom re-entering the workforce. Research companies to create a list of employers who align with your values, needs, and passions. This is called your interview bucket list. Study up on them and then start networking with them on social media. Find people you may know who work at these companies and then set some time to chat with them or meet for coffee. Finding a job that's right for you starts before submitting your application. It starts with conducting a targeted job search so you can apply to companies that are really aligned with what you need and can deliver.

5. Get Your Stories Together

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There are countless ways to stand out to recruiters and it doesn’t need to be gimmicky. You can reach out directly to recruiters to learn more about the company and the job. You can use your connections to become a referral because those are a top source for employers. You should consider visual ways to stand out. Tools I’ve referenced in the past were: Word Clouds, SlideShare, LinkedIn, CredHive, Prezi, Adobe Voice, and Haiku Deck. You can use these tools to share your story in a more visual and compelling way.

What do you think? What do you do before you apply for a job? If you're not doing all five of these things in your job search, it's a good time to start! You can and will find your next job. And if you need more job search tips and advice, we'll be here to help.

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This article was originally published at an earlier date.

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