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How to Succeed in Applying for a Job

There are now over three million job openings posted on job boards and social media sites on the Web. And, the conventional wisdom is that applying for those opportunities is simply a matter of clicking on the Submit button. Unfortunately, however, there's a bit more to it, at least you want to get interviewed and possibly hired.

I'm going to let you in on the two secrets to success in applying for a job online. First, be smart about how you apply. As easy and appealing as it may be, the shotgun approach doesn't work. Those who apply for every interesting job they see - whether or not they are qualified - NEVER get interviewed or hired for one of those positions.

If you want to maximize the odds of actually getting hired, use a much more discerning approach when applying. Select only those openings where you are a perfect or near-perfect match with the job's specifications.

In most cases, those specifications will be organized into "Responsibilities" and "Requirements." The first describes the tasks involved in performing a job while the second details the skills and knowledge a candidate must have in order to be considered qualified for that opening.

While matching the specifications is obviously important, however, it would be a mistake to use that criterion as the sole basis for your decision about whether or not to apply for a job. Why is that? Because success at work doesn't depend only on your qualifications. It is also influenced by something called "fit."

Research shows that the number one reason a new hire doesn't succeed in an organization isn't because they can't do the work. It's because they don't fit in. Their personality and values are out of synch with the culture and values of the organization.

What does that mean for you? If you apply for a job in an organization where you don't fit in, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and even failure. Or, to put it another way, a key to success is to focus on jobs in organizations that are the right fit for you.

How to Determine the Right Fit for You

Fit has nothing to do with whether an employer is "good" or "bad." It is, instead, a measure of whether you and the employer are compatible with each other.

While there are any number of different aspects to person-employer fit, the three most important are:

  • Structure: An employer can have a very flat structure or a hierarchical one.
  • Process: An employer can accomplish its work in teams or by individual effort.
  • Mode of Supervision: An employer can provide lots of direction and oversight or rely on individual initiative and independence.

There are just two steps involved in using those three factors to evaluate your fit with a prospective employer:

First, know what works best for you. In what kind of structure, with what kind of process and under what mode of supervision would you be most comfortable and, therefore, most likely to perform at your peak?

Second, know how an employer gets work done. Determine the structure, process and mode of supervision in any organization you're considering. Job postings rarely provide such details, but you can often pin them down by examining the content at an employer's corporate career site or by reaching out to its employees on their blogs, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles.

Why bother?

Here's the second secret to a successful application. Recruiters are well aware of the importance of fit so they use that factor as well as match to decide who will be invited to interview. Proving you're a good fit, therefore, is just as important to your success as proving that you are qualified for an opening.

Once you've determined an employer's structure, process and mode of supervision (and that you're compatible with them), promote your fit in your cover letter or message and on your resume. Describe your ability to perform at your peak in an organization with its structure, process and mode of supervision.

In today's overcrowded job market, there are two secrets to success when applying for a job. First, apply only where you match a job's specification and are a good fit with the employer, and second, make sure the employer knows just how good a match and fit you are.

Thanks for reading,

Visit my blog at Weddles.com/WorkStrong.

December 2011
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