How to Be a Polite Job Applicant

Dress sharp!

Dress sharp!

Just so you know that I do actually know of which I speak, I have quite a bit of HR experience in addition to being a self proclaimed etiquette expert.

The Application

  • Make sure you fully read the job posting and follow all instructions. If they need your resume and cover letter in a Word document, you had better format it that way. If they do not state a preference, put it in a PDF because it guarantees that the formatting stays the way you intended it.
  • Once it is in, it is in and now you have to wait. A lot of advice will tell you to call to follow up. DO NOT do this, you will just irritate the HR person or hiring manager and they will throw your application directly into the trash (or circular file, which I literally just found out means the trash a couple of weeks ago.)
  • Your extended social network is a great way to find out about jobs. However, if you see a job posted by someone you know on the internet but who does not really know anything about you or your skill set, do not imply on your application that you know that person. It is not a good look when the hiring manager asks their coworker about you and they reply “who?” It is better to contact that person directly and let them know you are applying for the job they posted and ask if they can put in a good word for you.

Cover Letters and Resumes

  • KISS- keep it simple stupid. Your resume should not have swirly whirly graphics and four different fonts. Keep it very direct and readable.
  • Objectives are stupid, do not write them on your resume.
  • Keep your resume to one page, two max. You do not have to list every job and every club you’ve ever participated in, change your resume for each job or each type of job to directly reflect the experience that would be most useful for the position you are applying for.
  • This is picky, but try to avoid bullet points that all start with “I.” You don’t actually have to say “I,” it’s better to write: Answered fan mail, organized the Director’s schedule, updated the calendar.
  • Write a tailored cover letter for each job. You cover letter should express exactly why you are interested in THAT job at THAT organization. It should not be your resume in narrative form. Do not write that you are the perfect candidate for the position. You are most certainly not, and the perfect candidate would never say that.
  • Please read the Ask A Manager blog. She goes into incredibly more detail about the whole job searching process than I have space for here and is a phenomenal resource. I was job searching for 10 months about 2 years ago and following her advice I applied to 100 jobs, received 10 interviews, and landed an incredibly awesome job in a very competitive field.

The Interview

  • Be on time, not even early. You should wait in your car or walk around the block a couple of times. I used to assume all businesses have a lobby with chairs that you can wait in, but I have been finding out (especially in NYC) that it is not guaranteed that they will, so it really is better to just be there, ready to go, at your appointment time.
  • Do your research. Know what the company does and anything else important about it. It is not impressive to ask a question about something where the answer is prominently featured on their website. Say, for example, interviewing at a museum, you should know what kind of collection they have, what exhibitions are upcoming, and form some kind of opinion in which you are very excited to work for that institution because of those particular things.
  • Practice answering common interview questions, which you can find online. The idea is not to memorize answers, but have some examples and anecdotes ready to go.

The Follow Up

  • Always send some kind of follow up email. This is not a thank you note, per se, but you should thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate in a few words how the interview has given you even more of a sense about the job and confirmed your desire to work there in that position. You can read more about that in our previous post here.
  • Again, do not hassle HR or the hiring manager. They aren’t going to forget that you are a candidate for the position, and different companies have different timelines for hiring. If they’ve told you they will be letting you know in two weeks and it’s been three, you can send a follow up email asking if they’ve come to a decision. But honestly, if they really like you and want to give you the job, they will let you know.


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