Applying for Positions - Undergrad Success
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Applying for Positions

Applying for Positions
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Sometimes it seems the most you can do is wish your resume and cover letter well after you send them off. However, there is something else you can do: Take extra steps to get your materials into the hands of the right person. The right person is someone who has the authority to say, “You’re hired!”

Sending your materials to the right person is easy when the job advertisement directs you to send it to a specific person. However, this simple task becomes trickier when you are asked to send your valuables to human resources. Most large organizations and companies now have HR departments, which serve as gatekeepers between applicants and employers. The people who work in HR often decide if your resume merits the consideration of the person hiring for the position. You take the gamble of your resume ever being seriously looked at when you send it to these well-meaning, but potentially career-blocking people. To overcome this barrier, you can find out who your resume really needs to go to and send it to them and the HR department.

Finding out who the real decision maker is may take a little time and snooping, but it’s worth it. The easiest approach is browsing the company’s website and searching for the email address to the person you would most likely be working for, or the person who manages the department you would work in. If the information is not on the website, call the company, ask who’s who, and then try reaching out to the person through LinkedIn or another professional social media website.

Once you know whom your materials should be directed to, you’re one step closer to getting them into their hands. Keep in mind that just because you sent your resume and cover letter off, it doesn’t mean that they were received and reviewed. Again, an employer can get hundreds of applications every week—for your position and others—and you don’t want yours to be the one that gets lost in the shuffle.

The following are simple rules to follow when sending your application materials via email, through a company’s website, by mail, and in person.

By email: Unless a company gives specific directions for applying via email, paste your cover letter directly into the body of the email (beginning with the salutation, Dear X), and attach both the cover letter and resume in .pdf format, not in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx). Sending a document as a .pdf is wise because a company may not have your font, which could cause a Word document to look formatted poorly.

If you’re directed to email your resume to a specific person, call him or her to verify that it was received a few hours after you send it. Although you do risk the chance of being annoying, you also put your name in the person’s mind. However, if the job advertisement specifically says “No phone calls, please!” then follow up with another email one to two weeks later. In the email, provide your name, the position you applied for and when, and write that you just wanted to follow up. Also briefly reiterate your interest in the position. The key here is letting your potential boss know you really want the job.

Sample Follow-Up Email

Email subject line: Follow up on Program Coordinator position

Dear Ms. Janice Pines,

My name is Paige Kelly, and I emailed my resume and cover letter to you last Wednesday to apply for the program coordinator position within GreenPoint Solutions. As I expressed, I am very interested in speaking with you about this opportunity, and given my experience and passion for developing and launching grassroots sustainable initiatives, I am confident I would be an asset to your organization. Please let me know if you received my application materials. I look forward to your reply.


Paige Kelly

Through a website: As with email, upload your resume and cover letter as .pdf files unless directed otherwise. Normally, you will receive an email from a company indicating that your materials were received. If you don’t, call the HR office and ask someone to check to make sure all your materials came through.

By mail: When applying by mail—which is increasingly rare now—print your resume and cover letter on matching white or light-cream resume paper. Send your materials in an envelope that matches your resume and cover letter, or in a paper-sized envelope so your materials will still be neat when received. Call the employer two to three days after they should have received your materials to make sure they got them.

By fax: When sending your resume and cover letter via fax, make doubly sure the cover sheet is directed to the right person. Wait an hour after you send it to call and verify that it was received and that your materials are in the process of being given to the person who should review it. It won’t hurt to call the next day to make sure it got into the right person’s hands.

In person: Applying in person gives you the chance to present yourself to a potential employer and to take a look at your potential workplace. Although this option just isn’t available for most large companies (because it can be hard to even get into a building and your name may need to be on a list), the in-person route could be worth a try for small businesses.

Call the company and ask when the owner or manager will be in on the day you plan to visit. It is a good idea to dress business casual or in an actual suit. Ask for the proper person once you get there, and if he or she is not there then ask for another manager or assistant manager in the department. Your goal is to introduce yourself to someone who has some decision-making authority. If you have to turn your materials into someone in HR, inquire about their hiring process and how long it usually takes for materials to be reviewed. Always be extra nice to everyone you meet while visiting the company.

OMG! Mistakes

No matter how you apply, do not give someone a reason not to read your application materials because of foolish mistakes. Ones to watch out for:

Spelling someone’s name wrong: Double check to make sure names are spelled correctly and the same in all places. If you must ask someone else for a person’s name, ask for the correct spelling—don’t assume. “Sherry” can also be spelled Sheri, Sherri, and Sherrie.

Assuming someone’s gender: Like “Chaz,” my name, or “Kim,” a male friend’s name, plenty of people have names that you would bet are a man’s or woman’s and you would be wrong. This is also true for gender-neutral names like Cameron. Don’t gamble on your application materials—find out.

Using the wrong company name: This is easy to do after sending many cover letters, but there’s still no excuse. Double check to ensure you’ve included the correct company name and the correct name of the hiring manager and not one from a different job to which you applied.

Emailing materials to the wrong person: Again, too easy to do when emailing people back-to-back. Make the email address the last thing you enter before emailing your materials, and then make sure you have the right person.

Not actually attaching your materials: This is why I love Gmail. A nice warning pops up when you mention attachment in an email but have failed to attach anything.


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Chaz Pitts-Kyser is a writer and speaker with a passion for empowering young professionals and women to achieve personal and career success. She recently published her second book, Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College, a must-have resource for women starting out in their careers. Chaz is also the founder of Careeranista, a company and website created to inspire, support, and educate women.

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