Applying for a Job

Applying for jobs is a lot of work. As you send applications to different employers, you won’t even get replies from a lot of them! You may have to apply for 10 or more jobs before you even get a chance at an interview. Don’t worry, this is normal; it’s hard for even the most qualified jobseekers to find a job. Still, if you are persistent, you will succeed in finding a job, even if it takes a while.

To apply for some jobs, you will have to fill out forms. Other jobs will require you to prepare a resume and write a cover letter about why you believe that you are a good fit for the job. If the employer reviews your resume or application form and is interested in hiring you, you will also have to do an interview.

Affirmative Action

Some employers have affirmative action programs for people with disabilities. For example, the federal government has a program called Schedule A that makes it much easier for people with disabilities to get government jobs. You are not required to tell potential employers that you have a disability when you apply for a job, but in some cases, it may help you. For more information about Schedule A, click here (PDF).

Preparing a Resume

A resume is one of the most important ways you will tell potential employers about yourself. You should include several main categories of information on your resume:

  • Your name and contact information, including your phone number, address, and email address.
  • A work experience section that lists jobs you've held, including your exact job title, the place you worked, and a short description of the work you did. You can also list volunteer work.
  • An education section that lists schools you have attended and degrees you have earned, including college, technical school, or high school. It can also mention any honors you were awarded.
  • A skills section that lists the skills you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for. For example, if you speak a language in addition to English, mention it in this section. Also mention specific computer skills you have, such as knowing how to use Microsoft Office or other software. Young people who don’t have long work histories should emphasize this section.

The exact information you choose to include may vary, depending on the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a job at an office, you may choose to give details only about other office jobs you've done, or to list only office skills you know, like typing and computer use. However, it wouldn't hurt to include all of your experiences if you think it is useful information.

Job programs, mentors, and job coaches are great sources to help you develop your resume. Here are some good online resources that can also help with your resume:

Creating a Portfolio

Traditionally, artists and people in certain other professions would create portfolios to show to potential employers. A portfolio is a folder that holds collected examples of a person’s work, such as paintings or writings. In recent years, many other people have also begun to do this. You can create a folder that includes samples of your writing, lists some of your accomplishments, and includes your resume. Depending on the job application process, you may or may not choose to give your potential employers a copy of your portfolio. For a website that gives some examples of what to put in a portfolio and when to use it, click here.

Writing a Cover Letter

When you apply for a job, you’ll probably have to write a letter explaining why the employer should hire you. This letter is challenging because it should be short (a page or less), but at the same time should help you show off your skills.

The first thing your cover letter shows is your ability as a writer. This means that you need to make sure that it has proper grammar, that all the words are spelled correctly, and that it doesn’t include any factual errors.

The second thing the letter tells a potential employer is how much time and energy you spent writing the letter. If your letter really talks about things that are specifically related to the job you’re applying for, they’ll know that you spent time thinking about the job. Once the person who reviews your cover letter sees that you are a good writer and put energy into your letter, then they’ll think about the actual words you wrote.

A cover letter gives you the chance to give the employer information that you didn’t include on your resume, or perhaps to emphasize something that is on it. It all depends on you and the job you’re applying for. For tips about writing a cover letter and some example letters, click here. You don’t need to write a completely different cover letter for every job you apply for. Usually you can reuse portions of a letter you have written previously. However, it is very important that you make sure that your cover letter includes some details that are specific to the job you are applying for, such as the name of the company, the job title, and that it does not accidentally include information that is specific to a different company or job!

References

Some jobs require you to give references when you apply. Good references are people who know you well and who can tell your potential employer about your skills and why you are a good match for the job. Good references can include previous employers, professors, and mentors.

Make sure to always get permission from the person you want to be your reference before you list him or her as a reference! Also, make sure this person will give you a positive reference; you don’t want to choose somebody with whom you’ve had a bad relationship or who will say bad things about you.

If a job asks for references when you apply, supply the person’s name, job title, and contact information.

Having an Interview

One important step in getting a job is the job interview. From the perspective of potential employers, interviews are important because they give the employer information about you that they don’t get through your resume, cover letter, or references; they get a glimpse of you, especially your presence, honesty, morals and professionalism.

Before you go to the interview, you need to prepare yourself well. Here are some important steps to take:

  • Research the employer extensively. Read their website so that you know what they do and talk to people you know who work at the company or in the same field so that you understand exactly the skills and needs that companies like this have.
  • Practice interviewing with a friend or career counselor. For strategies for answering common interview questions that you can practice, click here.
  • Take care of the little things. Plan your travel to the interview location and give yourself enough time to get there a little bit early. Dress and act professionally. Turn off your cell phone. Don’t chew gum during the interview. Don’t smoke just before the interview. Bring a copy of your resume and references. These little details are not things that by themselves will get you a job, but, if you don’t do them, they are things that could prevent you from getting a job.
  • If you need an accommodation in order to do an interview, make sure to request it. The employer interviewing you is required to supply you with reasonable accommodations. To learn more about reasonable accommodations, click here.

The key is to always have a positive attitude, both during your preparation and during the interview. After the interview, send a thank-you email or note to the person who interviewed you.