Making It Happen


The Mechanics

Once you’ve identified a job you’re interested in, you’ll apply by submitting your resume and a cover letter stating your interest. There are several ways of sending these documents to potential employers:

  • In hard copy by mail
  • By email, as attachments
  • Through the organization’s website
  • Directly through Handshake.

If you apply through the organization’s website, it might have a section where you can cut and paste your resume. Check out our Resume Guide (.pdf) for formatting tips. You might be asked to complete an online form. If it includes a section for “candidate remarks,” this is where you would type in, or copy and paste, your cover letter. Some organizations want you to copy and paste your resume and/or cover letter as well as upload documents. Make sure you upload PDF files so that your formatting is preserved.

If you apply by email, attach your cover letter along with your resume as a single document, but you’ll need to write a short introduction for the body of the email. You could also include your resume as an attachment and paste your cover letter into the body of the email. In either case, be sure your email subject line clearly identifies the message. For example, “application for Job # C-132-R, Accountant II.”

If you apply by postal mail, don’t forget to manually sign your cover letter. Make sure that the envelope is clearly addressed. Use good-quality paper, and be sure that the paper used for your resume and your cover letter is the same.

Word to the Wise:

For salary requirements, consider stating “negotiable” without naming a figure. Aim too high and you might be eliminated immediately; too low and you might end up with a lighter paycheck than you’re worth.

The Process: How It Works

Some job postings will list an end date: “Applications will be accepted through August 31” or “Job closing date: Feb. 10.” When you come across this, it’s likely the employer will wait until the closing date to begin reviewing applications or calling candidates for interviews. Otherwise, the employer might be working on a rolling basis, calling applicants as resumes come in. In either case, you might hear from a hiring manager within days, or it might be six weeks or more.

If there’s a way for you to contact the employer, follow up with an email or phone call after two weeks to reiterate your continued interest in the position. Ask if additional information such as writing samples and references would be helpful, and say that you look forward to hearing from them. If you don’t hear back after a few more weeks, check in by email. If still nothing, you should focus on your other options.

Generally, employers will follow up with a group of candidates from the applicant pool for first-round interviews, either by phone or in person. A smaller number of those will be called back to continue the process until the final candidate is selected and offered the job.

In larger organizations, the Human Resources department will almost always extend formal offers. This might be done through a phone call, with a follow-up letter, or you might be called in for a meeting with HR and given an offer and a letter.

At this point, it’s now up to you to accept, decline, or negotiate. Once an agreement has been reached, you and the employer will mutually agree on a start date, and you can plan to go buy that new wardrobe!

You Got the Job! Now What?
Evaluating the Offer

When most people receive a job offer, their first reaction is often excitement or even relief. It’s certainly validating to know that you’ve been chosen from a group of other qualified candidates. The next thing most people think about is the salary. While this is certainly a key factor, there are other things to consider as well. These other factors are particularly important when you are weighing two or more job offers.

  • Will you enjoy the job? Remember, you’ll be going to this workplace, day after day, for the foreseeable future.
  • Do you like the atmosphere, the people, the nature of the job duties?
  • What type of mentoring or supervision will you receive?
  • What kind of time commitment outside of the normal work week does the employer expect? Will you be on-call on weekends? Will you be expected to put in frequent overtime? If so, how is this compensated?
  • Is the commute manageable for you? How will you get there? Would you be willing to move to be closer?
  • What are the chances for advancement in the company? What kinds of professional development opportunities might be available?
  • How stable is the organization? Is it new? Is it growing? Does it have a reliable track record? Is it in a stable industry?
  • What benefits are offered in terms of health care, vacation, sick time, tuition remission, retirement planning, etc.?
  • Is the pay package manageable for you? What is the cost of living in that area? Will you be able to afford to live on that salary?

When you decide, get back to the organization you’ve chosen as soon as possible. Work out the details of your start date. Once you have a mutual agreement, notify any other employers who may be considering your application that you have accepted another job, and thank them for their time, their offer, and for considering you. Phone is preferable to email, if you have the number of the hiring manager or of the HR representative with whom you have been communicating.