If you’ve ever applied for jobs before, you know it can basically be a full-time job in and of itself. And it’s not uncommon for the process to take months.
Some of the reasons why it’s such a time-consuming process are out of your control — you can’t get a hiring manager to devote more time out of their day to reviewing applications, and you can’t clear people’s schedules so they can do interviews sooner. Fortunately, there are some things that you can control when it comes to speeding up the job application process, even if you’re really busy.
Here are seven ways to make the job-hunting process more efficient and help you land your next gig.
1. Get clear on your goals
When you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to your job search, it’s important to establish what your goals and expectations are so that you don’t waste precious time applying to a wide range of jobs that won’t actually line up with what you’re hoping to achieve.
The first step is figuring out exactly what you’re looking for in your next role. Try dedicating 30 minutes to putting your goals in writing. Are you looking for more flexible hours? The opportunity to manage a team? A new title that’ll help you advance in your career? What about your salary requirements?
You could also create a target list of companies that you’d love to work for and focus on their job boards. Thinking through the characteristics you’d like your employer to have is a good way to help you narrow down the companies for your list. For example, are you interested in working at a large company or a small company? Venture-backed or bootstrapped? Would you work for an international company?
Another way to approach this is by writing out your “must-haves” versus your “nice-to-haves.” Maybe health insurance, parental leave, and a 401k are in your “must-haves” column, and unlimited PTO and a sign-on bonus are in your “nice-to-haves” column.
Taking the time to figure this all out before you start sending in applications could save you time in the long-run so that you can narrow your search and focus on roles and companies that are more likely to be a good fit for you.
2. Optimize your LinkedIn presence
When you’re trying to make the most out of the little time you have for job-hunting, one thing you can do is focus your energy on doing the things that lead recruiters and hiring managers to you, instead of the other way around. In other words, let the employers do some of the work. “This is a very competitive job market, so we — the recruiters — are doing more proactive searching than ever,” says Danny Roberts, Senior Technical Recruiter at Codecademy.
Danny recommends starting with LinkedIn. “The secret is optimizing one’s internet presence as much as possible for SEO, especially LinkedIn profiles,” he says. A good place to start is setting yourself “available” for work on LinkedIn. When you turn this feature on, you can select to share your status with recruiters only or share with all LinkedIn members.
Another great way to get on recruiters’ radars is by using keywords in your LinkedIn headline and summary. You’ll want to pick out keywords that are directly related to the position you’re trying to get. You can find these keywords in job descriptions, and you can also get ideas by looking at the profiles of people who have the job you want. Pay attention to what keywords they decided to use and the phrasing they used.
Also, it may sound obvious, but keep your LinkedIn experience updated. When a hiring manager finds you on LinkedIn, they’ll scan your experience section to see if you have the background they’re looking for in a new hire. So you want to keep this section up-to-date with relevant details and measurable results to make sure you don’t miss out on any potential job opportunities.
Want more LinkedIn advice? Here are more tips about the do’s and don’ts of LinkedIn profiles.
3. Use job descriptions to help revamp your resume
When you’re starting out with the job-hunting process and want to revamp your resume, it can be hard to know exactly what skills and experience to include to get noticed, especially since the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) — software that scans resumes for specific keywords and phrases — is increasingly used by hiring managers today.
But one way to make sure you’re including the right keywords is to find a few job postings that pique your interest and pull words and phrases from them to use on your resume. You’ll also want to include any specific tools, software, or technology that are often noted in the “Requirements” section. This way, you’re upping your chances of the ATS finding those keywords and flagging your application as a promising one.
Learn more about how to read a tech job description and incorporate details from it.
4. Set up a cover letter template to make quick edits
While many tech companies are moving away from cover letter requirements, it can be a helpful way to showcase what differentiates you from other applicants, especially if you’re just starting out or making a career shift. Thankfully, it’s not necessary to write a completely new cover letter for each job you apply to. But unlike your resume, where you can use one version to apply to similar jobs, you’ll need to make small tweaks to each cover letter you submit.
One way to make these edits as quickly as possible is to set up a template and highlight the text that needs to be edited, like who your letter is addressed to, the title of the role, and the name of the company. Here’s an example from the first paragraph of a cover letter.
Dear Hiring Manager,
If you have the bandwidth, it’s also a good idea to include a slot for a sentence that addresses why you’re particularly excited about the specific role or company. When you’re strapped for time, you want to avoid doing time-consuming edits, so the other details in your cover letter, like your experience and skills, can remain the same.
5. See if someone you know is connected to the company you’re applying to
It’s not uncommon for open positions to be filled by referrals. Sometimes the referral can come from someone already working at the company or from someone connected to the company in some way, like a former employee or a friend of the hiring manager. Take a look at the company’s employees on LinkedIn and see if you know anyone or have a mutual connection with someone there.
Depending on how close you are with the person, you could reach out and let them know you’re applying for a position at the company and ask if they could bump your application to the recruiter and/or hiring manager. Sometimes companies offer bonuses for employee referrals who get hired, so your contact may even want to upload your application into the system themselves.
6. Network efficiently
A feature like Open to Work on LinkedIn is a really efficient way to let recruiters and your professional network know when you’re job-hunting — but of course, you can’t always broadcast that you’re looking for a new role. If that’s the case for you, doing some individual outreach as early as possible in your job search is a good idea, especially since someone in your professional network could already be looking to fill a position or know of an opening that might be a good fit for you.
If you’re super busy, you could write one general BCC email to your personal and professional network letting people know you’re looking for your next job opportunity. Just make sure that these are all people who you trust and have a good relationship with. In your email, you want to include details like the positions you’re open to taking, the types of companies you want to work at, and when you can start your new role. Also, include a 2-3 sentence professional bio that your network can use to describe you in any referrals, and make sure to provide all relevant links for them as well, like your portfolio, professional website, and LinkedIn.
If there are any people in your network that you’d prefer to reach out to 1/1 — like mentors, former managers, or any colleagues you’re particularly close with — you could also take the time to send a few personalized emails. Just remember: Before sending any 1/1 emails, do a few minutes of homework about the person. Where do they work now? Do they know anyone on LinkedIn you might want to be connected with? Take a look at their company’s career page or LinkedIn jobs page to see what roles are open. Who knows? Maybe there will be a great role for you, and your note can mention that you’re interested in applying for it.
7. Use calendar reminders to stay on top of communication
Once you launch into the interview process, it can be easy to lose track of time when you’re trying to fit applications, emails, and interviews into an already-busy schedule. Remember: Technology is your friend when you’re trying to save time and reduce the stress of keeping up with communication. Get the information out of your head and onto a reminder app (like Google Calendar) so that you don’t have to worry if you missed an opportunity to show your interest in the role.
One way to help you stay on top of communication is to use calendar reminders to nudge you to send thank-you emails after interviews. Whenever you add an interview to your calendar, also add a reminder to send that person a thank-you note. While you’re doing that, you could even add a calendar reminder to let you know when to check in with the recruiter if you don’t hear back after a certain amount of time (at least a few days).
If you need some help drafting your follow-up email, here are some tips on how to write a professional follow-up email after a job interview.
Want more job-hunting advice? Here are some tips for writing a technical resume that will catch the hiring manager’s attention, plus tips for navigating a career change. And check out our Career Center, which is full of tools and resources to support you along every step of the job-hunting process.