Interviews, Jobs

How to Apply for a Job

A Guide for Navigating Each Step of the Job Application Process

Ah, the dreaded job application process. There’s nothing like working relentlessly on a stack of cover letters only to release them into the digital universe, met by nothing but the faint sound of crickets chirping. But fear not! Glassdoor is here to help. Applying to any job is a simple process comprised of elementary steps. We’ve broken down the process to the basics, and here we present you with an action plan on how to apply for a job and — hopefully — get an offer!


Guide Overview
  1. What Is a Job Application?
  2. How to Search for Jobs
  3. How to Research Companies
  4. How to Get Your Resume Ready
  5. How to Prepare a Cover Letter
  6. References to Have on Hand
  7. How to Submit Your Application
  8. How to Follow Up on Your Job Application

What Is a Job Application?

A job application is a collection of materials you send to a company or organization where you would like to work. Job applications almost always include your resume, and often include a cover letter, a list of references and any other materials that help hiring managers get a sense of you as a candidate, such as a portfolio of your work. Most often, a job application is submitted to apply for a specific position, which is posted with a job description.

When you think about how to apply for a job, the job application is often the first step that comes to mind. After submitting, you might be invited to schedule an interview or to complete a take-home assignment. While each company might have their own type of hiring process, you’ll almost always have to convey in some way who you are, where you’ve worked and why you’re interested in the company. This is most often done through an initial submission of a resume, cover letter and/or references.

What Is a Job Application?

How to Search for Jobs

Americans are increasingly using the internet as their go-to route to find jobs. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of Americans used online resources in their most recent job research. There’s a whole gamut of job search websites, such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, USAJobs and Monster – just to name a few. LinkedIn is also a great place to both find jobs and be scouted by recruiters. And of course, us folks here at Glassdoor will tell you it’s the best place to search for your next gig. The Glassdoor Job Search app lets you view the latest available jobs from your phone, and it’s free! Glassdoor also offers helpful job application resources like a downloadable job search tracker worksheet that allows you to track important information like where you’ve applied, when you submitted your application, what the last point of contact was, what your action items are and more.

If there’s a specific company you’re interested in working for, take a look at the jobs page on their website. Most company websites have a tab where they post current open positions. If you have any connections within the company, you also can reach out to them to learn if there are any positions that haven’t been posted yet.

How to Search for Jobs

How to Research Companies

There are many ways to research companies. A good place start is with the basic information about what the company does, where they’re based and what their size is. This preliminary information can be found on their website and Glassdoor profile.

Another important avenue to learn about is a company is through people: Ask to set up an informational interview with someone you know within the company, or even someone you don’t know. If you have an acquaintance (or an acquaintance of an acquaintance) at a company, see if you can schedule time to meet with them and ask them about what life is like at the company, and perhaps even if there are any positions opening up soon that you would be a good fit for. There’s also no shame in reaching out to someone you find online to ask a few questions about what it’s like working at their company.

You can also do in-depth research on a company through reading news stories they were featured in. This can be especially important if the company you’re thinking about applying to is a company in crisis. If the company is about to go bankrupt, you might not find news about it on their website, but you’ll probably see news about it elsewhere on the internet.

Finally, another great way to get a handle on company culture and employee experience is through reading Glassdoor reviews. Written by either current or former employees of the company, these reviews can give you a powerful sense of what the commonly cited benefits and drawbacks of working somewhere are.

How to Research Companies

How to Get Your Resume Ready

Unless you’re applying to your first job, you probably have some sort of resume laying around. While entire books have been written on crafting the perfect resume, we’ll just catch you up here on a few of the basics. (If you’re looking for more guidance on how to write a resume, the Glassdoor How to Write a Resume eBook is your one-stop shop for drafting the perfect resume from scratch.)

First off, as the job application process becomes increasingly digitized, it’s important to put your resume in a digital-friendly format. This means that you can ditch the printer-friendly version of your resume. Instead, try out a sleek resume template that will catch the eye of a hiring manager. You can also include hyperlinks in your resume that lead to press coverage or examples of your past work.

But before the hiring manager even sees your resume, it’s also important to remember that many employers are using applicant tracking systems to weed through resumes before a human sets eyes on them. “To make sure your resume is compatible with [any ATS] system, incorporate the best keywords throughout your resume 2-3 times, with at least one of those references falling within your Work Experience or Education section,” says Amanda Augustine, a career advice expert for TopResume. "It’s one thing to state that SEO (search engine optimization) is among your core competencies, but it’s another thing entirely to show where in your employment history you leveraged that knowledge to add value to an organization.”

Once you have a digital-friendly resume in hand, you can upload it to an online job search platform. With platforms like Glassdoor, once your resume is uploaded, you can apply to a job with a simple click of the “Easy Apply” button. Yes, applying to a job really is as easy as pressing a button!

How to Get Your Resume Ready

How to Prepare a Cover Letter

A cover letter is a chance for you to speak more broadly about the skills, traits and experiences you listed on your resume. While you might tweak just a few lines on your resume to tailor it to a certain job you’re applying to, cover letters are generally much more specific. Luckily, with the research you’ve already done from reading our "How to Apply for a Job" guide, you can easily create a cover letter that shows genuine interest in and knowledge about the company. Take a look at the job description, too, before you write the cover letter so that you can match what you say about yourself with what the company is looking for.

Also, remember that not every job application requires a cover letter, so if you’re trying to save time, you can prioritize the applications on your list that don’t require cover letters, and then move onto the ones that do. You can also save time by using this cover letter template to craft your perfect cover letter.

How to Prepare a Cover Letter

References to Have on Hand

Now that your resume is shipshape and you’ve got your cover letter game down pat, there’s another detail that’s good to have on hand before you start sending out applications: references. References are people you’ve worked with or for in the past who can speak to your professional abilities.

Before setting out on a flurry of job applications, block out some time to speak with a handful of people who you’re confident will serve as strong references for you. Generally, applications only require you to have three references, but it’s good to speak to at least five or six. That way, you can also list different references tailored to the different roles you might be applying for. People who make good references include:

  • Your former employer
  • A colleague you worked alongside
  • A teacher or professor you had
  • An academic advisor
  • Your supervisor

If you’re unsure of how to approach references, these 5 email templates to use when for asking for a reference are a good starting point. Important details to collect from these people are their email address, phone number, current title and current place of employment.

References to Have on Hand

How to Submit Your Application

While job applications can be submitted in person or through the mail, submitting applications online is by far the most common route. By uploading your resume to a site like Glassdoor, you can easily apply to jobs you find on the platform – same goes for sites like Indeed, Monster or CareerBuilder. Other companies will ask you to apply for jobs on the company’s own online portal. Some company websites may require you to manually enter information that can be found on your resume — we know, it’s painful — but sometimes, you just have to do it.

Finally, many job descriptions will give the email of the recruiter, and ask for you to send your resume and cover letter over to apply. Our advice: Put some thought into that email! Don’t just say “this is my resume and cover letter, here”. Thank the recruiter for the opportunity to apply for the job, and even squeeze in a bit more information about who you are and why you’re interested in the position.

How to Submit Your Application

How to Follow Up on Your Job Application

If you receive an immediate interview invitation after submitting your application — great! Congratulations, you don’t need to read this step. However, many of us have had the experience of waiting weeks, even months, to hear back after pouring our heart into a lengthy job application.

After not hearing back for a week, if you have the email of the recruiter or hiring manager, shoot a quick email checking in about the status of the application and reaffirming your interest in the role. “If another week passes and you still have not heard back, then another short, one- to two-paragraph note is in order, indicating genuine interest in the position and inquiring about next steps” suggests Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, professional resume writer and Glassdoor contributor. If you don’t have an email contact address for anyone at the company, Barrett-Poindexter recommends researching contact names related to the particular role or division for which you applied, and trying to find an email. Send a brief note to that person telling them how you’ve applied to a position in this person’s company, and are reaching out about a status inquiry. Keep it polite and enthusiastic, and hope for the best.

Let’s take another situation. Say that you applied and were either rejected or didn’t hear back from the company. A few months have passed, and you see the same job posted again. Should you apply? Yes – depending on the situation. Here are a few scenarios in which you might reapply:

  • You’ve rebranded yourself for the position with a total refresh of your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile
  • The job had already been posted for a few weeks when you initially applied (so your resume potentially got lost in a sea of hundreds of others)
  • You’ve made further advancements in your career that you can bring to the table
  • A more junior role similar to the first posting was posted

If you’re not convinced, read here about applying again to a position after you’ve been rejected. And remember that if this position doesn’t work out, there are many, many more (there are more than 6 million US job listings posted on Glassdoor alone).  So start writing that cover letter!

Learn More

Track Your Job Applications With Ease

5 Ways Glassdoor Gives You the Upper Hand in Your Job Search

What to Look for When Researching a Company: A Complete Checklist

The Ultimate Guide to Resumes

Write the Perfect Cover Letter With This Template

What Your References Should Say About You

10 Things You Need to Check Before Submitting Your Resume

How to Follow Up on Your Job Application