Looking for an internship, entry level job or making the move up the ladder? As an internship team member and hiring manager, I cringe at the number of mistakes that could be avoided throughout the job application process. Follow these eight tips to make sure your materials make a solid first impression and stay in the stack.

Follow directions. If the application process requires a certain number of documents (e.g. cover letter, resume and letter of recommendation), make sure you include ALL materials upon submission. Otherwise, you’re already on the chopping block. Also, if the hiring manager is named in the position description, make sure you personalize your cover letter, email and/or hard copy mailings.

Be consistent. Font styles, font sizes, spacing and formatting matter. Tie your documents together through look and feel, and voice. If there are inconsistencies, it may indicate red flags to hiring managers. If you can’t be consistent in how you talk about yourself, how can I trust you to be consistent with clients?

Check. Double check. Triple check. Three words: attention to detail. Use spellcheck and review for grammar mistakes. Make sure names, titles and company names are presented and spelled correctly. Get another set of eyes on your materials before submission. Do I really need to say much more?

Do your research. Be able to intelligently speak about the hiring organization, including its history, current capabilities and services, team members and accomplishments. Hiring managers will expect you to be familiar with their organization, clients, offerings, etc.

Use my words against me. Candidates can do this in two ways: 1.) Use words from the position description in your cover letter and resume; and 2.) Take notes during the interview process and use my words to help explain how your background, experience and skills will translate to working on my team. Referencing words or phrases I use in a follow-up question or post-interview note go a long way. It shows you care and that you were paying attention.

Tell me why you want the job. When answering questions, don’t tell me what you don’t want out of your experience or opportunity – tell me what you want to gain. How can I help you reach your goals if I only know what you’re NOT looking for?

Be prepared to ask questions. A lack of questions for the hiring manager about their personal experience, the organization or the position shows a lack of preparedness. If all your questions were answered during the interview, be clear about which questions you planned on asking (that were answered in conversation) so that it doesn’t seem like you came without any ammo. Go back through the notes you took during the interview – see if a question pops up that you didn’t plan on asking.

Finish the process. Regardless of whether you are offered the position, always follow up with the hiring manager (and team) to thank them for the opportunity to be considered. Hiring processes are often very competitive and candidates make it very difficult for organizations to make a choice. With that in mind, there may be other opportunities down the line. A final follow-up note could be the feather in your cap needed to win the battle, or impress the hiring manger enough for them to recommend you for another position elsewhere. Remember, it’s all about networking.

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