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When a new job posting pops up it’s hard to not jump at the opportunity and apply immediately. Most candidates don’t understand is that it’s not a race to be the first in line. And it’s far less important than putting your best foot forward in your communication.

I often hear both excitement and panic when talking to a potential client in this scenario. They’re eager to apply to what seems like a really great opportunity. At the same time, they realize their resume is not where they’d like it to be. All they hear is the clock ticking and feel the pressure.

That is a legitimate concern because from the moment the job posting goes up (or within about 10 minutes of that), recruiters and hiring managers are already receiving resume submissions to their inbox, and starting to review and build their list of potential interview candidates.

That is a typical scenario. The more niche or high-level the position (i.e., the more difficult to fill), the longer the hiring, review, and application process is likely to take. This can also be affected dramatically by the organization’s sense of priority in filling the position. It might be listed as an immediate need, but “immediate” really means “right after we fill these other 15 roles for which we’ve first allocated our budget and manpower.”

Case in point: It’s really hard to know what the hiring timeline, and sense of urgency, will ultimately look like. And as a candidate, it can help to have a clearer idea of what your best odds are and how to maximize them.

What you can do is come prepared so that you can position yourself to make the best possible impression, and retain your greatest odds of standing out among a pile of applicants.

Respond to a job posting “just in time.”

1) There is no “first-come, first-serve” in the HR world; it’s about finding the best fit.

Sometimes that takes 2 days, sometimes it takes 6 months to hear back from HR. Never apply without a solid resume in the interest of submitting a quick application instead. Your chances are far better if you wait a couple of days to apply so that you can get your resume in shape, versus being one of the first to apply with a crappy resume.

2) Your email subject line can make all the difference.

Recruiters get hundreds of emails with the same subject line, either simply the job title, “Graphic Designer Job”, or some variation of that. I always opened the ones that stood out a little bit more and made me feel confident that there was something interesting and relevant inside. It gave me a sneak peek of who the candidate was:

“Sam Smith – Award-Winning Senior Graphic Designer With 8 Years Exp”.

3) Include an abbreviated version of your cover letter in the body of your email.

Cover letters don’t always get read. Particularly for career changers, that means potentially missing out on pertinent information. It’s fine to cut and paste your existing letter into the body of the email, but I suggest including a brief introduction letter of 3-4 sentences introducing yourself and setting the stage for the documents you’ve attached:

Dear Hiring Manager-

My name is Sam Smith and I am an award-winning graphic designer with 8 years of experience. I’m actively in the process of relocating to New York City from Santa Fe, and am available immediately for new opportunities, ideally in the startup space. Most of my experience has been with small design firms such as yours, working on both interactive and print projects. My resume and full cover letter are attached, and you can view my portfolio at:

Thank You!
Sam Smith.

4) Avoid inappropriate attention-grabbing tactics (like typing your name or email subject in all caps).

It comes off as trying too hard, and you’re going for confident and professional.

5) Aim to apply within the first week of the posting.

It’s likely that recruiters will take at least that amount of time to sift through the initial inquiries and starting building a list of people they’re interested in interviewing.

6) But don’t pass up the position simply because it’s several weeks old.

Candidates don’t always work out, offers aren’t always accepted, and positions often go on hold. Yes, it may be out of date, and while it shouldn’t be the basket into which you place all your eggs, it’s worth a shot in putting in your application.

Every position will be different – from the timeline, the requirements, the recruiting process, and even the sense of urgency, and it’s important to understand that and keep your expectations flexible. Job searching is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to have the right tools and level of preparation in place if you want to stay ahead of the competition.

Let us create your professional suite of job search tools to help you get noticed and get hired.