The Job Application Process Explained
Feeling anxious about what to expect from your upcoming job application process?
Finding a new job isn’t easy, especially if you're getting out of school, returning from an extended break, or making a career change.
But the good news is that you have nothing to worry about because, in this post, we're going to walk you through the following:
- How long the job application process will take
- What to expect from the job application process (each step explained)
- How to streamline everything to land your next interview faster
Before we dive into that, though, let's get clear on what makes the job application process worth taking so seriously.
Why is the job application process important?
The job application process is an important step for both employers and job seekers. It helps employers identify the best candidates for their open positions by evaluating their skills, experience, and cultural fit.
And for job seekers like you, it's an opportunity to highlight your abilities and demonstrate why you’d be a great addition to a new team. Plus, it's a chance for both parties to see if there's a mutual connection, making sure everyone is aligned with their goals in the long run.
Here are the top three reasons why the job application process (really) matters:
1. Matching skills and qualifications: Employers are looking for candidates with the skills and qualifications necessary for the position in question. The application process helps employers sort through the many applicants and identify the best candidate for their needs.
2. Cultural fit: Employers want candidates who mesh well with their team and company culture. Employees want to work where they feel comfortable and supported. The job application process can help determine if there's a good cultural fit. This is essential for long-term job satisfaction and success.
3. Opportunity for growth: You might not think it, but this process can be a valuable learning experience for job seekers. By reflecting on your skills, experience, and career goals, you’ll better understand your strengths and areas for improvement. This self-assessment can help guide your future career development.
At the end of the day, the job application process can feel long, tedious, and full of unnecessary steps (we won’t lie, sometimes, it can be all of those things).
But the way you handle this process could be the deciding factor between whether or not you get a foot in the door with a hiring manager. Using AI & ChatGPT for job applications can help streamline your process.
How long is the job application process?
The length of the job application process can vary depending on the company and role.
Sometimes you’ll hear back from the employer within a few days or weeks. In other cases, completing the hiring process can take months, with several interviews along the way.
The job application process is long because it typically involves multiple steps, such as:
- Filling out lengthy applications
- Creating and submitting your resume and cover letter
- Completing assessments or tests
- Participating in multiple rounds of interviews.
Each step feels like another mountain to climb, especially if you’re applying to many jobs at the same time.
But it's important to recognize that a longer hiring process isn't necessarily bad. It can indicate that the employer is taking the time to carefully evaluate candidates and find the best fit for the role.
Even though the length of the job application process can be frustrating, it's important to stay patient and positive. And while you wait to hear back from one company, you can use that time to search for/apply to other jobs of interest.
What to expect during the job application process?
Every job application will be different, but here are a few of the common steps most companies use in the hiring process.
You’ll need to provide a resume
A resume is one of the most important documents for your job application. This is a recap of everything that qualifies you for your desired position. That means including your:
- Contact information
- Professional summary
- Work experience with concrete achievements
Ideally, you’ll fit all this onto a single page with a clear, structured format.
And since companies use Application Tracking Systems (ATS) to prioritize resumes based on the right keywords/job title, you’ll also need to ensure you’re using the right language to stand out.
Note: We should clear up a misconception about ATS software. An ATS won’t exclude candidates from a position. Instead, they prioritize candidates based on the content of their resume. It’s a small but significant difference that should inspire you to personalize each resume to the job you’re applying for.
There are a few ways that you can create a resume:
- Microsoft Word or Google Doc
- Chatbots like ChatGPT or Google’s Bard
- Professional resume writing services
But we believe the best place to start is with Teal’s AI Resume Builder:
Teal’s platform helps job seekers by...
- Writing content for their resume
- Formatting their resume
- Personalizing their resume for each application
Other resources like Microsoft Word or Google Docs have templates to help format your resume. But you’re still left writing and personalizing the content on your own
(Plus, and let’s be honest, reformatting documents in Word or Docs can be a pain).
And new AI technology like ChatGPT or Google’s Bard can write the content of your resume, but you’ll need to structure everything manually on a separate platform.
Teal’s AI Resume Builder, on the other hand, tackles all three challenges from the same dashboard. We’ve added generative AI (from the same engine that powers ChatGPT) to help write every section of your resume and tailored cover letters:
Plus, we’ve made it easy to:
1. Reformat your resume at the click of a button:
3. Reorganize sections of your resume so you can customize everything to your liking:
From there, you can duplicate your resume, match it with another specific role, and personalize the content in minutes.
But hey, why not hop in the dashboard and see for yourself?
Sign up and try Teal's AI Resume Builder for free today!
You’ll need to provide a cover letter
Like your resume, a cover letter is another essential part of the job application process. It's an opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring manager and explain why you're the best candidate for the job.
Writing a cover letter can be challenging, but many resources are available online to help you get started. Keep in mind the following best practices when creating your resume:
- Personalization matters: Tailor your cover letter to the position you’re applying for. This will help you stand out from the other generic cover letters in the hiring manager’s never-ending stack.
- Avoid repetitive information: Your cover letter should complement your resume, not re-explain it. Focus on telling a compelling story about why you’re the right fit for the job with concrete and measurable examples of your past success.
- Proofread: Never send any resource to a hiring manager until it’s been thoroughly checked for typos or errors. If possible, ask a friend, family member, or mentor to read your cover letter and provide support through editing or feedback.
And again, like your resume, there are plenty of ways to approach your cover letter.
One solution is to use generative AI like ChatGPT to write your resume. This can be a good but cumbersome solution that requires jumping back and forth between tabs and lots of copy/pasting.
Instead, make your life easier by keeping everything in one place.
Once you’ve completed a resume in Teal’s AI Resume Builder, click the Cover Letter icon:
Now click Generate Text:
And just like that, you’ll have the first draft of a personalized cover letter in under a minute.
Head to Teal's AI Resume Builder to try it for free today!
You may need an online portfolio (depending on the job)
An online portfolio is a website that showcases your previous accomplishments and can help you tangibly showcase your skills/experience to potential employers. Online portfolios are a valuable asset to any professional on the market for a new job, but they’re becoming table stakes for creative roles (like graphic design or writing).
If you're applying for jobs in these fields, it's important to invest time and effort into creating a strong online portfolio. Start by selecting your best work samples and organizing them in a visually appealing, easy-to-navigate format.
Include a brief description of each project, the skills you used to complete it, and the measurable results you achieved. Lastly, don’t forget to keep your portfolio up-to-date and continue adding new projects as you complete them.
An online portfolio can be a powerful tool for showcasing your skills and landing your dream job.
For a deeper dive, check out this resource: Who Should Have a Career Portfolio & How Often Should It Be Updated?
You’ll likely need to apply to multiple positions
Finding the right job can take time, and staying persistent is a valuable skill.
Remember, it's common for job hunters to apply to multiple positions before landing an interview, so keep going if you don't hear back from every application. To increase your chances of success, consider diversifying your job search process by applying to many roles simultaneously.
Make sure to tailor your application materials to each job and highlight the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the position.
Need some help tracking all the applications you send out? Check out the Job Application Tracker built into your Teal dashboard:
This allows you to track each application through the following phases:
By staying organized, you can remove a lot of the stress and headaches associated with the job application process.
You’ll need to stand out
With so many applicants competing for each job, you’ll need to find a few ways to stand out from the crowd. Here are a few quick tips for doing that:
- Understand what the hiring manager is looking for
- Include a job target or title
- Add skills and proficiencies
- Show measurable results
- Keep it concise
- Tailor your resume to the job description
- Add a custom cover letter
- Review and proofread
- Follow up with your hiring manager
For more details on each tip, here’s an in-depth guide: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out and Land Your Dream Job.
Your applications may be cumbersome
The job application process can be time-consuming, and it's not uncommon for applications to ask for a lot of information.
Here are some of the factors that make the process feel like it keeps dragging on:
- Lengthy applications: Many employers require candidates to fill out extensive forms, answer open-ended questions, and provide detailed information about their qualifications. This can be tedious, especially when job seekers have to repeat the process for multiple positions.
- Unclear job descriptions: Sometimes, a job posting can be vague or incomplete, making it difficult to understand what the employer is looking for. This may lead to additional time spent figuring out how to structure/word your resume and cover letter.
- Customizing resumes and cover letters: As we’ve already said, candidates should tailor their resumes and cover letters for each application. The constant customization can be mentally draining.
- Slow response times: Employers may take weeks or even months to respond to job applications, leaving candidates in a state of uncertainty. This waiting period can be nerve-wracking and discouraging.
We’ve already shown how Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help customize resumes and cover letters, drastically speeding up the application process.
And there’s not much you can do about slow response times once you’ve followed up with the hiring manager. The real problems here come down to lengthy applications and unclear job descriptions.
Fortunately, Teal has you covered on both fronts.
For those lengthy applications, you can use Teal’s Autofill Job Applications:
This free Chrome extension allows you to upload your resume or LinkedIn profile and leverage AI to autofill all your applications. And for those open-ended questions, you can use our built-in generative AI tool to create a personalized first draft response in seconds.
Then, using your knowledge and expertise, you can polish that response to make yourself stand out.
As for the vague job descriptions, Teal’s AI Resume Builder has another feature that can help you determine what language to use in your resume and cover letter. Teal analyzes each job description you apply to and highlights the keywords/skills you should focus on:
This helps you determine which skills and keywords the hiring manager is likely looking for as they review your application.
You’ll likely need to apply for a role online
These days, most job applications are submitted online through job boards, company websites, or other online platforms. This can be convenient, but it also means your application competes with a large pool of applicants.
LinkedIn is recommended as the best for connecting directly with recruiters, while Reddit Job Hunting is a forum specifically designed to help people find jobs.
To ensure a positive candidate experience and to maximize your chances of success, read the instructions carefully and follow all application guidelines from the platform you're working with. This could include submitting your application by a certain deadline or including specific documents, such as a writing sample or professional references.
Your job application will be screened
Once you submit your job application, it will likely be screened by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Your application should include relevant ATS keywords and skills to breeze through the initial screening process.
Remember, an ATS won’t exclude resumes from the application process altogether, but it will scan your documents for keywords to find the most likely best fit. To increase your chances of getting an interview, tailor your resume and cover letter for each job to include the skills, experiences, and keywords that are most relevant to the role.
This could involve researching the company and the position to better understand what they're looking for in a candidate.
For more information on ATS software, check out this video:
What to expect after your application is reviewed
You’ll be invited to an initial screening
If your application catches the hiring manager’s eye, you might be invited to an initial screening. This is typically a brief phone or video call with a recruiter or hiring manager.
This is an opportunity for the employer to learn more about you and determine if you're a good fit for the rest of the application process. In many ways, the initial screening is a pre-interview to see if the company should invest more resources in exploring your qualifications.
You’ll be moved to a more formal interview process
If you pass the initial screening, you'll likely be moved to a more formal video or in-person interview process.
This could include multiple rounds of interviews with different members of the hiring team, such as the hiring manager, the HR representative, or your potential colleagues. This part of the application process depends on the company you’re applying to.
To prepare for the formal interview process, research the company (and the position) in detail. Consider practicing your responses to common interview questions and preparing examples demonstrating your skills and experience.
Got the pre-interview jitters? Check out these helpful resources: How to Interview with Confidence and 7 Ways to Use ChatGPT to Prepare for a Job Interview.
You could be asked to complete a test or project
Depending on the role, the employer might ask you to complete a test project to demonstrate your skills and abilities. This could be a written test, a coding challenge, or a portfolio review—again, this depends on the role/company you’re applying to.
To prepare for a test or project, review the requirements carefully and ask any questions you may have before beginning. Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the test or project thoroughly and to the best of your ability.
You might have background and reference checks
Background checks are typically conducted for jobs where an individual works with vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, or individuals with disabilities. This can include positions in education, healthcare, social services, or government.
That said, many employers in other industries also conduct background checks as a standard practice.
Be transparent throughout the application process to avoid any issues during the background check. This includes accurately reporting your work history, education, and any criminal history.
Whereas background checks vary from company to company, reference checks are much more popular.
Reference checks are typically conducted once you’ve become a seriously competitive candidate. Employers usually ask for references from previous employers or colleagues to learn more about your work history and performance.
It's important to provide professional references who can speak directly to your skills and abilities.
When choosing your references, select individuals who you’ve worked closely with and who can provide specific examples of your past successes. Avoid referencing friends and family, as this comes off as unprofessional.
Be sure to inform your references beforehand that they may be contacted by a potential employer and provide them with the job description and your resume. That way, they can speak more easily to your qualifications.
You’ll receive a formal job offer
Now you’ve received an offer.
But before you pop the champagne🍾, hold up a second.
Kicking off the job offer process can be an exciting moment, but it's important to take the time to review the offer carefully. This includes reviewing the job description, compensation package, and any other benefits or perks that are included.
If there's anything unclear or you have questions about, be sure to ask for clarification from the employer.
It's also important to carefully consider whether the job fits you and aligns with your career goals and interests. If you're unsure about any aspect of the job offer, asking for more information or clarification before accepting the offer is important.
You can choose to negotiate the job offer
If the initial job offer doesn't meet your expectations, it's okay to negotiate.
This could involve asking for a higher salary, more vacation time, stock options, or other benefits. But if you’ve never been part of negotiations before, it can be an uncomfortable process.
Here are some top negotiation tips to help you achieve your goals in a job search:
- Do your homework: Research the industry, company, and position you're interested in. This will help you understand the average salary, benefits, and perks of similar roles. Use websites like Glassdoor, Payscale, or LinkedIn to gather this information.
- Know your worth: Assess your skills, experience, and education. Determine the unique value you bring to the table, and be prepared to articulate why you deserve the compensation and benefits you want.
- Don't forget the benefits: Salary isn't the only aspect of a job offer. Consider negotiating for additional benefits such as flexible hours, remote work options, additional vacation days, or professional development opportunities.
- Establish a range: Instead of providing a specific salary figure, offer a range with your desired salary and the lowest amount you're willing to accept. This gives you room to negotiate and shows flexibility.
- Be prepared to compromise: While knowing your worth and standing your ground is essential, also be open to finding a middle ground that works for both parties.
- Keep emotions in check: Negotiating can be stressful, but remaining calm and composed is crucial. Keep your emotions in check and maintain a professional demeanor.
The goal is to demonstrate that your value is higher than their offer. As such, be ready to show your worth in a concrete, measurable way if you want to negotiate better terms for employment.
You can now accept or decline the offer
Once you've negotiated and reviewed the job offer, it's time to make your decision.
If the offer meets your expectations and you're excited about the opportunity, congratulations! But if you’re unsatisfied with the conditions before you even start the position, it’s unlikely you’ll find high job satisfaction once you’ve begun.
Don’t forget that you’re on a path to landing your dream job. You should never settle for a position if you feel another company would value your skills/qualifications more highly.
Your application may be denied
Although you may prefer to follow the aforementioned steps of the interview process, there is still a possibility that your application may be rejected following its review.
Receiving news that your application has been denied after it has been reviewed can be an unexpected, disheartening experience. It can make you feel like all the time and effort you put into it has gone to waste. Unfortunately, it's something that many job seekers have to go through at some point throughout their career journey.
Your application may have been denied for several reasons:
- Not meeting the required qualifications or experience
- Incomplete or poorly written application materials
- Failing to pass background checks
- A more qualified candidate was selected
- Being overqualified
- Timing, company budget, or the needs of the organization
Having your application denied does not necessarily reflect on your qualifications or abilities. It’s important not to take it personally and to stay positive, continue to learn and grow, and keep pushing forward in your job search. You never know what opportunities might be around the corner, and a rejection can sometimes lead to an even better opportunity in the future.
If you do find yourself in a position where you've been rejected from a job, it's important to remain grateful and professional to keep future opportunities open. Use this article to help: How to Respond to a Rejection Email [With Examples].
How to be best equipped for your job search
A savvy job candidate will use every tool available to make the application process as smooth and streamlined as possible. Even the most qualified applicants can struggle to get a job quickly as the job market is highly competitive.
That's why we highly recommend relying on Teal to help you move through the process more quickly. With Teal, you have free access to the following resources:
- AI Resume Builder: Create and personalize resumes/cover letters in minutes. Then track your application status from Applying to Accepted.
- Autofill Job Application: Never fill out another job application again! Instead, use this Chrome extension to leverage AI and let Teal fill those tedious applications.
- LinkedIn Profile Review: Optimize your LinkedIn profile to make a better first impression on the world's largest professional social media platform.
- Contacts Tracker: Save contacts from LinkedIn to increase your network and start more meaningful conversations with hiring managers.
- Resume Examples: Learn from these battle-tested resume examples to find the best structure and format for your next application.
- Work Styles Assessment: Learn more about your work style by taking this 2-3 minute assessment.
Plus, it's 100% free to start, meaning you can hop in and start using AI technology to land your next interview today!