Overview: Getting a Job

What Is the First Step I Need to Take to Get a Job?

Getting a job is a multistep process that typically begins when you submit either a job application or your résumé to a prospective employer. A job application is a form, either paper or electronic, that employers use to gather information about you when you contact them about an open position. Some companies accept applications even when there are no positions available. This is especially true of industries, such as retail and food service, where there are high turnover rates and hence, frequent job vacancies. Applications typically include sections for basic personal data, educational background, work history, job-related skills, and references. Employers review the information on your application to decide if they want to schedule an interview.

Overview: Getting a Job

Résumé: A document providing a detailed description of a person's previous work experience, educational background, and relevant job skills.

A résumé is another document used to apply for jobs. Typically, a résumé highlights your skills, professional credentials, education, and work history. There are a number of styles you may use. The traditional chronological style lists the different jobs you have held, usually beginning with the most recent, while the functional style emphasizes skills. You could also use a combination of the two styles. Your choice should be based on your circumstances and experiences, as well as the type of job you are seeking. When you submit your résumé, you should include a cover letter, which is your introduction to a prospective employer. A cover letter outlines the contents of your résumé without completely repeating it. You should use the letter to highlight the qualities that make you an especially qualified candidate for the position.

What Happens after I Apply?

After reviewing applications, the hiring manager will follow up with candidates who fit the company's needs. Some companies will contact you to set up a phone interview before proceeding with an in-person interview. Others will skip right to an in-person interview. If you do not fit the minimum requirements, you may not be contacted. If possible, you should try to get a contact name when you apply for a job so that you can follow up if need be.

What Is a Preemployment Background Screen?

When you apply for a job, you may be asked to submit to a background check. Companies may check your employment history, educational background, credit history, and criminal background. Employers may also require medical information or a physical examination. However, this information can only be considered in terms of an applicant's ability to physically perform job duties. You may also be required to take a drug test. Involvement in workers’ compensation claims, which are a matter of public record, may also be checked. In recent years employers have also begun to research applicants’ presence on the Internet, including social networking sites and personal web pages.

Overview: Getting a Job

Workers’ compensation: A type of insurance that employers must have to provide monetary compensation to employees who experience work-related illnesses or injuries.

Some employers, especially government agencies, conduct extensive screens before hiring, while others perform minimal checks or none at all. Companies investigate your background to make sure the information you provided on your application or résumé is accurate and that you possess the credentials and experience needed for the job. Background checks are also used to get information about your character and habits, which have implications for on-the-job conduct.

What Is the Difference between a Reference and a Referral?

When you apply for a job, most employers will ask for a list of references who can vouch for you as an employee. Employers ask for and check an average of three references per job candidate. Alternately, you may be asked to submit several letters of recommendation with your résumé or job application. Recommendations, whether given verbally

The job search process can be overwhelming, but if you do your research in advance, finding and getting a job can be made easier because you obtained the proper information before you began.

The job search process can be overwhelming, but if you do your research in advance, finding and getting a job can be made easier because you obtained the proper information before you began. ©ISTOCK.COM/RICHARDFOREMAN.

or in writing, should provide information about your abilities, achievements, and personal characteristics that would make you a good fit for the job.

A job referral is a recommendation for a job given by someone already employed by the company. Referrals might also come from a person affiliated with the company in another way, for instance, as a supplier or well-known customer. As with recommendations, referrals should specify your qualifications and explain how they will benefit the company you are approaching. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, referrals have become increasingly important. Before online job searching became popular, employers primarily advertised open positions in newspapers and trade publications or with signs displayed on walls, windows, or job boards inside the business or institution. These practices limited the pool of job applicants. Job postings on the Internet, however, are viewed by an exponentially larger group of job seekers. As a result, most job postings receive a huge number of responses, meaning that hiring managers need to spend a much lengthier amount of time sifting through résumés in order to find qualified candidates. Referrals save time in this screening process and are therefore highly attractive to employers.

What Can I Expect at a Job Interview?

A job interview is a discussion between you and an employer with the mutual goal of determining whether you would be a good fit for the job and vice versa. The hiring manager will ask questions about your skills, work history, and career goals. The manager will also want to find out why you are interested in this particular job and company. In turn, you can ask questions to get a better idea of whether or not the position is right for you.

Depending on the company and the job, you may have one interview or a series of interviews. Larger companies often have human resources teams or other professionals who conduct interviews, although you may also meet the personnel with whom you would be working directly. In smaller companies you may interview with your potential supervisor or the company's owner.

Overview: Getting a Job

Human resources: The department in a company that is responsible for hiring and managing employees.

How Should I Prepare for an Interview?

Most people find job interviews to be potentially stressful occasions, but being well prepared can greatly reduce your anxiety during the interview. Your preparation should include research on the company and the position, a thorough review of your résumé, and attention to your appearance and self-presentation.

Overview: Getting a Job

Before your interview, be sure you have researched both the employer and the position you are seeking. You should get to know the company's history and read any recent news about their products and services. If you have contacts in the company, consider reaching out to them to discuss the position. You should also be sure to read the job posting thoroughly and have a good understanding of the job requirements and how they mesh with your own background and skills. With a little research, you will be able to sell yourself as a great addition to the company.

You should always go over your résumé before an interview. Taking some time to mentally review each of the jobs you have held will allow you to smoothly walk the hiring manager through your employment history. If you have significant gaps between any of your previous jobs, you should have an explanation ready. If you have been downsized or fired from a job at any point, it is also important to consider how you will discuss this experience. Be honest, but avoid making negative comments about past employers. Instead, emphasize what you learned from the experience.

Overview: Getting a Job

It has become more common for employers to ask behavior-based interview questions to gauge how you handle various situations that might arise on the job. A hiring manager might ask you, for instance, to describe a time when you had an angry customer confront you about a late order and to describe how you resolved the situation. Career building websites, such as Monster (http://www.monster.com ), are a good place to check for more examples of these sorts of questions. While you may not be able to anticipate all such questions, a little reflection on the type of job you are pursuing can help you guess at the kinds of behavioral questions you might encounter.

What Happens If I Get the Job?

If you are selected for a position, you will receive a job offer, either verbally or in writing. A job offer should include complete details of the offer of employment, which may include, among other things, job title and description; salary; and information on medical benefits, retirement plan, and paid time off. Job offers usually come with an acceptance form attached. Signing and returning the acceptance form means you have accepted the offer and its terms.

Before you review an offer, you should make sure that it is clear about all key details, particularly if the employer has already made a verbal offer. You should verify that everything you discussed previously is present in the agreement. You should also make sure that the offer covers all major areas of concern to you, including not only your full compensation package but also your official title, job duties, reporting structure, work hours, and whether or not you will be able to work from home.

You should also review any materials that come along with the job offer. Employee handbooks, for example, will typically be included in the packet of material you receive, as well as information about health care and other benefits. Your offer should match the information laid out in this additional matter. If there are discrepancies, you should follow up with the hiring manager to make sure everything in your offer will be honored. For example, if the handbook says that an employee will receive a week of paid vacation in the first year but you have been offered two, it is smart to verify that you will receive two as promised.

Finally, if you are going to be relocating for the new job, check to see what sort of compensation the employer is offering for relocation-related expenses. Many companies will pay for temporary housing and travel costs. Some will also cover moving services and pay for some or all of your real estaterelated expenses. You can research relocation packages online to see what is standard for your industry and position.

What If I Want to Negotiate?

Overview: Getting a Job

When you receive a disappointing job offer, you have several options. You may choose to reject the offer entirely. In this case, you should let the employer know in a timely manner so that other strong candidates can be contacted. If the job offer is attractive in many ways but falls short in one or two key areas, you should consider responding with a counteroffer. You can make a counteroffer either verbally or in writing. When making a counteroffer, you should note the things you like about the opportunity while also detailing the areas you would like to negotiate.

Doing your research beforehand will improve your chances of achieving a successful negotiation. First, it is wise to investigate the financial health of your prospective employer. You should search for recent news items about the company and, if possible, try to access their latest earnings reports. This information may help you determine how flexible they will be about salary and other compensation. It is also helpful to know how long the job has been open. If the position has been difficult to fill and you are a strong candidate, you will have more bargaining power. Be sure you know how much your particular skill set is worth and what others in your field and position are being paid.

Overview: Getting a Job

contribution from your employer. You can also sometimes get perks such as paid parking, which can be a big benefit in cities where daily parking rates are high and spaces are at a premium.

Overview: Getting a Job

401(k) plan: A financial plan where employees contribute a percentage of their earnings to a fund that is invested in stocks, bonds, or money markets for the purpose of saving money for retirement.

How Do I Manage Multiple Job Offers?

When looking for a job, most people apply for multiple positions at the same time. This is a legitimate strategy to help maximize your chances of success, but you may be faced with a tough decision should you receive multiple attractive job offers. It can also be difficult to time things so that you are not forced to keep one offer on hold while you wait for others to come in.

During the application and interview process, you should research each of the companies and jobs that you apply to. Any interviews that you have will give you additional information about the nature of each job, the work environment, and the salary and benefits you can expect to be offered. As a result, you will have the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each potential job before you receive a formal offer of employment. You may also have a good idea of which elements of a job offer will be the most important to you.

Once you have received several job offers, you can begin to evaluate the merits of each relative to the others. One way to compare offers is to use a weighted list of criteria, ranking each of your job offers according to this system. You can compare the salaries, retirement benefits, vacation allowances, and other perks each employer is offering. You should also consider the potential for career growth in each company. Finally, while salary and benefits are important, it is also important to consider intangibles such as corporate culture and the nature of the day-to-day work environment when making your decision.

When you have decided to accept one of the job offers you have been considering, you should contact the employer both verbally and with a signed offer. You should also be sure to call and thank the hiring managers at the companies that you did not select, letting them know that you have accepted another offer elsewhere. It is possible that they will attempt to make an additional offer in order to change your mind. While it is generally considered unethical to back out of an offer you have already accepted, you may choose to entertain a second offer if it is attractive enough. Some experts take the view that a job negotiation is a business transaction and can be canceled by either party at any time.

For More Information


Bolles, Richard. What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. New York: Ten Speed Press, 2014.

Deluca, Matthew, and DeLuca, Nanette. Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and Job Offers: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases to Help You Get the Best Possible Salary, Perks or Promotion. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

Elad, Joel. LinkedIn for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Yate, Martin. Knock ’em Dead 2014: The Ultimate Job Search Guide. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2013.


Adams, Susan. “How to Make Them Respond When You Apply for a Job Online.” Forbes, January 24, 2012. This article can also be found online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/01/24/how-to-make-them-respond-when-you-apply-for-a-job-online/ .

Lucas, Suzanne. “How do I Balance a Job Offer with Potential Offers?” CBSNews, May 28, 2010. This article can also be found online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-do-i-balance-a-job-offer-with-potential-offers/ .

Schwartz, Nelson D. “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed.” New York Times, January 27, 2013. This article can also be found online at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/business/employers-increasingly-rely-on-internal-referrals-in-hiring.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Wolgemuth, Liz. “6 Key Steps in Job Interview Prep.” U.S. News and World Report, May 8, 2009. This article can also be found online at http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2009/05/08/6-key-steps-in-job-interview-prep .


“Employment Tests and Selection Procedures.” U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/factemployment_procedures.html (accessed August 26, 2014).

“Evaluating and Negotiating a Job Offer.” John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. http://www.jhsph.edu/sebin/g/i/salarynegotiate.pdf (accessed August 26, 2014).

“Overview of BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. http://www.bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm (accessed August 26, 2014).

“Preparing an Application.” Purdue University Online Writing Lab. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/6/ (accessed August 26, 2014).