How to apply for ajob, the American way?
September 5, 2009 6:51 PM   Subscribe

How to apply for a job in the US? Please, help!

Mu husband's first time applying for a job in the US, in our countries it's enough to just drop off a CV, and wait until we get called, but reading a bit on line i find things like Cover letter, which I have no clue what it is. He is applying for a City job, and he's perfectly qualified for it (he is an American citizen and has American experience, only he didn't really apply for his first job, he sort of jumped that stage). My questions are...

1. How is an application structured? (Cover letter, resume, what else?)
2. What is a cover letter, anyway? Can you please give me some guidelines on how to write one?
3. How many pages should a resume have? What sort of references would you use?
4. Do you have any other advice on etiquette we should follow? Like whether it's better to mail the stuff, showing up, or whether we should do follow-up calls, etc?

Thank you!
posted by Tarumba to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It may depend what industry he's in. I can only speak for engineering, and for small technology companies:

(1) Typically an application consists of a "cover email" (see below) and a resume (PDF form!) as an attachment to the email. This email is sent to either a generic "jobs@" or "resumes@" email address that can usually be found on a company's website. If your husband knows someone at a company who can recommend him, that's great, and he should send his resume directly to them.

(2) The cover letter (or cover email) introduces yourself, describes which position is being applied for, and a brief description of why you are particularly qualified and/or enthusiastic about the opportunity. It should NOT be a recitation of job history -- that's what the resume's for! But it is a brief introduction to the HR/manager reading it and should grab their attention enough to encourage them to check out the resume attached. There are plenty of example cover letters online -- just google it.

(3) Depends on experience. Entry level/sub-5-year-experience applicants in my field are often looked upon suspiciously if they have more than a one-page resume. Managers with around 10 years of experience I've seen have 2 page resumes. Beyond that, sometimes 3 pages. It shouldn't get much longer than that, unless perhaps you're applying for a research job and really need to do a full CV instead of a resume.

(4) If he's applying for any sort of high-tech industry job, I really, really encourage him to either email his application or use an online application if the company provides it. All documents should be in PDF, not DOC, format. Mailed resumes/cover letters/etc are extremely unusual. Showing up in person is also strange at the places I've worked/applied, especially since many of them are secure facilities (defense contractors or stealth-stage startups). YMMV -- and some of the larger companies have job fairs he could attend in person. Follow-up calls have typically annoyed the managers who do the hiring in the companies I've worked for, but follow-up emails are better received. Again, this may be unique to my industry/small company experience. I've never worked for a place with an actual HR department, so that etiquette may be very different.

General advice: proofread, proofread, proofread. Tiny mistakes are noticed and ridiculed. Don't be overly formal or flowery in cover letter or resume wording. Follow up any interview with an emailed thank-you note to at least the highest-ranked person you interviewed with, but ideally to everyone you talked to. Proofread these, too.
posted by olinerd at 7:04 PM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

1) cover letter and attachment, electronically sent, as described above. Do try to find a way around or to supplement to the jobs@ or hr@ addresses.
2) How does one go about writing a really good cover letter without sounding like an utter wanker?
3) References - do not usually go on resumes, and would come up later in the process.
4) On resumes - no photos, no birthdays, no marital status. Though standard in other parts of the world, in the US, including them increases the risk of being dismissed early in the process due to the risk of seeming discriminatory later on. Beyond that, proofread, network, and follow up. Learn to love the follow-up phone call, because it beats hell out of email. Especially when you are dealing with multiple countries and the time zones introduce communication lag.
posted by whatzit at 7:30 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

City jobs can have very particular online application procedures with forms and such. The one I applied for did not require a cover letter, but it did require me to fill out some online forms. There might be a requirement for resume format, he may even have to fill in his work experiences in that form. Resumes should be short and to the point, no more than two pages at the most, preferring towards one, depending on the amount of work experience. List work experiences, any certifications, and any other particularly applicable special traits (Does he speak Spanish fluently? Put it on the resume for a job working for the city of Miami, for example). Then he will probably wait a while for the bureaucracy to figure some stuff out and get back to him 1-8 months later.

Cover letters nowadays are the email you send with your resume. Just say why you're awesome and how your awesomeness can make the city more awesome. (the generic you, in this case meaning your husband)

Heck, depending on the city they may either be happy to get a warm body to apply for a job, or they may be beating them off with sticks.

Definitely call to follow up and send thank-yous.
posted by that girl at 8:34 PM on September 5, 2009

Best answer: When you say he is applying for a "City" job, do you mean this in the UK sense of "City" - i.e. a finance/investment/banking job or do you mean a municipal (council in the UK) job?

Anyway, my main recommendations have been mentioned already - NO photo, NO DOB, NO personal info. Also, unless he has specialised qulifications/skills or very extensive experience, I would keep the resume to one page. Use a normal font and normal, nice cream resume paper - don't be flashy or creative. The cover letter should be one page and should be a brief outline of why he feels he would be best for that position and what he could bring to the company. Proofread obsessively. If possible, address the letter to the actual person who makes the hiring decisions, rather than "To whom it may concern". Call a few days or a week later to see if they've received it - follow up.

Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 8:17 AM on September 6, 2009

No social security number either.

I think you need to google for samples in your hubby's field.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:44 AM on September 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you so much!

All your advice has been studied and will be used! Be happy you may have helped us get an awesome job for him!

PS: I mean a municipal job.

posted by Tarumba at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2009

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