I’m going to explain how to improve your chances at getting a job. This might not apply to mega-corporations or temp agencies, but it will be true for most companies where you would want to work.

Skip the recruiters. They get in the way of communication. You can do the same web searches that the recruiters are doing. I’m much more impressed with candidates who find our job openings on their own. It shows a higher level of effort.

Read the instructions in the job ad. If it says to print your cover letter on parchment then do it.

Write a cover letter that shows you know about the company. Explain why you are a good fit for this specific company and job. When I read a generic cover letter it goes straight in the trash. If you are too lazy to Google the company and read their web site then you are too lazy to do the job.

Proof read the cover letter, résumé, and any e-mail correspondence. Misspellings, bad grammar, and ugly formatting are huge negatives. Think of this as a first date. If you show up unshowered in a stained t-shirt then you are not getting laid tonight.

Expect smart employers to examine you closely. We start with multiple e-mail and phone interviews. Then we usually do a homework assignment. If that goes well then we schedule a face to face interview. Yuck, I don’t want to do homework! If that sounds like too much effort then you definitely won’t be able to handle the effort of the actual job.

Be on time to the face to face interview. If you are not familiar with the company’s location then drive by the day before or allow an extra 30 minutes for getting lost. In any case, arrive a little early in case there is traffic. If you are there more than 5 minutes early then wait in your car before going in. It is not impressive to arrive earlier than that. It is just disruptive.

In all of your interactions, make it clear that you are interested. You don’t have to gush, but a follow up note after each stage of the interview process helps. Something like, “I enjoyed our phone call today. From what I learned in our conversation, the position sounds exciting to me.”

Remember that you are interviewing the company too. Ask probing questions about management style, the environment, benefits, and most importantly the work. After all, you have great skills and you can be picky about where you work, right? Your questions signal that and again they help to show interest.

Most of this article can be summarized by, “Show that you care.” It doesn’t guarantee you a job, but it gives you a chance.