While inflation and the associated hike in costs put a damper on the hiring frenzy, it has in no way put a stop to active hiring. In fact, there are approximately 11 million open jobs in the US.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can phone in your job applications. While businesses may need employees, you must still get through the initial screening round with the applicant tracking system.

If you’re in the process of applying for jobs, exploring new career choices, or looking for career advancement, keep reading for five key job application tips.

1. Narrow the Field

Flooding the job market with applications has never been a winning strategy unless you’re applying for entry-level positions. You must do some research and narrow the field.

Look for “good match” employers. These are employers that need someone with your skills, have a culture you like, and operate in your preferred area.

Focusing on these kinds of employers dramatically improves your odds.

2. Follow Instructions

You will routinely see something along the lines of “how to apply” somewhere in the job description. Read those instructions carefully.

For example, a posting might ask for credentials, such as high school transcripts or college transcripts. You typically see requirements like this when the job requires a certain level or type of education experience.

3. Write the Cover Letter

Granted, not every single job will require or even offer you the option to write a cover letter. Many jobs will let or even encourage you to write the cover letter.

Take that opportunity. The cover letter is your one real opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates. If nothing else, it can help you demonstrate that you’ll fit in with the company culture.

4. Focus on Recent Relevant Experience

Once you’re in a field for a while, your job experience will often prove more substantial than the recommended space available on a resume. Rather than try to cram all of your work history into the resume, focus on recent, relevant experience.

As a good rule of thumb, keep the work history limited to a 10-year to 15-year range.

5. Use Keywords

While working on your application, always go back and review the job listing. The company will use specific phrases, such as particular skills, that they want from applicants.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use the same terms and phrases they use. Searching for those kinds of keywords is one of the ways that applicant tracking software screens applicants.

Leveraging Job Application Tips

Getting the most from the job application tips above will depend on where you are in the process. If you’re just starting the search, all of the tips may apply.

If you’ve already picked out the jobs you’ll apply to, focus more on crafting a good cover letter and winnowing down your work experience.

Above all, though, make sure that you always follow the instructions provided. Deviating from the company’s instructions is a fast way to get your application tossed.

Looking for more job-hunting tips? Check out our Business section for more posts.