It’s probably time for you to take a hard look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you’re not a genius.  I mean, if you were a rocket scientist you’d probably be applying to NASA instead of to Triple Canopy, right?  But don’t feel bad, we’re all in the same boat.  You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in security anyway, you just have to work hard, be honest, and pay attention to detail.  But if you want to look like a true professional, the time to start paying attention to detail isn’t your first day on the job.  It starts before you even send in your application.

                Let’s say for example that after months of working your Google-Fu, you finally stumble across the perfect job opening.  STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER IMMEDIATELY!  Do not, whatever you do, send off your resume in a rush!  First off, make sure to add the website to your Favorites listing so that you can find it easily in the future.  Then, sit down and read through the vacancy announcement a second time.  Take notes if you have to.  Look for phrases like “BLUE SKY” or “in anticipation of contract award”-  things that mean you might not get a call back for months.  I always recommend applying for the position anyway in these cases.  I mean hey, you can’t get the job if you don’t apply, right?  But here’s the time to be smart about it.  Check the “Fed Biz Ops” website to see what other companies are also bidding on the contract, and apply to their vacancy postings as well.  Most importantly, realize that when the contract finally does get awarded, there’s going to be a huge staffing blitz to fill all of the slots. Have all of your paperwork and personal stuff in order so that you’re ready to go, but don’t quit your day job in the meantime.

                I’m not sure why this is, but the simple act of applying for the positions is where people seem to make the most mistakes.  I’ve never heard of a recruiter calling an applicant back the same day he turns in a resume, so slow down a little and take a minute to read the submission instructions.  If you can manage to follow each step precisely, that shows an attention to detail during a boring process that most people just try to fly right through.  Here’s a couple of tips that will help you stand out from the crowd:

                -Never, ever type your contact information or resume directly into a submission form.  Hammer the entire thing out in a word processor first, then cut and paste the information directly onto the company’s website.  This way, you’ll have a copy to save for your records, and can also run the whole thing through spell check before you send it in.

                -Some companies just ask you to email in a resume as an attached file.  That’s fine, and if that’s all they ask for, don’t give them any other attachments than that.  But whatever you do, don’t just send in a blank email.  You make yourself look like a spammer or worse, someone trying to slip through a virus.  Since defense contractors tend to lean towards overdoing it when it comes to security, don’t give them any reason to delete your email before the attached resume has a chance to be read.  Instead, cut and paste your cover letter into the body of the email.  If the vacancy listing shows the manager or recruiter’s name, make sure to address the email to them and include the job title or position number. 

                Last, and most importantly, READ THE DARN INSTRUCTIONS!  Remember that each company wants their applications done in a different way.  If you can do it their way from the start, you present yourself as someone who can abide by the company’s rules and regulations, no matter how much of a pain in the butt they are.  It’s the little things that count here, like remembering to insert the job title in the email’s subject line for US Training Center, for example.  All of this will help to ensure that your resume actually gets to the right person, so it’s worth investing a little extra time during this phase. 

                I know it’s hard to give this advice to such high-speed people, but the best thing that you can do for yourself when filling out applications is to SLOW DOWN.  If you take the time to read the instructions twice, then follow them to the letter, you’ve got a much better chance of having someone take you seriously as an applicant.