How much time should I spend preparing a job application?

 In Job Search Tips

Over the years, I have often heard clients mention the long hours they put into editing their resumes and cover letters. Applying for jobs can be exhausting if you spend too much time tweaking your documents and still feel uncertain when sending them out.

Instead, learn to prepare effective job applications and look for jobs strategically, bringing your application time down to 1-1.5 hours per target role. This way, you can send several applications a week while having enough time and energy for all other responsibilities and activities.

Here is a breakdown of core tasks with suggested time frames:

Job description analysis: 10 minutes

I personally like to print out the job description, read it with a highlighter, mark the top 3-4 requirements, and mark all other important keywords.

Resume tweak: 15-30 minutes

Check if the top part of your resume reflects the requirements of the target role in full. Edit the target role title, career summary, and the list of core competencies in line with each target role.

Be authentic and do not pack your resume with keywords. Insert appropriate skills where applicable. In the career summary, focus on what a target role requires. You will only need to edit 8-12 lines of text.

The achievements in the rest of your resume are transferable, provided that you quantified and phrased them with clarity.

Cover letter: 30 minutes

Write one-page cover letters from scratch, focusing on 2-3 requirements from the target role description.

An extra round of proofreading: 10 minutes

If the deadline permits, leave your job application for a day and proofread it again the next day, preferably from paper. Fix any minor errors you spot, and you’re ready to submit your documents.


About the author:

Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a professional resume writer with a background in content writing, university teaching, and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada. For more information, please visit

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