In the first articles of this series, we talked about the two most important documents in applying for a job: the résumé and the cover letter. But what about other stuff like references, samples, applications, and tests? These supplemental materials give you a chance to show your potential employer that you’re not just an excellent choice—you’re the excellent choice.

Ask and prepare references

Many organizations—McKinnon-Mulherin included—will ask for professional references. Fulfilling this request should involve more than jotting down contact information from your digital Rolodex. For a stellar referral, tell your reference what role you’re applying for, why you’re excited about it, and what strengths or skills you highlighted in your résumé and cover letter. You’re not putting words in their mouth—you’re making sure that if they agree with what you’ve said, the two of you are presenting a unified message.

Send targeted samples

Samples of your work can be helpful, but too many samples can be overwhelming. (If you're applying for a writing job, I would argue that your cover letter is the best writing sample you can provide.) The ideal sample is one that directly relates to what the job ad asks for. If an employer mentions blog writing, a link to a blog you wrote is much more helpful than an excerpt of your fantasy novel. Sending a list of possible samples is a way to provide options if the employer wants more.

Be the ideal employee—ahead of time

Depending on the size of the organization, you may be working with the HR department up until (or even after) an interview. However, if you're applying at a small business, realize that every interaction is likely with your future manager or coworkers. So treat any communication with the employer as an extension of your résumé. Be quick and responsive, easy to work with, and communicative. Give them a taste of what it would be like if you joined the team—and make the preview one they like.

Get the job

The point of all this is to get the job, right? If you’re excited about an opportunity, let that excitement fuel your preparation. Your job-before-the-job is to customize your résumé to get noticed, write a cover letter that gets you an interview, and provide any other relevant materials to make it as easy as possible for an employer to hire you. At this point I would wish you luck, but with these tips, you won’t need it.