I thought most of these things were commonly taught in school, but based on many job applications I’ve recently reviewed, applicants either don’t know or are ignoring them. Don’t let it happen to you.
1) Write a cover letter. Just create a nice, two paragraph letter that briefly covers your background, skills, and interests.
2) When you apply, add a couple sentences to your cover letter about why you think you are a good fit for the job. This should show that you’ve at least taken 5 minutes to read the company website and learn what it is that we do. A totally generic cover letter is just as bad as no cover letter at all.
3) If you are given any type of homework, or even just some emailed questions to answer, finish it as soon as possible. It will take the same amount of time to complete no matter how late you do it, but you will appear much more interested and competent if you complete it in a day rather than a week.
4) If you have any questions about anything in the interview process, such as homework, interview timing, or even the dress code, ask about it early on. It’s much better to make sure you are on the right track than to go down the wrong path and waste everyone’s time. Asking questions makes you look more professional, not less.
Remember, a job interview is a privilege, not a right. If you don’t put some time and energy into applying for the job, I’m not going to waste my time and energy interviewing you.