Getting my first job interview was simple.

I wandered over to a little pizza place when I was 15 and gave something that resembled a résumé to the lady at the front counter. This poorly written piece of paper highlighted my relevant experience as a paperboy with “outgoing” as one of my skills…Terrible, I know. Regardless, it was not even two days later when the phone call came from the supervisor asking me to come in for an interview. Three days later I had a job. After getting the gig I thought to myself, “Man, getting a job is easy.”

Boy, was I wrong.

Applying for jobs actually takes a lot of time, especially if you’ve got your eye on your dream job, where even getting an interview is a challenge. You need to be dedicated and well prepared, taking weeks and even months at a time to fully plan your application. There are many things that you need to first examine before you eventually send over that résumé.

Establish your focus and goal

You can’t go on a road trip without a map. Before you start applying, and even before you create your LinkedIn page, you need to spend some time establishing what you truly want from your career. This sounds deep and maybe a bit obvious, but not being able to articulate what kind of job you want is huge problem. You will never end up finding your dream job when you never discover what you truly desire. Take some time to think first, then begin the journey. 

Take your time 

Unless the position needs to be filled by the end of the week and you’re the perfect man for the job, take your time. This is your dream job, there is no need to rush. Taking your time will help you continue defining your focus and also help you with the next step, getting to know those who matter. “Taking your time” also means that between now and approaching your dream company you need to master useful skills and work on your resume and contacts.

Networking is key

Getting to know the key players at your dream company will sometimes be the only way to get your foot in the door. Having a referral next to your name can do wonders on your chances of getting an interview so why not take the time and do some old fashioned networking. Ask your friends if they know anyone who works there, talk to some old professors to see if they have any old connections, or search out through LinkedIn and Twitter for maybe someone you could quickly chat with to get your name known. Simply replying to some tweets with nice replies can help you make a quick connection.

Get creative with your application

When the time finally comes, don’t just directly apply to the job posting or send an email to the company’s email. Use your connections made through networking and apply for the job using the backdoor. Try to grab some one-on-one time with whoever does the hiring and tell them about your interest or maybe use something different from a résumé, such as a video of yourself, a presentation, or even a report to highlight your skills. You need to stand out!

Tip: I know it seems that you can do everything online now but an actual phone call and showing up in the flesh at the company’s headquarters will give you an advantage over others.

Be persistent 

The first manuscript for Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before a publishing house finally agreed to publish it. What this means is that every ‘No’ only means that a ‘Yes’ is getting closer. Just because you didn’t get the interview the first time does not mean you should give up. This just mean you need to do more work. Bump up your networking and keep working on your qualifications. Apply again when you feel comfortable and take the time to think of another unique way to show your interest. Companies are constantly growing and changing so new positions are always opening up–yet sometimes they’re never posted.

A great example of the advantages of being persistent was seen recently with a woman, Nina Mufleh, getting an interview for her dream job at Airbnb. Mufleh had applied multiple times to the successful company before changing her strategy. She finally created a website that mimicked the homepage of Airbnb, but was actually her résumé. The site also provided a report on what she would change at the company, an entire market strategy for the company’s future in the Middle East and why she would be important for the company. The act proved worthy as she got the attention of Airbnb executives and now has a formal interview lined up.

Screenshot of Mufleh interacting with Airbnb’s heads over Twitter

Finally, every job is available if you try. Remember, just because there isn’t an opening, doesn’t mean you can’t get that interview. If this is your dream job and you believe you are the one made for this position, then you need to fight for it. Show them how much better they would be with you and if there is no positions available, how they should create a specialized spot for you. If you’re good enough, they will notice you.

Now that you’ve landed the interview, here is how to prepare for it.