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Applying for jobs

Career Development applying for a jobIn a competitive jobs market making your application stand out from the crowd can make all the difference. These webpages offer some handy hints and tips, but remember, the Careers & Employability team can provide one-to-one assistance on all aspects of applying for a job, from where to look for vacancies, writing a supporting statement, through to interviews and selection tests. If you want help from an adviser to complete an application it’s a good idea to bring information (eg a job description/person specification) for the post with you to the meeting.

How you apply for a job varies from employer to employer. Some ask for just a CV, others a CV and covering letter or ‘supporting statement’, and some ask you to complete an application form, either via an online form or in Word format. It’s important to look carefully at what the application format is, since this can make a big difference to how you write and structure your application.

Sometimes a job advert will offer you the opportunity to contact the employer for more details – either via email or telephone. If you have genuine questions that you want answering, don’t be afraid to do this, but make sure you have checked thoroughly that the information you are asking for isn’t available online somewhere.

However you are required to apply for a job, it is useful to put yourself in the mind of the person who will be shortlisting the applications and deciding who gets an interview. There are a few handy hints in this regard:

  • Attention to detail! Spelling mistakes, incorrect dates, formatting errors – all are little things, but can make a big difference. You can give a bad impression of yourself even before the employers has learnt about your skills and experience by making some basic mistakes.
  • Whether on a CV or an application form, make sure your career/educational history is clearly presented, and easy to follow. It should be possible for the employer to easily see the ‘journey’ of your life so far. If there are any gaps – periods where it wasn’t clear what you were doing – or unexplained overlaps between work/education, you can’t blame them for assuming the worst.
  • Evidence your experience and skills. Never just state ‘I have worked in a team’, or ‘I have good communication skills’. Anyone can say that. If you’ve got experience in these areas, provide an example, that demonstrates how or where you developed the skills, how you've used them, and what you have learnt from that experience.
  • Remember that the person reading your application doesn’t know what you know, or anything about you. So you can’t assume that they will know what responsibilities you had whilst working as a cashier in a supermarket, behind a bar somewhere, or as an Administrative Assistant somewhere. You have to make it clear what skills and experience you have gained, either when working, volunteering, on work placement, or as part of your course.
  • Don’t leave things out! Sometimes people think that because they were not being paid for something, or because it was only for a short time, they shouldn’t include it on their application. It’s still experience – whether it was volunteering or only for a few days, so make sure it’s on there.
  • Having said that, be sensible when it comes to how far back you go, especially if you are a postgraduate or mature student. If you spent a week doing a newspaper round 10 years ago, that’s probably not going to help you get you a graduate job, so better to focus on more recent experience.
  • All of these points contribute to the mentality of DON’T GIVE THEM A REASON TO PUT YOU ON THE NO PILE! If the employer has 100 applications, and can only interview 5-10 people, they will be looking for any way they can to easily select the people to take forward. Sometimes that can mean that the simplest of mistakes/omissions lead to you not being selected, so don’t let that be you.
  • And finally, make sure you re-read your application and ideally, get it checked by someone else. You can always bring it to the Careers & Employability team, and we will have a look for you. Or even get a friend to have a look at it, to see what they think. It’s better for it to be someone you don’t know as well, since friends/family will already know about your experience, but any second opinion can be helpful.