How to submit the best job application
We are frustrated to see potentially talented job applicants waste their opportunity to land a great job with us (and probably with other eager employers) because of school boy (and girl) errors.
Let me run you through what you need to do:
Decide what you want to do
It doesn’t have to be the only career you’re ever follow, but you have to be committed for the next few years. YES you will need to spend time thinking about what you want to do, what would suit your character and skills and what you’re naturally good at.
- Sit in a darkened room and write down 10 potential careers – then take each of the ten and write two more related jobs. With your 200 potential jobs, cross off the obviously crazy ones and short list a set of strong possibles.
- Read career guidance books to help you home in on the job you want,
- Read web articles and watch videos – both on choosing a career and also looking at the short-listed options.
- Speak to careers advisors,
- Speak to friends and relatives and
- Brainstorm a list of questions and interview people doing the job you’re interested in. People will usually be impressed that someone is interested in the work they do and want to help the next generation. Best if you show the initiative and visit them in their workplace – get a feel for the environment you’re considering.
- Seek out a summer internship or spend a week of work experience and live the job. Five or six calls or emails should do the trick with landing an opportunity. If employers are worried you’ll need baby-sitting – offer to simply job shadow for a few days.
- The sooner you can do this the better. Ideally before you start your A Levels – but I appreciate that’s not easy.
Put in writing why you want this career
For your own benefit, spell out what you like about the career, what you learned (and felt) on your work experience or exploration of jobs.
Be honest both with us and yourself – dig deep and tell us what you like.
This will form a key ingredient in your application and demonstrates self-understanding.
Only apply for positions you're interested in
Why waste your time applying for jobs you’re not interested in and lack the relevant skills for? Save your time and energy for those jobs you want and stand a chance of getting.
Research the position advertised
READ THE DAMN ADVERT. You’d be amazed at the number of applicants who demonstrate they haven’t read the advert. This only needs to take a couple of minutes.
Look at the employer website.
Look on linkedin and anywhere else you can find.
Make notes of what appeals and what skills/qualities are being sought.
Write a covering letter
I’m putting the covering letter section first – because it is so important to you as an applicant and to us who need to gather evidence to decide between people.
Whilst everyone sends in a CV, not everyone uses a covering letter and that’s what sets you apart. Without it, you won’t get the job.
It doesn’t need to be written from scratch every time, but you do need to customise it for this job.
So often I’m seeing CVs and covering letters clearly intended for a totally different job. It’s a waste of time for us and more so for you – wasting your time and chipping away at your self esteem when you get rejected.
YOU WILL NOT GET A JOB WITH US, WITHOUT SENDING US A COVERING LETTER.
Your letter should be laid out like professional letters should be – your address at the top on the right, our address on the left. A Dear… and a subject – such as “Application for Expert Labels Graduate Programme”.
It’s not a show stopper if you don’t lay it out professionally but it’s gaining you credit if you do.
A few brief sentences saying that you want to apply for the programme – “I’m applying for the position of … which I saw advertised at the University of Stowmarket’s careers service.”
Next Explain why you want this career – “Since a small child I’ve enjoyed being an entrepreneur/organiser/analyst/programmer/engineer etc.” Give some evidence: “When I was at high school I used to sell sweets at break time. I even employed my friends as ‘distributors’. You’ll see from my CV, I used to do internet marketing for a company I met during my summer holidays, whilst I was at university…”.
Explain why you want our job in particular – “This position offers a unique opportunity to experience a range of jobs on the programme.” “It provides the opportunity to work alongside experienced colleagues who, I read on your website, are committed to my success” “It gives me the chance to work in the exciting world of labelling”. I am joking here – labels are interesting to me – but I’d be a little concerned about the mental health of someone straight out of university who found them exciting.
Why Expert Labels? Explain what it is about our company that attracts you.
About your covering letter
- Don’t make it too long winded, we won’t read it if it’s too long and waffley. A page is enough.
- We’re not interested in vague skills – such as diligence results-orientation and being a team player. Every self-centred, arrogant idiot – describes themselves as a ‘Team Player’. Take a minute – perhaps just 30 seconds – and list the three qualities or skills you have evidence for and that you estimate are the most important for the position.
Suitable evidence might be: ‘teamwork was important when I was a member of the fresh produce team at Tesco, whilst at university. We would cover shifts for one another if one of the team needed the night off and we stepped in to help customers if a colleague was busy with an important task’.
- Include things that show you’ve read the advert and researched us. Eg I noticed you are located in Suffolk. I have visited many times as my grandmother lives in the county.
- No gramatical or spelling mistakes (OK – I might have made some here – but our CMS doesn’t have a spell checker).
- Keep the English simple – write how you speak. Would you really say ‘during my tenure’ rather than ‘whilst I worked for’? It’s hard work coming up with fancy words and writing simply is so much more authentic.
- Keep it succinct. We’ve got hundreds of CVs to get through.
- Leave out the personal profile – it’s just a section where you boast about yourself, it sounds fake and it’s un-becoming of you, I’m sure.
- Include dates (at least months) and explain any gaps.
- For graduate entry jobs – include GCSEs if only summaried as “9, A-C including Maths and English” and A-Levels/BTECS and of course degree.
- Include grades received. Your exam results are important to us. If we don’t see them we have to decide if we bother to request you for them or if we just reject you.
- Include hobbies and interests. It makes you human and we like employing humans. Your seven years of competitive figure skating tells us a lot about your character – and you might find you have something in common with one of us reading your CV.
- Include the internships and work experience that you have done. It shows that you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Part time work shows that you can look after yourself.
To sum it up
- Know what you want to do and know why.
- Be honest with yourself and only apply to those jobs that you want – don’t be desparate. Put the time and energy into doing a proper application for the jobs you want.
- Take the time to read the advert and learn about the employer.
- Spend a couple of minutes and customise your CV so it’s more relevant.
- Set yourself apart from the competition and write a covering letter.
- Luck doesn’t come into it, practice does. Apply, get feedback and improve your next application.