Applying for Jobs
A successful job application requires thorough preparation and a lot of care.
Essentially your task is to demonstrate in your application that you have the skills, knowledge and experience that the employer requires – if you are unable to do this it is unlikely that you will be invited to an interview.
Videos to View Online
In addition to the following information, there are a number of online videos to view from our Download Zone. Topics include completing application forms, interviews and assessments centres. (Please note this facility is only available to be viewed by Edge Hill Students and Staff with a current Edge Hill login username and password). If you would like one of our Careers Advisers to check your application form or CV before sending it off, then please book an appointment with us. Alternatively if you are unable to get into the office because you are on a placement or are located at another site, then please use our Advice by E-mail service.
Identifying Your Skills, Knowledge and Experience
Your first task is to identify the skills, knowledge and experience that you have got. You will already have a mass of skills gained from study, jobs, voluntary experience, work placements as well as hobbies and interests but it is not always easy to recognise these yourself or see how they are relevant to jobs that you want to apply for.
For detailed help and advice on identifying your skills, knowledge and experience you can:
Read our booklet CC2 Identifying your Skills and Abilities - available to download from our Download Zone or pick up a copy from the Careers Centre.
Take at look at 'What you can Offer?' and 'Transferable Skills' pages of the Prospects website.
You will need the help of other people who know you well or have seen how you perform in the work place. Use friends, colleagues, tutors, mentors and reports from work placements to help you identify your selling points and remember - this is not a time to be modest .If you do this thoroughly you will be surprised at how much you have to offer and filling in the application form or preparing a CV will be a lot easier.
Matching Yourself to The Job
The golden rule of job applications is “know what you have to offer, know what the employer wants” – your application must show how the two “marry up”
Information about what the employer requires may be found in the Job Specification.
This is not the same as the Job Description.
Often the Job Description and Job Specification will be sent to you as part of the application pack or be available on line. If not you will need to use other sources of information – the job advert, contacting the person responsible for recruitment for further information about the vacancy, the company web site, talking to people you know who work or have worked for the company in the past. Without detailed information about the job and what the employer is looking for your application will be no better than guess work.
The Application Form
Top Tips on Application Forms
- Don’t rush straight in - take 2 photocopies (or print 2 copies first) and put the original safely away until you are ready to use it.
- Often application forms come with a sheet of instruction on how the application form should be completed. If on line print this off and read carefully. Often instructions may be found at the very top of the application form and can be easy to miss if you are not careful e.g. “Use black ink”, “write in block capitals”. Nothing irritates an employer more than somebody who can’t be bothered to read or take notice of instructions provided!
- Don’t try and do it all at once – try and do it in bite size chunks - that way you are less likely to make mistakes, and return to each section that you do in a fresh state of mind.
- The section that will be of the most interest to employers will be the “Personal Statement” or the section where you are invited to provide additional information about yourself in support of your application. This is the section that will require the most thought and take the longest to complete. You will need to demonstrate to the employer how you meet the job requirements and this is where your hard work on identifying your skills, knowledge and experience and matching them to the Job Specification will pay off. Statements that you make in this section must not be “woolly” or unsupported. For instance assertions such as: “I am a good team worker” or ”I have excellent interpersonal skills” are meaningless unless you can back them up with specific evidence and examples. Additional useful information can be found on the Prospects website under "selling your skills"
- Don’t try and complete your application form without enlisting the help of someone who will check it over for you – apart from anything else most people are not good at spotting their own mistakes. Show them the Job Description and Job Specification first – then show them your completed application form and ask them to comment on whether you have adequately matched yourself to the employer’s requirements and if not ask them to tell you where the gaps are.
- When you have completed, checked and re-checked your draft remember to make a photocopy of the final version and keep it along with all the other job details for reference.
- Use an appropriate envelope. Do not try and squeeze the form into a small envelope and make sure you use the appropriate amount of postage.
On Line applications
Many jobs these days are not only advertised on line but require (or at least expect you) to apply on line.
For detailed advice on making on line applications go to: www.selectsimulator.com This site also has a simulator facility where you can practice completing an on line application form.
Take a look at the downloadable video/dvd's in our Download Zone - listen to employers offering advice and feedback on the application and selection process. (Please note this facility is only available to students with a current network login)
Top tips for On Line applications:
- Most people are used to dashing off e mails and other correspondence on computers – beware – you need to give the same care and attention to completing on line as you would to hand written applications. The advice about taking your time and doing it in “bite size” bits still applies, as does the advice about double-checking and asking someone else to read it through.
- Although you may be able to use spell check by copying into MS Word don’t forget that spell check may not correct incorrectly used words and will tolerate American spellings - perhaps more willingly than an employer!
- An on line application is likely to be highly customised – the Personal Profile section may well limit you to a specific number of words and allow you to go no further. This will test your ability to express yourself concisely to the limit. If you require help contact the Edge Hill University Careers Centre.
One or two initial points:
- Generally a CV and covering letter are not required when an application form is provided (the Personal Statement section on the application form is where you provide the information that would otherwise be supplied in a covering letter).
- Some employers specifically state that they do not want you to supply a CV. If this is the case a sure way to antagonise the employer is to ignore the instruction and send one anyway!
- There is no absolutely correct format / style for a CV. There are many sources of advice on producing CVs – if you “google” “CV Services” it will turn up no less than 2,800,000 sites - a sure recipe for confusion.
- CV styles have evolved over the years and what was once an accepted format may no longer be regarded as adequate.
Top Tips for CVs
- Maximum of 2 sides of A4.
- Clear good size font (Arial 12)
- Only include information that the employer needs to know. In other words don’t include information on marital status, nationality or attach a photograph unless specifically requested. It just takes up valuable space.
- Make sure your major selling points are “up front” and easily “accessed” by the reader through the use of clear headings and effective use of bullet points.
- Be consistent in your layout and in the way you present information.
- Make it easy to read and avoid dense blocks of text that will be just too over facing for a hard-pressed employer to be bothered to read.
- No need to go in for gimmicks or fancy coloured paper – just uses good quality paper and print rather than photocopy.
Covering letters are generally required as an accompaniment to a CV. The covering letter provides the opportunity to highlight the major selling points in the CV and the chance to further demonstrate your suitability for the post you are applying for. It may also be appropriate to use the covering letter to explain your particular interest in the company and reason for wanting to work for the employer in question.
Top Tips for Covering Letters
- Address letter to a named person – a brief phone call to the company should provide you with this information. This should reduce the likelihood of your CV and letter not even getting to the person who makes the decisions.
- The layout will be in the form of the letter (as opposed to headed sections and bullet points used in a CV. Therefore letter must be clearly and logically structured so that the reader has no difficulty in following the points that you re trying to make. A logical structure would be:
- Opening paragraph: Introduce yourself and explain reason for sending CV and letter
- Middle paragraphs: sell yourself by highlighting and elaborating on your main selling points. These will be in the CV but the letter gives you the chance to expand further and assist the reader to make clear links between what you have to offer and the skills, experience and knowledge that the employer is going to be looking for.
- You may also want to use this section top offer explain anything that may not be fully understood from information provided on the CV e.g. gaps in employment dates or regular job changing. However, avoid including anything which may be construed in a negative way – the letter is a sales promotion for yourself – not an apology!
- Concluding paragraphs: summarise what you have to offer and finish on a polite, helpful and optimistic (but not presumptuous) note.
- Always retain a copy for future reference - in the event of being invited to an interview you will be glad to have record of what you have told the employer in previous correspondence.
For detailed information on how to produce a CV and Covering Letter go to our Download Zone:
Here you can view and download the following booklets:
- CC10 “How to create a CV and Covering Letter”
- CC1 "How to apply for a Teaching Post"
- CC18 “How to Apply for a Midwifery Post”
- CC19 “How to Apply for a Nursing Post"
- CC 27 "How to Apply for an ODP Post"
Speculative applications can work in 2 ways:
- Where an employer does not feel the need to advertise – they get sufficient applications from suitable candidates anyway and this saves them cost and effort. It can also be the case that an employer feels that the kind of initiative demonstrated by someone sending in a high quality speculative application is, in itself, a requirement for the post.
- Where there is no specific job vacancy but the quality of the speculative application is so high that the employer decides to create a job in order to offer the applicant employment. Even if the employer is not able to offer a job at the time there is every chance that a strong speculative application will prompt an employer to keep the applicant’s details on file for future vacancies.
Speculative applications are made to employers using a CV and a Covering letter. The advice given in the CV and Covering Letters section also applies to Speculative Letters.
If you would like one of our Careers Advisers to check your application form or CV before sending it off, then please book an appointment with us. Alternatively if you are unable to get into the office because you are on a placement or are located at another site, then please use our Advice by E-mail service.
You may follow all the best advice available but still not be invited to attend an interview. There can be a number of reasons for this:
- Highly competitive job market. This may be a temporary situation – quite a number of professions experience peaks and troughs in demand.
- Geography may be an issue – there may be a shortage of applicants for work in one area but an oversupply in another.
- Your selection of jobs may be too narrow.
- Your selection of employers may be too “picky”
- Your salary expectations may not be realistic.
Whatever the reason, at some stage, you will need to review your strategy and consider ways in which your chances of success can be enhanced.
Last updated: 27-Oct-2010