Applying for a job - tips on what to do and what not to do

man advertising a car wash
So you want to apply for a job

Sometimes as part of my job I have to sort through job applications and CVs (curriculum vitae – literally ‘course of life’). I see some really bad examples where I am often sure the person could do the job and yet due to the amount of more complete forms I have to reject them. As a rule it is not the employer’s role to read between the lines and try to give you a job. Employers often have lots to choose from so they will pick those that sell themselves (though sell yourself honestly, I’m not suggesting fibbing!) in the best way.

So here are some tips. First read the advert. Can you do the job and do you fulfil the criteria. If the job asks for 2 A levels or equivalent, ensure you have them. You can risk applying for jobs if you don’t have the requirements but be clear from the beginning that you don’t – if there are few applicants you may be considered, though chances are that you won’t. Some jobs have legal criteria (there is no point applying to be a Doctor in a busy hospital if you are currently trained as a dental receptionist for example) so ensure you check. If there are legal requirements and you don’t have them then there is no point in applying, the employer cannot make an exception.

Be sure you understand what the job is about, if you are unsure ring and ask! Don’t just assume or guess, when employers see applicants telling them they can or like doing things that the job won’t entail employers assume they don’t understand what will be required. For example avoid saying you love working with the public if the job involves working alone in a quiet office, or saying you love peace and quiet if the job involves supervising a group of under 4 year olds!

If the job asks for a CV you can send a CV. If the job asks you to fill in a form (either printed or online) do that, do not send a CV. This might sound obvious, but an employer will assume that if you can’t follow basic instructions now, you won’t be able to in a job either. Submit your application in the way that is asked.

Ensure you list all relevant qualifications. It’s fine to include things that are not specific to this job but add them last in the list (unless asked to list the qualifications in a specific order eg by date). Extra qualifications can show you are a good learner.

If you send a CV try and make it relevant to this job. Tweak it, add some supporting information which is specific to this job. Ensure you are telling someone why this job is important, not that you just want any job. Seeing a CV that appears to be generic tells an employer that you are applying for a lot of jobs, an employer wants someone who genuinely wants to work for them, so try and make it clear that the employer you are contacting is special!

Wherever you add your supporting statement ensure it is longer than a tweet! Your supporting statement is your podium, your place to tell an employer why to pick you. It should go without saying that it should be free of spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical errors (I recently saw one with no punctuation or capital letters). The supporting statement should tell an employer about you but also about why you are right for the job and why you want it. So with that in mind you must mention the specific job you are applying for, you must back up anything you say with examples and you shouldn’t say anything negative about yourself! A potential employer does not want to hear that you were sacked for persistent poor timekeeping, or that you are ill a lot (if you are ill a lot that will be discussed later after you are offered a job, it won’t, or shouldn’t, feature in the selection process). And if you claim to be organised give an example of what you have organised in the past. If you claim to be good with technology be specific. Use a computer to type up your statement and check for spelling and grammar errors, even if you plan to write it out by hand later. If you don’t have access to a computer, try the local library.

Don’t leave any gaps in your previous employment if you can help it, if there have been gaps make them positive. Travelling the world or having a break to be with family, are legitimate reasons for a gap. Legally employers cannot discriminate but when choosing from hundreds of applications people make snap decisions and will pick the more positive ones. Stay upbeat throughout the application.
Refer to the specific job you are applying for as much as possible and sound keen to have it.

Good Luck