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Article: Job Applications


'Job Applications' helps you apply for jobs, whether that's by doing an application form or writing a CV and covering letter.

First steps

You can find job adverts in places like local/national newspapers (including on their websites), on job boards, at Jobcentre Plus offices, on the Find a Job website and in specialist magazines and journals.

You can often apply online or by email, either by completing an application form or by attaching your CV and covering letter, depending on what the employer wants.

Sometimes, you have to email or phone to get an application form. A few adverts ask you to ring the employer first to chat about the job. If so, do this as soon as you can. Either by email or on the phone, you should say something like:

"Please send me an application form for the post of [job title], reference number [if there is one], which I saw advertised in [say where you saw the job]."

If you have to telephone, you might need to leave a message. If you get a bit tongue-tied, it's a good idea to write down what you need to say before you ring. It's best to write a few important key words or phrases though, as you might sound a bit unnatural if you read the whole thing out word for word.

Looking at the job information

Apart from the form itself, application packs usually include:

  • a job description, including the essential or desirable skills you'll need
  • background information about the employer
  • a minority/diversity monitoring form. This might ask you about things like your ethnic background, religion and sexuality. You don't have to complete this form. It's there to help make sure the employer is being fair when they recruit people; it must not be used to decide on your application.

Before you apply, ask yourself a few questions:

  • is it clear what this job involves?
  • do I need to ask someone for more information?
  • why would I be good at this job?
  • do I have the right qualifications, skills and experience?
  • is the job's location and salary clear?
  • will I be able to get there easily or will I have to move home?
  • can I afford to live on the salary?

If you have questions about the job itself, you could email or telephone the employer to find out more.

Application forms

Employers get lots of applications, so it's easy for them to reject people who made spelling mistakes or who didn't follow instructions. Take your time and check everything very carefully.

You can apply for many jobs online. There might be a link from the advert to an online form or you might have to visit the employer's website to apply. If so, you'll probably find the application form in the 'vacancies' section of the website.

Some application forms are completely online. You go through the form screen by screen, filling in information and answering questions. Many online forms allow you to save your work and come back later, so you don't have to do everything in one go.

At the end, there will be a 'submit' button to send off your completed form. Don't press this until you've reread your form, making sure all sections are complete. Look out for spelling and grammar mistakes; get someone else to read it through if that's possible. Print out your form before sending it - you'll need to remember what you've said if you do get an interview.

With other online forms, you have to download and save the documents. You complete the application and minority/diversity monitoring forms and attach them to an email. Make sure you say what job you're applying for, including the reference number. This could go in the email's 'subject' bar.

Some employers ask you to send your form in by post. If so, you should also include a cover letter (see 'Applying by CV').

Applying by CV

To apply for some jobs, you have to send in your CV. You should also send a covering letter, unless asked not to.

Your curriculum vitae (CV) is a brief summary of your achievements in work and education. It shows your skills, knowledge and interests. Employers get lots of CVs, so grab their attention! Use your CV to show exactly why you're the best person for the job.

Writing your CV

There's no one 'right way' to do a CV but here are some things to think about:

  • keep your CV to two sides of A4 and it's got to be concise, with only the most important information
  • make it clear and simple
  • keep sentences and paragraphs short and don't clutter the page with lots of headings and sub-headings
  • use simple language and avoid jargon
  • be specific about your achievements, for example, use facts and figures: "Handled cash transactions of up to £500 a day"

Don't write 'Curriculum Vitae' at the top of the page - it's obvious what the document is.

All CVs should start with brief personal details, such as your name, address, telephone number and email address.

Many people start off with a Personal Profile. This should be short and snappy - just a few lines that explain your main skills, work or education experience, and career aims.

If you've got some work experience, you'd usually move on to your Employment History. Start with your most recent job first and work backwards - that highlights your current position.

You should start with the employer's name and the dates you worked there. Then, list your main duties and responsibilities. You can use bulleted lists, making each bullet point give a clear, simple and specific example of your skills and achievements.

Try to show how your experience matches what the employer is looking for. This is a reason why you might have to make slightly different versions of your CV to show different things, depending on the job. This is called making a 'tailored CV'.

Don't forget to include voluntary work experience. Employers value this, if you can show how volunteering has given you the skills and knowledge they're looking for.

Try to avoid unexplained gaps in your CV. Some gaps are easier to explain than others - you need to pick out positive things that came out of each situation. Things like travelling, volunteering and caring for a relative might have given you valuable skills and life experience. It's more difficult to be positive about time spent unemployed - but maybe you used some of the time to learn a relevant new skill?

You'd normally move on to Education and Training now. However, you might want to start off with this if you haven't had much work experience yet. As above, start with your most recent school, college or university, working backwards.

You don't need to list all your qualifications; for example, it's often fine to say, "Eight GCSEs at grades C/4 and above, including English and maths", rather than listing all your subjects, if you have higher-level qualifications.

Some people have an Interests section. Be careful - anyone can say that they 'enjoy socialising'. Try to give a range of interests that reveals something about your personality and experiences.

Finally, there are your References. One of these should be your most recent employer or an academic referee if you haven't had much work yet. You need to say how you know the referee, for example, 'line manager' or 'form tutor'. You don't have to put references on your CV if you say, "References available on request".

Covering letters

You should include a covering letter with your CV, unless the job advert tells you not to. Employers read covering letters first; your aim is to grab their attention and persuade them to move on to the CV.

You should address the letter to a named person. If a name wasn't given on the job advert, contact the company to find the right person. This makes the letter more personal and gives you someone to get in touch with later on.

Keep the letter brief - no more than one side of A4. You can use bullet points to highlight important information. Show clearly why your skills match those asked for in the job description.

Your first paragraph should say why you're writing (which post you're applying for and where you saw the vacancy). Refer to your CV, for example, "I enclose my CV for information".

Go on to:

  • show that you know about the company (do some research first)
  • say what attracts you to this post
  • highlight how your CV matches the main things the employer is looking for (but don't repeat points word for word) and use specific examples as evidence

Finish your letter in a positive way. Thank the person for their consideration and say that you're looking forward to meeting them.

It's so important that you check your letter for spelling and grammar mistakes. If you know someone who's good at English, get them to read the letter through.

Speculative letters

You can send in your CV and covering letter when you want to work for a particular organisation, even though they haven't advertised a vacancy. Speculative letters tell the employer about you, what kind of work you'd like to do and why you want to work for them.

If a vacancy comes up, the employer can then contact you so you can apply for the job and take part in the recruitment process.

Speculative letters can work. You'll have more chance of success if your letter is well-focused, setting out exactly what you're looking for and why you're writing.

State clearly what you're looking for (employment or work experience?). Do lots of research about the organisation and make sure your experience links to its work. Contact the recruitment or human resources department to get the name of a person to write to.

Further Information

Ultimate Job Search

Author: Lynn Williams Publisher: Kogan Page

The Mix

Support and information services 25 year-olds and under


How to Write a CV That Really Works

Author: Paul McGee Publisher: How To Books


Readymade CVs

Author: Lynn Williams Publisher: Kogan Page

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