Application tips

Application tips

When applying for a job you will usually be asked to supply a CV (curriculum vitae) and covering letter, these two documents show how you are qualified for the job and why you would be the ideal candidate for the role. If the employer believes you meet the criteria for the job you may be invited to interview.

A CV is a short list of facts about you and your work history, skills, qualifications and experience. A good CV is essential when looking for work and it is worth spending time getting it right so it sells you to an employer.

Your CV should:

  • Be neat, typed if possible and to the best standard you can achieve in content and layout
  • Be short, 2 sides of a sheet of A4 paper is normally enough
  • Be positive, it should emphasise your achievements, strengths, successes
  • Make a good impression. This means presenting the facts about yourself in a positive way.

Your CV is often how you make a first impression on an employer. It needs to put across the right message, have the right presentation, and have no mistakes.

Employers receive lots of CVs and have to decide quickly who they’re going to interview.

Here are some ways to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons.

List achievements, not duties

Your CV should sell your achievements as an individual.

Phrases like ‘responsible for ordering stock’ can make your CV read like a job description. Instead, describe what you did and what the positive outcome was, like, ‘by closely monitoring sales trends and stock levels, I reduced out of stock instances by 21%’.

Using ‘active’ language instead of ‘passive’ language makes your CV sound more dynamic. An example is changing ‘involved in the promotion of the company at industry events…’ to ‘I promoted the company at industry events…’ This makes you sound like a ‘doer’, rather than someone who was just ‘involved’.

Tailor your CV

Avoid sending out the same CV to hundreds of employers. Mass mailshots are too general and unfocused – and employers can spot them.

Instead, tailor your CV to sell your most relevant skills. Consider what skills the employer might be looking for, and highlight your most relevant experience.

For example, if you’ve got experience in retail and care work, and you’re applying for a job in a shop, make sure your retail experience is easier to see on your CV than the care experience.

Avoid typing errors, poor spelling and grammar mistakes

Mistakes can make it seem like you haven’t put the time in, or you don’t think details are important. A tidy, mistake-free CV shows you’re professional, thorough and care about how you come across.

It’s a good idea to have your CV checked by someone whose English is good, even if yours is good too. Spellcheckers can miss things, like the difference between ‘ceiling’ and ‘sealing’.

Make it easy to read and look good

Don’t include so much information that it makes your CV looks cluttered. Avoid long paragraphs with very little white space.

Bullet pointed lists and short sentences make your CV easier to read and easier for recruiters to scan for key points.

You don’t need to print your CV on bright coloured paper or over a picture. A ‘daring’ visual approach is only really suitable for creative jobs. Also, don’t mix up your fonts for visual effect because it can look messy and disorganised.

The right length

The rule of thumb is that a CV should be no more than 2 pages long. If you’ve a lot of relevant experience at a high level, however, you can go over 2 pages.

If you’re just starting out in your career, 1 page is fine. If your CV goes back a long way into your work history, make sure the information is relevant to the job you’re applying for. A Saturday job you had 20 years ago probably isn’t relevant.

Prospects list what a good CV looks like here – Example CVs |

Your CV and covering letter are your chance to sell yourself to employers.

To create a good first impression, make sure your covering letter:

  • is well written
  • doesn’t contain any spelling mistakes or bad grammar
  • supports what’s in your CV

A good covering letter will show that you’ve done your research, you know what the job involves and what the employer’s looking for.

Example of a covering letter can be found here.

An interview is a discussion in person, by phone or online, between you and an employer.

The employer wants to see if you’re the right person for the job. You’ll get the chance to make a good impression and show the employer what you have to offer. You can also see if the job is one you want.

Types of interview

The most common types of interview are:

  • Competency-based – focusing on the skills and personal qualities you need, you’ll have to relate your skills and experience to the job
  • Technical – usually for technical jobs in areas like IT or engineering, you’ll have to display your technical knowledge of a certain process or skill
  • Face-to-face – in person
  • Panel interview – where one person usually leads the interview and other panel members take it in turns to ask you different questions
  • Telephone or online – this could be the first stage of the interview or the only stage, and you should prepare in the same way as for a face-to-face interview
  • Informal chat – in some job areas like the creative industries you’ll have an informal, work-focused discussion about your experience and career aims, usually somewhere like a restaurant or a cafe
  • Group discussion – in a group with other candidates, you’ll have to show you can get along with people, put your ideas forward and be respectful of others.

Before the interview

To help you prepare, you can:

  • Think about which areas of your CV or application form the interviewer might ask you to talk more about, and how you can relate them to the role
  • Confirm the details of the interview, date, time, place and who is interviewing you.
  • Job descriptions tell you about the duties and responsibilities involved in the job along with any knowledge or qualifications you may need. Read through the job advert and description, think about how you can demonstrate that you have some of the skills and experience that they are looking for.
  • Always research the organisation where the job vacancy is, so that you can find out what the organisation does.

Example interview questions can be found here. 

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