How to successfully apply for a job

The Guardian:

You’ve seen your ideal job and got an application form that needs to be filled out. For many filling out the application form can be a daunting task. Don’t be daunted. Read it through slowly and carefully. Chances are it’s not as horrendous as it looks at first viewing. Follow these eight steps to writing successful applications to secure you that all-important job.

1. Read the blurb: An application pack will usually consist of more than just the application form. The original advert, job description, person specification and some background information on the company in question are sometimes included. This is to help you learn about the job and guide you in completing the application correctly. Read enclosures carefully and make sure you understand what is required.

2. Do your research: Read up on the company you’re applying to and research the industry, sector and particular role or function you’re after. Check the company’s website and read the career area so that you can drop jargon words. Never write straight on the application.

3. Answer all the questions: But don’t volunteer information that isn’t asked for. People tend to say things that can then be used as evidence against them. Remember, what employers are doing is checking you off against education, skills and work experience. Don’t add any extra bits of information. It may not be any good. Where a particular question is not relevant to your background or experience, write ‘not applicable’ in the space provided otherwise it’ll look like you’ve either forgotten or not bothered to answer it.

4. Use the right keywords: There are clues in the advert, job description and person specification as to what the employer wants. If they ask for someone who’s a dynamic team leader or works on their own initiative, give appropriate examples of when you last did those things using the given key words.

5. Take time to consider the personal statement: Application forms are by their nature uniform documents but the personal statement is there for you to set yourself apart from the crowd and sell yourself. Address each point in the person specification faithfully but stay focused. Don’t write a novel. You are likely to succeed by offering more evidence that you have the skills and qualities the employer is looking for. The worst thing to do is to write a personal statement that anybody could write. Bring the dry factual sections of your application to life by elaborating on key relevant points. Inject a hint of personality into your personal statement. Don’t give standard responses or rehash old forms. Approach it afresh and think laterally.

6. Choose appropriate referees: This will nearly always be your current employer or a lecturer from university. Ask before using someone as a referee. That way, they won’t be taken off guard when they’re approached by the company and will be more inclined to give a considered and comprehensive appraisal of your work.

7. Treat online forms the same as hard copy: Be aware that in an electronic format an optic eye scans for keywords. This means it’s even more important to make sure that you’re mentioning words out of the advert or job spec because that’s going to get you to the top.

8. Do a final check: Ensure that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Keep it concise and avoid repetition. Use examples. When finished, read it and ask yourself, would you consider it if it appeared on your desk?