It used to be that people just applied for one or two jobs in their lives. They would post their CV to the person stated in the job advert, go for an interview and, if successful, expect to stay in the job for practically as long as they wanted.
The world of work is nothing like that now. Even traditionally long-term careers such as Teaching require a greater degree of flexibility, with very few people having a job for life.
With this change in our employment possibilities and expectations comes an increased focus on our ability to effectively apply for a job. If you’re lucky enough to have a Network Of Contacts who offer you work, then you are very much in the minority. For the majority of us, applying for jobs is something that happens far more frequently than ever before – especially if you’re a Freelancer, contractor or consultant.
These days, the vast majority of job applications happen online. So how do you make a good online job application? Is it about making your application stand out or making it keyword dense? Are there tricks to make your application more likely to be seen, instead of heading straight to the trash box of the recruiter? Here is some advice to help your application succeed.
Don’t Rely on a Spellcheck!
With online applications all having their own format, you cannot reply on a computer spellcheck to make sure that your application is spelling-mistake free. You must go through it yourself, although bear in mind that many applications don’t let you ‘click back’ to make changes, so take care on each page or answer before you move on to the next just in case.
Check Your Personal Details
Making sure you have spelt your personal details correctly is more important with an online form than a paper form, as it may mean that even if the company wanted to contact you, they can’t, particularly if you’re relying on just an email address.
Contact the Right Person
Similarly, make sure you get the right details of the person to send the application to, as there may be only mailbox that is accepting applications. You must also read the job spec carefully to see if you need to put a certain job code or reference number as the subject of your email application, or it may never even arrive!
Use Relevant Examples
Remember that many online applications are either initially filtered using specific software, or given to a junior member of staff. This means that you cannot waffle or use irrelevant examples, or even just write good examples badly, as your application may be discarded. Without using jargon, write your application form with choice words that relate to your industry, being careful to use proper punctuation.
Layout your Application Carefully
It is all too easy to just type onto an online application and forget how hard or easy it will be for the employer to read. It is best to double space any long paragraphs, or if that is not possible (if there is not enough space for example) at least use double returns between paragraphs and don’t use overly long sentences.
Keep A Copy!
You would be surprised to know just how many people email off an application without keeping a copy for themselves! This makes it very tricky to remember what you’ve written if you’re called for an interview, so make sure you save a copy of the completed form (or two copies – print one out and save the other on your hard drive).
Writing a Covering Letter
Employers get their first impression of you from your covering letter, so it's important that you get this right. For top tips on how to compose an impressive covering letter, read our article Job Applications and Covering Letters.