How to Apply For a Job - Career Guide Series - Part Three

In continuation of our comprehensive career guide series, today we shall be discussing how to apply for a job. In the last part of the series we discussed how to search for a job. Today we would be exploring the various gadgets you need and ways of going about a job application.

In addition to copies of your qualification documents, part of the things you will need for a successful application is your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV). However, while you will require a CV for most job applications, you may find that a specific job requires you to complete an application form. This has both benefits and drawbacks. The form provides you with an explicit structure, and this can help with ticking the boxes that the recruiter has identified as important.

The form may also indicate weightings for these boxes, by suggesting how much space to allocate to the various sections. A drawback of this structure and weighting is that it requires you to discuss each aspect the recruiter has identified, and may not allow you space to show off other skills.

Completing an Application Form
The process of completing an application form has much in common with tailoring your CV for a specific job. The following tips can be of help in completing an application form:
  1.  If it is an online form, save it to your computer, or at least prepare your text using a word processor. It is all too easy to spend time filling out an online form, than to lose everything if the browser crashes, or moves you to another page.
  2. Use a word processor to help with spelling errors, but make sure you always proof read the document, too. A spell checker will not help if you have used the wrong word or phrase in the wrong context.
  3. You may be able to copy parts of your CV into an application form, but make sure you answer the question, rather than mindlessly copying and pasting. Always read the instructions and labels carefully.
  4. Use the job specification. Download any available details about the job. This may include separate documents that relate to the job description, person specification, and possibly a departmental or organization description.
  5. Identify the key requirements. As you go through the job description and person specification, use a highlighter to identify exact words and phrases used to describe the job requirements, and potential employee.
  6. Use their words to describe yourself. Find the phrases they use to describe what they want, and apply these, truthfully, to your own context.
  7. Never say anything you do not mean or cannot justify. However, do not be shy of selling yourself either; this is your chance to tell them exactly why you should do the job.
  8. Do not be afraid to spell out information explicitly. Interviewers do not always have time to draw connections, so do this for them to maximize your chances of success.


Your resume provides an overview of your experience and is often an employer’s first impression of you. Recruiters spend just a few seconds on average looking at a resume so it is crucial to use a format that makes relevant information immediately visible. A good resume can help you land an interview, but even minor errors can take you out of the running. Bring your resume to an expert or schedule an appointment with a counselor to ensure it will be effective.

CV Guidelines

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a summary of your experiences and educational background. While it can resemble a resume, a CV is most often used when applying for a teaching or research opportunities, applying for a grant or fellowship, or for further academic training. It is sometimes termed a resume or a bio (short for biography). As a prospective employee, it is your 'shop window'. Its purpose is to provide a prospective employer with an executive summary of your background. It should do so in a way that can be absorbed by a potential employer as quickly and easily as possible. Here is a check-list of the main items on a CV:

1. Personal details and contact information. This should include:
  1. ) full name (first name, followed by any middle names ,and then your surname), 
  2. ) full postal address (you may include a university address and a parental address, so you can be contacted at all times), 
  3. ) telephone numbers with different day and evening numbers, 
  4. ) email addresses (so you can be contacted via your computer or mobile device).
2. Educational details and qualifications
This part should include schools and colleges attended, subjects studied, and qualifications and grades obtained.

3. Experience (including part-time and vacation work). Include the name and address of employers, job titles, and brief details of your main responsibilities.

4. Achievements. Focus on any achievements that provide evidence of your capacity and willingness to learn in varying circumstances. This may include backpacking abroad, working on your college newspaper etc.

5. Interests. These help to differentiate you as an individual. Again, focus on those interests that emphasize your capacity and keenness to learn in different situations.

6. CVs are laid out in a 'formulaic' way to make the information as quick and easy as possible for the reader to absorb. This is important because for any job there may be hundreds of applicants each submitting a CV. The formulaic aspect of CVs means that readers generally know where the information they are looking for will be found.

In general, a CV opens with personal details and contact information, followed by educational history
and qualifications, experience including work history, achievements, and finally, interests. You can distinguish yourself by deviating from this formula, but only at the cost of desired readability. If you do decide to deviate significantly from this pattern, make sure the benefits outweigh that cost. Refer to our How to Write a Curriculum Vitae (CV) post for more details and tips for a successful CV

Now that we have equipped our-self with the necessary job search technique and how to apply for the job, another ingredient for a successful career is Networking. With Networking you will be able to broaden your horizon in the job market. These and many more are what we are going to be discussing in our next post in the Career Guide Series and it will focus on the types of networking.

Feel free to make your contributions, observations or ask questions on this topic of How to Apply For a Job or any part of our Career Guide Series using the comment form below and we will be more than happy to add to our data base of knowledge because nobody knows it all. 

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